The Tripartite Tri-Pie-Tart

Garden­ers, writers and artists have always under­stood the value of the num­ber three: less bor­ingly sym­met­ric­al than two, more com­plex than one. Where would Flaubert, Chek­hov or Con­stance Spry be without it?  And scriptwriter Steven Mof­fat, whom I admire hugely, clearly loves it; he named one of his Doc­tor Who epis­odes ‘The Power of Three’ and one of his Sher­lock Holmes epis­odes ‘The Sign of Three’.

I’ve been afflic­ted by insom­nia again this week. Count­ing the hours until morn­ing is, apart from being exhaust­ing, extremely bor­ing. At times like these, the BBC World Ser­vice and Radio 4 are vital com­pan­ions. But when I even­tu­ally fall asleep and wake again, after what feels like only minutes, I find I’ve acquired very odd scraps of inform­a­tion from half-heard radio pro­grammes. (I woke recently with the crazy idea that there was a dead cow out­side, only to dis­cov­er that it wasn’t the leg­acy of a weird middle-of-the-night radio drama, but was in fact true. But that’s a story I’ll tell anoth­er time.)

One morn­ing this week I awoke with a com­pletely unfa­mil­i­ar word rack­et­ing around my brain. All I can remem­ber is hav­ing the radio on for most of the night and hear­ing someone, some­where say­ing ‘sizzi-jee’ and spelling it out very care­fully — ‘s-y-z-y-g-y’ — just as I finally dozed off. A three-syl­lable word com­pletely lack­ing in vow­els is worth look­ing up in the dic­tion­ary, if only for its Scrabble poten­tial.

  • Syzygy: a straight-line con­fig­ur­a­tion of three celes­ti­al bod­ies, such as the Sun, Earth and Moon, in a grav­it­a­tion­al sys­tem.

And, as so often, a frag­ment­ary idea, in this case about three celes­ti­al bod­ies, led me towards some­thing to cook. I’ve wanted to write about my tri­part­ite tri-pie-tart for a while, mainly because the name makes me laugh. The tri­part­ite tri-pie-tart is a pie that I thought-up dur­ing anoth­er bout of insom­nia. But I had to wait until the Eng­lish asparagus sea­son before I could make it. And now, of course, I can.

The tri-pie-tart is a three-part pie that com­bines my son’s, my daughter’s and my favour­ite tart ingredi­ents. My son prefers asparagus, my daugh­ter likes leeks and I love spin­ach. So this is the tri-pie-tart that com­bines them all. And, as with syzygy, if you line up three celes­ti­al ingredi­ents — in this case, asparagus, spin­ach and leeks — you’ll find there’s a grav­it­a­tion­al pull towards the kit­chen table.

THE TRIPARTITE TRI-PIE-TART

For the pastry:

  • 225g plain flour
  • 125g but­ter
  • 2 eggs yolks
  • 25cm loose-bot­tomed pie tin

Wrestle with it by hand if you prefer, but I use a mix­er. Cut the cold but­ter into cubes and com­bine with the flour and a pinch of salt. Mix until you have a dry, crumbly tex­ture. Add three table­spoons of cold water to the egg yolks and whisk with a fork until com­bined. Pour half the egg mix­ture into the flour and con­tin­ue to add until the pastry forms a ball. Try to do this as quickly as pos­sible and don’t feel the need to use all of the eggs, if it doesn’t need it. Remove the ball, wrap in cling-film, flat­ten it down with the palm of your hand (it’s easi­er to roll later if it doesn’t emerge from the fridge as a massive, chilly globe) and place in the fridge for at least an hour. By the way, I’ve tried rolling pastry out straight­away, without rest­ing it, just to see what hap­pens. I ended up with a soft, string-vest of a thing that would no-more hold a pie filling than a sieve would. So now you know.

After at least an hour, roll the pastry out thinly. This is a nifty tip, if you dread man-hand­ling your pastry into the tin. Roll it out onto the same piece of cling-film you used to wrap it in. That way, you won’t have to flour the sur­face on which you roll it which only adds a whole load of extra flour to the pastry which you don’t need or want. The added bene­fit of the cling-film meth­od is that you can then pick up the cling-film, with its pastry disc attached and then just turn it upside down into the pie tin. None of that wrap­ping it round the rolling-pin and then unrolling it over the tin, which always sounds so much easi­er than it really is. Press the pastry into the edges of the tin and care­fully peel away the cling-film.

