Thursday, August 02, 2007

South African Milk Tart Recipe

South African Crustless Milk Tart

A couple of days ago, on a winter afternoon, with an over-supply of milk from the weekend about to hit its sell by date, I suddenly had a yen for a nice, creamy rice pudding. The sort that you can throw into the oven and come back to a couple of hours later for a dose of starchy, stomach-warming, central heating.

Long, long ago as students revising for our finals, this was our standby. One of us would assemble the ingredients and chuck it into the oven. Our shabby, student house would be pervaded by the aroma right to the top floor, where I resided in the attic bedroom, lulling us with the promise of a break from our literary tomes. Rice pudding and regular doses of Neighbours were our tranquillisers in those days.

When I tried to recall how we'd made it though, the details escaped me. I know that in England we used a variety of rice that came labeled as pudding rice. A round, short-grained rice that I haven't seen here, and I didn't feel like squandering my precious arborio rice, (which is the nearest equivalent) on a mere pudding. Neither was I sure that my kids would feel the same nostalgic enthusiasm for rice pudding, never having been exposed to it before! One day I will make it for them, I promise, to remind them of their English heritage, but this time I decided to go for the South African spiritual counterpart of rice pudding - Milk Tart.

Milk Tart or Melktert is one of those classic South African dishes, that show up in infinite shades of cream at every social event, where people bring a sweet contribution. At school fund-raisers and tea and cake sales you will find several different versions interspersed with the odd tipsy tart, vetkoek, koeksisters or crunchies for variety.

A pastry case filled with a pale custard filling and speckled with cinnamon, it has a dense creamy texture that is sweet but not sickly, the comfort factor of creamy rice pudding without the bulk. Even my children, who don't go for rich, creamy things, like it and it's a great way of using up that extra pint of milk that is about to go past its sell by date and at the same time getting the kids to up their dairy and calcium intake, without overdosing on cream and fat. It uses half-fat milk not cream so is also a good choice for those who have to avoid cream but are missing the indulgence of it.

The joy of this particular recipe for a Crustless Milk Tart is that it by-passes the need for pastry, the filling going straight into a buttered pie dish and into the oven, so it can be assembled in five minutes, baked for 45 minutes and produce a tea time treat with almost no effort. Also all the ingredients are mixed up in one bowl, or the food processor, leaving very little washing up. I've seen many other traditional recipes that demand that you whisk egg yolks and whites separately then fold in, but this way is already so delicious that there seems to be no need, unless you are looking for entertainment! This version is perfect for afternoons when you have a thousand other things to do and unexpected visitors show up for tea, or when you just feel the need for comfort food on a cold winter's afternoon.

Crustless Milk Tart Recipe

¾ cup / 185ml self-raising flour
2 cups / 500ml milk
2 eggs
¾ cup / 185 ml sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 oz / 25g melted butter
pinch salt
½ tsp cinnamon

Put all the ingredients together into a bowl or food processor and beat to a smooth batter. Pour into a buttered pie dish (approximately 23cm/9" in diameter, but it doesn't matter if it's not exact, the finished tart will just be either a bit deeper or shallower). Sprinkle the cinnamon over the top. Bake for 45 minutes at 175C / 350F. Serve warm or cold. It sinks and becomes denser as it cools. If you eat it hot you'll need a spoon to scoop up the soft custardy tart but cold you can pick up the slices in your hand, if it hasn't vanished long before then.

Happily the milk tart was a tremendous success - this was the first time I'd made it myself from my sister-in-law's recipe. All three children guzzled as much as they were allowed, I sneaked an extra piece too and felt almost the same level of carbohydrate comfort that our student rice puddings provided. The only thing missing was that crusty spicy skin that you either fight over or loathe. If anyone has a foolproof, effortless rice pudding recipe for me, I would love to subject my children to it one day soon!

OK, so they don't really look in need of a winter warmer, but they are working very hard!

P.S. In case those of you with wet summers are about to lynch me for this sunny winter picture, it is actually raining again today and we'd just had five whole days of rain before the sun shone and liberated my laundry from the ever expanding heap in the bathroom.

