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.


Poached eggs with tomato, pepper and saffron

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In North Africa, it is called shakshuka - which literally mean mixture in Arabic. Basically, it is eggs poached in a mildly spicy sauce made from slow-cooked leek, bell peppers, garlic and tomatoes, spiced up with saffron, cumin and cayenne.  It is a bit laborious, but you can prepare it well in advance and keep it in the fridge until the mobile calorie intake unit friends show up for duty. In any case, it is the perfect dish for a brunch, packed with flavours, sweet and savoury at the same time… Just serve with bread.

Note: the onions were replaced for leeks, as one of the mobile calorie intake unit  is allergic to onions.

Poached eggs with pepper, tomato and saffron (adapted from Yotam Ottolengi’s column in The Guardian.)

Ingredients 

  • 1 teaspoon  cumin seeds
  • Olive oil to taste
  • 2 large leeks
  • 2  red and 2 yellow peppers, cut into 2cm strips
  • 20g of unrefined sugar
  • 2  bay leaves
  • 6  thyme sprigs, leaves picked and chopped
  • 30 mls chopped parsley
  • 30 mls chopped coriander, plus extra to garnish
  • 6  ripe tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • a few thread of saffron
  • 1  pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste
  •  up to 250ml water
  • 8  free-range eggs
  •  salt and black pepper

Method

In a very large pan dry-roast the cumin seeds on a high heat for 2 minutes. Add the oil and onions and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the peppers, sugar and herbs and continue cooking on a high heat for 5-10 minutes to get a nice colour.

Add the tomatoes, saffron, cayenne and some salt and pepper. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes. During the cooking keep adding water so that the mix has a pasta sauce consistency. Remember to  taste and adjust the seasoning as you go.

Remove from the heat, remove the bay leafs and transfer to a a large bowl. Set aside. The vegetabe mix can be prepared well in advance, and kept in the fridge.

When you are ready to serve, put the pepper mix in a a frying pan large enough to take a generous individual portion. Place it  on a medium heat to warm up, then make two gaps in the pepper mix in each pan and carefully break an egg into each gap. Sprinkle with salt and cover the pans with a lids.  Cook on a very gentle heat for 10-12 minutes, or until the eggs are just set. Sprinkle with coriander and serve


Pea, goat’s cheese and bacon frittata

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“Oh” said the mobile calorie intake unit my friend. “You made tortilla for brunch?”. “No, I haven’t”, I answered. “This is a frittata”. “Like an omelette?” asked a confused  mobile calorie intake unit friend. “No, no….”  was the only possible answer “It is a frittata… just eat it, will you?”.  Thankfully, he did. Otherwise I would have to start a lenghty on the specifics of omelettes, tortillas and frittatas.  A tortilla can never be baked and it is always done in a two step process (indeed a process, until you learn how to turn it around without a mess of epic proportions). An omelette is normally made with 2 or 3 eggs and folded. A frittata is baked – or fried and baked…  And, let’s not forget tortillas are Spanish, omelettes are French and frittatas are Italian. But, all of them, a perfect dish for a festive brunch.

Pea, goat cheese and bacon frittata ( adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Cookery Course)

Ingredients

  • Olive oil to fry
  • 8 slices of smoked bacon,  chopped
  • 2 medium leeks
  • 150g peas, thawed
  • a few basil leaves, roughly sliced
  • 8 large eggs, beaten
  • 4 tablespoons of parmesan cheese grated and enough to sprinkle all over the frittata
  • 150g soft goat’s cheese, thickly sliced
  • sea salt and black pepper

Method

Preheat the oven to 180oC oven and the grill on its highest setting.

Heat oil in a non stick ovenproof large frying pan over medium-high heat. Fry the bacon for 2-3min.

Add the red pepper. Continue to cook for another few minutes until the bacon is golden brown and crisp. Add the leeks, and let it sweat until everything is tender.

Toss in the peas and cook for another minute or two, then add the basil roughly missing.

Cut the goat’s cheese in chunks and scatter half of it over the top.

Break the eggs into a large bowl and beat them. Add the parmesan cheese. Season with lots of black pepper.

Poor the beaten eggs over the vegetables and gently shake over medium heat. As the omelette begins to set at the bottom, grate the remaining goat’s cheese on top and season with pepper.

Place the plan under the hot grill in the oven for a few minutes until cooked through and golden on top.

Slide the frittata out of the pan and cut into wedges to serve.

