(Elinor Fettiplace’s) A Tart of Spinage (Spinach Tart)

To make a tarte of spinage.
Take the spinage & boile it in water till it bee soft, then straine it, & put to it the yelks of vi eggs, & some rosewater and corrance, & sugar, & some sinamon, & ginger & some butter. boile it on the fier, a good while, before you put it in the paste.
Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book, ed. Hillary Spurling.

To make a tart of spinach.
Take the spinach & boil it in water until it be soft, then strain it, and put to it the yolks of 6 eggs, & some rosewater and currants, and sugar, and some cinnamon, and ginger and some butter. Cook it gently on the stove for a good while, before you put it in the pastry.

Spinach was introduced to England some time in the reign of Henry VIII – 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. The earliest Spinach Tart recipe I am aware of is from 1545 (see ((A Propere Newe) Tarte of Spinage). There are many recipes for spinach tart – they were clearly a novelty so I feel they should be part of any Tudor era feast.

This recipe is slightly sweet, but not overly so, and is quite pleasant.

Ingredients

1 quantity shortcrust pastry 60g currants 1 tsp powdered ginger
2 bunches spinach (approx. 500g) 50g sugar 1 tsp powdered cinnamon
6 egg yolks 30mL rosewater 50g butter

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 egg yolks, rosewater, currants, sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Over a low heat, stir well to break down the spinach and mix the ingredients.
  7. When the spinach, eggs, currants, rosewater, 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.
  • Elinor Fettiplace’s instruction “to boile” can be quite confusing. Often she actually means “simmer,” and you generally have to work out the meaning from the context. In this case, because of the egg yolks, I feel the spinach mixture has to be simmered, as boiling would cause the egg yolks to curdle.
  • If possible, use whole dried ginger that you grate directly into the mix – the flavour is so much better!

Elinor Fettiplace's Spinach 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
Spurling, Hilary (2011). Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt Book.

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