Spinach tart and homework

I’ve res­cued a heap of Vic­tori­an home­work from a Lon­don junk shop. Signed ‘John, 1848′, every sheet is lined with miser­able aph­or­isms. ‘Cau­tion is the only pro­tec­tion against impos­ing’, ‘Ven­er­ate sac­red insti­tu­tions’, ‘Nom­in­ate the just’. You get the pic­ture.

Weirdly, hav­ing res­cued one batch of ancient home­work, I imme­di­ately found a whole heap more in my roof. I live in a 19th Cen­tury school house and like most things in this place, the roof is on its last legs. When the build­er took the tiles off he found the eaves had been packed with old home­work — and it’s even more miser­able than poor old John’s.

Think­ing about the end­less scraps of paper that we throw away so freely, I star­ted to won­der about all the cook­books that go out of print each year. Per­haps, like act­ors, they say they’re ‘rest­ing.’ And yet while they ‘rest’, oth­er far less impress­ive recipe books are doing a can-can down at the book­shop.

As a trib­ute to dis­carded cook­books every­where, and ded­ic­ated to 19th cen­tury John, here’s my ver­sion of a spin­ach and parmes­an tart from one of my favour­ite recipe books of all, Quaglino’s: The Cook­book.

Spinach and Parmesan Tart

Serves 8

For the pastry

225g plain flour

125g slightly salted but­ter

2 egg yolks

For the filling

150g freshly grated Parmes­an

450 g spin­ach

30g but­ter

freshly grated nut­meg

2 eggs, plus 3 extra yolks

200 ml double cream

150g Mas­car­pone cheese

Rub the flour and but­ter togeth­er with a pinch of salt. When thor­oughly mixed, whisk three table­spoons of cold water to the eggs yolks and pour into the flour. Quickly roll it togeth­er into a ball, wrap it in cling film and cool it in the fridge for an hour or so.

Pre­heat the oven to 200 degrees C. Roll out the pastry, line a loose-bot­tomed 25cm tart tin and line it with sil­ver paper. Tip in the bak­ing beans and bake blind for ten minutes. Remove the paper and beans and cook for a fur­ther 6 or 7 minutes until golden.

Reduce the tem­per­at­ure of the oven to 150 degrees C and pre­pare the filling. Wilt the washed spin­ach with the but­ter for a few minutes until it looks like bedraggled sea­weed but still retains its bright green col­our. Squeeze it out like a dish­cloth and then sprinkle with a little grated nut­meg.

Beat the eggs, cream and Mas­car­pone togeth­er until smooth. Then repeat the fol­low­ing for­mula twice…layer of eggs, cream and Mas­car­pone, lay­er of spin­ach, sprink­ling of black pep­per, hefty dose of parmes­an. Fin­ish with a final dose of the eggs and cream mix­ture and a snow­drift of parmes­an. Bake in the oven for around half an hour, or until golden and set. Finally, grate a little more parmes­an on top and a trickle of extra vir­gin olive oil. Deli­cious with a green salad. Deli­cious with just about any­thing actu­ally. I ate it for break­fast this morn­ing, with a cup of PG tips on the side.

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12 thoughts on “Spinach tart and homework

  1. What won­der­ful cop­per­plate. The spin­ach tart looks great too. Lovely pho­tos and the ones on Flickr.

  2. MMHHM! mas­car­pone! that’s the key ingredi­ent! Usu­ally I use ricotta cheese, but I bet this ver­sion is cream­i­er and far more yummy than mine!

  3. Thanks Juls… mas­car­pone is very creamy, as you say. But ricotta sounds great too. I’ll try that next time x

  4. Dear Anonym­ous
    The cop­per­plate is as beau­ti­ful as it looks — but poor old John hav­ing to pro­duce it…

  5. I have Meeta to thank for find­ing this gem of a blog.…..I saw your link and wow, am I glad I found you. Love everything about this blog, he writ­ing, the pho­to­graphy, the recipes…mind if I fol­low you?

  6. Hi Nina
    Thank you so much for your lovely mes­sage — it gave me a real lift when I saw it this morn­ing. And of course I would love you to fol­low egg­son­ther­oof.
    Thanks again
    Charlie x

  7. This is the best thing I have found on the net and will pass it on to all my friends. Love the food and the pic­tures are won­der­ful, Susan D.

  8. Hi Susan
    How lovely of you to leave a com­ment, and such a cheer­ing one — thank you very much. I really appre­ci­ate it.
    Love Charlie

  9. Hi Charlie
    Sorry we didn’t get chance to talk at all at FBC last week­end but I am now work­ing my way around all the blogs! That let­ter­ing looks beau­ti­ful although I’m glad there’s no expect­a­tion for us to write like that these days. I sup­pose we have oth­er pres­sures instead.

    Spin­ach and parmes­an are a great com­bin­a­tion, I’ve had them togeth­er in pesto and a tart would be even bet­ter.

  10. Thanks so much for becom­ing a fol­low­er Sarah. And yes, I’m sorry not to have had a chance to talk last week­end. But I will def­in­itely be there next year, so I hope to see you then. Thanks for the com­ment — I’ve been help­ing my daugh­ter with her home­work this after­noon. If there was an insist­ence on hand­writ­ing like 19th Cen­tury John’s, I think I’d give up the struggle right now.

  11. Charlie what a lovely blog — I’m anoth­er one who’s found it from the FBC list. Sorry we didn’t get a chance to get to know each oth­er then, but next year!

    In the mean­time I am very temp­ted by the lovely look­ing tart.

  12. Hello Bron
    It was lovely to get your mes­sage and as you say, there’s always next year… Wasn’t it a great week­end x

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