Prue Leith’s Maids of Honour

Puff-pastry tartlets filled with sweetened curd cheese are said to have been a favourite of Henry VIII – who enjoyed them served at tea time in Hampton Court Palace. We think he would have been particularly fond of these versions made by Prue.

Serves: 12
Difficulty: Needs skill
Hands-On Time: 1 hr
Baking Time: 30 mins
  • Ingredients
  • Method
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Method

Step 1
For the curd cheese, pour the milk into a large pan and add the salt. Bring to a very gentle boil over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the vinegar. Leave to stand without stirring for 5 minutes, until the curds separate from the whey.

Step 2
Pour the mixture into the prepared sieve and leave to drain into the bowl for at least 30 minutes, until cool. Tip the curd cheese into a separate bowl. You should have just over 200g of curd cheese.

Step 3
For the rough puff pastry, mix the flour and salt together in a bowl. Rub in the chilled butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Gradually add 5–7 tablespoons of water to form a dough.

Step 4
On a lightly floured surface, roll out the dough to a rectangle measuring 30 x 12cm. Grate half of the frozen butter over the bottom two thirds of the dough. Fold down the top third and fold up the bottom third as if you were folding a letter. Rotate the dough through 90 degrees and roll it again into a 30 x 12cm rectangle.

Step 5
Grate the remaining frozen butter over the bottom two thirds of the dough. Fold down the top third and fold up the bottom third as if you were folding a letter. Rotate the dough through 90 degrees. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Step 6
Repeat the rolling and folding of the pastry twice more, each time wrapping in cling film and leaving to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Step 7
For the lemon curd, put the lemon zest and juice and the sugar and butter in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Stir occasionally until the butter has melted, then whisk in the beaten egg. Gently whisk the mixture over the heat for about 10 minutes, until thickened like custard. Pour the cooked curd through a sieve into a clean bowl to remove the zest, then leave to cool and set.

Step 8
Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C fan/Gas 7. Roll out the chilled pastry on a lightly floured surface to about 3mm thick and, using a 10cm round cutter, cut out 12 rounds. Use these to line the 12-hole muffin tray, then line each with a square of baking paper. Fill with baking beans and bake for 20 minutes, then remove the paper and beans and set aside.

Step 9
For the filling, reduce the oven temperature to 180°C/160°C fan/Gas 4. Place the curd cheese, lemon zest, sugar, flour and eggs into a bowl and whisk together until smooth.

Step 10
Place 1 teaspoon of lemon curd into the base of each pastry case, then pour the filling into the cases until they are full, but not overflowing. Bake for 10–12 minutes, until set, then transfer the tray to a wire rack and allow the tarts to cool.

Step 11
Hold the stencil over a tart and dust with icing sugar to create a rose motif. Repeat for the remaining tarts.