6 May 2013

Search and discovery: from custard to corned beef


My search for the perfect custard slice continued last week at Arthur Llewellyn Jenkins's coffee shop in Swansea. ALJ’s isn’t known principally for its coffee and cakes. It’s a furniture store of stadium proportions: the horizons in every direction are choked with plump cushions, waxed leather and wood, mirrors, table lamps and rugs, mattresses that come with latex or pocket springs, and some that feel like uncooked dough when you press your hands into them but are named for Japanese batter. Okay, they're not. The brand is Tempur but my mind goes to the batter every time. 
Custard slice from the coffee shop at
Arthur Llewellyn Jenkins 

The girl who served us in the coffee shop was confident that their custard slice would be a winner and it was nice (and the cappuccino was a goodie too) but the custard could have done with a little more flavour, more sugar or vanilla perhaps. So, the Greggs custard slice is still at the top of my CS League. And while I know that quantity doesn’t necessarily mean quality it actually does in this case. I bought a box of three from the shop in Port Talbot that had my wrist aching by the time I’d carried it back to the car. They weighed in at 1lb 10oz. That’s a ‘half pound +’ per slice. I’ve said it before: Custard Hunk. 


My hankering for Greggs' custard slices has led to another growing addiction: their Corned Beef Pasty. I’d like to show you a picture of the meltingly flaky pocket of pastry filled with a pillow of soft mashed potato and corned beef but once I'm out the door of the bakery with the paper bag in my hand I slip into immediate ‘chow down’ mode until every last mouthful is gone. Except for the bag of course. Although I have been known to tear that open with my teeth if I’m carrying something in my other
Not even a crumb remained.
hand. And they’re only £1 each. The custard slices are an anomalous 77p. I’m a cheap date.

I didn’t realise that corned beef pasties were particularly Welsh but according to Peter’s Pies, near Caerphilly, they originated in the 1940s and 1950s and are deeply rooted in Welsh history and tradition. Think the Welsh equivalent of the Cornish Pasty.

And while I’ve been writing this I’ve remembered the plate corned beef pasty my mother used to make, on the same clear glass pyrex plate she used for her apple tart, a concave plate that wasn't deep enough to be a dish. And here’s a recipe I found online. I’ll probably cheat and buy ready rolled pastry.  Mammy always made her own. Though I doubt you could buy ready-made pastry in the 1960s anyway. Rub the fat into the flour until it resembles breadcrumbs. The mantra drummed into me in school cookery classes in the late 1960s and early '70s. Before they became Domestic Science. Which has never made any sense to me. 


Hungry Writing Prompts
  1. Write about the smell of something new.
  2. Write about a clear horizon.
  3. Write about something cheap.
  4. Write about plates.
  5. Write about a school lesson.