Sunday, 27 September 2009

Smoked Haddock & Spinach Tart

A big bunch of lovely dark green large leafed spinach turned up in my weekly vegetable box last Monday. The sort that has that really rich irony taste and which has some bite to it. A far cry from the baby leaves of the summer.

By Saturday it really was time to get it used up before it reached the point where it would only be fit to be chucked into the pot with the rest of the not-quite-so-fresh veg which make their way into soup at the end of the week.

My first thought was to make the Valentine Warner recipe I'd made a couple of weeks ago - Moroccan Spiced Spinach & King Prawns - which calls for these tastier, more mature spinach leaves. But then seeing Nick Nairn's dish using natural smoked haddock on Saturday Kitchen had me craving good smoked fish. For once I managed to leave the house and make it to our local fishmonger - Moxons in East Dulwich - before they'd sold out of everything (I usually don't have much choice, arriving after 4pm on a Saturday afternoon...) and picked up a lovely piece of smoked haddock.

The combination of smoked haddock and spinach is not a new one. It's a perfect marriage in my view - soft, flaky, lightly smoked fish and vibrant earthy leaves. The other flavours which work well are no mystery either and the one that leapt to mind on Saturday was cheese. And so a recipe came together...

We ate the tart warm and straight from the oven in the evening with some buttered samphire and then cold the next day for lunch with salad. I'm not sure which I liked best - the tart was more moist when it was warm, but then the pastry was certainly crisper when we ate it cold. Whichever way, it's a good early Autumn dish to eat when the days are still bright with that gorgeous big sun low in the sky.


For the pastry:

6oz plain flour
3oz butter
3 or 4 fl oz water
2 tbsp finely grated parmesan
1 tsp mustard powder
salt & pepper

For the filling:

12oz natural smoked haddock
10fl oz full cream milk (or half and half semi skimmed milk and cream which I did because I had both to use up in the fridge)
1 egg
a big bunch of large spinach leaves (thick stalks removed)
1oz butter
1oz plain flour
1 shallot (finely chopped)
pinch freshly grated nutmeg
salt & pepper


Start by making the pastry. Blitz everything except the water in the food processor (or work together to make fine breadcrumbs by hand in a large bowl) then add the water a little at a time to form a soft, but not wet pastry. Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge for around 30 minutes. Then roll out to around 1/4 " thick and line a 9" loose bottomed fluted tart tin. At this stage I often pop my lined pastry case in the freezer for 5 minutes to firm up and reduce the risk of the pastry shrinking down the sides of the tin when you bake it.

Blind bake the pastry case for around 15 minutes at 190 C. Then remove the baking beans & parchment and bake for a further 5 minutes.

In the meantime, poach the smoked haddock in the milk (or milk and cream) in a shallow pan for 6 or 7 minutes. Pop the fish onto a plate, remove the skin and any bones and then flake. Reserve the poaching liquid.

Roughly chop the spinach and wilt in a non stick pan, making sure to stir to prevent the spinach from sticking. Put the wilted spinach in a sieve. Once cooled slightly, squeeze to remove as much liquid as possible.

Saute the shallot in the butter until soft. Add flour, stir to combine and then cook out the roux for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Add the warm poaching liquid and whisk until smooth. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Once cooled slightly whisk in the beaten egg and then stir in the fish and spinach.

Put the fish mixture into the pastry case and bake at 180 - 190 C (depending on your oven) for around 25 minutes until slightly golden and cooked through. Serve warm or cold.


  1. What makes a quiche a quiche and not a tart (and vice versa...?) either way, I've been really getting into my pastry-surrounded eggy innards and this looks gorgeous. I agree, spinach and smoked haddock is a great match; I've made risotto with it before but never thought to do it this way.

  2. Lovely, we do something similar with smoked mackerel, feta and filo pastry. It's based on a South African recipe that Stephen grew up with that uses snoek, not available here, sadly.

  3. Interesting question Lizzie... What makes a quiche a quiche for me is the focus on the egg component of the filling. I'm not a lover of eggs so quiches are generally a no go area.

    The Oxford English Dictionary says that a quiche is a baked flan with a savoury filling thickened with eggs (from the French, Alsation dialect Kuchen) whereas a tart is an open pastry case with a sweet or savoury filling from the old French 'tarte'. So I guess from that a quiche could be a quiche or a tart (or both!). Some online dictionaries describe a quiche as a pastry case or a tart filled with rich unsweetened custard and often other ingredients.

    Whichever way, I never use more than 1 egg in my tarts so I'm going to call them tarts!

    Your risotto sounds delicious. A bit like a variation on a kedgeree I guess (minus the egg...)?

  4. Kerri - I had to look snoek up as I'd never heard of it! There's an interesting blog post on Cook Sister's blog which explains the English population's misgivings about snoek which dates back the Second World War:

    Does the smoked version have a similar taste / texture to smoked mackerel?

  5. Ah ha! Very informative, thanks. I did notice yours was quite light on egg. The risotto was quite lightly flavoured, I do believe kedgeree is made with curry powder? if you're interested.

  6. Thanks for the link Lizzie - looks great!

  7. Do you know of a recipe for a ginger tart which may date back to the war or at least the 1950's? My friend remembers it as having a pastry base and the filling was quite solid and gingery and the texture of the filling was waxy. It has always been a favorite of my friend and I would love to be able to make it for her. Her aunt use to make it for her in the 60's in London.

    Many thanks, MJ