Hey everyone, hope you’re all doing great. I feel rested after a week-long break up in the Lake District. We’ve been there before but this last trip has been the most enjoyable. I read two books (even though I packed five of them in my backpack – and I’m continuously wondering why my back problems have gotten worse during the past few months), explored Derwent Water and its surroundings, cried like a baby with joy when I saw all those adorable little lambs, soaked up the Sun (it was warmer than Malta for a few days), had coffee and afternoon tea and indulged in good pub lunches and ice cream. It was one of the most peaceful weeks in my life. I kept technology usage to a minimum; most of the time we didn’t have any mobile or Wi-Fi signal anyway, and frankly I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I did the basic stuff in the evenings at the cottage where we stayed in and that’s it. Bliss.
I have some time on my hands this afternoon and as usual I did a round of my edited photos in my never-ending list of computer files and folders. They seem to get bigger by the minute and sometimes it’s very hard to keep track of things. Having said that I need to check those currently on my phone, which also needs some serious decluttering. Does that word even exist?
Originally I didn’t plan to give you the recipe for the pastry, as I did write a post about it some years ago. I thought “it’s just what I do sometimes when I have some leftovers”, and I *always* end up with leftovers. However to save you a few seconds until you wait for your browser to look it up for you, I decided to include it here anyway. It’s been quite a while. And I would rather have you do this than throwing any extras away.
I think there is nothing more humble, homely and comforting than a pie. There’s also an honesty about it or so I feel. Perhaps it’s because I tend to make shortcrust with my hands, which get very messy, sometimes a little bit too much! There’s always a sense of accomplishment when it’s done, although that still isn’t reason enough for me to make it more often! Joking apart, if you tend to have warm hands like I do, making it manually isn’t the best thing either. There’s always the option of using a food processor, but that also means more things to clean up. So for me, that’s a no-no. Yes, I’m lazy that way.
I get asked this question quite a lot, especially after posting the recipe for shortcrust pastry. I have one quick solution for you. Roll out the remaining pastry into a sheet and cut it into thick strips. Shallow-fry them in a little bit of vegetable oil and when they puff up and turn golden brown remove them from the pan. (Don’t be absent-minded here as they will burn easily. Happened to me countless times!) Place on some kitchen paper, sprinkle them with a bit of sugar (white or brown or whatever you choose) and a splodge of honey or golden syrup. They are yummy. Great for a pick-me-up or whenever you need some cheering up! Short but sweet.
Lately I have been feeling somewhat homesick, especially when my auntie sends me photos of what she’s cooking! Just kidding – keep those pics coming Zi! Now this doesn’t happen to me very often, but when it happens it happens. That’s life. Cooking traditional Maltese food helps me to invoke a feeling of cosiness and reminds me of home, especially during the winter months. I feel so happy in the kitchen, even when I’m tired and can’t be bothered to cook a feast. But as a concept Maltese food is not that complicated, so for today I’ve decided to share with you something which we like to cook on our little island: my version of Ricotta Pie. What’s great about this pie is that you can eat it warm in winter and cold in summer. I love it! For my Maltese readers this will be nothing new, but I hope you will still like it and appreciate this lady’s wish to write about home once in a while!
So for basic shortcrust pastry I always use the following. I use ounces for this as the measurements in grams can be a bit tricky. The basic rule of thumb for shortcrust is that the amount of flour should be twice as much (by weight) as the amount of fat.
- 8oz plain flour
- 2 teaspoons baking powder
- ½ teaspoon of salt (optional)
- 4 oz margerine or butter, cold from the fridge
- around 6 to 8 teaspoons cold water
Mix the flour, baking powder and butter in a bowl, using your thumbs and second and third fingers. Make sure that the butter is cold. Be patient here; the butter should be rubbed into the flour in about 5 to 10 minutes, until it seems like breadcrumbs. Do not use your palms because you will make the mixture warm up. Remember that for this, the colder everything is the better. Add the water gradually as needed, but don’t overwork the pastry. Wrap the finished product in cling film and set aside in the fridge until you need it. I like to keep it there for at least an hour, but I would say 30 minutes is enough.
For the ricotta filling you need:
- 500g Ricotta
- 300g frozen peas
- 1 large egg, beaten slightly
- some pepper, to taste
- 1 tablespoon dried sage
- 1 tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 onion, cooked lightly in olive oil or butter and cooled.
You won’t believe how easy this mixture is to make: just mix the ingredients in a bowl till all is combined. Don’t forget to preheat the oven to 180°C/356°F/Gas Mark 4.
To assemble the pie: divide the pastry into two and roll it out on a clean and floured surface, a few inches larger in size than your pie dish. With the help of your rolling pin, lift the pastry and place it on the bottom of the dish. Fill the pastry with the ricotta mixture, then roll out the second piece of pastry and place this on the top. Secure the edges with your fingers. If you have extra pastry, make something pretty like a star or a flour or a simple knot to put on the top layer. Prong with a fork, brush the top with some milk or a beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with some sesame seeds. Place in a preheated oven for around an hour, till it turns golden and beautiful. It’s the smell of home. Enjoy alone or serve it with a plain green salad and a glass of your favourite white.
For another idea you can also make Timpana. The pastry is the same, but with a Bolognese type filling, made with penne, minced beef, peas and tomato passata. There’s no recipe here, at least for the time being, but I’ve put up a photo to give you an idea. In my view you don’t have to follow a recipe to the letter; it’s only here as a guide. I love this recipe and I hope you will to.