 


Apple and walnut crumble

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You cannot go wrong with an über buttery sweet dessert. Adding fruit makes it vaguely healthy, even…

Apple and walnut crumble (adapted from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Everyday)

Ingredients 

For the filling

  • 100g roasted walnuts
  • 1.25kg apples, peeled, cored and finely sliced
  • 50-100g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional)

For the crumble

  • 225g plain flour
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 200g cold unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 150g caster, granulated or soft brown sugar
  • 75g medium oatmeal
  • 100g grounded almonds (optional)

Method

Scatter the walnuts on a baking sheet and toast in an oven preheated to 180C for about 5-7 minutes, giving them a shake halfway through, until just beginning to colour and develop aroma. Leave to cool, then chop very roughly.

To prepare the crumble, you can your own hands or use a food processor, at it fits better. Sift the flour and salt into a bowl. Add the butter and rub in with your fingers (or pulse briefly in the processor) until the mixture resembles course crumbs.

Stir in the sugar, oatmeal and ground almonds, if using. If you prefer to have a chunky crumble, squeeze a few handfuls in your fist to make lumps

Put the apples in a large bowl, sprinkle over the sugar, to taste. Add the walnuts and the cinnamon, if using, and mix roughly. Spread in a pie dish or other ovenproof dish, getting the fruit as compact as you can.

Scatter the crumble over the apples in a fairly even layer and bake for 40-45 minutes, until browned on top.

Serve hot, with cream, custard or ice cream; or, once it is cold, serve it with  a thick, rich yoghurt.


Mango lassi

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Sweet and rich: the perfect drink to start off a brunch. And dead easy to do…  Choose thinnish full fat natural yoghurt for best results.

Mango lassi (adapted from The Food Network)

Ingredients 

  • 500g of full fat plain yoghurt
  • 500 mL milk
  • 1 ripe mango.
  • Sugar to taste
  • Groung cardamom to taste
  • Put all the ingredients into a blender and blend for 5 minutes.

Method

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and blend it for about 5min. Adjust the sugar if necessary. Poor into individual glasses and serve.


Mixed berries quick jam

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I always associated jam making with huge undertakings, which would take days,  if not weeks, to complete. Nothing a single girl could make – and eat – on her own. But, slowly by slowly, I start noticing quick jam recipes, with relatively small size. Like this one, which can be done in less than 1 hour, with almost no fuss what so ever.  I have to add I am not a great fan of super sugary food, but this is the kind of thing you can add to your yoghurt for a sweet treat…  (Not that may) calories definitely worthwhile taking.

Berry Quick Jam (adapted from theKitchn)

Ingredients

  • 350g fresh raspberries
  • 250g fresh blackberries
  • 250g fresh strawberries, hulled and thickly sliced
  • 200g raw cane sugar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice

Method

In a large bowl, combine the berries and sugar, and let them macerate for about 10 minutes, or until the sugar has begun to dissolve into the fruit.

Transfer the berries to a heavy pot and bring to boil over a medium heat. Add the salt, lemon zest and lemon juice and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Allow the berries to gently simmer for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the fruit breaks down and the mixture starts to cook down, thickening slightly. When almost done, the jam will still be loose, but should coat the back of a wooden spoon.

Remove the jam from the heat and pour into a clean glass jars,  cap them and allow it to cool completely.


Leek, gruyère and thyme pie

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Perfect brunch dish… can be made in advance, is delicious and has the exact amount of richness for a semi-festive meal. It has nothing but very simple and humble ingredients, which work well together, for a very versatile dish. Leeks are in season, even…

 Leek,  gruyère and thyme pie (as seen in The Guardian)

Ingredients

  • 1 large baking potato, cut into slices
  • 3 medium leeks, washed and sliced into rounds
  • A knob of butter
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 20ml  cream
  • 150g  grated gruyère cheese
  • 1 sprig thyme, leaves picked
  • 500g all-butter puff pastry, rolled
  • 1 egg, for washing

 Method

Heat an oven to 180C. Cook the baking potato in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain and set aside.

Cook the leeks over a medium heat in the butter until tender. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside.

In a bowl, mix the potato flesh with the leeks, cream, gruyère and thyme leaves and season well.

Place one circle of puff pastry on top of a 25cm nonstick pie dish and press into the base – there will be an overhang, which can be trimmed off.

Spoon the leek mixture into the prepared dish and place the other pastry disk on top. Crimp around the sides to seal, then brush the top with egg and make an incision in the middle of the lid to let the steam escape while it’s in the oven.

Cook the pie for 30‑40 minutes until the pastry has turned golden and crisp. Rest for a few minutes before serving.


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