Happy Easter! I hope the Easter Bunny brings you much joy !
Here is a little Easter treat if you feel like making something a bit different. It is quite similar to a Turkish börek but the amount of cheese used in this Italian Easter Pie is more than what Turks would use, so you could say the taste factor is definitely stronger.
Also, of course, Turks do not celebrate Easter, so the actual concept of this pie is really quite different to the normal börek.
Below the recipe, if you care to read on, is the story of how I happened upon this Easter Pie.
- 1 kg fresh spinach leaves or chard washed until squeaky clean
- 3 Hard boiled eggs, shelled and halved
- 4 Tbsp Olive OIl
- 1 medium onion, finely sliced
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 250g g ricotta cheese (lor peynir)
- 250g plain yogurt
- 1 egg
- ¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese (strong tulum peynir works well)
- 3 sheets yufka or around 400g puff pastry (2 sheets)
- Salt, pepper, nutmeg, red chilli flakes (pul biber)
- 4 Tbsp yogurt water (whey)
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- Preheat the oven to 200°C
- Chop greens finely and steam for 4 minutes. Cool, drain and squeeze dry
- Sauté the onion in olive oil till soft and translucent in a large pan.
- Add the greens and mix well with the onion. Cook for about 1-2 minutes.
- Season with ⅓ tsp salt and the oregano.
- In a large bowl cream the raw egg with the ricotta cheese and Parmesan.
- Add the vegetable mix and season with freshly ground pepper and nutmeg. Set aside
- Grease a large baking dish
- Place one sheet of pastry to line the baking dish
- (If using puff pastry, there is no need to brush the sheets with oil. Two sheets of puff is adequate, one for the bottom of the baking dish and one to top the pie)
- Mix together the whey and olive oil and brush onto the first pastry sheet
- Drop on the second yufka sheet, wrinkling it up to fit inside the baking dish
- Fill the pastry dish with half of the vegetable mix
- Hollow out 6 depressions in the filling with the back of a moist spoon.
- Place the halved boiled eggs into the depressions
- Add the rest of the vegetable mix.
- Sprinkle the eggs with salt, pepper and chilli flakes according to taste.
- Cover with the third pastry sheet, tearing off any excess of adding it to the top, brushing more of the whey and oil mixture to secure the pieces.
- Brush the top with the rest of the oil and whey mixture
- Bake for 10 minutes, then turn down the temperature to 180°C and continue baking until golden, about 30 minutes. It is delicious when eaten freshly baked and a little bit warm, but it is also a treat to enjoy cold the next day.
I had a very memorable Easter with an Italian family, way back in 2002.
I spent quite some time living in Italy. Part of that time was with my partner’s very welcoming family. If there were ever an excuse to cook up a storm or whip up something special, then Bobo, my mother-in-law-never-to-be would rush to the kitchen very early in the morning and start preparing ahead for the main meal to come. She would not have time to eat breakfast. She would mindlessly munch on a piece of cold toast as her mind ran far ahead of her, for the banquet to follow.
Pots and pans would be called for, the maids would be sent scuttling to bring herbs from the garden. On another occasion the massive polenta-making contraption would need to be set up. That took an army! There was lots of to-ing and fro-ing but you could be assured of the most amazing meals coming out of that kitchen at exactly 1 o’clock on the dot. And I mean, On The Dot!! Be there or don’t turn up at all! I’m telling you, insulting the matron of the house with tardiness for one of her feasts was an incomprehensible crime, and one never did that! Never, ever even wanted to. It was far too good to miss.
ON THE ROAD FOR EASTER
For Easter, the whole family packed up and went up the coast, an hour and a half from Florence to Forte dei Marmi. This was a truly upper class tourist town where we moved into a wonderful house that could accommodate the extended family. All 14 of us, coming from London, Como and Florence along with two maids. Yep, this was going to be a holiday in style! I had no idea what was coming.
Each evening we walked to the town square where we would take an ‘aperitivo’ along with every other self-serving Italian. This was ‘the’hour for the full-on ‘Chic Parade”. If you had brought nice clothes on this holiday, the time was NOW that you pulled them out. Everything you had. Otherwise you might have just had to rush to a pop-up shop!
ITALIAN ‘MODA’ LIKE I NEVER SAW BEFORE
The year I was there, zebra, tiger and leopard print were in. But not printed on soft fabrics but on genuine, imitation leather. Every female in town that Easter was sporting tiger, leopard or zebra print cuban heeled, pointy toe, cowboy styled high boots with a matching belt as bold as could be. And of course the matching jacket. Oh, did I forget to mention? Not natural colours, oh, no, no, no, we are talking background hues of acqua, hot pink, canary yellow or shades of iridescent green along with black dots or stripes. Possibly even the full spectrum of the rainbow with the obligatory animal print design. Yes, this was a really colourful Easter – made to match those fluffy Easter eggs hatching out of every shop window!
I would meekly take my place in the town square alongside Bobo and her followers and we would just stare!! Well, I did. I admit it. I could not turn my head away. It was a free fashion show that made me green with envy. I envied those girls. Their self confidence and pure adoration of themselves! How they could prance along the way they did, and be so proud, was totally beyond me!
Along with our drinks would come an array of delicious snacks that could really have substituted for dinner if you weren’t careful. But then, slowly, those model wannabes dispersed and spread themselves amongst the many roadside fronted bistros and trattorias. Carefully choosing the closest seats to the pavement, where they could flash their striped multi-coloured boots and slender thighs at all the boys in their revved up Alfa Romeos and the occasional Lamborghini.
TIME TO DINE, ITALIAN STYLE
As the square emptied it was time to amble back home. The table would be set for all 14 of us, the polished silver sparkling in the centre and dinner would be served to us with a smile from our sweet pinafored maids, who quite comically were both called Angela.
I would thoroughly enjoy the cocktail hour or two but I really enjoyed getting back home and having a wonderful home-cooked Italian meal. Masterminded and instructed by Bobo but actually carried out, step by step, as ordered, by the two Angelas. It was a feast for all the senses and a very memorable Easter in more ways than one.
On Easter Monday, it was traditional to go on an Easter Picnic. And this is where I tasted my first Easter Pie. It was delicious and looked so pretty and Easterful!! Is that a word?
So here it is, Bobo’s Easter Pie.
I do hope you might find time to make one of these and take it on a picnic.
Don’t forget the old cowboy leopard print boots. Please!