Spinach and Cheddar Tart

16 Oct

TartI made a spinach pie for Essia when she left us to go to Germany, and have been mulling over the workings of that pie since then. I thought may be it could have been done purely spinach (the one I did had caramelised onions on the bottom for pleasure), but I wanted it to be substantial and warming. Spinach and cheddar cheese go extremely well together, and so when it came to dinner, I decided to make a spinach cheese pie – with the cheese everywhere I could get it!

Cheese in the crust, cheese mixed with the spinach… totally delectable. This pie/tart is best made in a small spring form tart pan – I used an 8 inch pan, and it was perfect and served 4 quite well. The tart is quite rich. Its lovely served with a chopped tomato and onion salad just for the juxtaposition. Its also really really good the next day, cold, for breakfast!

The crust was soooo good. I think its because I became shameless, and decided to make it with more cheese than flour. Flour only acts as a delicate connective marker to the crispy burnt cheese in this crust. I cant tell you how much I love burnt cheese, but this crust came close to nirvana for me.

I love spinach, and I love the deep green spinach taste of this tart. You almost cannot taste the cheese except as a support to the spinach, and in the way it makes the texture of the filling firm. I tried quite hard, but I couldnt come up with a good vegan version, Im afraid. This relies too heavily on cheese as one of its main structural ingredients! Speaking of which, you could probably also use feta in place of grated cheddar…

Enjoy a thin slice of this tart, and immerse yourself in the happiness of pure spinach joy.

For the crust

  • 1 – 1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 – 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 4 tbsp / 1/2 stick butter, cold
  • 1 – 2 tbsp cold milk

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).

In a small bowl, mix together 1 cup of grated cheese with 1/2 cup flour. You may need more cheese or more flour as you knead the dough, so have some standing by.

Sprinkle over paprika and salt, and grate in the cold butter. Using your hands – just the tips of your fingers – mix in the butter with the flour cheese mixture. You should have an oatmealy mixture. Sprinkle over 1 tbsp milk, and combine until the dough comes together.

Now its up to you – sometimes I add more cheese, sometimes I add more flour – sometimes I add a bit more of both. You want a supple dough that tastes extremely cheesy, and yet has enough strength to be rolled and pressed and kneaded.

Once you are happy with your dough, roll it into a circle, and flatten with the palm of your hand. Centre in an 8-inch spring form tart pan, and using your fingers, press the dough out into the pan. You should have more than enough to cover the bottom and sides of the tart pan.

Refrigerate for 10 – 15 minutes, and then using the tines of a fork, poke multiple holes in the crust before baking for 15 minutes.

Spinach and Cheddar filling

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped frozen spinach or 4 – 6 cups chopped fresh spinach
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 tbsp sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • Approximately 1 cup grated cheddar cheese

You want the taste of spinach to come out loud and clear here, so there is no distraction – no garlic, no herbs, nothing but a touch of dusky paprika to bring out the green of the spinach.

In a medium non stick frying pan, lightly saute the spinach in the olive oil until it is bright green, and has released most of its liquid.

Tip the spinach into a sieve, set over a bowl, and drain, pressing down, for at least 3 – 5 minutes. You want the spinach to be quite dry.

Put the dried spinach into a bowl with the paprika, salt and pepper generously, the sour cream, and eggs. Using an immersion blender, puree the spinach well. Once the spinach is a glowing smooth green mass, fold in the cheddar cheese. Taste and adjust seasonings, and add more cheese if you want (though it shouldnt overwhelm the spinach).

Pour the spinach mixture into the prebaked cheddar crust, and bake in the oven for 20 – 25 minutes, or until the filling is firm.

Serve warm or cold.

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