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The month of April has slipped by in a strange blur of baking, eating, talking to Mark (and no-one else) face-to-face, making video recipes, watching all the Scandi drama series available and walking daily, weather permitting, towards the Merri Creek. The month of May has started off in the same way, though I have worked my way through the Scandi dramas and am now on an Irish one. Shortly I will be adding this to my repertoire: 30 minute visits to my mother in the nursing home (hooray) as well as taking her food that I make. Soon (hopefully), we will be able to have a few people over for dinner, face to face with a good four square meters space for each of us. If the latter doesn’t pan out, those online video dinner parties will have to do for the moment. I admit, I have found the last few months challenging, as no doubt many of you have, whether juggling home-schooling of children, being distant from loved ones, being short of money or just being worried about the future.

There have been lots of things that have made me happy and kept me grounded; making videos for IGTV has been a wonderful challenge. With an iPhone, a tripod and simple editing software I have managed to make quite a few. It has been fun and kept my mind active. My initial idea was to make videos of recipes that have techniques that might be difficult to describe, or things that are better learned visually. The recipe in this blog post is on my IGTV as a video; I demonstrate the making of sweet short-crust pastry, so I hope it might be useful to those of you who are new to pastry making, or to anyone who usually resorts to the shop-bought sweet short-crust pastry. The recipe leans heavily on one in my cookbook Adriatico. The original recipe is based on one in a lovely old Abruzzese cookbook called “Ci vo’. La cucina marinara Pescarese” that my friend Giulia who runs a BnB called Casale Centurione gave me a few years ago. We first met via social media and eventually met in person, many times.

Friends are so important in these difficult times and Giulia is one of them. And by friends I mean those we know in person and those we may not have met (yet); the ones we connect with on social media, at a time when virtual connections are the only ones we can have. I have spent more time on the phone talking to friends than ever before, and it has been just lovely. On the rare occasions I have seen someone face to face over the past few months, when wine was delivered by Madeleine from Vinea Marson or when Rosemary from Nevenka dropped off some clothes for me to try on or when I collected the weekly take away dinner from Joe at The Recreation, I talked non-stop. As much as the virtual connection is beautiful,  the absence of face to face contacts and connections is so very hard.

Please let me know if you bake the crostata in the comments or by posting and tagging me on Instagram. And if you are missing travel (like I am), my cookbook Adriatico is perfect for armchair travel, as it takes you on a journey of the Adriatic coast of Italy with many location photos in the seven chapters, a sort of travel guide to the coast (and maybe you can plan to travel there when we are over this pandemic). There are 80 recipes of dishes that I researched when I explored that coast back in 2017. If you are interested in purchasing the book, I have copies of Adriatico for sale in my online shop and can ship anywhere in Australia (and will sign the book for you as well). The book is also on sale from Booktopia and they probably send the book everywhere!

Over the next few weeks, as restrictions ease, I will hopefully have news for those of you who have cooking classes booked; please stay tuned! Running my cooking classes is one of the things I miss most about the lockdown.

I will leave you with a couple of images of the beautiful region of Abruzzo that I took during the research for Adriatico, which focussed on the coastline and the trabocchi. Much love and stay safe

Paola X

crostata di ricotta

300g plain flour
80g sugar
1/4 tsp salt
150g cold butter, diced
1 large egg
splash aniseed liqueur (or milk)
500g ricotta, well drained
100g sugar
2 medium sized eggs
75g dark chocolate, cut into tiny pieces
100g hazelnuts of almond, pulsed to a chunky crumb
zest of a lemon or an orange
splash aniseed liqueur or white rum (optional)
icing sugar for dusting

To make the pastry, place the flour, sugar and salt in a food processor; pulse to combine. Add the butter, pulse until it resembles wet sand. Add the egg and a splash of liqueur or milk and process until it comes together. Place on a floured working surface and knead briefly, to bring together. Divide into portions: 1/3 and 2/3. Roll both of them out, the larger part to a rough circle and the smaller part to a rectangle. Place in a lidded container with parchment between them in the fridge for an hour (or if you do not have a large lidded container, then wrap the lot in parchment before placing in the fridge).

To prepare the filling, place all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir until well combined. Have a taste to make sure you like the taste, adjusting with more citrus or sugar (or liqueur) if you like. I also like to add a pinch of salt. Place in the fridge to chill.

Preheat the oven to 180C static. Grease and line the base of a tart tin (mine has a removable base and is 20cm diameter at the based has sides that are about 3cm high) and grease the sides (I use butter).

Roll out the pastry and drop over the prepared tin. Gently push down the pastry, using floured finger tips, so that it adheres to the sides and the base of the tin. Trim the excess with a knife (and use for the lattice) and use a fork to prick the base of the pastry. Place the base in the fridge while you roll out and cut strips for the lattice with the remaining pastry, with a fluted pastry cutter of you like. Spoon the ricotta filling in the base, flatten with the back of a spoon, then arrange the pastry strips in a lattice (you can see how I do it in my IGTV video recipe), gently pinching the ends to attach them to the pastry rim.

Bake for 50 – 55 minutes, reducing the temperature to 170C if it is browning too quickly. The crostata will puff up a bit when cooking then drop down. Dust with icing sugar once it is cool. Serve at room temperature. Store in a lidded container for 3 – 4 days, in a cool spot.

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