Sunday, April 19, 2015

Crostata - Rustic Fruit Pie

Crostata  As its name suggests this dish has its home in Italy and is a very simple way to make a pie without too much fuss - with very little rolling and cutting out of pastry.

Crostata with plums and strawberries - you can see where the rustic comes from!

I first came across this pie in a pastry making demonstration by Belinda Jeffery - food writer and pastry cook extraordinaire - my skills are decidedly lacking so I decided to pay some attention and see if some of hers would rub off on me.  Since then, crostatas have regularly been rolled out for the family especially during the stone fruit season - it's a particularly delightful pie with plums, apricots or rhubarb, but you can make it with apples, pears with any kind of berries added.

The fruit sits on a base of crushed nuts and brown sugar - the nutmeal can be almond, pistachio, macadamia or hazelnut - which soaks up any juices from the fruit, stops the pastry from going soggy and adds an extra yumminess to the pie.  Belinda makes hers with crushed amoretti biscuits and I have also made it with crushed digestive biscuits when I didn't have any nuts to hand.

1 1/2 cups plain flour (I use wholemeal)
! tbsp caster sugar
125g cold unsalted butter
1 egg yolk (save the white for glazing the pie)
Good pinch of salt

2 tbsp nutmeal (see above)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon

l kg of fresh fruit, stoned and cut into quarters (see above)
Extra sugar if the fruit is particularly tart

1.  To make pastry, put flour, butter, sugar, salt in food processor and whizz together until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  With processor running add egg yolk and keep going until mixture forms into a ball.  Depending on size of egg yolks you may also need to add a small amount of iced water.

2.  Turn dough out onto floured board and form into a ball, then flatten into a disc and wrap in plastic film.  Chill for about 30 minutes in the fridge.

3.  Preheat oven to 200oC.  Lightly grease a pizza tray.

4.  Mix together nutmeal, brown sugar and cinnamon and set aside.

5.  Remove pastry from fridge and roll out on pizza tray.  It doesn't have to be a perfect round.  Roll right to the edge.

6.  Place the nut/sugar mixture in the middle spreading it into a circle.  Place the fruit on top.

7.  Now you have to imagine that you are a child and drawing a picture of the sun with a knife from the fruit out to the edge of the pastry. Carefully flop it over the fruit in a random fashion - it should only have cover the fruit leaving the centre exposed.  Sprinkle extra sugar over the top of the fruit if needed.
NOTE:  It's important not to break the strips or make holes in the pastry otherwise all the fruit juices will seep out.

8.  Lightly beat the egg white and brush over the pastry - this will give it a golden colour.

   Place in oven and bake for 35-45 minutes - should be lightly golden.  Serve with cream or ice cream.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Skordalia - Greek Potato Dip

This is another of those extremely simple dishes that beg for the best quality ingredients or it just won't taste that good.  I can already see a few people turning up their noses at the idea of a potato dip but, believe me, this is really a very tasty dish that's so simple to make.

It's one of those dishes that you will find all over Greece as part of a mezze platter or as an accompaniment to poached fish or roast lamb.  I made it the other day for the first time and tried it out on the family - this was Leila's (9) comment as she wiped the bowl clean "This is a winner Nanma - have you put it on the blog yet"?

NOTE: Very important - the potatoes have to be the non-waxy variety that you can mash to a very smooth paste - Desiree or Royal Blue are perfect.

Royal Blue potatoes.  I am in love with these - they just have the most fabulous texture for roasting and you can get them really crispy.

600g potatoes  Cooked whole and then peeled
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Juice of 1 lemon - about 1/4 cup
Sea salt
1/2 - 3/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
A tray of Royal Blues I was preparing for roasting - par-boiled first and finished off in a high oven with duck fat and rosemary.  You can see their yellow rich texture.

Blend together the cooked and peeled potatoes with all the ingredients to a smooth consistency.  (In restaurants they put the potatoes through a ricer - I don't have one, but I find it works just as well like this).  That's it!

As part of a mezze plate I serve them with toasted pita bread (stale is best) or crudités (raw vegetable sticks).

NOTE:  Skordalia  (σκορδαλιά).  Another way to serve this, which is also very common in Greece, is not with potatoes but with stale bread that has been soaked in water and ground almonds or walnuts - again to make a thick paste with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil.