All families seem to have beloved “secret” recipes that bring them together year after year. As I live abroad and as I grow older, I have an acute sense of nostalgia for everything related to my past and my family. In my family, that secret recipe happens to be a sweet spinach tart that my grandfather used to make.
The recipe for that tart lived only in a little notebook that a devastating flood washed away in 1983, so ever since, we have been on a quest to remake it.
As I have mentioned here before, I come from a family of pastry chefs. My grandfather, my Aitite Angel, was an amazing chef who with eight children, opened a little pastry shop in my town in 1949 (still in the family).
He was an apprentice in a patisserie in Bilbao at the age of 14 and most of his “repertoire” was French inspired. However, he was known to experiment and occasionally surprise everyone with new creations. This is the case of his sweet spinach tart that everyone remembers fondly. Puff pastry shell filled with a warm cinnamon and fresh spinach cream. Unusual for sure.
The idea of trying to remake this tart myself has been roaming around my head for quite some time, but I needed more details. After speaking with several members of my family, the only details I could gather were that this tart had a chiboust-like custard made with cinnamon, spinach and a surprising ingredient, condensed milk.
I found beautiful watercress at the market so I used that instead of the spinach. My first attempt was unexpected, sweet and delicious. Of course, I wish I could have shared it with my family to see if it resembles the tart they remember. Soon perhaps.
These are some photos from this weekend’s farmer’s market where I found the most adorable family of kid farmers. Four brothers and sister (the oldest being 13) who raise their own chickens and grow their own vegetables. How cool is that! I rushed to the market before their stand was up because I didn’t want to miss out on the eggs, which are known to disappear in a matter of minutes. What can I say, dreamy.
For the puff pastry recipe, go here.
Watercress and Cinnamon Filling
100 grams whole milk
1 cinnamon stick
100 grams condensed milk
20 grams cornstarch
2 egg yolks
25 grams watercress or spinach, finely chopped
2 egg whites
40 grams sugar
Ground cinnamon, for the topping
Demerara sugar, for the topping
In a medium saucepan, cook the whole milk and the cinnamon stick together on low heat for a few minutes. Let it steep for about 15 minytes and then, bring it to a boil.
In the meantime, whisk together the egg yolks and cornstarch until there are no lumps. Add the condensed milk and whisk.
When the milk comes to a boil, remove the cinnamon stick and temper into the egg yolk mixture. Return this to the pan and cook until it thickens. Transfer to a clean bowl immediately. Fold in the chopped watercress or spinach.
Right away, whip the egg whites to soft peak and sprinkle in the sugar. Continue whipping to stiff peak.
Add a third of the meringue to the warm custard and fold. Fold in the rest of the meringue.
Pour into the baked puff pastry shells. Sprinkle with ground cinnamon and demerara sugar.