I plan to make for our Christmas dinner a Spinach Tart, a dish that has
been included in cookery books since before the 16th century. Unlike
most of the medieval receipts, I won’t be putting sugar and dried fruit
into the tart. I prefer a savory version rather than a sweetened
vegetable and/or meat dish.
Below are a variety of receipts showing the various versions of these
tarts. Gloning’s from 1557 is very simple and it does not call for
sugar, currants, raisins, etc., but it also does not call for eggs and
cream or milk which would produce the custard-based tart I want.
Dawson’s receipt is custard-based, and one could easily leave out the
sugar. Since he didn’t give any amount for the sugar, one might use
just a smidge to render the spinach a little milder rather than a full-
blown sweet tart.
Dolby’s version doesn’t instruct the specific use of sugar, but
finishing like frangipane does mean that he intended the mixture to be
sweetened. His receipt for frangipane instructs using “powder sugar”
in quantity enough to sweeten it.
Evelyn’s version is custard based, and the use of corinths (currants) is
left to the discretion of the cook, as is the sugar and spice. By using
almonds and omitting the currants, sugar, and spice except for a hint of
nutmeg, this should produce the sort of tart I want.
The menu for Christmas dinner inspired by my ancestor, Sir John Poyntz,
is coming together nicely, and by doing sufficient research I’ll be able
to stay within the period context of the receipt that best produces the
results I want. Blissful meals, all, thehistoricfoodie
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. Trans. Gloning, T. 1557. To make a tarte of
Boyle your Egges and your Creame togither, and then put them into a
bowle, and then boyle your Spinnedge, and when they are boyled, take
them out of the water and straine them into your stuffe before you
straine your Creame, boyle your stuffe and then strain them al againe,
and season them with suger and salt. – Thomas Dawson. The Good Huswife’s
Tart of Herbs. An Herb-tart is made thus: Boil fresh Cream or Milk, with a
little grated bread or Naples-Biscuit (which is better) to thicken it; a
pretty quantity of Chervile, Spinach, Beet (or what other Herb you
please) being first parboil’d and chopp’d. Then add Macaron, or Almonds
beaten to a Paste, a little sweet Butter, the Yolk of five Eggs, three of
the Whites rejected. To these some add Corinths plump’d in Milk, or
boil’d therein, Sugar, Spice at Discretion, and stirring it all together
over the Fire, bake it in the Tart-Pan. – Evelyn, John (1620-1706).
Silva: Or, a Discourse of Forest Trees. 1729 edition. London.
Herb Pie. Take a handful of spinach, double the quantity of parsley,
picked, two lettuces, mustard and cress and the leaf of borage and white
beet; wash, scald, and having drained and pressed out all the water,
shred them very small; mix them together, season them with salt, pepper,
and nutmeg; make a batter with a couple of eggs, a pint of cream, half a
pint of milk, and some flour, stir it well and pour it on the herbs in a
deep dish; cover the whole with a crust and bake. – Dolby, Richard.
The Cook’s Dictionary.
Spinach Tart. Take some spinach, clean it thoroughly, as it is apt to be
gritty, pick and scald it, and give it a few turns in a little butter
with salt and nutmeg. Mix the spinach with frangipane and finish the
tart like that of frangipane.