Tudor Tartes of Cheese

How gorgeous do these look? 

First, a kind of disclaimer. This is one of the recipes I adapted quite a bit to fit in with modern cooking methods: I've used pre-bought, ready rolled pastry. If the Tudors had access to it, they would have used it I reckon, and that's my argument. In any case, if you'd rather make your own shortcrust pastry please go ahead, and you'll get a more authentic Tudor experience because of it. For me, with a husband working shifts, two teenagers and a day job I just prefer the easier route.  

This is one of my favourite recipes I've discovered in the Tudor archives and one we've made many times. These little cheese pies go well with  a sharply-dressed green salad - or cold, as a packed lunch. The original recipe, from A Booke of Cookrye in 1591, calls for clarified butter to be added to the inside, but I left this out, judging it to be rich enough. It also calls for egg yolks -  I've used whole eggs to avoid waste. 

Here's how it appears in the original text, published in 1591 (originally published in 1584): 

Take good fine paste and drive it as thin as you can.  Then take cheese, pare it, mince it, and braye it in a morter with the yolks of Egs til it be like paste, then put it in a faire dish with clarified butter, and then put it abroade into your paste and cover it with a faire cut cover, and so bake it: that doon, serve it forth.

I've used Cheshire cheese here for a couple of reasons. 

The first is that we know Tudors ate the buttery, crumbly Cheshire cheese, which makes this version of the tart as authentic as possible. Elizabeth I once had Cheshire cheese served to her privy council for dinner. Secondly, Cheshire cheese has a beautiful dense texture, which means it won't melt in the oven, go gooey and slide out of the pastry as it cooks. 

I love them. 

Tartes of Cheese
Adapted from the 1591 edition of A Booke of Cookrye
Makes 6 tarts


125g Cheshire Cheese, grated into a bowl
2 eggs
375g pack of ready-rolled shortcrust pastry or make your own for more rustic, authentic results
butter or olive oil, for greasing


Heat oven to 200ÂșC.

In a bowl mix together the grated Cheshire cheese and one egg until well combined, forming a sticky paste. Put to one side.

Unroll the pastry and, using a small bowl - about 11cm diameter -  cut out circles. I used the bottom of a glass to keep my circles the same size. 

Next, use a little olive oil or soft butter to grease six indents of a muffin tin. Lay the pastry into them (they will hang over the tops), pushing them gently into the corners to fit.

Spoon the cheese and egg mixture into the pastry cases. Fold any pastry that's hanging over the edge over the top and twist and pinch them to form a lid for the pies. Crack the remaining egg into a small bowl and whisk with a fork. Brush the tops of the tarts with the beaten egg for a glossy finish. 

Bake in the heated oven for 20 minutes. Remove using a teaspoon to loosen the tarts from the edges of the muffin indents and allow to cool slightly before eating. The contents in the centre will be hot. 

Like this? You might like more of my historic recipes such as Marchpane, Tudor Trifle and Anne Boleyn's Apple Pie. 

Are you interested in Tudor history? The Tudor story is intertwined with that of the Wars of the Roses and understanding its history means getting to grips with how they came to power. My book, Forgotten Women of the Wars of the Roses is published by Pen and Sword Books and discusses many woman of the fifteenth century conflict that played parts we don't often hear about to day. You can Order your copy here.

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