Some friends and I gathered last week, a few days late, for an evening of Easter-themed baking. Determined to step away from my usual staples, I went on a random trawl of the internet for suitable seasonal recipes, and for some reason most of the Easter bakes I found were Italian. I picked pastiera napoletana. From an Italian recipe. I was, therefore, working from a mixture of guesswork and Google Translate, helped along with a hefty dose of optimism. (And hilarity. There was much hilarity.)
I struggled to find whole grain wheat at short notice, and ended up using spelt, which worked nicely. My back-up plan was to use rice, which is another version of the recipe which I've seen around.
My friends were deeply, deeply skeptical of this recipe producing anything edible - and I confess I had my doubts, as I started putting together what strikes me as a rather unusual combination of ingredients. But it came out looking at least a little bit like the target (though my lattice was less pronounced), and was actually very tasty. In theory you should allow it to cool before serving, but as usual I dove straight into the warm flan, and that seemed fine.
For the pastry
375g (13oz) flour
150g (5oz) caster sugar
zest of one lemon
150g (5oz) butter
2 egg yolks
For the filling
180g (6oz) whole wheat grains (300g (10oz) cooked weight)
150ml (5 fl.oz) of milk
zest of two lemons
400g (14oz) ricotta
200g (7oz) caster sugar
2tbsp orange flower water
- Make the pastry: combine the flour, caster sugar, and lemon zest, then rub in the butter. Add the egg yolks and a little milk, and work together, adding more milk until the pastry forms a dough. Cover and chill.
- Cook the wheat in a pan of boiling water. Once softened, drain off any excess liquid.
- Simmer the cooked wheat with the milk, butter, tablespoon of sugar, and lemon zest, until all the milk has been absorbed. Set aside to cool.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (355°F).
- Cream together the ricotta and sugar with the orange flower water.
- Separate the eggs, and add the yolks to the ricotta mixture. (Keep the whites in a large bowl ready for whisking.)
- Add the cooled wheat and combine to give an even mixture.
- Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, and fold in to the ricotta mixture.
- Grease a deep 23cm (9in) flan dish.
- Roll out two thirds of the pastry into a large circle, about 3-4mm thick, and line the flan dish.
- Add the filling, enough to fill the pastry case to a couple of millimetres below the rim - you may have a small amount left over.
- Roll out the remaining pastry and cut strips to lay in a lattice across the surface of the pie filling.
- Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top is browned and a knife comes out clean.