How to cook the perfect torta pasqualina – recipe | Felicity Cloake’s How to cook the perfect…

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While the British, in recent times a minimum of, have tended in direction of meat for Easter, in Italy, torta pasqualina, or Easter cake, seeks to make the most of latest season’s greens … which, in spite of everything, is what most of us are craving after six months of northern darkness. Chef and author Stefano Arturi calls this Ligurian traditional, now in style nationwide, “one of the highlights of the Italian vegetarian canon – the quintessential spring dish”, and, being simple to make forward, spectacular to have a look at and perfect for feeding a crowd, it really works as nicely for Sunday dinner because it does on an Easter Monday picnic.

The pastry

Katie Caldesi’s torta pasqualina employs filo pastry. Thumbnails by Felicity.
Katie Caldesi’s torta pasqualina makes use of filo pastry. Thumbnails by Felicity.

Though it’s known as a torta, that is, the truth is, a pie – and, as such, open to the typical pastry-based compromises that at all times recommend that making the stuff is way tougher than it really is. Arturi writes on his Italian Home Cooking weblog that the dish calls for a “golden, shatteringly flaky olive oil pastry”, historically dividing the pie into 33 layers to signify the 33 years of Christ’s life. Thankfully, as Fred Plotkin explains in Recipes from Paradise, “it has evolved in modern times to something that may or may not be 33 layers, but it is still associated with its original inspiration”.

You might use ready-made puff pastry, as Yotam Ottolenghi and the Silver Spoon recommend (although Arturi attracts the line at that, calling it “untraditional, inauthentic and plain wrong”), however the filo Katie Caldesi recommends in her Italian Cookery Course is a greater substitute. Just as with the conventional flour-and-water pastry for which she additionally provides a recipe, the crisp texture and plain flavour make for a satisfying distinction with the filling; in the meantime, scrumptious as Rachel Roddy’s avowedly non-traditional butter and ricotta crust is, we discover it too mushy and wealthy right here.

Quite rich: Rachel Roddy’s torta pasqualina pastry.
Rich choosing: Rachel Roddy’s torta pasqualina.

Arturi concedes that “the woman who is these days considered the high priestess of torta pasqualina, and one of the last keepers of traditional Ligurian cooking, Signora Enrichetta Trucco, says that the “33 sheets business” just isn’t obligatory in any respect: so long as you make between eight and 10 layers, you can be firmly in actual torta pasqualina territory. I strive utilizing eight, however in comparatively small pies of this type, they have a tendency to go stodgy, so in the finish, and with due apology to the signora, I’ve restricted myself to a mere six. As additional insurance coverage, be sure to stretch out the pastry as thinly as attainable, brush it liberally with oil and scatter it with breadcrumbs, as Arturi does, to assist take up a few of the liquid from the greens.

The greens

Swiss chard, Caldesi says, “is used traditionally, but spinach is easier to get hold of”. Yes and no: child spinach may be very simple to pay money for, however, as with spanakopita, it is a dish that calls for a extra mature leaf; I discover tender younger ones yield an unpleasantly pulpy texture, so should you can’t discover, or don’t like, chard, swap in frozen complete leaf spinach, thawed and squeezed totally dry earlier than use, as an alternative. Chard, nonetheless, is pretty broadly out there lately – cook the stalks and leaves individually, as Ottolenghi suggests, as a result of the former will take for much longer. What’s extra – and that is important – wring it out nicely earlier than including it to the pie, to guarantee as little liquid as attainable leaks into the pastry.

Plotkin asks the cook to word that “there are alternatives in terms of which vegetables to use. Baby artichokes are available at Easter time, and for many Ligurians are the vegetable of choice when they are in season,” however he additionally suggests beet greens or borage. Borage being fairly skinny on the floor in my greengrocers, and beet greens being not dissimilar to chard, I determine to have a go together with child artichokes, which really are extra forgiving to prep than their full-sized elders, however they’re so uncommon in the UK that it appears a disgrace to conceal them in a pie, good as the outcomes are. I’d recommend utilizing tinned artichoke hearts as an alternative, however I’m too fearful of Italians. The important factor is to guarantee that no matter you utilize is dry and nicely seasoned.

