Friday, April 19, 2013

Lemon Treacle Slice

by Sheila Connolly

There are times when I think Gordon Ramsay has taken over television, maybe with a little help from Anthony Bourdain (who now appears to be CNN's new international political commentator). Gordon (may I call you Gordon? I feel that I know you well enough) currently appears in, at last count, Kitchen Nightmares, Hell's Kitchen, MasterChef, The F Word, Hotel Hell, and a few others, and, yes, I watch all of them.  It's not just to listen to the bleeps (if you don't know it, he swears a lot). I admire the way Gordon cooks:  good fresh food prepared simply and presently attractively. I also keep watching because I'm still waiting for him to run out of energy, but he hasn't yet.

One show of his that I didn't know about until one dire evening when there was no network show I wanted to watch, and I didn't feel like committing to an entire movie—i.e., staying awake that long—is Gordon Behind Bars, a short series of four episodes made last year in Brixton Prison in London, and available on BBC America.  Gordon goes into the Victorian prison to try to teach a small group of inmates not only to cook but to make something marketable on the outside (and, since he's Gordon Ramsay, he succeeds).  Together they created Bad Boys' Bakery, and their signature product is the Lemon Treacle Slice, available commercially through at least one café chain.

British (and Irish) cooking is always challenging because many of the ingredients are unfamiliar and/or unavailable in the US, and units are given in grams or milliliters.  I solved Problem #1 by locating online suppliers for such things as golden syrup and treacle (yes, there is a difference), and Problem #2 by buying an adorable kitchen scale with any number of units of measurement.  I am ready! (Except I'm definitely going to buy European measuring cups when I'm in Dublin in June!)

So I was curious to see what this treacle slice was all about and what it tastes like. [Note:  this recipe is widely available on different Internet sites.] Warning:  whatever you call it, treacle is sticky! It's far thicker than our molasses or honey, but it has its own flavor.

US measurements in red

300g digestive biscuits  an 8-oz package is about right
150g butter 1 1/2 sticks
Okay, right up front we've got an issue:  what the heck is a digestive biscuit?  No, it's not a graham cracker, but close:  a whole-grain cracker, but with no sugar.  McVitie's seems to be the major producer, not available in my market but I found a decent substitute.

Place the biscuits in a food processor and blend until they are reduced to fine crumbs.

Melt the butter, then stir into the biscuits. Press the biscuit mixture firmly into the base of a 20cm 9-inch square tin which has been lined with baking parchment.

Chill for at least a half an hour (you'll see why below).

1 Tblsp lemon curd (you may have to hunt for this at the store)
675g golden syrup 
2 tins
90g butter 3 ounces
100ml double cream  
1/2 cup heavy cream
225g white breadcrumbs 
this came out to 4 cups loosely packed when I weighed it, but they could have been squished down to less
5 egg yolks
Zest and juice of 1 lemon

Pre heat the oven to 160c.  This came out to about 325 degrees F, but not much cooking was going on at that temperature, so I bumped it up to 350

Place the golden syrup into a saucepan along with the butter and allow to melt GENTLY. You do not want this to boil.

Once the butter has melted take the pan off the heat and stir in the cream, breadcrumbs, egg yolks, lemon zest and juice. Stir well.
Once the base has chilled, spread the lemon curd onto the base (with a spatula or a brush—this is why you've chilled the base). Pour the breadcrumb filling over the biscuit base and then place into the oven to cook for 25-30 minutes or until firm to the touch (not browned). Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely before cutting.


A little icing sugar  confectioner's/powdered sugar
A little lemon juice

Mix together the sugar and lemon juice until you have a thick paste. Place it into a piping bag and pipe over the top of your slices. Or just drizzle the stuff with a spoon.

Gordon, if you'd like a guest slot on Mystery Lovers' Kitchen, we'd love to have you.


  1. Fun post. Gordon is indeed a pleasure to watch. Yes, his energy level is a tad scary. For me, he's at his best when he's cooking alone in the kitchen, just Gordon and the camera - "Done!" (I hope he takes you up on your offer!)

  2. An interesting recipe. I thought McVities digestives were slightly sweet--not like a cookie, but not like a saltine, say. (English Tea shop web site, McVities Digestive biscuits: "Ingredients: Wheat flour, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, sugar, wholemeal, cultured skim milk, partially inverted sugar syrup, raising agent, glucose syrup, salt"
    I would think that the mixture is sweet enough without having the crust have any sweetening in it. But I see on the Wegmans store site that Bretons are not without sweetening.)
    The Breton crackers (wonder why they are not "biscuits"?) are-
    "Ingredients: Enriched Flour (Wheat Flour, Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, Folic Acid), Vegetable Oil Shortening (Canola and Coconut Oil), Wheat Germ, Whole Wheat Flour, Sugar, Salt, Whey (a Milk Ingredient), Leavening (Ammonium Bicarbonate, Baking Soda), Hydrolyzed Soy Protein, Natural Flavor, Enzymes."
    Anyway, enough of my obsessing.
    This looks like it would be very refreshing with tea.

  3. You are a brave girl for translating those ingredients. I spent a year in England being baffled by the food. This slice looks delish.

    Forget Gordon - with three series, you've got energy!

  4. I know, Libby--there's sugar in everything, especially in this country. And I'll admit that in both my local market chains, the crackers and the cookies are mixed indiscriminately on the shelves. What can you do?

    Thing is, most graham cracker crust recipes I've seen start with the (sweet) cracker and then add sugar, which is not necessary here.

    MJ, I'm still boggled by the measurements (is that a dry ounce? a liquid ounce?). The scale helps, and it's cute, but I'm not there yet. And I can't even read the tables I find on line, because I forget which way I'm translating.

    But this tastes good! My husband and I ate the whole thing (over the course of a week).

  5. Sheila, Gordon is such a bad boy, but he's so good, I agree! What a wonderful project to go behind the scenes and try to educate in a productive way.

    Great share, Sheila!

    Daryl / Avery

  6. Sheila, it sounds fabulous. How could it go wrong with lemon curd? Yum, yum, yum! I'll have to look for the prison show!


  7. I'm making this as we speak. It looks divine. Thank you for doing the conversions. It is much appreciated. I do have to note that before I found that you had done the work for me, I did them myself and the 225 grams of breadcrumbs is actually 7.9 ounces, or 1 cup.