pastry

A Reverse Twist In The Pie

In the southern hemisphere, the wheel is slowly spinning towards the Winter Solstice, the longest night of the year. Although the nights are going to get shorter after the solstice, we still haven’t finished our cold, dark winter. The days may be getting longer but they are also getting colder. It is one of my favourite times of the year.

Last Winter Solstice I posted a recipe for Old World Libum. This Winter Solstice I am revisiting my Lammas recipe for a Tarte Soleil. I loved the way the twisting of the pastry made the pie look like a sun. For this recipe, the twisting is reversed. I thought it was an appropriate symbol for a waning Sun before its Winter Solstice rebirth.

These twisted pies are not only visually stunning and great fun but you can play around with ingredients to come up with your own concoctions. My twisted pie below is inspired by the flavours of a Sicilian cannoli.

Ricotta and Marmalade Twist

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Ingredients
2 sheets frozen ready-rolled puff pastry
1/4 cup orange marmalade
3/4 cup ricotta
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pine nuts
icing sugar for sprinkling

Method
Take pastry sheets out of the freezer to thaw.
Preheat oven to 200C / 400F.
Line a baking tray with baking paper.
Cut pastry into two 23cm (9inch) rounds.
Carefully place one round on a baking tray.
Spread with marmalade, leaving a small margin around the outer edge.
Mix together the ricotta and vanilla extract. Spread over the marmalade.
Sprinkle the pine nuts over the ricotta.
Place the second pastry round over the first.
Press the outer edges together to seal.
If the pastry is getting too sticky to work with, refrigerate for 10 minutes or until it is easy to work with.
Cut a small disc from the centre.
With a sharp knife, cut the pastry into four sections, starting from the cut-out disc in the centre and working toward the outer edge, but not all the way through to the edge.
Cut each section into half and then cut in half again. You will have sixteen wedges.
Gently twist each wedge, starting at the centre and working outward. You can twist two to three times, but be careful not to break them.
Once twisted, bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until brown.
Sprinkle with icing sugar while hot.
Allow to cool slightly before removing from the baking paper. If it sticks, gently loosen it with a knife.
Serve warm or cold.

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Come For The Snakes, Stay For The Pastry

At a romantic beachside restaurant in Fiji, my partner said the words I never thought I would hear, but so wanted to: 

“Vicky, don’t panic, but there is a snake behind you.” 

Shivering with excitement, I turned around. Three feet behind me was a stunning venomous sea snake. We slowly stood up and, with a brave few guests, followed and photographed the sea snake as it wound its way to the beach. We watched, mesmerised, as it slithered in and out of the rocky crevices. When it found the water we gasped as it picked up speed and swam away, making shimmering shapes in the water.

 

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We were in Fiji to celebrate the destination wedding of my lovely nephew to his equally lovely partner. Having a banded sea krait turn up for dinner was a real bonus for me. What I loved most about this snake was how slow and calm it was on land. It gave me a great opportunity to admire its luminescent bands and its sinuous body. In the water it transformed into a sea serpent, swiftly but gracefully swimming in “s” patterns as it disappeared into the ocean. It was quite a privilege to be so close to such a wild, exotic animal.

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In honour of this unexpected but much appreciated encounter I have created a recipe that combines my culinary Macedonian heritage with that of Morocco. M’hanncha, meaning snake, is a traditional Moroccan dessert made of almond paste filled rolls of filo pastry coiled to look like a snake. It is similar to Maznik, a traditional coiled Macedonian pastry. Maznik is usually filled with feta cheese but can contain many different fillings. A favourite of mine when I was young was a sweet apple and sultana filled one. I don’t have the recipe that my relatives used so I created my own version from memory. I don’t know what Maznik means so I’m calling my pastry M’hanncha as I know that means snake. As a wise playwright once said “a pastry by any other name would taste as sweet” – or something like that 🙂

M’hanncha

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Ingredients

for the filling
4 large granny smith apples, peeled cored and chopped
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons water
1 + 1/2 tablespoons caster sugar
1/4 cup sultanas

for the pastry
50g unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled.
8 sheets of filo pastry, prepared according to the instructions on the packet
1/4 cup ground almonds

Method
Bring the apples, orange juice and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to medium. Cover and cook for 15 minutes or until the apples have softened. Lightly mash the apples. Stir in the sugar and sultanas. Allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 180C / 350F.
Lightly grease a 25cm round baking tray.
Work with one sheet of pastry at a time, keeping the remaining sheets covered with a damp tea towel.
Place one sheet of filo pastry on a board with the longest side facing you.
Lightly butter the pastry sheet.
Sprinkle with 1/8th of the almond meal.
Spread 1/8th of the apple mix along the bottom side of the pastry.
Loosely roll up the pastry into a long cigar shape.
Carefully roll into a coil shape and place in the centre of the prepared baking tray.
For each of the remaining sheets roll as above and continue the coil from where the previous sheet finished.
Brush with melted butter.
Bake for 25 – 35 minutes or until browned.

You need approximately 2 cups of apple sauce.
This is a rustic pastry so don’t worry if it cracks in sections.