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 the goods


1 1/2 cups flour (preferably pastry flour)

6oz butter (cold)

pinch salt  

7-8 tblspns iced water

2 oz grated gruyere cheese

spinach filling:

2 lb frozen spinach (thawed)

2 oz butter

2 oz flour

2 cups milk

1 small onion

6 cloves

2 bay leaves

4 oz grated gruyere

nutmeg, salt and pepper

1/2-3/4 cup cream


1lb small white mushrooms

1 clove garlic

1 oz butter

1/4 cup olive oil

the rest:

5-6 eggs

8-12 coils slices of pancetta


time: 60 minutes active, 

45 minutes baking

you will need:

  • baking sheet
  • rolling pin
  • skillet
  • medium sized saucepan
  • small saucepan
  • 9 inch cake pan
  • baking parchment


Popeye's tart

Spinach, Gruyere, mushrooms, egg and pancetta

Struggling with the idea of spending the whole day rolling pastry, I looked up recipes for Rough Puff Pastry.  This pastry took about 30 minutes all up; 3 sets of 10 minute tasks. And it is definitely the best pastry that I've ever made.

Here's what I came up with. Give it a try:

Clear your workbench and pile 1 1/2 cups of plain flour in the centre. Add 1/4 teaspoon of salt.

Slice 6oz (1 1/2 sticks) / 170g of unsalted butter into 1cm / 1/4 inch strips. Toss these into the flour to get them lightly dusted then pick up each butter slice and squeeze it between your thumb and forefinger. The butter will break into coin sized pieces.

Mound the butter and flour into a pile again and, using the heels of your palms, run your hands away from your body through the flour. You will feel the butter smearing into the flour. Repeat this about 6 times then mound the mix again.

Pour 7-8 tablespoons of ice water into the flour. Stem any leaks by tossing flour onto the water and re-incorporate it. Squeeze the dough into a solid mass (it will be flaky). Pat it into a rectangle and wrap it in clingfilm. Put it in the fridge for 20 minutes.

Unwrap the pastry and dust your bench in flour. Place the pastry longways and roll it out to about 30cm / 12 inches. Fold the top third in towards you, over the centre. Now fold the bottom third over the top. It's like folding a letter.

Turn the pastry around a 1/4 turn and repeat this roll & fold. Then re-wrap it and chill it for another 20 minutes.

Repeat this roll-fold-roll-fold-wrap-chill rigamarole twice. (that's three total). One the last two roll-outs, sprinkle 1oz grated Gruyere cheese each time...sprinkle it only along the centre, not near the edges, so that when you fold the pastry over, the cheese is trapped inside!

If you get side-tracked and leave the pastry in the fridge more than an hour, you'll have to let it get back to room temperature (10 minutes or so), or it won't roll out easily.

You can also make this pastry ahead and freeze it...

It works for me if I'm doing chores and can go from the laundry (roll the pastry), put the clothes in the dryer (roll the pastry), climb Everest, (roll the pastry) and so forth...

Otherwise, there's always the frozen stuff...

The Spinach:

Chop both ends off the onion, peel it and remove the first layer. Stud it with the cloves and place it in the small saucepan. Add the bay leaves and the milk and heat over a gentle flame until the milk starts to bubble but do not let it boil. Allow it to cool and let the onion steep for 10 minutes.

In the medium saucepan, melt the butter. When it has melted, add the flour and stir it with a wooden spoon for a couple of minutes. This will cook the flour. Pour about  1/4 of the warm milk into the skillet and stir constantly.

Add the rest of the milk 1/4 at a time. Stir constantly and allow the 'roux' to heat until it starts to bubble. Once it has been bubbling for 2 minutes, remove from the heat and stir in some salt (a can add more later), about 1/2 teaspoon of pepper and a little grated nutmeg (again, you can add more later). Then add the grated Gruyere  cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted and taste. Season with more nutmeg, salt or pepper if you like.

Add the spinach by taking fistfuls of it and squeezing as hard as you can to remove the excess water. Add the spinach to the roux and stir. Add 1/2 cup of cream...or more if it seems too stiff. You can use half and half or milk if you like.

The Mushrooms:

Remove the stems, cut the caps into quarters. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet, add the crushed garlic and let the oil heat. Add the mushrooms and sautee over a very low heat. I leave them on the back burner whilst I get everything else ready and just turn them occasionally.

Putting it together:

Pre-heat the oven to 400f .

Roll out the pastry. I do this by laying out a long stretch of baking parchment on my counter, dusting it with flour and then rolling the pastry onto that.

Lay the pastry into a buttered 9 inch pan. Allow the excess pastry to hang over the sides.

Brush the inside of the pastry with a little egg white.

Spoon about 2/3 of the spinach into the bottom. Yes, you have too much spinach; that's so that you can add a can of chopped artichokes and a fistful of parmesan and bake it separately as a trashy dip. But that's another story.

Spoon the mushrooms over the spinach.

Carefully break the eggs so that there are around 5 on the perimeter and one in the centre. I usually push down a little yolk-sized indentation where I want the yolk to sit.

Cover the eggs and or the entire top with pancetta could use a dozen slices.

Fold the extra pastry back on top of the tart and brush it with egg white.

Bake for about 45 minutes until the pastry is golden.

Serve hot, cold or somewhere in between!