Sweet Swiss chard tart

Sweet Swiss chard tart

Torta di erbe

By
From
Tuscany
Serves
10-12
Photographer
Helen Cathcart

Long before anyone put beetroot (beets) into a chocolate cake and claimed vegetables in puddings a modern invention, the Lucchese were putting Swiss chard in a sweet tart of crumbly pasta frolla (shortcrust pastry) filled with ricotta, dried fruit and nuts, sugar and lemons.

At Franca Buonamici’s house, the old grey parrot whistled and entertained us while we set to work making this traditional recipe from Lucca. Franca told me that after World War II, there was great poverty in the area and this tart was only made for a treat once in a while. The contadini (peasant farmers) had a lot of vegetables to hand, which were used to pad out dolci such as this. Pine nuts and raisins were used sparingly as they were expensive. Once a week, her family would light the big outdoor oven and make this tart, bake bread and cook other dishes from the neighbours. She told me it was a wonderful time – a party when everyone came together and enjoyed a once-a-week ‘bake off’ in the 1950s.

Ingredients

Quantity Ingredient

For the pastry

Quantity Ingredient
200g ‘00’ flour
200g chilled butter, cubed
1 egg
100g caster sugar
1 level teaspoon baking powder
1/2 lemon, finely grated zested

For the filling

Quantity Ingredient
50g walnuts, roughly chopped
50g pine nuts
600g swiss chard leaves and thin, tender stalks, roughly chopped
or 300g spinach leaves and tender stalks, roughly chopped
pinch salt
10g salted or unsalted butter, cubed
500g ricotta, drained
100g raisins
75g caster sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, (optional)
1/2 lemon, finely grated zested
ice cream, to serve
Apple cake with saffron custard, Saffron Custard only, ice cream or cream, to serve

Method

  1. To make the pastry, put the flour and butter in a bowl and rub the butter into the flour with your fingertips until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the egg and the remaining ingredients and mix again to blend (make the pastry in a food processor if you prefer). Form the pastry into a ball, wrap it in cling film (plastic wrap) and leave it to rest in the fridge for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 24 × 3 cm tart tin with baking parchment so that it protrudes above the edge of the dish by 2 cm.
  3. To make the filling, put the walnuts and pine nuts in a roasting tray and toast them in the oven for 5 minutes. Remove and set aside to cool. Put the Swiss chard or spinach leaves in a pan with a little water, the salt and butter, cover and cook until soft and tender (Swiss chard will take longer than spinach). Once soft, drain and leave until cool enough to handle. Squeeze the leaves really well between your hands to rid them of excess water. Put the leaves on a board and chop them finely with a sharp knife. When cool, mix them in a bowl with the remaining ingredients. Taste and adjust the flavour with more cinnamon (if using) or lemon zest as necessary.
  4. Remove the pastry from the fridge, unwrap it, roll it out to a thickness of around 5mm and use it to line the tart tin. Prick the base of the pastry with a fork and spoon in the filling mixture, smoothing the surface with a fork or palette knife. Trim away the excess pastry. Roll out the leftovers and cut strips about 1 cm wide with a pastry wheel cutter or a knife. Create a lattice pattern on the top of the tart with the strips. Bake for around 45 minutes or until lightly browned.
  5. Remove the tart from the oven and leave it to cool in the tin, then serve with ice cream, cream or Saffron Custard.
Tags:
Italy
Italian
Caldesi
Tuscany
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