Spinach Tart

Until the late seventeenth century there was a tendency to serve spinach as a sweetened dish. After the eighteenth century there was no longer any question of serving a leaf vegetable as a sweet dish, with the exception of sliced fruit in salads and a little chopped apple with onions and sultanas added to baked cabbage.

This spinach tart comes from a lady whose family has lived for three generations in the neighbourhood of Osterley. It included a few prunes, which show its long pedigree and seem to go well with the spinach.

Ingredients

  • ¾ lb (360 g) short pastry
  • 1 lb (½ kg) chopped spinach (frozen is excellent)
  • cup (1.5 dl) white sauce
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 4 tablespoons double cream
  • ¼ lb (120 g) lean ham, cut in strips, ½ inch (1 cm) wide and 3 inches (8cm) long
  • 12 prunes, soaked for 1 hour, stoned and halved, but not cooked
  • ½ cup (60 g) grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3 tablespoons (45 g) butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

Roll out the pastry and line a 10 inch (25 cm) flan tin. Bake blind to a light golden brown.

Meanwhile heat the spinach in a heavy saucepan. When heated through, pour off all the liquid, pressing the spinach to get out a little more. The spinach should not be quite dry but separate liquid should not be visible. Stir in the white sauce, beating it in well with a wooden spoon. Add the nutmeg. Season well with salt and black pepper. Allow to cool a little and then beat in the cream. Keep warm but do not allow to boil.

When the pastry case is ready, put the ham strips in the bottom and then fill with the spinach, almost to the top. Smooth over and arrange the halved prunes around the edge, pressing them into the filling so that they are only just visible. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the tart, being careful that each prune has cheese over it. Dot with tiny knobs of butter about 1 inch (2.5 cm) apart and put a little butter on each prune.

Put the tart into a medium oven 350°F (180°C, Gas Mark 4) for 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

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