I mentioned that in the ‘miscellaneous’ section, right at the back, pages 727-730, of my Modern Practical Cookery, published in 1936, there is a recipe for spinach custard. My mind actually boggled at this… did it mean something like the children’s dessert we used to have, banana custard, which was chunks of banana in cold custard? or sponge custard – chunks of sponge cake in cold custard? Or was it a hot custard, flavoured with spinach? I know spinach or kale smoothies are popular now (they sound so disgusting, I really am not going to even try one) – so is spinach custard a 1930’s forerunner?
I read through the recipe last night, and when I noticed it said ‘serve with soup’ this seemed even stranger… You can decide what you think, you can even have a go at making the recipe:
Spinach custard – to serve with soup
- 1 lb spinach, thoroughly washed
- 1 large egg, beaten
- salt and pepper
- remove any large stalks from the spinach and put in a pan with no water, just ½ tsp salt
- cook slowly for 10 mins with the lid on
- turn off the heat, stir well, replace the lid and let the spinach finish continue cooking in its own juice until tender, for about another 15 mins
- strain and press through a sieve, but reserve juice
- rub the spinach through the sieve into a basin, add the egg, and salt and pepper to taste
- grease an enamel plate, pour on the egg and spinach, and cook in a moderate oven, 160°C, 325°F, gas mark 3, for about 40 mins until set
- let it cool, then turn it out onto a board, cut into strips, then into diamonds, or else cut into fancy shapes with a small vegetable cutter sold for the purpose
- put them on a plate over the soup you are heating and going to serve the custard shapes with, and allow the shapes to heat for about ten mins
- to serve, place shapes in the soup tureen and pour soup over them
Just in case you do want to make this – there is a rather confusing note that 1 pound of spinach cooked dry will make a large plateful of custard – which seems to suggest you might need more spinach than the 1 lb listed in the ingredients in order to have whole dry pound… The juice you have saved from straining ‘has excellent food values‘ – even after 25 mins cooking? You can use it for soup, the recipe says, but doesn’t say whether it should be the soup you serve the custard shapes with.
An observation – the poor spinach has been cooked for over an hour before it is then reheated over the soup. The custard, which seems more like an omelette surely will have the texture of leather, and probably taste of less. The thought of the smell of baking spinach does not sound very enticing… and what sort of soup would you serve it with? Why not have diamond-shaped croutons?
I looked at the soup section of the book to see if there was any guidance about which soup to serve the spinach custard with… At the beginning of the chapter it does give some serving suggestions:
- toast Melba
- pulled bread
- finely grated cheese
- chopped herbs such as parsley and tarragon
- diced carrot
- sprigs of cauliflower
- chopped cooked mixed vegetables (carrot, onion, turnip)
- asparagus tips
… but looking through the recipes I find no mention of spinach custard, not even to accompany spinach soup.
If by some chance you do make this recipe, I would be most interested to hear your comments on the results!