Friday, 23 March 2012

Italian ham and spinach tart

Mother's Day, to me, always seems to herald the start of spring. I do love the comfort food that accompanies the dark and cold winter months but I have to say, we were getting a little fed up with pies, roasts and other hearty meals and I, especially, have been craving lighter meals and salads for several weeks now. This tart is one of Jamie Oliver's. I'd already decided that I would make it for Mother's Day and serve it with new potatoes roasted in garlic and rosemary, and a refreshing salad. However, we decided at the last minute that we would spend Sunday in Lulworth, Dorset. After all, the weather forecast looked promising and it would be a great opportunity to have quality family together in one of our favourite parts of the country. So, I set about making the tart on Saturday, trying not to get too distracted by the Wales/France rugby match.

Ham and spinach are two of my favourite ingredients and go together perfectly. Spinach used to be called "the prince of vegetables" by the Arabs and has been cultivated since ancient times. You can add pretty much anything else to this tart, though, if you so desire. Sun-dried tomatoes, olives and anchovies would be great edible accessories.


Approx 500g savoury shortcrust pastry
a knob of butter
olive oil
3 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
1 clove of garlic, peeled and sliced
350g spinach
1 tsp of dried oregano
salt and pepper
500g creme fraiche
150g freshly grated parmesan (I used a mixture of parmesan and cheddar)
3 large eggs
200g cooked ham, torn into shreds or chopped

1. Roll out the pastry into a rectangular shape about 0.5cm thick and big enough to line a shallow baking tray about 30 x 40cm.

2. Grease the tray with butter and line it with the pastry. Trim the excess but leave a 1cm overhang. Pinch the overhanging dough up to make a little rim and prick the pastry all over with a fork.

3. Preheat the oven to 190 degs C/375 degs F/gas mark 5. Line the pastry case with baking parchment and fill with baking beans or rice. Bake blind for 6-8 minutes, until golden.

4. Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pan and gently fry the onions on a low heat for about 10 minutes, until they are soft and sweet. Turn up the heat and add the garlic and spinach and most of the oregano. Season lightly and give it a good stir. Take the pan off the heat when the spinach has wilted - this will only take a couple of minutes.

5. To make the filling, put the creme fraiche into a bowl, stir in the cheese, eggs and a pinch of salt and pepper. Mix together and set aside.

6. Spread the spinach mixture over the pastry case. Sprinkle over the ham and spoon the creme fraiche mixture over the top, smoothing it out with the back of a spoon. If you want more cheese, grate some extra parmesan over the top and sprinkle over the remaining oregano.

7. The recipe says to bake the tart for approx 15-20 minutes, or until the top is golden and bubbling, and the filling has set, but I found I had to bake the tart for 25-30 minutes.

This tart is excellent served cold, and tastes even better when taken on a picnic in an idyliic setting!

This recipe comes from Jamie at Home: Cook your way to the Good Life by Jamie Oliver

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