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Salmon and Herb Tart

Those who bemoan the ready availability of salmon should have sympathy with the northern medieval peasant apprentices, who were so fed up with it that they pleaded for no more than three free meals of salmon a week. Salmon and other river, pond and sea fish were very common in both wealthy and poor households and the rivers of England and Scotland kept many families in food. In medieval times, dried and fresh fruit, together with milk and strong spices, would often be included in a fish tart, and this recipe includes a medley of appropriate herbs but with fewer spices than in the past. Its origins are firmly in the Middle Ages when it would have been served up regularly to wealthy households during Lent and other 'fysshe dayes'. This is a truly scrumptious tart so easy and versatile and yet exotic too. Leave out one of the herbs or change the balance of herbs to suit your own taste.

ingredients

serves 6 - 8
225 g (8 oz) plain shortcrust pastry
675 g (1 1/2 Ib) boneless salmon fillets
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley plus extra to garnish
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
55 g (2 oz) butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks
425 ml (3/4 pint) double cream

method

1. Line a deep 23cm (9 in) tart tin with the pastry and pre-bake or bake blind.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 190°C (375°F) Gas 5.

3. Chop the salmon into small chunks or flakes. Put all the herbs in a large bowl and add the salmon, pressing the herbs into the salmon flesh until the chunks are as green as possible.

4. Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed pan. Add the garlic and fry very gently for no more than 1 minute. Add the salmon chunks and fry them very quickly, turning them over so that the skin turns pale but the insides are still dark pink. Add the lemon juice, sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon and season with salt and pepper. Lift it all out of the pan with a slotted spoon and place in the pre-baked pastry case.

5. Using the same bowl, with its remnants of herbs etc, mix together the eggs, egg yolks, cream and salt and pepper to taste.
Pour into the pastry case. Bake in the oven for 35 - 40 minutes and then test to see whether the mixture has set; if not, bake for a further 5 minutes. When ready, allow to cool a little and garnish with a little chopped parsley.

6. Serve warm with new potatoes, a green vegetable and a wedge of lemon, or cold with a green salad.

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