The seasoning

All spice and celery: Yotam Ottolenghi’s torta pasqualina.
Yotam Ottolenghi’s torta pasqualina options allspice and celery.

Fried onion is the most typical alternative of fragrant, utilized by Caldesi, Plotkin, Arturi and Ottolenghi. It provides the filling a savoury word that’s significantly welcome with the earthiness of chard; relatively than including the greens to the identical pan, although, which suggests you’d squeeze out a few of the oil together with the water, I’m going to cook them individually, then stir them collectively at the final minute. Ottolenghi additionally provides celery, which, as a result of I don’t like celery, received’t be going into my remaining dish, although his dill is in style – it provides the dish a barely spanakopita-esque high quality that we like, although it doesn’t really feel fairly as Italian as the parsley with which he combines it. Arturi, the Silver Spoon and Plotkin all use marjoram, which is close to not possible to discover, however once I do, nobody can actually style it, so I’m not going to recommend it except you occur to have some rising in the backyard.

More essential, in my view, is the spicing. Arturi notes that Signora Trucco makes use of a pinch of an historic spice mix known as la saporita, which incorporates coriander, cinnamon, caraway seeds, cloves, nutmeg and star anise: “Perhaps a relic of Renaissance cooking, when spices were used much more liberally in Italian cooking than today.” I’m going to nod to that with a beneficiant grating of nutmeg, as a result of that goes so nicely with each greens and cheese, however all or any of the above, or certainly the heat of Ottolenghi’s allspice, will work to elevate the creamy sweetness of the filling.

The dairy

Double cream? A bit loose. Silver Spoon’s torta pasqualina.
Silver Spoon’s double cream torta pasqualina.

Traditionally, the cheese layer was constructed from prescinsêua, a recent, acidic cheese native to the Ligurian coast, however this, Arturi says, is sort of not possible to discover exterior the area, so most Italians use ricotta as an alternative. (Plotkin notes that it’s really thought to go higher with artichokes, in any case.) Only Caldesi makes use of one thing else, particularly creme fraiche, which proves in style for its tangy flavour, however lacks the physique of ricotta – Arturi mixes the two, however I like the lighter texture that Greek yoghurt brings to proceedings, and which I strive in Plotkin’s recipe, as opposed to the double cream of the Silver Spoon, which makes the complete factor a bit unfastened. Beaten eggs, although not necessary, give the cheese layer a nice, moussey consistency. You might season it nicely and go away it at that, however it is a special-occasion dish, so most recipes add grated parmesan (vegetarians ought to word that the majority laborious cheeses will work right here; Ottolenghi even provides some distinctly un-Italian cheddar).

Modern recipes have a tendency to combine the greens and cheese, however I like Plotkin’s concept of conserving them separate, as I believe the unique, multi-layer model would have carried out – it’s extra fascinating to eat and appears extra hanging. He additionally suggests placing a layer of pastry in the center as a divider, however we discover this each unpleasantly gummy and pointless.

Fred Plotkin’s torta keeps the cheese and greens separate.
Fred Plotkin’s torta retains the cheese and greens separate.

Eggs aren’t necessary, both – Arturi fairly fairly says he doesn’t look after the flavour or texture of overcooked yolks – however they do really feel festive at the moment of yr, they usually actually look very fairly, too. Traditionally, they go on prime, however I like the color distinction with the greens, so I’m going to put them in the backside layer. You’ll want to watch out not to break the yolks once you add the prime layer, but when I can handle it, consider me, so are you able to.

Leave to cool to heat room temperature earlier than serving, to give the filling an opportunity to set.

