And a Partridge in a Christmas Toastie: English Heritage Celebrates 500 Years of the Turkey with a Tudor Christmas Sandwich

  • Tradition of turkey popularised at Christmas by Henry VIII
  • English Heritage have teamed up with cult London eatery Max’s Sandwich Shop to create a Tudor Feast Christmas Sandwich inspired by a historic 5-bird recipe.

Whether you love it or simply endure it, we’ve been tucking into turkey at Christmas for five hundred years and we’ve Henry VIII to thank. Today we have unveiled our Christmas sandwich to celebrate half a millennia of turkey dinners. Inspired by a Tudor recipe and created in collaboration with sandwich-expert Max Halley, our Tudor Feast Christmas Sandwich takes its cue from the grand feasts enjoyed by Henry VIII on Christmas Day and includes five birds cooked in prune and malmsey gravy, raw spiced slaw with purple carrots and bread smothered with ale and honey mustard.

A turkey stuffed with a goose, stuffed with a chicken, stuffed with a partridge, stuffed with a pigeon and baked into a pastry “coffin”, Henry VIII’s Christmas pie was not for the faint hearted, but this season we have given the recipe a 21st century twist to create a Tudor-inspired 5-bird Christmas sandwich for people to try at home.

That we celebrate Christmas every year with a turkey is largely down to Henry VIII who popularised the bird. In the Tudor period, the popularity of turkey grew so quickly that soon, each year, large flocks could be seen walking to London from Norfolk, Suffolk and Cambridgeshire on foot. The feasting that occurred on Christmas Day was an occasion of great celebration and generosity. In fact, at Eltham Palace in London during the Christmas of 1482, the Great Hall was the setting of one of the most lavish feasts ever held at the palace, with entertainment provided for around 2000 people. Eltham Palace was also the place where Henry VIII spent a lot of his childhood and would have enjoyed many a Christmas

Amy Boyington, English Heritage’s Senior Properties Historian, said: “During the four weeks leading up to Christmas Day (known as Advent), most Tudor people observed a strict period of fasting – no cheese, eggs or meat – up to and including Christmas Eve. But come Christmas Day, the royalty and gentry would indulge in some serious feasting; from a boar’s head, usually displayed on a platter with an apple stuffed into its mouth, to the Tudor Christmas Pie containing five birds and baked into a pastry ‘coffin’.

From being established by Henry VIII, to the 21st century trend of the Christmas sandwich, we wanted to mark the tradition of turkey at Christmas enduring for five centuries. We’re so excited to have teamed up with Max’s Sandwich Shop to create the Tudor Feast Christmas Sandwich and we hope people will give making it a go at home this festive season.”

Max Halley of Max’s Sandwich Shop said: “It’s been brilliant to take my sandwiches in an historical direction, inspired by the King of food himself, Henry VIII. I wanted to make my sandwich reflective of a proper Tudor feast, inspired by ingredients that would have been familiar 500 years ago at Christmas. From the five birds cooked in gravy made with malmsey wine, the slaw made with purple (not orange) carrots and pomegranate seeds – the pomegranate being a symbol of Henry VIII’s first wife, Catherine of Aragon – to the sandwich being dunked in egg and fried in lashings of butter, dairy being something the Tudors would have abstained from until Christmas. If I do say so myself, it’s one of the tastiest and most indulgent sandwiches I’ve ever made, definitely fit for Henry VIII!”


• Sourdough wholemeal bread
• 5 birds slow cooked in gravy – prune and malmsey or madeira gravy (or feel free to just use chicken or turkey!)
• A good melting cheese – like cheddar
• Mustard – mixed with some ale and honey
• Raw spiced slaw containing a parsnip, onion, pomegranate seeds and a purple carrot if you can – otherwise an orange carrot does just as well, with a citrus dressing of lemon and salt
• Whisked Egg – for dunking the bread
• Butter – for frying the sandwich into a toastie
• Parsley – to garnish

• Prepare the slaw with the citrus dressing so it becomes soft
• Cut two thick slices of the sourdough bread
• Spread the mustard on both inner slices of bread
• Load the pre-cooked birds in gravy onto a slice as the base layer
• Add the slaw
• Sprinkle on a good handful of cheese and pop on the lid
• Prepare a frying pan with a good lump of butter
• When the butter has melted, dunk sandwich top and bottom in the beaten egg and then fry in the butter
• Weigh or press down on the sandwich, frying both sides until golden brown and the cheese has melted
• Enjoy your proper Tudor toastie!

For more information about English Heritage Christmas, visit:

To visit Henry VIII’s childhood home, Eltham Palace in London, visit:

Visit Max’s Sandwich Shop: