(A Proper Newe) Tarte of Spinage (Spinach Tart)

To make a tarte of spinage.
Take Spynage and perboyle it tender, then take it up and wrynge oute the water cleane, and chop it very small, and set it uppon the fyre wyth swete butter in a frying panne and season it, and set it in a platter to coole then fyll your tart and so bake it.
A Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye (1557).

To make a tart of spinach.
Take spinach and parboil it tender, then take it up and wring out the water clean, and chop it very small, and set it upon the fire with sweet butter in a frying pan and season it, and set it in a platter to cool. Then fill your tart and so bake it.

This is possibly the first mention of spinach in print in English; a 1654 herbal noted it was not long introduced to England (Dalby, 2012, 101). It was probably one of the many foodstuffs introduced through increased contact with Spain, where it was introduced by the Arabs.

Spinach tarts were clearly something of a novelty, as there are multiple recipes in different recipe collections. I feel for this reason they should be on the menu of any Tudor era feast, and I shall be featuring several different recipes. This is one of my favourites, as it is the most savoury tasting and thus the most compatible with modern palates. It is also very easy to make vegan friendly and is already vegetarian friendly.

Ingredients

1 quantity shortcrust pastry 1/2 tsp ginger
2 bunches spinach 1/2 tsp salt
100g butter 1/4 tsp pepper

Method

  1. Roll out the pastry to approx. 4mm thickness and line a greased pie plate with it.
  2. Prick the bottom of the tart shell. Line the tart shell with baking paper and fill with weights.  Blind bake the tart shell for approx. 12 minutes in a 200° oven. Remove the paper and weights when finished.
  3. Remove the stalk and the central vein from the spinach leaves and chop into strips.
  4. Put the spinach in the pan with a little water, and over a medium heat, steam the spinach. It will rapidly lose volume. Keep an eye on it to ensure it doesn’t stick.
  5. Remove the spinach from the pan and squeeze out some of the water between tea towels or kitchen paper.
  6. Return the spinach to the pan with the butter, salt, ginger and pepper, and stir will to break down the spinach and mix the ingredients.
  7. When the spinach, butter and spices are well mixed, remove the pan from the heat and spoon the spinach mixture into the tart case.
  8. Bake the tart in a 180° oven until the filling has firmed, approx. 30 minutes.

Notes

  • Ideally this recipe should be made with true spinach (Spinacia oleracea) rather than silverbeet (Beta vulgaris) which is often sold as spinach. Silverbeet was well known throughout medieval England and wasn’t the novelty true spinach was.
  • I have interpreted the instruction to “season” the tart as adding ginger and pepper. You are welcome to use whatever spices you wish; I have found these to be good additions and complement the savoury taste of this tart.

Further Reading

Click on the links below to buy direct from The Book Depository.
Ahmed, Anne (ed) (2002) A Proper Newe Booke of Cokerye
Dalby, Andrew and Dalby, Maureen (2012) The Shakespeare Cookbook

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