Tarte owt of Lente

Take neshe chese and pare hit and grynd hit yn A morter and breke
egges and do ther to and then put yn buttur and creme and mell
all well to gethur put not to moche butter ther yn if the chese be fatte
make A coffyn of dowe and close hit a bove with dowe and collor hit
a bove with the yolkes of eggs and bake hit well and serue hit furth.
Gentyll manly Cokere (MS Pepys 1047, c.1500)

Take fresh cheese and cut it and grind it in a mortar and break eggs and thereto and then put in butter and cream and mix all together well. Do not put too much butter in if the cheese be fat. Make a coffin of dough and close it above with dough and colour it above with egg yolk. Bake it well and serve it forth.

Lent is still very significant to many Christians, but during the medieval period it was probably the most important religious observance of the year. It was a 46 day period, starting on Ash Wednesday and ending just before Easter. It signified the 40 days Jesus spent in the desert, and people were meant to spend the time abstaining from luxuries, in penance, prayer, and fasting. There were strict rules regarding the food that could be eaten – no meat of land animals, no milk, and no eggs.

That this tart is called “The Tart out of Lent” is an indication that this tart was a particular favourite to be eaten once Lent was over. It is a very rich, indulgent tart.


For the pastry:

250g white flour 125g unsalted butter
2 egg yolks Pinch saffron
15mL boiling water approx. 40mL cold water

For the filling:

150g Cheshire cheese 100mL cream
2 eggs Salt, to taste


    For the filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Beat the eggs together and set aside.
  3. Cut the cheese into chunks and bash it in a mortar and pestle.
  4. Add the cream, beaten eggs and salt to the cheese and combine.
  5. Roll out 2/3 of the pastry to make the pie base. Reserve the other 1/3 to make the lid.
  6. Grease a pie tin with butter, and line the tin with the rolled out pastry.
  7. Put the cheese mix in the pastry, taking care not to overfill the case, otherwise the pie will leak.
  8. Roll out the reserved pastry to make a lid, and add to the top of the pie. Ensure the edges are well sealed.
  9. Brush the top of the pie with beaten egg yolk, and make an incision in the middle to allow steam to escape.
  10. Bake the pie for 30 – 45 minutes, until the pie is golden on top.
  11. Serve hot or cold. It won’t last long.


  • Cheshire cows tend to graze on salty marsh fodder, so their milk is somewhat salty. This produces a distinctive flavoured and textured cheese which mashes really easily. Cheshire was also one of the first regions in England to produce cheese on an industrial scale. (Kindstedt, 2012, 165-172)


Further Reading

Kindstedt, Paul. Cheese and Culture. White River Junction, 2012.

2 comments on “Tarte owt of Lente

  1. Sherry m says:

    I made this recipe for the History of royal food course. Such an interesting dish.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.