The Ladies' Tea Guild

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Historical Food Fortnightly and A History of Royal Food and Feasting -- Tartes owt of Lente

ingredients for Tarte owt of Lente.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
So, I haven't exactly fallen off the end of the earth (again), but I haven't had much energy after working all day at the school.  Now that summer has arrived, though, I'm only working half-days at the summer school, and also taking two online classes through FutureLearn.  One class is called The History of Royal Food and Feasting, and it's really interesting.  This week the class discussion was about the Tudor period and Hampton Court Palace, and we were challenged to cook one of the recipes that the Hampton Court Palace staff of Tudor kitchen interpreters has made on one of their promotional and educational YouTube videos: Tartes owt of Lente.  It's from a manuscript from around 1500, probably in the Bodleian Library and not published (except on the Hampton Court Palace web page) in modern times.  It also happens to be a pie, and I also happened to get it done within the time limit for this challenge, so YAY!  The first challenge I have been able to complete this year ... 

Challenge #13 Pies (June 17 - June 30) -- Make a pie! Meat, fruit, sweet or savory; traditional pies, hand pies, standing pies, or galottes - get creative, but make sure it’s documented!

Parmesan and Cottage cheese in the measuring cup.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
The Recipe: Tartes owt of Lente, from Gentyllmanly Cokere, MS Pepys 1047, ca. 1500, redacted by Historic Royal Palaces/Hampton Court Palace. 

Tarte owt of Lente
Ingredients: to make 6-8 portions

For the filling
100g (3 ½ ounces) Cheshire cheese
150ml (¼ pint) cream
1 medium sized egg
30g (1 ounce) butter
Salt and pepper

For the pastry case
Any high butter pastry, such as shortcrust, will do
Egg yolks for glazing

Cheeses being mashed together in improvised mortar.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Chop 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. Make a pastry tart case, about 25cm (10inches) diameter - you can use a tart tin if easier - and thin pastry lid. Fill with cheese, cream, egg and butter mixture. Put on pastry lid – seal and glaze with egg yolks. Bake at 220°C/gas mark 6 for 40 minutes or until golden. Allow to cool a little and serve.

The Date/Year and Region: England, ca. 1500.

How Did You Make It: The original recipe doesn't specify what kind of cheese to use, just that it be soft, and any hard rind should be trimmed off.  The cook-along video on the HamptonCourt Palace site suggests using Cheshire cheese; while I've seen Cheshire cheese in the specialty deli section at my local grocery store, I didn't happen to have any, so I used a combination of Parmesan cheese (grated at the deli) and cottage cheese.  I also didn't have a set of scales to measure the cheese with and make sure I had 100 grams, but since both cheeses came in containers that had the weight printed on the label, I was able to estimate; I ended up using about ¼ cup of cottage cheese and ¾ cup of grated Parmesan. 

All the ingredients mashed together.
Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
I have a mortar and pestle, but it's really small, so I used the pestle and a medium-sized Pyrex bowl to mash the cheese in.  The Parmesan was soft enough to mash pretty easily since it was already grated, and the two cheeses, mashed together, looked like the paste-type filling that the cook in the Hampton Court Palace video made.  However, when I added the egg, the filling became runny, so I only added a splash of cream, about a scant tablespoon, and it still was more of a thick, pourable batter, and there wasn't very much of it.  I added a couple of grinds of black pepper, and a shake of powdered mace for flavoring.  I didn't add any salt, because I figured the Parmesan would be salty enough, and I was right. 

I also used a purchased pie dough, because I have never had success making it myself, and the kitchen was really warm today and I knew the pastry wouldn't turn out well if I tried to make it; I also only used a bottom crust, instead of making a two-crust pie like in the video.  There wasn't much filling; it only filled the crust about 1/3 full, so next time I make this, I will double the amount of filling, as well as borrow a set of scales so I can be sure about the amount of cheese being correct.  I was worried that the crust wouldn't bake with such a wet filling, so I ended up pre-baking it for 5 minutes at 375 degrees F. before adding the filling, and then baking for another 20 minutes.  The filling puffed up a little, maybe filling the crust halfway, when I took it out of the oven (the edges of the crust were golden), but when it cooled, it shrank back down and looked very skimpy. 

Tarte owt of Lent, cooled. Photo: Elizabeth Urbach.
Time to Complete: less than an hour.

Total Cost: had everything in the fridge, but it would be about $15 if I had to buy everything new.

How Successful Was It?: The tart tasted good, though, and I'm looking forward to making it again, maybe with Cheshire cheese, or one of the specialty British cheeses from the deli.  The Parmesan was almost too salty for my taste, so I might use more cottage cheese and less Parmesan next time, too, or add another kind of cheese, for flavor.  I could see how using a smoked cheese would be delicious, too, and I think this tart would be good as a savory dessert, with fresh or dried fruit on the side.

Tarte owt of Lente, version 2.0.  Photo: Elizabeth Urbach
How Accurate Is It?:  since I used a modern pre-made pie dough, and a modern tart tin, as well as a modern oven, I'd say it's about 50% accurate.  If I made the dough, and formed the dough into a pie case without using a tart tin, that would up the accuracy a lot, but I don't think my pastry skills are going to get to that ability any time soon!

Edited to Add: tonight (July 3rd) I made the tarte again, this time doubling the filling recipe and using 200 grams of a smoked English cheddar for the cheese, instead of the combination of Parmesan and cottage cheese, and I left out the mace this time.  Helpfully, the cheese came in a 200 gram block, so I just grated it, and then mashed it with a wooden pestle in a medium-sized bowl.  I added 2 scant tablespoons of cream along with 2 eggs, and about a tablespoon of butter, and mashed it all together. The filling was much more of a paste, and filled the crust halfway; it puffed up and doubled its size in the oven, but quickly deflated once I took it out.  Still, it filled the crust 2/3 of the way, and I think it will make a much more satisfying dish.  I must say, it's easy to make; just mash all the ingredients together, pour into a pie shell, and bake!  I baked this one for 25 minutes at 370 degrees F., and it came out just right.

1 comment:

Bernideen said...

Yes, you were really good to write things down the first time. I change things the 2nd time too and if I don't write it down at the time - I forget what changes to make. It looks delicious and certainly a wonderful tart!!!

Now stir the fire, and close the shutters fast,
Let fall the curtains, wheel the sofa round,
And, while the bubbling and loud-hissing urn
Throws up a steamy column, and the cups
That cheer but not inebriate, wait on each,
So let us welcome peaceful evening in.
-- William Cowper (1731-1800)
"The Winter Evening" (Book Four), _The Task_ (1784)