I guess the trip home last week for the competition instilled a lot of cultural pride in me. Certainly, its made me yearn for Maltese food! Today’s dish is a classic example of a simple but common meal in my family when I was growing up. I hope you will enjoy it.
[ SERVES: 3 per tart | TIME: 4.5 MINUTES | COST: $3 per tart ]
[ JOES RATING: 4.5 /5 | MY RATING: 4.5 /5 | Brittanys RATING: 4.5 /5 ]
4 sheets frozen puff pastry
1 wheel of ricotta – usually 1 – 2 kg
2 – 3 free ranged eggs
½ cup parsley
olive oil spray
salt and pepper to taste
- In a large bowl, mash the ricotta and two eggs with a potato masher. When smooth and soft, discard the masher and use a spoon to mix through the parsley.
- If the mixture is too dry to mix easily, add one more egg ¹. Do not make the mixture too moist – it should hold a peak. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Spray a pie dish lightly with olive oil before carefully lining the bottom of the dish with the pastry.
- Spoon mixture into the pie dish until it is full. Use the back of the spoon to flatten the mixture out and remove any bubbles.
- Lay a sheet of pastry over the top of the tart. Using a fork, seal the tart edges by pressing the top and bottom pastry layers together. Use a fork to prick the top pastry a few times before giving it a milk wash.
- Bake at 200°C for 30 – 45 minutes ², checking regularly.
- Note ¹ It is really important not to make the cheese mixture too moist. It should still hold its peaks and shape once mixed through. The consistency after two eggs can alter significantly due to the starting consistency of the cheese, so add the eggs slowly.
- Note ² The cooking time varies significantly based on the moisture levels of the tart filling. If the cheese filling starts out too moist, it will require more cooking time and will not be as light and flakey at the end. If the cheese is not firm when you start to slice into it, put it back into the oven for a while longer. It must be firm as it is in the top photo.
- Love Spinach? No problems! Add one packet of frozen shredded spinach to the ingredients list. To use, defrost the spinach in a sink before squeezing all the moisture out of the spinach. Press into a colander with the back of a spoon or literally squeeze with your hands until there is no moisture left before adding to the cheese mixture.
- Sun dried tomatoes or roasted capsicum also make delicious additions, but ensure they are void of as much moisture as possible before adding them to the cheese.
- As you can see, I didn’t fill this pie up as much as I could have. That is because I ran out of mixture. I tend to make several tarts at a time and freeze them until I am ready for them. They make a wonderful slap together lunch or part of a delicious meal. They are also super when guests unexpectedly stop over.
- When you buy your ricotta, don’t make the common mistake of buying the little tubs of ricotta in the dairy case. They are often too moist, and are not the right taste or consistency for this dish. Go to a deli and ask for a wheel or basket of ricotta such as the photo below. When purchased in cheese baskets (pictured) the cheese has had a chance to drain. The results are a firmer and drier consistency to the cheese making it ideal for things such as this dish, making pasta such as ravioli and stuffing cannelloni.
- Diabetic Note: Again, another comfort dish that I must be careful with. The pastry is rich in butter and oil making it not a so great choice for the diet concious. The cheese is heavy in saturated fats which are not wise choices for people with heart issues. Diabetics need to be aware that your blood glucose levels will respond poorly to the pastry and ensure the serving sizes stay on the lower end of the scale. To make it more attractive to people watching their weight, have a quarter of a tart and pair it with a side salad.
- Ethical Note: Before my father died, he was making his own ricotta cheese. He would purchase 10 litres of milk straight from the dairy and make it up into ricotta to feed the family with. These old traditions are being lost in an age of commercialisation and convenience. In an attempt to reconnect with some of these old practices (which are better for the environment) I am going to be doing a cheese making course later this year. I cant wait to make my own cheese and forgo the commercial alternatives.
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