The inaugural ‘Tart Off’ – a competition to find Bristol’s best custard tart – was held on 10th July 2014, with amateur and professional bakers from all over the city taking part. Fifth Sense Regional Coordinator Cath Pike didn’t let her anosmia deter her from putting on her apron and getting up to her elbows in custard, and here she is to tell us how it went.
It may seem to be an odd choice – to enter a cooking competition when I find it very difficult to perceive the flavour of food but I love a challenge and I wanted to prove something to myself. I have always loved food; shopping, cooking, eating and sharing it with friends and family. Since having anosmia this hasn’t changed but my taste and my confidence has.
I first saw mention of Bristol’s Tart Off on Twitter. I love Twitter. I love custard tarts. I love cooking. It seemed like a no brainer. I signed up…Then I read the rules – not too strict – you just had to make everything from scratch and have pastry and egg as the main ingredients. My Portuguese tarts used to be to die for but I don’t have a lot of spare time so I usually buy ready made puff pastry and lovely ready made vanilla custard. Making it from scratch could take some time… I made the very easy Gordon Ramsay rough puff pastry and then made Mary Berry’s custard. Then I made the tarts. I hadn’t thought through that part and ended up having to use three different sized tart tins. They looked fine although quite different in size. My daughter/chief taster said they were great and although I couldn’t find the requisite ‘two the same’ for the judges, my work was done.
When we arrived at the Folk House most of the other tarts were already there and looked sssoooo much better than mine. I had a Presentation Plate and others to sell to help support the Square Food Foundation. I hadn’t thought about presentation so my two tarts on a plate looked a little forlorn next to the exuberant cake stands/flowers/garnishes that everyone else had.
As Sod’s Law would have it my daughter won the lottery for the randomly selected judge on a panel of five. There was a professional and an amateur section. After much tasting and serious deliberation the winners were announced. My name wasn’t called so I didn’t get a chance to say anything about Fifth Sense as I had hoped. However my tarts were apparently deemed to be worthy and I loved the texture and sweetness of them. I couldn’t even identify the raspberry(?) in the base of one of the entrants and the nutmeg/cinnamon of others was lost on me.
I have realised that I can still follow a recipe and produce good food sometimes but I rely on a timer and not smell to tell when something is ready. I know my limitations and don’t tend to try out new things as I would have done before losing my sense of smell. At the end of the evening my daughter was the person who said she never wanted to see another custard tart. Ever. I left with the feeling that I wish I had made a lemon tart (I still “get” lemon). Macaroons are my new challenge. I don’t understand chocolate, vanilla or strawberry anymore but at least I am making something that friends enjoy. That’s what food is all about for me.
Best wishes, Cath
Cath is one of Fifth Sense’s Regional Coordinators who on hand to provide support and advice to other Fifth Sense members in their area. If you’re a Fifth Sense member in the South-West of England who’d like to get in touch with Cath and exchange experiences – or indeed recipes for tarts – then visit https://www.fifthsense.org.uk/regionalhubs
For more information on the Tart Off event, visit http://tartoff.wordpress.com