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.’
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.
For the main dish
2 large onions
1 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
a pinch each of saffron, galingale and mace
1/8 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp salt
2 tbsp currants
For the Pastry:
250 g [8,8 oz] of short crust pastry
Making and cooking it
 Chop the onions.
 Parboil for about 5 minutes.
 Strain, add the butter then set aside to cool.
 Mix remaining ingredients together in a bowl.
 Add the onions.
 Make either one 8″ pastry case or 12 individual sized cases.
 For the latter, roll out the pastr.y
 Cut the pastry into small circles using the top of a beaker or cup and place on a patty tray.
 Pour or spoon the mixture into the pastry cases.
 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
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.