Edited to add: I thought I would submit this to Johanna's Sugar High Friday event - the theme is 'sweet specialities' and I'm taking it upon myself to see that South Africa's puddings are adequately represented, so this Milk Tart and this Malva Pudding will fly the flag for SA along with Jeanne's Peppermint Crisp Fridge Tart.


  1. You've made me so happy! I've never made melktert before, as I've always been put off by the fiddly pastry. I didn't know it was possible without, but I suppose that makes it a kind of baked custard. I'm about to transpose this into my recipe book and foist it on my family soon.

    PS Love the pic of your kids playing so happily in the sun. Not remotely envious. No no, not at all.

  2. Hi Kit

    Here's my version of rice pudding:

    3 cups cooked rice (I used leftover brown jasmine rice-delicious!)
    3 cups milk
    3 eggs
    ¾ cup sugar
    1 tsp vanilla
    ⅓ cup slivered almonds
    ½ cup raisins
    Dash of cinnamon
    Dash of nutmeg (optional)
    Beat eggs, milk, sugar, vanilla and spices in a large ovenproof
    dish. Stir in rice,
    raisins and half the slivered almonds. Sprinkle remaining almonds on top. Bake
    at 350˚F/180˚C for an hour or until set and golden brown.
    Serves 8-10
    For 2-3 servings, make a third of this recipe and bake for 30 minutes or until set.

    I'm definitely going to try the crustless milk tart - I don't make milk tart often - my mom's version is one of those separating the egg recipes.


  3. The Milk Tart sounds wonderful...just the sort of comforting thing kids would enjoy on a chilly afternoon after school. I will try it out on my three. My mother used to make rice pudding when I was young. Fond memories.

  4. I will be saving this for chillier days of looks and sounds yummy and comforting. It is so hot today only a pool will satisfy and a bowl of ice cold strawberry ice cream. The Milk Tart is similar to a rice pudding recipe of my grandmothers! ( of English descent) So good!

    I have been wanting a crustless recipe for so long and one which works here in the UK! So far I have made your recipe 3 times in the last week for the family and friends! However my darling British born kiddies gag each time I try and make them eat it! :-) They prefer rice pudding and YUM YUMS from Waitrose! Sad I know!:-)

  6. this looks just lovely... it's certainly NOT cold here in vienna, but the idea of this tart warms my heart even more. what a great treat, especially for someone like me who hates making their own pastry! thanks for participating!

  7. Wow, this sounds delicious too. Rice pudding was one of my favourites while growing up (seems we had lots of comfort style puddings!), so this is another must try recipe.

  8. Hey Kit, found your site while looking for data to put into my Internet course that I teach at Simon's Town Seniors Computer Club. I certainly will use it to demonstrate your site and especially the great crustless milk tart. Many thanks,

  9. Hey, Kit. I made the Melktert before and I am baking it as we speak. I used one third cup of brown sugar instead of white. Great, simple recipe, which I have bookmarked, being an avid home baker. Thanks, Mark in Toronto

  10. Tried it yesterday.Even my daughter (aged 6) who usually doesn't like cakes or any sort of sweet thing just loved it.She loved it so much that I have to bake it again today. making it double in bigger tin cake and hope it'll last at last for two days.Thank you . I'll soon try even the rice pudding.

  11. lost my mom's crustless recipe. am sure she uses more eggs than you but texturally it sounds very similar. thanks

  12. I don't bake, I buy. But when I read this recipe I am all bold and cocky and think I could make this.

    My son loves milk tart, so I am sure that even if it goes very wrong, I think he would probably still be game to eat it.

  13. @reluctantmom - you could make this easily - it's the first baking recipe my youngest daughter ever made by herself. The only thing that could go wrong would be forgetting it in the oven, but even then it would probably be edible if you rescued it within the next half hour!

  14. I have never had a baked Melk Tert before! Is this even legal? I am definitely going to have to try this to see for myself. I make traditional Melk Tert regularly so I am looking forward to tasting the difference.


Thanks for your comments - I appreciate every one!