Ember Day Tarts

Ember Day Tarts

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
4 eggs
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

[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 pastr.y

[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


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.