A Medieval Chard Tart

This is a post that’s been on my main blog since 2008. I thought that since it’s medieval cooking, I’d move it over here and start a new category for similar posts. This tart is just so good – and it looks good, too. Medieval food was about presentation as well as taste, and you could pipe this into a great hall with pride.

Chard tart baked by Deborah Cooke The recipe is from a book called THE MEDIEVAL KITCHEN: Recipes from France and Italy, by Odile Redon, Françoise Sabban and Silvano Serventi. Essentially, they went through medieval manuscripts in search of recipes. (It’s available only in print. Here’s an Amazon link.) The recipes are presented in their initial form, then modernized, the way we’re used to seeing recipes written.

This is the Torta Bolognese or Herbed Swiss Chard and Cheese Pie. (page 141)

Just in case you don’t have the book at hand, here’s the excerpted modern version of the recipe.

Pâté brisée

1 lb raclette, young tomme de Savoie  or othre tomme, or cream cheese, softened. (450g)
7 ounces Swiss chard leaves (200g)
1 handful fresh parsley
1 tbsp fresh marjoram leaves or 1 tsp dried marjoram or oregano
4 tbsp butter at room temperature
4 eggs
1 egg yolk
black pepper

Prepare the pastry (okay, I shortened that. If you make pastry, you have a recipe already. Just do what you do.) and refrigerate.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Grate or mash the cheese. Trim and wash the greens and herbs. Chop them finely in a food processor, then add the cheese and process until you have a smooth green mixture, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Beat the whole eggs and blend them into the mixture. Add salt to taste, and plenty of freshly ground pepper. Crush 3 or 4 threads of saffron between your fingers and add them to the mixture along with the softened butter. Process until thoroughly blended. Roll out about 2/3 of the dough and line a deep 9″ tart pan.  Add the filling, roll out the remaining pastry, and cover the pie, pressing the seams tightly shut. Set the tart pan on a baking sheet to catch any drips, and put in the oven. Crush a few threads of saffron between your fingers and add them to the egg yolk; beat well to blend and leave to infuse. When the pie has baked for 15 minutes, remove from the oven and paint the top crush with the egg yolk and saffron mixture. Return to the oven and bake for another 45 minutes to an hour.

That’s ©1998 University of Chicago.

Now, if you’re wondering what raclette or tomme cheeseChard tart baked by Deborah Cooke is, you’re not alone. I’ve eaten raclette and it’s yummy, but had no idea what kind of cheese to buy. I use the better part of a 16 oz tub of ricotta, as well as some other fragrant cheese grated, like Oka. I also add some chopped sun-dried tomatoes to the mixture and some sliced black olives. I don’t use a food processor – I just coarsely chop the Swiss chard leaves. We have teeth to chew our food and “a smooth green mixture” doesn’t sound that appealing to me.  With my changes, this is a fabulous tart that looks beautiful, too. Mr. C. makes his tomato salad to serve with it, the one with the carmelized onions and balsamic viniagrette, and neither one of us minds re-runs the next night.

What’s interesting – a note for you Swiss chard skeptics – is that it doesn’t taste much like chard. I used the same combination of ingredients in a quiche with no topping and the chard taste was very strong. This gets raves all around, though, so it’s how I’ll be using up the chard frozen from last summer’s garden. You could also substitute spinach for the chard, but you wouldn’t get the chewy bits from the chard stems.

Go on. You know you want to make one.

Medieval Cooking

One of the things that fascinates me about the Middle Ages is the food. I have several cookbooks that are compiled from medieval texts and this recipe is from my favorite one: it’s called The Medieval Kitchen: Recipes from France and Italy by Odile Redon, Francoise Sabban and Silvano Serventi. I like that each recipe includes the translated medieval text first (they wrote recipes like my MIL did: “Take enough butter and mix flour into it until it looks right…”) followed by the authors’ notes and then a modern version of the recipe which they’ve tested.

Last night, I made the Torta Bolognese, which I’ve made a number of times before. The translation is Herbed Swiss Chard and Cheese Pie, and it’s an awesome way to cook swiss chard. It’s also vegetarian.

Here’s a picture of my tart, fresh from the oven:

Swiss Chard Tart, baked by Deborah Cooke

And here’s a picture of the interior:
Chard Tart baked by Deborah CookeThe recipe instructs you to puree the ingredients for the filling until you have a smooth green paste, but I don’t do that. I use the chard with red stems and dice them up as well, then just chop it all fine. I’d rather see the green chard with red flicks in the egg filling than have it be all green. (The tomatoes have a red onion relish on them, btw.)

Next up, I want to try the Civet of Hare, probably the one from the Ménagier de Paris.

You can buy this book at Amazon – here’s the link.

Have you ever cooked historical recipes? What did you make and what did you think of the result?