A tart like this was a first course when I first lived in France. Since then the savoury tart,or variations on a quiche, has turned into a main course, especially useful for vegetarians perhaps. Either way, it's delicious - the richness of the eggs, cream and cheese balanced by the acidity of the spinach.
The lady who gave me this recipe lived in a little village in the Loire. She cooked in a modest domestic kitchen looking onto a courtyard with geraniums in pots, next to the entrance to the cellar. Her family's small team of pickers were all old friends, who came for the camaraderie and the food. They enjoyed a tasting of previous vintages in the cellars before Sunday lunch; I do not think there was much spitting. She would then serve this tart before a roast. Meals here were a convivial affair!
FOR 6 - 8 PEOPLE
FOR THE PASTRY:
250g (8 oz) plain flour a pinch of salt
150 g (5 oz) soft butter 1 egg yolk 3 - 4 tablespoons cold water
FOR THE FILLING:
750g (11⁄2 lb) fresh spinach, or 375g (12 oz) chopped, frozen spinach 2 tablespoons butter 1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper 250 g (8 oz) fromage blanc or fromage frais (you can use a low fat one) 3 eggs, lightly beaten 60 g (2 oz) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
150 g (5 oz) double cream pinch of grated nutmeg
Preheat the oven to gas mark 4, 350°F, 180°C.
Make the pastry in the usual way; use to line an 28 cm (11 in) tart tin. Bake blind for 15 minutes in the pre-heated oven.
Wash the fresh spinach and discard the stems. Blanch for five minutes in a big pan of boiling water. Drain, cool and squeeze dry with your hands. Chop roughly. If you are using frozen spinach follow the instructions on the packet, and go to the next step: melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the onion until soft. Add the spinach and let it cook in the butter for about 5 minutes, stirring to make sure it does not burn on the bottom. Add salt and pepper. Drain off any water which remains.
Off the heat, add the fromage blanc, the beaten eggs, Parmesan, cream and nutmeg. Mix all together and pour into the pastry case, spreading it evenly. Bake in the oven at the same temperature as before for 30 minutes, or until the pastry is browned and the filling has set. The top should brown but the consistency of the filling should be moist. Serve hot, warm or cold – it is good whichever way, though perhaps nicest warm.