Blitum et torte
A spinach or chard pie - contributed by Gaylin J. Walli

Original recipes from De honesta voluptate:

An Herb Pie for May. Cut up and pound as much cheese as I suggested for the first and second pies [a pound and a half of the best fresh cheese]. To this, when it is pounded, add juice of chard, a little marjoram, a little more sage, a bit of mint, and more parsley. When all this had been pounded in a mortar, add fifteen or sixteen beaten egg whites and half a pound of fat or fresh butter. Some also put in some leaves of parsley and marjoram, cut but not pounded, a half pound of white ginger and eight ounces of sugar. When all these are mixed together and put in a pot or well-greased pan, make them boil on coals far from flame so they do not absorb smoke, mixing constantly until they become thick. When they are almost cooked and transferred to a dish, cover with the best sugar and rose water. This dish is as much greener as it is better and more pleasing. Let Philenus Archigallus beware of this, for it digests slowly, dulls the eyes, makes obstructions, and generates stone. (Milham, 365)

On Spinach and Chard. Spinach is the lightest kind found among garden vegetables. I would believe it is divided into two kinds, since there is black and white. Black grows almost with a head like onions, cabbage, and lettuce, and there is almost no garden vegetable greater in breadth. Some think the nature of spinach inert and without force, even if it usually disturbs the bowel even to the bile. Taken in food, it soothes excessive menstruation in women, but chard, which is white, maintains a mean. It is most usefully given to those with liver and spleen illnesses, with sweet spices which temper its saltiness. it likewise relieves the heat of summer, revives those who are disinterested in food because of squeamishness, and fills nursing women with a lot of milk. Eaten with its own juice, it moves the bowels, but eaten alone, with the juice thrown away, it constricts them. (Milham , 319)

Modern recipe: Spinach or Chard Pie

For 160:

  • 20 deep-dish pre-baked pie crusts
  • 15 pounds monterey jack cheese, grated 
  • 100 egg whites, very lightly beaten
  • 5 pounds melted butter
  • 20 pounds fresh spinach leaves - preferably baby spinach , but if unavailable, use mature, thoroughly washed, with the hard stems removed
  • 5/8 quart fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 1/2 quart fresh parsley, stemmed and chopped
  • 1 2/3 tablespoons dried mint - use 3 times this amount if fresh plant is available 
  • 1 2/3 tablespoons dried majoram - use 3 times this amount if fresh plant is available
  • 3 1/3 tablespoons dried sage - use 3 times this amount if fresh plant is available
  • 5/8 pound fresh ginger root, peeled and minced finely
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 2/3 tablespoons salt
For 8:
  • 1 deep-dish pre-baked pie crust
  • 3/4 pound monterey jack cheese, grated
  • 5 egg whites, very lightly beaten
  • 4 ounces melted butter
  • 1 pound fresh spinach leaves - preferably baby spinach , but if unavailable, use mature, thoroughly washed, with the hard stems removed
  • 2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, stemmed and chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried mint - use 3 times this amount if fresh plant is available
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried majoram - use 3 times this amount if fresh plant is available
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried sage - use 3 times this amount if fresh plant is available
  • 1/2 ounce fresh ginger root, peeled and minced finely 
  • a dash freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
Pre-bake the pie crusts. Grate the cheese and mix it with the freshly chopped herbs. In a separate bowl, place the egg whites and add the melted butter. Mix this carefully with the cheese and herb combination. Set this mixture aside.

Add the egg mixture to your pre-baked pie crusts and bake until the top of the pie is golden and the filling is firm, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and serve.

Per serving nutritional information:

294 Calories; 21g Fat (62% calories from fat); 15g Protein; 13g Carbohydrate; 42mg Cholesterol; 524mg Sodium

Notes on the recipe:

Platina suggests combining cheese that has been pounded with chard juice, marjoram, sage, mint, and parsley, then pounding again to mix the ingredients. After thorough mixing, beaten egg whites are added along with half a pound of fat or butter. Platina then suggests that additional ingredients could be added, among them parsley and marjoram which are freshly cut rather than pounded like the herbs mixed with the cheese earlier in the recipe. It is at this point that he also suggests that some cooks add half a pound of white ginger and eight ounces of sugar. The half pound of ginger surely must be a scribal error because all other recipes of this type clearly state that a half ounce of ginger is used. Half a pound of ginger would make the pie inedible. Half a pound of sugar would result in an incredibly sweet but otherwise edible pie.

After all the ingredients are mixed together, Platina states that everything should be placed in a well-greased pot, away from the smoke of a fire, and stirred constantly while they are cooking so they become thick. When everything is almost cooked, not that much unlike how scrambled eggs are cooked today, the eggs are transferred to another dish, sprinkled with rosewater and more sugar, and served.

Pie crusts:

The herb pie detailed in Platina's recipe never specifically states that it is a pie with crust; however, most "torte" recipes in Book 8 include at least one pastry crust rolled thin for the bottom of the pie. Some recipes even suggest using a top crust. We have chosen to make this pie with a bottom crust, similar to other pies in the same section of the manuscript, despite the fact that none is called for in the recipe.

Cheese types:

We made this pie using something other than the modern equivalent of Platina's "best fresh cheese." Today's equivalent of a good fresh cheese would be not too dissimilar to cottage cheese, though quite a bit drier. Modern cottage cheese is newly curded cheese with some of the cream added back into the mix (hence the creamy sauce surrounding the curds). Some scholars believe that "farmer's cheese" would be a good substitute for the fresh cheese Platina requests. Unfortunately, throughout the United States, the definition of farmer's cheese differs greatly, ranging from a green (new) cheese to a liquid-like goo sold as a delicacy in areas where the Amish are present. In South Eastern Michigan, farmer's cheese is typically an amorphous blob of green cheese, cut into a slab, wrapped in plastic, and sold in the expensive section of pricey grocery stores. Because of availability, we could only use Monterey Jack cheese for the test feast.

Using spinach or chard:

Nowhere in Platina's recipe did the pie require the addition of spinach for anything other than color from the juice. It was purely fabrication in the mind of the head cook. The green was added to balance other portions of the feast both mundanely and in a period manner. Because Platina listed the spinach as "inert" in its effects among some thinkers of the day, we chose to add it under the theory that it was a spring green that needed to be used. Mundanely, for the vegetarian minded folks attending the feast, we added the spinach to round out the dish itself and provide better nutritional value.

Additional notes on this recipe may be found at: The Coronation Feast of Dag IV & Elayna II


Milham, Mary Ella. Platina's On Right Pleasure and Good Health. University of North Carolina at Asheville: Pegasus Press, 1999. ISBN: 0866982086.

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Gaylin Walli is a technical writer and editor for a multinational software company. She spends the vast majority of her personal time researching things because her friends (and people throughout the known world) torture her with comments like "Do you know anything about..."

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