The term ‘tort de moy’ is derived from the French word for bone marrow, moelle. It may sound rather simple, or even unpalatable, but at Westminster Hall on 23 April 1685, bone marrow tart was served as the food of royalty.
Francis Sandford’s History of the Coronation is a rich record of the crowning of King James II and the festivities which followed. King James II’s coronation was a lavish affair, culminating in a sensational feast in the medieval hall at the Palace of Westminster.
In total, 175 dishes were set in front of Their Majesties at the banquet. From stags tongues and larded fawns to puffins and trotter pies, the array of dishes was eclectic, eccentric, and not generally in keeping with today’s tastes!
Turt de moil, or tort de moy, appears at no. 98 on Sandford’s list of dishes. A plan of the King and Queen’s banqueting table even shows us how it was served: alongside three sous’d pigs (110), five partridge pies (96) and cold, marinated smelts (97):
What made this simple bone marrow tart a dish fit for a king? Here is the version which appears version in our Cookbook of Unknown Ladies, attributed to a ‘Mrs Gibbs':
Mrs Gibbs is Tort De Moy (modernised spelling)
Pound a quarter of a pound of almonds with sack, and beat the white part of a young pullet that is very tender & half boiled. Skin it and pound it very small. 4 naple biscuits grated, some pounded cinnamon, half a pint of sack, 6 spoonfuls of rose water, some pounded mace, half a nutmeg, some sugar to your taste, sliced citron & candied lemon peel. Then beat 4 eggs, two whites and mix it with half a pint of cream. When you have beaten your eggs and cream well together, put your other ingredients to it and mix them well together and put them in a skillet over the fire and keep continually stirring [it] one way till it is as thick as a tansy. Your fire must be slow. Then have a dish with puff pastry at the bottom and sides, and when it is pretty cool, put half of [the mixture] in your dish and then a layer of whole marrow and the juice of a lemon over it. Then put the other half in , then cross bar it with pastry [on the] top and bake it in a very slow oven. 3 quarters of an hour bakes it. You can leave out the marrow if you like.
The method is labour intensive, and the ingredients would have made this a relatively expensive dish: ground white chicken (pullet) meat, almonds, warm spices and candied fruits. And it is rich in taste and texture too, with unctuous bone marrow sandwiched between almondy sponge layers. Presented in a buttery pastry case, it would surely have stood up to its culinary neighbours at the coronation banquet table.