Tudor Spinach Fritters

I love recreating and tasting old recipes. It's like you're going back in time and connecting with your ancestors in the most basic way: through food. Food is part of our lives as fuel, but also a huge part of social occasions, romantic dinners and celebrations. We eat food when we're hungry, when we're happy and when we're sad. I wonder how many people have enjoyed the flavour combinations I'm enjoying - who they were and what their lives were like. I love it. 

It's even more satisfying if the food you're tasting is actually delicious, too, even by modern standards. 

I wrote an article for The Historians magazine last year about Tudor food and how adventurous they were with spice and flavour. It's a total myth that sixteenth or seventeenth century food was bland and boring. They roasted fruits with caraway seeds, they put cinnamon in meatballs and rose water in desserts. Spices were expensive, so this applies to the wealthier families who could afford it, of course. But Tudor food wasn't bland. Even the simplest recipes involved herbs and roots that could be foraged or picked from the garden to add flavour and nutrition to meals. 

Which brings me onto these fritters. The original recipe, from The Good Huswife's Jewell by Thomas Dawson in 1585, instructs us to: 

Take a good deale of Spinnedge, and washe it cleane, then boyle it in faire water, and when it is boyled, then take it forth and let the water runne from it, then chop it with the backe of a knife, and then put in some egges and grated Bread, and season it with suger, sinamon, ginger, and pepper, dates minced fine, and currans, and rowle them like a ball, and dippe them in Butter made of Ale and flower.

I was initially reluctant about these. I mean, spinach fritters mixed with breadcrumbs, dates, currants and spices. 

As it turns out, the fruity version wasn't actually too bad. Sweeter than savoury, but did it suit modern tastes? Is it a recipe you'd actually return to to eat with your family on a Saturday night in front of a movie? I didn't think so. So I took out the dried fruit and made a savoury but still spiced version and much preferred it. It still has the Tudor base, and I like to think that Tudor cooks adapted their recipes just like we do today. I'm sure someone somewhere in the 1500s made a savoury spinach fritter. Especially if they'd just run out of dates and currants. It happens. 

If you're a purist, or you want to try the fritters from the original sixteenth century recipe then go for it. Just add a few chopped, pitted dates and a tablespoon of currants to the filling. This was the version that won hands down with my family though and one we've made over and over again. It would also be lovely with a spoonful of Parmesan cheese finely grated and added to the mixture, too. 

Parmesan is Tudor, I checked.  

Tudor Spinach Fritters (or 'Fritters of Spinnedge') 
Adapted slightly from Thomas Dawson's The Good Huswife, 1585. 

100g fresh baby leaf spinach
2 thick slices of sourdough or other traditionally baked bread, crusts removed
1 egg
pinch of sugar
quarter teaspoon ground ginger
pinch of ground cinnamon
pinch of white pepper
1 cup plain flour
about half a cup of ale, lager or beer
pinch of salt
lard or beef dripping, for deep frying


Wash the spinach, placing the leaves in a heatproof bowl. Boil the kettle and pour the hot water over the spinach to wilt. Drain carefully and rinse with cold water, squeezing out any moisture from the cooled leaves. Chop the spinach and place back in the  bowl.

Break up the bread into crumbs with your fingertips and add to the spinach. Crack in the egg too, and add the spices and pepper, stirring well to combine.

Add the flour to a separate bowl.  Trickle in the ale until you have a batter with the consistency of double cream. Season with a pinch of salt.

Melt the lard in a medium saucepan on a medium heat. Drop a tiny piece of batter into the hot fat, and once it sizzles and turns golden, it's ready. Roll the spinach mixture into balls and dip into the batter using a spoon. Drop carefully, straight from the battery spoon, into the hot fat and fry, turning, for about 3-4 minutes, or until heated through and golden. Drain on kitchen paper and serve.

Have you made this? I'd love to see! Share on Instagram and tag me @lovebritishhistorypics - I'll share any I see. 

You can see all of my historical recipes, mostly based on Medieval and Tudor sources, here

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