Thursday, 13 August 2015


Ember days were fasting days that happened 4 times a year in the old Catholic calendar. They were three days in one week and it was not actual fasting but it was forbidden to eat either meat or fish.  PERIOD: England, 14th century | SOURCE: Forme of Cury
it was a pastry case filled with onions, cream, eggs, cheese - sounding like a quiche? well, yes to all intents and purposes it is a quiche but in medieval times, with no distinction between sweet and savoury it also contained sugar and raisins. The other perhaps slightly surprising ingredient was a mix of spices - we forget, I think, that spices were our island many centuries before colonial times - it is said that most trade springs from war and so it was during the crusades - the spices from North Africa and Persia came to our shores. the original recipe refers to a mix of soft spices and in my version I have used a mix of garam masala and turmeric. I have used ready to roll short crust pastry here but if you make your own then add a teaspoon of turmeric or a good pinch of saffron as they would have added saffron in those ties and it makes for the most wonderfully yellow pastry.
so here is my version
200g ready to roll shortcrust pastry
beans to blind bake
for the filling
1 onion finely sliced
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
25g butter
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
150ml double cream
100ml milk
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
75g raisins
100g grated cheese (see tips)
large handful flat leaf parsley chopped roughly
  1. Line a 25cm flan tin with baking parchment and roll the pastry out. Line the tin with the pastry and blind bake at 180C/350F for 15 minutes, removing the beans for the last minutes and allowing the now set pastry to colour slightly.  
  2. Meanwhile out the onions, butter, oil into a saucepan and add a tablespoon of water. Put a lid on the pan and cook for 5-10 minutes or until the onions are soft and sweet. Add the rest of the ingredients and season well with salt.
  3. pour into the pastry case and cook uncovered for 30 minutes reducing the heat to 150C/325F
  4. the tart should be set and slightly browned. It can be eaten warm or cold - it re-heats wonderfully so n need to make it at the last minute if you are sharing it with friends. Enjoy it as you would a quiche.
The cheese would have been possibly like Lancashire or even a fresh cheese like cottage cheese (if you want to try this then drain it well) you could even use small spoonfuls of cream cheese for a very summery flavour or a goats cheese
Make mini tartlets to serve as canapés