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History Cookbook: Ember Day Tarts

This recipe is in categories Normans / Medieval, Main courses, Party food, Picnic, Starters
About this recipe
Healthiness : (134 votes)

The onions need to be chopped with a sharp knife. They do not need to be very finely prepared for this dish.

If you are using several eggs, it is a good idea to break them one at a time into a small dish before tipping them together, so you can rescue any eggshell pieces which may have got in by mistake.

For the pastry - see our recipe for Medieval shortcrust pastry (follow the url at the bottom of the page). If you do not have time for this you can buy ready made shortcrust pastry to use (although not as authentic).

Preparation Time: 15 minutes (filling), 15 minutes (pastry)
Cooking Time: Maximum 40 minutes
Number of servings: 4 as a main dish.
Serving suggestions: Serve with salad and cheese.

Four times every year in the Catholic calendar, there were "Ember Days" - consisting of a Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday - when meat was forbidden. Cheese and eggs, however, were allowed. An 'Ember Day Tart' therefore was a filling dish served instead of meat on these fasting days. The tarts in the recipe are a little like a sweet quiche.

The recipe uses galingale, it is well worth finding some as its aromatic taste is not easily replaced. You can use ginger as a substitute but this will give heat rather than a more rounded flavour.

The recipe was originally written down as follows:

'Tart in embre day: take and parboile onynons; presse out the water & hewe hem smale;take brede & bray it in a mortar,and temper it up with ayren; do perto butter, safron, spice and salt and corans & a ltel sugar with powdor douce, and bake it in a trap,& serve it forth.'
For the main dish
  • 2 large onions
  • 1 tbsp melted butter
  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • a pinch of saffron, galingale and mace
  • 1/8 tsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp currants
For the Pastry
  • take 250g of short crust pastry (see our recipe for medieval pastry)
  • Sharp knife
  • Bowl
  • Colander
  • Spoon
  • Cup or pastry cutters
  • Patty or baking tray
Making and cooking it
Always wash your hands before preparing food Always wash your hands before preparing food.

Please note you will need to make the pastry first, if you are using the recipe for medieval pastry on this site.

  1. Chop the onions  
  2. Parboil for about 5 minutes 
  3. Strain, add the butter then set aside to cool
  4. Mix remaining ingredients together in a bowl 
  5. Add the onions
  6. Make either one 8" pastry case or 12 individual sized cases
  7. For the latter, roll out the pastry
  8. Cut the pastry into small circles using the top of a beaker or cup and place on a patty tray
  9. Pour or spoon the mixture into the pastry cases
  10. Bake at 350 degrees or gas mark 5 for 30-40 minutes(one large pie) or 15-20 minutes(individual cases). The filling should be set and the pastry lightly browned
Related Links
Ember Day Tarts - print view  Ember Day Tarts - print view

If you tried this recipe and liked it, tell us about it
There are 3 comments for this recipe.
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Name: Ryoma 14th January 2013
Full of salient points. Don't stop beilevnig or writing!
Name: Can It Be... 26th November 2012
can it be safe to travel with? These can be transported in a cake tin, the pastry tarts travel quite well but don't layer them very dep and don't bash them around too much and they should be fine. We have packed these as part of a packed lunch and taken them to picnics. The Cookit Team
Name: Cat 9th March 2010
I've had a version of Ember tart with soft cheese and parsnip in too. It's very very god!
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