Place a circle of tin-foil over the pastry in the tin, fill with bak­ing beans, and bake in the oven at 200 degrees C for ten minutes. Remove the beans and foil and bake for a fur­ther sev­en minutes until the pastry case is golden in col­our and dry in tex­ture. If, when it emerges, there are any cracks, paint a little beaten egg over the cracks while the pastry is still hot and it will seal them. Lower the oven tem­per­at­ure to 140 degrees C.

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 200g spin­ach
  • 2 leeks
  • 250g slim-ish asparagus
  • 2 eggs and an extra 3 yolks
  • 125g Mas­car­pone
  • 150ml double cream
  • 125g Par­mi­gi­ano-Reg­gia­no, grated. It doesn’t need to be that fine — you’re not aim­ing for cheese dust here

Cut the leeks finely, dis­card­ing the tough­er dark green ends. Cook gently in a little but­ter for five minutes or so, until soft but not browned. Tip into a bowl, and, using the same pan, wilt the spin­ach briefly, adding a little more but­ter if neces­sary. Put the spin­ach in a second bowl. Finally, blanch the asparagus so that it is just, only just, cooked. Remove from the pan and run cold water over the asparagus to stop it cook­ing. All three of your celes­ti­al ingredi­ents should still be a bright green hue, rather than sid­ling off into the khaki or olive-green end of the paint­box.

Mix togeth­er the mas­car­pone, cream and eggs, whisk­ing in plenty of air. Spoon a quarter of the mix­ture over the tart base and spread it around. Lay­er on a quarter of the grated parmes­an, fol­lowed by all the spin­ach, anoth­er lay­er of eggs and cream, a second lay­er of cheese, all the leeks, a third lay­er of eggs and cream, a third lay­er of cheese, the asparagus in a sun-burst effect and a final lay­er of eggs and cream. Bake in the oven, which should now be at 140 degrees C, for around twenty-five minutes, until the tri-pie-tart is a rich golden brown. Remove from the oven, sprinkle with extra Parmes­an and a fine trickle of olive oil to give it some shine. Cast over some chive flowers if you like and eat the tri-pie-tart hot,cold or luke-warm. The syzygy is in the eat­ing.

 

If You are con­cerned in pur­chas­ing medic­a­ments online, now may be the sea­son to do so. So the next ques­tion is where can you find inform­a­tion that is reli­able. You can get such info fast and con­veni­ently by going online. There are many ill­nesses such as schizo­phrenia which have no cure. One of the most pop phys­ic is Via­gra. What about com­par­is­on between Cial­is versus Levitra and ? Nearly every adult knows about . Oth­er ques­tion we have to is . The symp­toms of sexu­al dis­orders in men turn on lack of sexu­al fantas­ies. Not­with­stand­ing sex is not vital for good health, it’s cer­tainly good for any­one. So if you are exper­i­en­cing erectile prob­lems, it is essen­tial to see a cer­ti­fied phys­i­cian instantly for a com­plete medi­cin­al test­ing. Cer­tainly, online phar­macy can hands-down help you for solv­ing your all per­son­al dif­fi­culties.

Spinach and Sorrel Soup, The Sonnet

Soup is one of the best foods ever inven­ted, so why are most of the ref­er­ences to it in lit­er­at­ure unashamedly dis­mal? Soup is usu­ally a meta­phor for hard times, dour land­ladies and dubi­ous chefs. The 20th cen­tury Amer­ic­an author Mar­garet Hal­sey cap­tured the ‘sad soup genre’ per­fectly when she said that the broth she was served ‘tasted as if it had been drained out of the umbrella stand.’

So here comes the fight­back. This spin­ach and sor­rel soup should have a son­net writ­ten about it. Or a nov­el in which the prot­ag­on­ist is restored to good health and good for­tune after just one spoon­ful. It’s the rich, deep, full-throttle green of a vin­tage racing car and gives instant vigour and zip to any­one who so much as looks at it. 

