Tuesday, 31 December 2013

The Italian's Have It!

Happy New Year to you all!

I hope you will join me this year as we launch our food journey of 2014. 

The first recipes for the year will be from Italy. Here are a few photos taken on my last visit to Tuscany, to get you excited.

Harbour at  Riomaggiore  - top,  Volterra - middle,  view across Tuscany - bottom - photos by Cyndy
So why start with Italy, you may well ask?

Firstly, I wanted to to begin the year with one of my favourite countries. Beautiful scenery and historical buildings, wonderfully friendly people and amazing food.  We can also travel into many other exquisite places from here going west, east or north. We will come back to Italy later in the year and look at regional cooking and how that has developed over time and try out a few new recipes. But I wanted to start with something that everyone can cook regardless of how much experience you have.

Today, I desperately needed to use up some Granny Smith apples and I knew that this recipe would inspire many people. It is very easy to make and just a little different from your everyday apple pie. I think it makes a stunning centrepiece for any table.

They say Coppi in Naples and Sfogliate in Lombardy, but most people will recognise the name Crostata! It is a sort of open apple pie which is popular in Italy. I can certainly remember eating a huge slab of Crostata in Sienna a couple of years ago; crisp shortcrust pastry, succulent apples with just a hint of cinnamon.

So diving head first into 2014, here is a recipe for Rustic Italian Crostata.

Rustic Apple Crostata

Ingredients - Oven temperature 180 degrees fan forced


220g Plain flour
1/4 tsp Salt
120g Butter cubed
50ml Cold water approx

Make a shortcrust pastry, by putting flour, butter, salt in a food processor until it resembles breadcrumbs. With motor running, add water a little at a time until it forms a soft dough. On a floured board, gently bring pastry to a ball, cover and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.


120g Granita biscuits or similar
1 tbls Icing sugar for the top
2 tspns Ground cinnamon
2 tbls Plain flour
1 kg Granny Smith Apples (you could use any other kind of apples)
75g Caster sugar + 2 tbls sugar extra
2 tsp Vanilla extract
40g Butter

Peel, core and slice all the apples but one. The remaining one should be peeled and sliced whole, removing the seeds but retaining the 'star- like' pattern. Melt the butter in a pan, add 75g sugar, and vanilla extract. Place the apple slices in a large bowl and drizzle the butter mixture over the apples to coat them thoroughly. Put aside.

In a food processor, add Granita biscuits, 1 tablespoon of sugar, cinnamon and flour. Put aside.

Take a pizza pan or a large baking sheet. Cover with baking paper. If you use a baking sheet draw a large circle on the piece of baking paper as a guide. Roll out pastry larger than the pizza pan or the drawn circle. The overhanging pastry will be used to fold back onto the apples. Add the Granita biscuit mixture. Lay the slices of apple randomly over the granita mixture, ensuring the whole apple slices are on top. Sprinkle with remaining tablespoon of sugar and fold over the pastry edge. (see photo)

Place in a pre-heated oven and cook for around 35 minutes until pastry and apples are browned.
While still warm, sprinkle with icing sugar to give the apples a nice sheen.

Buon appetito!

This recipe was adapted from Belinda Jeffery's Apple and Cinnamon Crostata from The Country Cookbook - Lantern 2010

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