Ecclefechan tart

by Neil Forbes

A highly traditional Scottish dessert for New Year’s Eve

Hogmanay is the favourite date in the calendar for us hardy Scots. It was always celebrated more than Christmas. I have so many wonderful memories of New Year’s Eve parties in our house with friends, relatives and incredible displays of food and drink while I was growing up.

Just after midnight, neighbours ‘first foot’ each other—a tradition of being the first person to visit a friend’s house and party into the wee hours. First footing gifts include whisky, some coal for the fire, and something sweet like shortbread or a fruit cake. Traditionally this would have been a rich fruit pudding wrapped in pastry called a black bun, an old recipe almost lost now.

A Forbes’ family tradition is to go to the in-laws in Crieff and this year I’ll be taking an ecclefechan tart—try to pronounce that after a few eggnogs! It’s named after the small Borders town and centres on dried fruit (as is so often the case at this time of year). It’s truly delicious with a hint of cinnamon and a crunch achieved by adding walnuts. It’s a real classic Scottish dish, and one that we must continue to make.  


For the sweet pastry tart case:
200g plain flour
60g icing sugar
70g unsalted butter
1 egg

For the filling:
120g melted butter
120g soft dark brown sugar
2 eggs
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp ground cinnamon
470g Californian raisins
120g broken walnuts
Icing sugar to dredge


First make the pastry case.

Sift the icing sugar into a bowl and add the butter. Beat until light and fluffy, then add the egg and combine. Sift in the flour and gently bring together into a ball, then press the dough into a round, flat shape and wrap in cling film. Place in the fridge for 30 mins-1 hour.

Remove the pastry from the fridge and roll it out using a good amount of flour on top of some more cling film—it makes it easier to lift and lay the pastry into the tart case.

Butter a 10" loose-based round tart tin and dust with flour to make it non-stick. Then line with the rolled sweet pastry followed by 3 sheets of cling film. Allow it to rest for 30 mins, then add baking beans and bake at 180C for 30-40 mins until golden.

Remove the baking beans, brush with an egg wash. The tart shell is now ready for your filling.

Whip the melted butter and soft dark brown sugar together. Whisk the eggs in a separate bowl and add slowly to the butter and sugar. Mix in the raisins and walnuts, then add the lemon juice, zest and cinnamon and give another good mix.

Pour the warm mix into the tart shell and smooth over using a wet palette knife.

Bake in a moderate oven (around 145-165C) for 30 to 45 mins until golden and firm to the touch. Be careful you don’t burn the raisins—placing another tray on the shelf above the tart will help to stop the harsh heat burning them.

Remove from the oven and leave to stand for half an hour, then remove from the tin, dredge with icing sugar and serve.

Recipe: Neil Forbes