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.



  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!HugsGiulia

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

  4. Dear AnonymousThe 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 NinaThank 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 againCharlie 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 SusanHow lovely of you to leave a comment, and such a cheering one – thank you very much. I really appreciate it. Love Charlie

  9. Hi CharlieSorry 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 BronIt 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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