Perfect torta pasqualina

Prep 20 min
Rest 1 hr+
Cook 1 hr 15 min
Serves 6-8

For the pastry (or use 500g filo)
300g plain flour
½ tsp wonderful salt
30ml extra-virgin olive oil
, plus additional for brushing

For the filling
1kg Swiss chard or spinach (if utilizing frozen spinach, you’ll want about 2kg; thaw and squeeze out, then add in step 4)
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
250g ricotta

150g full-fat Greek yoghurt
5 eggs
(all however 1 optionally available)
50-75g finely grated parmesan
, grated
1 handful breadcrumbs

For the pastry, put the flour and salt in a big bowl and make a nicely in the center.

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasquelina 1a

Add the oil and about 75ml tepid water, stir, then add simply sufficient extra water to deliver every part collectively right into a coherent however not sticky dough.

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasquelina 1b

Knead nicely till easy, then cowl with a humid material and go away for a minimum of an hour – if you’d like to go away it for longer, chill and produce again to room temperature earlier than use. (You also can use a meals mixer to combine the dough.)

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasquelina 2a

Meanwhile, if utilizing chard, separate the stems, minimize them into roughly 1cm items, then wash.

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasquelina 3a

Heat a big pan for which you’ve a lid on a medium-low flame, and add the chard stalks. Cover and go away to steam, shaking often, whilst you chop and wash the leaves (you probably have a thin-based pan and are anxious about it sticking, add a splash of oil). Add the chard leaves to the pan, cowl and cook, shaking often, till wilted.

When cool sufficient to deal with, switch the chard to a clear tea towel or a bit of muslin, and squeeze out as a lot liquid as attainable. (If utilizing recent spinach, chop and cook all of it collectively. Frozen spinach, on the different hand, needs to be defrosted and squeezed out.)

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasquelina 4a

Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the chopped onion till mushy however not colored. Add the squeezed chard and toss to combine with the onion and oil. Season with salt and nutmeg, then go away to cool.

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasquelina 5a

Drain off any liquid from the ricotta and yoghurt, then combine. Add one egg, beat nicely, then stir in the parmesan and a bit nutmeg, and season.

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasquelina 6a

Lightly grease a deep 24cm-wide tart tin, and warmth the oven and a baking tray to 200C (180C fan)/390F/gasoline 6.

Divide the pastry into six equal items and canopy in order that they don’t dry out. Combine two items, roll into a big ball, then roll out or stretch on a frivolously floured floor till it’s as skinny as you will get it and huge sufficient generously to line the tin.

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasquelina  – roll into a ball

Lay the pasty into the tin, permitting the extra to overhang the sides, then brush throughout with oil.

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasquelina 6b

Roll out the third piece of pastry as thinly as attainable, minimize it to the dimension of the tin and lay on prime of the pastry base. Oil and repeat with a fourth piece of pastry, then oil the prime layer and scatter over the breadcrumbs.

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasquelina 7a

Spoon the chard on prime of this, then make 4 broad divots in the greens. Crack an egg, if utilizing, into every, and season.

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasquelina 7b

Carefully spoon the cheese on prime, attempting not to push it down too laborious on the eggs so the yolks keep intact. Roll out the penultimate piece of pastry, brush with oil and lay it on prime, then roll out the remaining piece and stretch this over every part, to enclose.

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasqualina 8a

Press the edges collectively to seal, then trim and crimp (watch a video on-line should you’re undecided how to do that). Cut a number of slashes in the prime layer, to assist the pastry cook via, make a small gap in the centre to let steam escape from the filling throughout baking, then brush with extra oil.

Felicity Cloake’s torta pasqualina 9a

Bake for 45-55 minutes, or till golden, then take away and go away to cool to room temperature earlier than slicing and serving.

  • Torta pasqualina: do you set artichokes, chard, spinach and even wild greens in yours? Do you make your personal prescinsêua? Or do you’ve one other Easter favorite you’d like to advocate?

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