The inspiration for these tarts came from Greece, from a holiday we had years ago. We fuelled our trips around the various islands with lots of spinach and feta pastries for lunches. These were puff pastry parcels; hand-sized rectangles of warm, salty, soft, buttery goodness. I wanted to replicate some of these flavours using open, light tarts instead, since I like the idea of having the tart filling on show to get people salivating right away.
It soon become clear that replicating the puff pastry element in these tarts made them feel a little too near to vol-au-vonts, which wasn’t the effect I was after. Next I tried shortcrust. As I mentioned in the apple, prune and almond cake introduction, shortcrust pastry was the first thing I learnt to make, and so it often becomes my standard choice for a new recipe. The shortcrust pastry tartlets were pretty good, however making the pastry, blind baking, making the filling and then cooking again, made the recipe far too fiddly and time consuming. Somehow it lacked the simplicity that I required for lunchtime cooking. So, I finally settled on the next obvious candidate;
The filling began as a mixture of spinach, feta, onion, nutmeg, egg and milk. I quickly learned that cheap feta was chalky and tasted nothing like the real thing. But, even with an upgrade to tasty feta something was missing. It needed another flavour and, after a few false starts, I tried dill which added the depth I was looking for.
Satisfied with the taste the final touch was to find something that would add some interest, sparkle and texture on top. Spinach can look a bit drab without something to break up the green (not good for getting people salivating!). So on the final attempt of making these tartlets I dressed the top with toasted pine nuts.
Although the recipe makes eight little tarts, it works equally well as one large tart to share. I find an oblong tin 12 cm x 35 cm about right, or you could use a 23 cm or 9 inch round tin.
I hope you have as much fun using this recipe and eating the results, as I did writing it.
1 clove of garlic
1/2 tbsp oil
135 g / 5 oz frozen spinach thawed or 175 g / 6 oz fresh spinach cooked until wilted spinach
25 g / 1 oz fresh dill
100 g / 3 ½ oz feta cheese
¼ tsp nutmeg
3 large eggs
100 ml / 3 ½ fl oz milk
¼ tsp salt
4 sheets of pastry each measuring 26 cm x 29 cm
50g / 2 oz butter
25 g / 1 oz toasted pine nuts
Total carbohydrate per 2 tartlets – 13g
Total carbohydrate per ¼ of tart – 14g
Tartlet tin size – I use a muffin tin, 3 cm / 1 ¼” deep x 7 cm / 2 ¾” wide at the widest point.
Tart tin size – 12 cm / 4 ¾” wide x 35 cm / 13 ¾” long, or you could use a 23 cm / 9” wide round tin.
1. Preheat the oven to 180 C / 160 C fan / 320 F and Gas Mark 3.
2. Finely chop the onion and garlic.
3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and then over a medium heat, fry the onion and garlic until the onion is soft and translucent.
4. Roughly chop the spinach. Remove the large stalks from the dill and finely chop the remaining small stalks and leaves. Add the spinach and dill to the onion, stir to combine and cook for two minutes.
5. Chop up the feta into small and slightly larger chunks. Add this to the pan. The small chucks will melt while the larger ones will stay intact.
6. Grate in the nutmeg and add black pepper to taste and remove from the heat. You can add salt, but with the feta I don’t think it needs it. There is salt in the egg custard.
7. Measure out the milk in a measuring jug and then add the eggs, and salt. Whisk the eggs well with a fork to combine.
8. Unroll the pastry and melt the butter.
Using a pastry brush paint each sheet of pastry with the melted butter. Then position the first two sheets to line the edges and base of the tin, they will overlap. Then repeat until all the pastry is used.
Cut four 12 cm x 12 cm squares of pastry from each large sheet. Using a pastry brush, paint two of the small squares with melted butter, then put one on top of the other at 45 degrees so they create a star. Use the brush to carefully push the pastry into the tin. Repeat until your have eight tartlet cases.
9. Put the spinach mixture into the pastry case/s.
10. Pour the egg mixture over the spinach. You may want to open the oven and put the tart/tartlets on the oven shelf before pouring the egg mixture over.
11. Scatter with the pine nuts and either close the oven door or put it in the oven.
12. The tart will take 30 – 40 mins, the tartlets will take 20 – 25 mins. Remove from the oven when light brown in places on the top and enjoy. You can serve both the tart and tartlets either hot or cold. If serving cold, wait until completely cool before storing in an air tight container, otherwise the pastry will lose it’s crunch.
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