Torta Pasqualina, the popular pie from Genoa, is traditionally served on Easter day as an appetiser. Usually prepared with several layers of homemade thin sheets of pastry – sort of phyllo -, the pie is stuffed with vegetables, ricotta, Parmesan, marjoram and eggs. The Swiss chard is the main ingredient but you can find different versions of the dish with both chard and artichokes or with only artichokes. Each family has its own recipe in Genoa. A true inspiration.
Here is what she said: (obviously she bought the French version):
'1. On peut les amener à ébullition quelques minutes dans leur 2e eau de trempage, puis écumer, les égoutter, les rincer, et les remettre à cuire définitivement dans une 2e eau salée.
2. J'ajoute un petit morceau d'algue kombu (3 cm environ) à la 2e eau de cuisson, en plus du sel. C'est une algue qu'on utilise en cuisine japonaise (pour la soupe miso par exemple). Elle ne donne pas de goût aux pois chiches mais apporte des minéraux et est réputée pour les rendre plus digestes.'
This is roughly what it means:
We started the celebrations with champagne and nibbles. I made pastry triangles filled with spinach and pine nuts - fatayer, which I served warm next to, minced meat and pine nut pastries or lahm bi ajeen. Later we ate rakakat bi jebne- crisp filo cheese rolls and - my favourite- pumpkin kibbe- plump little rolls made with burghol and pumpkin, stuffed with Swiss chard and walnuts.
Fusilli Pepe e Zafferano
Black pepper and saffron pasta sauce
With two spices, a bit of butter and plenty of Parmesan, I created a last minute pasta sauce, full of colour and flavour.
My inspiration was the spaghetti Cacio e pepe, one of the most classical dishes from Rome. The flavour simply comes from cheese (cacio) and black pepper (pepe), but it is the addition of few tablespoons of starchy pasta water that creates the creaminess of the sauce. As I wanted a full creaminess, I cooked my pasta in a small amount of water to keep all its starch. I chose fusilli, as they are easy to stir, but any other short pasta would have worked.
This is a different way of cooking pasta, which needs care but gives an extraordinary final result.
I enjoy playing with risotto and its countless variations. Even the traditional Risotto alla Milanese appears in three different versions in the first Italian cookery book La scienza della cucina e l'arte di mangiar bene, by Pellegrino Artusi. Let's be inventive with this delicious and versatile dish.
Risotto giallo con porcini secchi
(Saffron risotto with dried porcini mushrooms)
The choice of ingredients is vital.
'Chickpeas: traditional and contemporary recipes from the Mediterranean' was published by Tamyras, almost to the day, a year after 'Lentils'. On 5th November 2013, we had a signing at the Salon du Livre Francophone in Beirut and we were delighted to see many friends, familiar faces as well as the unexpected visit of Valerie Trierweiler who promptly took our book and graciously posed for a photo holding 'Chickpeas' well in view!
The format of 'Lentils' proved popular so 'Chickpeas' looks very much the same with the addition of sweet recipes such as cakes, biscuits and puddings.