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.)
- 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
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.
I found this dish by accident in Leite’s Culinaria. And it was just what I was looking for: asparagus are in season, a party was on the planning and if not edible, at least it was decorative. Truth to be said,it was a pretty good idea. It even passed the 11 year old test (minus asparagus).
Asparagus Tart Recipe
- 1 bunch asparagus, ends snapped off
- 1 bunch fresh spinach (about 20 largish leaves), stems trimmed (optional) (I used 500g frozen spinach, prepared as in the packet instruction)
- 4 tablespoons butter, melted
- 1 pound phyllo, thawed according to package directions (used regular puff pastry, bought in the supermarket).
- 1 3/4 cups grated Gruyere
- 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 1 cup heavy cream (used soya cream)
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
- Sea salt and finely ground black pepper
1. To make the asparagus tart, preheat the oven to 175°C.
2. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Have a bowl of ice water ready. Plunge the spears into the water for just a moment to blanch it, then remove it and toss it into the ice water. Do the same with the spinach, if using.
3. Meanwhile, brush a 23cm square tart pan or a 36cm rectangular tart pan with a little melted butter and line it with a sheet of phyllo pastry, pressing the phyllo against the side of the pan and allowing the excess to hang over the edge of the pan. Brush the top of this sheet with more butter and top it with another sheet of phyllo. Repeat until all the phyllo is used. Trim the edges of the phyllo flush with the top of the tart pan. (Phyllo can me a nightmare to work with, and I was in a hurry. Just got some regular puff pastry from the supermarket, buttered the tart tray and put the sheet in).
4. Drain the asparagus and the spinach, if using, and pat them completely dry.
5. Setting the quiche:
If using spinach: Arrange a layer of spinach on the phyllo. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Add the Gruyere, a second layer of spinach, and season again. Beat the eggs, cream, and nutmeg in a bowl, then pour the mixture over the tart. Arrange the spears in a row on the tart. Brush the exposed pastry edges with a little butter. Cut a piece of parchment or foil that covers the inside of the asparagus tart but leaves the phyllo edge uncovered.
If not using spinach: Sprinkle the Gruyere over the phyllo. Beat the eggs, cream, and nutmeg in a pitcher or bowl, then pour the mixture over the tart. Arrange the spears in a row on the tart. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Brush the exposed pastry edges with a little butter. Cut a piece of parchment or foil that covers the inside of the asparagus tart but leaves the phyllo edge uncovered.
6. Bake the asparagus tart, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Cover the center but not the edge of the pastry with the parchment or foil and continue to bake until the center of the tart is just set, 15 to 20 minutes more. Let the asparagus tart rest a few minutes before slicing. (I was not very precise with the paper foil, and the edges got slightly burn).