Torta pasqualina

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 Veni, vidi, vici: saw it on the Guardian on saturday, bought the ingredients on sunday and served it for Easter brunch on Monday. It was a spot on dish,  very much in the spirit of the season. In case you wonder, it is an Yotam Ottolengi’s take on an Italian dish with lots of modifications to adapt it to what was left on the supermarket. I was getting a bit apprehensive as I kept replacing ingredients by similar thing, but, it all worked very well together… It was a process to do it, but it is a lovely dish, worthwhile the calories and the effort.

Torta pasqualina (adapted from Yotam Ottolengi’s column in The Guardian.)

Ingredients

  • olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 500g  Swiss chard, stalks removed and roughly chopped, leaves cut into 1cm slices
  • 600g spinach leaves
  • 6 sticks celery, trimmed and finely sliced
  • 20g Bärlauch (wild garlic)
  • ¼ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 250g ricotta
  • 100g grated Emmentaler and Gruyère cheese mix
  • 9 eggs
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 500g all-butter puff pastry
  • Plain flour, for dustin

Method

Heat the oven to 180C.

Put a large sauté pan for which you have a lid on a medium-high heat. Add the oil and onion, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the onion is soft and starting to colour. Add the chard stalks and celery, cover and cook for five minutes. Stir in the chard leaves and spinach. Cook for five minutes more, until the leaves have wilted and the stalks and celery have softened. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool a little.

Line a colander with a clean tea towel or muslin and pour in the contents of the pan. Draw the sides of the towel around the filling and squeeze out the juice: you want the mixture to be as dry as possible. Transfer the contents of the towel to a bowl and add the herbs, spices, cheeses, three eggs, half a teaspoon of salt and a good grind of pepper. Mix well and set aside.

In case you don’t have a prepared pastry, roll half of it  out pastry on a lightly floured work surface into a 30cm square that’s 2.5mm thick. Transfer to a 20cm-wide spring-form cake tin with 7cm high sides. Press the pastry into the edges of the tin and trim off most of the overhang. Roll the remaining pastry into a 25cm square lid and set aside.

Tip the cheese and greens mixture into the cake tin and use a spoon to create five egg-sized holes. Break an egg into each hole, then lay the lid on top. Trim the edges, then pinch the lid and base together to make sure it’s secure.

Whisk the remaining egg, brush it over the lid, then prick a few times with a fork. Bake for 45 minutes, until cooked and golden brown. Leave to cool for half an hour, and serve warm or at room temperature.


Minestrone soup

minestrone

After one month of (almost) daily feasts and non stop indulgence, I ended up with a food hangover of biblical proportions. For a couple of days, I’d rather fight my way through the ironing pile than opening a cook book…  Unless it was Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weigh, which promises  dishes low in calories and big on flavor.  Not small on portions, though…  Their 4 servings are the equivalent of 6 of my portions, and I normally don’t eat like a birdie.  But, all in all, it was exactly what I was looking for. A light soup to keep me going while fighting the hang over.

Minestrone soup (adapted from Dave Myers and Si King’s The Hairy Dieters: How to Love Food and Lose Weight)

Ingredients 

  • 4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • 2 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 small onion finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick finely sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 medium courgettes diced
  • 1,5L of chicken stock
  • 50g dried spaghetti
  • 1 tablespoon tomato purée
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 100 savoy cabbage thickly shredded
  • 25g of parmesan cheese finely grated
  • fresh basil leafs to garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method

First, peel the tomatoes. Prepare the iced iced water in advance (basically, water and ice).  Bring a medium pot of water to a boil over high heat. Make a small X in the bottom of each tomato with the tip of a knife. Using a slotted spoon, lower them one a time, into the pot for 10-15seconds. Fish them out and tip them into ice water to cool for about 1 minute. Peel the tomatoes, starting from the X mark on the bottom and pulling back the curled skin. You can now chop  tomatoes into dices.

In a large non stick frying pan, heat the oil until it is piping hot and drop the onion. Lower the heat and sautée until is soft and translucent.

Add the celery, garlic, leek and courgettes and drop them into the pan with the onion. Still over a low heat for a couple of minutes, then stir in the chopped tomatoes, pour over the chicken stock and bring to the boil.

Break the spaghetti into short lengths and drop them into the pan. Add the tomato purée and bring the soup back to the boil, then cook for 8minutes stirring occasionally. Add the peas, cabbage and cook for another 5 minutes or until the pasta is just tender.

Season the soup with salt and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan and torn basil leaves if you want.