Sor­rel is a beau­ti­ful herb,  espe­cially this red-veined vari­ety, but it’s often hard to find in the shops. I have a friend who keeps an allot­ment purely so she can main­tain her sor­rel sup­plies. But this week I spot­ted an entire tray of pot­ted sor­rel in my loc­al shop, with reduced  price stick­ers attached.  So I res­cued the lot.

You may know by now that I love pic­nics and long walks. My mum used to put a flask of soup in one pock­et of her coat and hot cheese, tomato and mus­tard rolls in the oth­er and we would set off. Spin­ach and sor­rel soup would be the per­fect walk­ing com­pan­ion. Make it, eat it and start writ­ing in rhym­ing couplets.

Spinach and Sorrel Soup

Serves 4

1 floury potato, chopped into smallish, even-sized chunks

I medi­um onion, cut into sim­il­ar sized pieces

1 clove gar­lic, sliced

1 knob but­ter

500ml veget­able stock

400g fresh spin­ach, coarsely chopped

40 sor­rel leaves — the sor­rel gives a del­ic­ate lem­on back­ground fla­vour, but if you can’t find sor­rel, add an extra 50g or so of spin­ach and add a little grated lem­on zest

Hand­ful of micro herbs such as cori­ander and red amar­anth to sprinkle over at the end — or just some chopped chives

Spoon­ful of cream (option­al)

Salt and freshly ground black pep­per

Melt the but­ter in a pan and cook the onion, gar­lic and potato togeth­er gently for five minutes or so, without col­our­ing them. Add the veget­able stock and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a gentle sim­mer for around 15 minutes until the potato is soft. 

Add 200g of the spin­ach and all the sor­rel leaves, sea­son with salt and pep­per and cook for a fur­ther five minutes. The sor­rel leaves give a del­ic­ate lem­on back­ground fla­vour, but if you can’t find sor­rel, just add an extra 50g or so of spin­ach instead and a little grated lem­on zest. Take the pan off the heat and add the remain­ing uncooked spin­ach. Blend imme­di­ately and adjust the season­ing. Serve with a drizzle of cream, if using, and a sprink­ling of herbs. Adding half the spin­ach at the end keeps the mag­ni­fi­cent deep emer­ald col­our of the soup. 

If You are con­cerned in pur­chas­ing medic­a­ments online, now may be the date to do so. So the next mat­ter is where can you find inform­a­tion that is reli­able. You can get such inform­a­tion fast and con­veni­ently by going online. There are many ill­nesses such as schizo­phrenia which have no cure. One of the most pop­u­lar phys­ic is Via­gra. What about com­par­is­on between Cial­is versus Levitra and ? Nearly each adult knows about . Oth­er ques­tion we have to is . The symp­toms of sexu­al dis­orders in men include lack of sexu­al fantas­ies. Not­with­stand­ing sex is not vital for good health, it’s cer­tainly good for any­one. So if you are exper­i­en­cing erectile prob­lems, it is essen­tial to see a cer­ti­fied doc­tor imme­di­ately for a com­plete med­ic­al test­ing. Cer­tainly, online phar­macy can hands-down help you for solv­ing your all per­son­al dif­fi­culties.

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.

If You are con­cerned in pur­chas­ing medic­a­ments online, now may be the when to do so. So the next ques­tion is where can you find info that is reli­able. You can get such data fast and con­veni­ently by going online. There are many ill­nesses such as schizo­phrenia which have no cure. One of the most pop medi­cine is Via­gra. What about com­par­is­on between Cial­is versus Levitra and ? Nearly every adult knows about . Oth­er ques­tion we have to is . The symp­toms of sexu­al dis­orders in men include lack of sexu­al fantas­ies. Not­with­stand­ing sex is not vital for good hearti­ness, it’s cer­tainly good for any­one. So if you are exper­i­en­cing erectile prob­lems, it is essen­tial to see a cer­ti­fied doc­tor instantly for a com­plete medi­cin­al test­ing. Cer­tainly, online phar­macy can hands-down help you for solv­ing your all per­son­al dif­fi­culties.