Tudor Cooking: Tarte Owte of Lent

I’m just getting started with a really fun online class, A History of Royal Food and Feasting, a collaboration between University of Reading and Historic Royal Palaces.

I’ve been a history nerd most of my life, and I’ve always had a very soft spot for those most rowdy of English monarchs, the Tudors. All those good stories…and as luck would have it, the first week of this course is focused on foods that appeared on the tables of Henry VIII, so I’ve been super excited to dive right in.

The lesson focused on a savory cheese tart that was one of the first dishes served right after Lent, because it’s loaded with goodies folks had been denied for 40 days: cheese, cream, butter, eggs. You know, the stuff of life.

Very easy to make, and so tasty. It certainly isn’t low-calorie, but it is the definition of respecting high-quality ingredients in a very clean, simple way. This will be going into the regular rotation at my humble home…

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Tarte Owte of Lent (image by The Global Reader)

Tarte Owte of Lent (Tart Out of Lent)

adapted from a recipe from Historic Royal Palaces

Ingredients: to make 6-8 portions

For the filling

  • 1/3 pound  Cheddar cheese (I used a really good Welsh Cheddar)
  • 1/2 cup cream
  • 1 medium sized egg
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste ( I wanted this to be peppery, so I used a couple big pinches)

For the pastry case

  • 1 package frozen deep-dish pie crust (2 crusts), thawed
  • Egg yolks for glazing

Instructions:

  • Chop or shred the cheese and then pound in a mortar
  • Add cream, egg and butter and mix together to make a thick cream (about the consistency of Cottage Cheese – add more cream if too dry, more cheese if too wet)
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste
  • Butter a 9 or 10 inch tart pan
  • Roll out your bottom crust, and press into prepared tart pan
  • Fill with cheese, cream, egg and butter mixture
  • Roll out the second crust, a bit thinner this time then fold out as a lid.
  • Seal and glaze with egg yolks
  • Bake at 375°F for 35-40 minutes, or until golden
  • Allow to cool a little and serve

I served it with a simple salad of lettuce and mint (herbs were commonly used in salads during that period), dressed with oil and vinegar. I also put a little cherry ginger jam on the side of the tart. We learned in our class that Henry was particularly fond of fruit jellies and jams, and cherries and ginger were ingredients commonly encountered at his court. I also just got back from a trip to Northern Michigan (cherries everywhere!) and was thrilled to come across this wonderful stuff from a company called Cherry Stop while I was there. You should get some; nicely gingery, and not too sweet.

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A serving of the tart with cherry ginger jam on the side, and a simple salad (Image by The Global Reader)

And to finish this up, I have to toss in some pics from my recent trip to Hampton Court.
An overcast, blustery day in late January. Hardly anyone there. My husband and I just wondered around, taking it all in. We even got to be alone with this crackling fire for a few minutes. Total and complete bliss.

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Kitchen fireplace at Hampton Court (image by The Global Reader)

And finally, where Henry and his most honored quests would dine: The Great Hall. A tart very similar to this was probably served there!

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The Great Hall of Hampton Court (image by The Global Reader)

Sweetness from Niger

Been intrigued by that $10 box of hibiscus tea that seems to be popping up everywhere lately? Just keep walking, to the nearest African or Latin market, and buy the real stuff. Known by many different names (sorrel, flor de Jamaica, roselle, arhul ka phool, and on and on), this little red flower is beloved just about everywhere.

In Niger, it’s called bissap, and is the basis of this super pleasing drink. You should make it. Right now.

Dried hibiscus flowers
Dried hibiscus flowers
(image by The Global Reader)

Bissap Juice

Adapted from a recipe at Seeking the Songhai

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups dark red, dried hibiscus flowers
    2 cups sugar*
    2 teaspoons of vanilla
    2 cups pineapple juice

Instructions

  1. In a large saucepan or dutch oven, bring 2 quarts of water to boiling.
    Remove from heat and add the hibiscus.
  2. Steep for at least 10 minutes.
  3. Separate the flowers and leaves from the water with a strainer.
  4. Add the sugar, vanilla, and pineapple juice. Let cool.
  5. Transfer to a pitcher, and serve over ice with few fresh mints leaves as a garnish.
Hibiscus leaves steeping
Hibiscus leaves steeping
(image by The Global Reader)

This also makes GREAT ice pops. I plan on having some bissap pops in my freezer at all times. I’m eating one right now, as a matter of fact.

  • Just pour into ice pop molds, or ice cube trays, freeze, and enjoy.

*Hibiscus is tart, which I really like. I personally found the above amount of sugar to be overly sweet. The next time I make this for drinking, I’ll use less. For the ice pops however, the sweetness level works really well as-is.

Bissap ice pop
Bissap ice pop
(image by The Global Reader)