Today is release day for my feel good romance, Felicity at the Cross Hotel. Hooray! And to celebrate I have an old (secret) Tudor recipe with a strange ingredient, and a legend about Henry VIII and Anne Boleyn.
Felicity at the Cross Hotel is set in the Lake District – a romance writer’s dream for a setting, and wouldn’t it be wonderful to be sitting beside one of those lakes right now :)
The Cross Hotel is an old Tudor building in the Lake District. It belongs to the hero, Patrick Cross, and has been home to the Cross family for many years.
The Cross Hotel is a romantic place, in a wonderful setting, but an old hotel like this needs a lot of money to maintain, and things haven’t been going well at the Cross Hotel.
And here is where my heroine, Felicity Everdene, comes to the rescue…
Felicity has lots of ideas for restoring the hotel’s fortunes, and one of her ideas is to throw a Tudor feast, and have all the guests come in fancy dress. The hotel’s chef loves the idea, and he comes up with a fabulous menu.
I thought it would be fun to celebrate release of Felicity at the Cross Hotel with the recipe for a famous Tudor dessert called Maids of Honour. There is a legend that Henry VIII once went to Ann Boleyn’s chambers and found her and her maids eating little spiced tarts. The king tried some of the tarts and declared them so fine, they were fit only for royalty. According to legend, he confiscated the recipe from the Queen’s maids of honour and placed it in an iron box, under lock and key. The recipe remained a secret for many years!
There are lots of slightly different versions of the recipe for Maids of Honour. Here is one I like, as it’s quite similar to curd tarts, which are a Yorkshire speciality (Yorkshire is my home county :) ).
For 24 Maids of Honour tarts
(Please note weights are all British convention. To convert to US, try using this cooking units conversion site)
450g (1lb) shortcrust pastry – either home made or frozen
100g (4oz) curd cheese
75g (3oz) butter, softened
2 eggs, beaten
65ml (2½fl oz) brandy
75g (3oz) caster sugar (superfine sugar)
75g (3oz) cold mashed potatoes (I’m not sure if Henry VIII would have had this in his day. Weren’t potatoes brought to the UK by Walter Raleigh, for Elizabeth I?)
25g (1oz) ground almonds
½ teaspoon grated nutmeg
Grated rind of 2 lemons
Juice of 1 lemon
If you’ve made your own pastry, make sure it’s nice and chilled in the fridge for a while. Preheat the oven to 180°C, 350°F, gas mark 4. Grease 24 bun tins.
Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board and cut 24 circles using a 7.5cm (3in) plain cutter (or an upside-down mug or cup works well, too). Line the prepared bun tins with the pastry rounds. Beat together the curd cheese and butter. Add the beaten eggs, brandy and sugar and beat again. In a separate bowl beat together the mashed potatoes, ground almonds, nutmeg, lemon rind and juice, and gradually mix in the cheese mixture. Beat thoroughly.
Spoon into the pastry cases and bake for 35–40 minutes until risen, golden and firm.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tins for 5–10 minutes before lifting carefully on to a wire rack to finish cooling.
There – a Tudor recipe fit for a king! And despite the strange ingredient of the mashed potato, they are absolutely delicious!
The Tudor feast in Felicity at the Cross Hotel is an evening of fun and drama. In fact, it’s so dramatic, one of the guests calls it “better than one of Shakespeare’s plays”.
Here is the blurb to Felicity at the Cross Hotel:
A quaint hotel in the Lake District. The Cross Hotel is the perfect getaway. Or is it?
Felicity Everdene needs a break from the family business. Driving through the Lake District to the Cross Hotel, past the shining lake and the mountains, everything seems perfect. But Felicity soon discovers all is not well at the Cross Hotel …
Patrick Cross left the village of Emmside years ago never intending to return, but his father has left him the family’s hotel in his will, and now he’s forced to come back. With a missing barmaid, a grumpy chef, and the hotel losing money, the arrival of Felicity Everdene from the notorious Everdene family only adds to Patrick’s troubles.
With so much to overcome, can Felicity and Patrick bring happiness to the Cross Hotel … and find happiness for themselves?
Felicity at the Cross Hotel is available now (yay!) on Amazon
I hope you’ve enjoyed my Tudor recipe. Have you ever tried Maids of Honour? Or curd tarts? And have you ever been to a Tudor banquet? If you have any comments at all, I’d love to hear from you!