Amelia’s Torta Squisita

We’re big fans of this exquisite tart here at Sophie’s Cookery School. It’s an unusual dessert which includes all the great flavours of cannoli – citrus, chocolate, ricotta – brought together in a simple tart. It’s the crowning glory of the table at our Tuscan Farmhouse Kitchen class, and we’re sure you’ll enjoy it as much as we do.

for the pastry 

225g plain flour
75 g caster sugar
115g butter at room temperature
3 egg yolks
zest of a lemon

for the filling

500g ricotta
100g candied peel
150g good dark chocolate, cut into rough chunks
100g sugar
1 large egg
  1. Put the flour on a board and make a well in the centre. Put the remaining pastry ingredients in the centre and smush to make a paste. Incorporate the flour and work into a dough. At this point you can wrap it in clingfilm and chill for half an hour, but it is a forgiving dough and you don’t have to. Either way, you should divide it into ¾ and ¼ and shape each amount into a flattened disk.
  2. Mix all of the filling ingredients together except the egg. If your ricotta has a puddle at the bottom of the pot, be sure to leave it behind. Don’t over stir the ricotta or it will become quite liquid. You may want to make the filling less sweet, depending on how sweet a tooth you have and how bitter your chocolate is. Best to have a thorough taste before adding the egg…
  3. Roll out ¾ of the pastry and line a cake or tart tin. If you’re using a cake tin allow the pastry to come roughly up the sides – rustic is the motto here. Fill with the ricotta mix. Again, if using a cake tin flop the edges of the pastry over the top. If a tart tin, trim neatly. Use the remaining pastry to make a lattice over the top and bake at 180 for about 45 minutes until the pastry is golden and the filling set. To avoid the dreaded soggy bottom, you may want to slide the cake onto a hot baking tray in the oven.
  4. Allow to cool and serve at room temperature. It goes especially well with a glass of vin santo.

Compton Verney Canapés

A big thank you to all at Compton Verney for running such a brilliant Christmas Fair. I only wish I had seen more of it, but I loved my day in the restaurant cooking canapes inspired by the art collections. Here are the recipes:

Picasso: Fried Olives with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto and Smoked Paprika

pitted green olives
pitted black olives
sun-dried tomato pesto
plain flour
Spanish smoked paprika
lightly beaten egg
Panko breadcrumbs
sunflower oil for frying

Drain the olives and pat dry if necessary. Put a couple of tablespoonfuls of pesto into a piping bag. Snip off the end and pipe a little of the pesto inside each olive.

Pour a couple of centimetres of oil into a small saucepan and heat. While it is coming up to temperature, arrange three bowls by the hob. Put flour, seasoned generously with smoked paprika, pepper and a tad of salt in the first. Beaten egg in the second. Breadcrumbs in the third. Then line a plate with a couple of layers of kitchen paper and place on the other side of the hob.

4 or 5 at a time, roll olives in flour until fully coated. Then coat in egg, and finally roll in the breadcrumbs, making sure each olive is thoroughly covered. Slide the olives into the hot oil, which should sizzle gaily. Cook until golden brown, then scoop out and drain briefly on kitchen paper. Pass round with cocktail sticks to spear the hot olives.

James Booth Higginson’s Cheese, Bread & Beer: Compton Verney Rarebit, Rhubarb Relish
Makes around 30

for the rarebit

225g grated mature cheddar
30g butter
2 tsp plain flour
2 tsp Dijon mustard
4 tbsp Hooky Gold
slices sourdough bread, toasted

for the relish

200g rhubarb
juice of 5 large oranges
120g caster sugar
40g finely chopped ginger
1 heaped tsp fennel seeds
½ tbsp coriander seeds, roughly crushed
1 heaped tsp black onion seeds

To make the rarebit, put everything in a saucepan, stir over a low heat until smooth and creamy. Done. It will keep for a week or so in a covered bowl in the fridge. Warm slightly if necessary.

To make the relish, trim the rhubarb and cut into 5 cm lengths. Then cut each piece into very fine batons. Put orange juice, sugar, ginger and spices into a saucepan. Heat, stirring, until the sugar has dissolved. Now boil hard until reduced to a syrupy consistency. Stir in the rhubarb and cook for a further 2 minutes. Leave to cool.

Spread the rarebit thickly over each slice of toast. Grill until the rarebit is bubbling and browned. Let it cool slightly then cut into fingers. Serve with the relish as a dip.

Giovanni Battista Ruoppolo: Parma Ham, with Sour Cherry & Avocado
Makes 12

4 slices Parma ham or similar, cut into thick strips
12 croustade cases
12 small mint leaves

for the salsa

40g dried soured cherries
1½ ripe avocados
150g very finely chopped fennel bulb
lemon juice
3 sprigs mint leaves
3 halves kaffir lime leaves, very, very finely shredded
salt and pepper

Soak the cherries in a little warm water if necessary, until soft. Drain and chop roughly. Dice the avocado finely, then toss with a little lemon juice. Strip the leaves off the mint and chop finely. Mix with mint, avocado, lime leaves, cherries and fennel. Season with salt and pepper.

Just before serving, spoon a little of the salad into each croustade case, top with a curl of ham and a sprig of mint.