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The Ricotta and Lentil Tart is the start of a wonderful journey in the company of a blogger friend, Aura from the blog www.aurasenzaelle.comduring which we will accompany you to discover the regions of our enchanting Italy with an itinerary of trekking and typical dishes.

The ’20 di cambiamento’ project

My friend Aura’s project is called ‘20 di cambiamento‘ and is a tour throughout Italy divided into weekends. I summarise it in 4 points, but you can read the full description in this article:

  • One visit in each of the 20 Italian regions;
  • One trek in each of the 20 visits;
  • A different person for each of the 20 visits to act as a guide to connect with that place;
  • A virtuous local company (for sustainability, environmental commitment, production respecting the land) to be visited, supported and promoted.

This is where I come in with the recipes of the dishes that you will find if you travel to that region and that you can then reproduce at home, in gluten or gluten free versions and with a carbohydrate count, to relive the experience also through taste.

The first stop

The journey starts from a region, Umbria, which is often not at the top of the list of those visiting Italy, but which is a jewel for its historical and monumental wealth (just think of Assisi), for its natural beauty (and here you can enjoy this trek) and an unexpected source of culinary specialities.

La Basilica di San Francesco d'Assisi

Umbria owes much of its identity to the presence of the monastic orders that attracted the faithful from all over Europe. And it was precisely the pilgrims who had a very significant influence on the cuisine of the area because of the need they had to carry food in their saddle bags that could be stored easily. It is no coincidence that roasted meats, cured meats, Schiacciate (flat bread) and Polenta, desserts prepared with nuts, but above all pulses are the mainstay of traditional regional cuisine.

The widespread use of herbs for both cooking and curative purposes is also linked to the presence of religious orders with the liturgical calendar often imposing ‘lean’ periods during which herbs were used to replace fragrant, rich meats.

In addition to truffles, fish from Lake Transimeno and wines, here is a list of Umbria’s PGI and PDO products:

  • Extra virgin olive oil PDO
  • Spelt from Monteleone di Spoleto PDO (which we eating ‘gluten free’ cannot use)
  • Colfiorito red potato PGI
  • Prosciutto di Norcia PGI
  • Vitellone Bianco dell’Appennino Centrale PGI
  • Lamb of Central Italy PGI
  • Pecorino Toscano PDO
  • Italian Salamini alla Cacciatora PDO
  • Lentil of Castelluccio di Norcia PGI

The first recipe

The first recipe (see also the second recipe!) that I want to share with you starts from the flower fields of Castelluccio di Norcia where lentils are harvested in summer after flowering, between May and the end of June, next to a multitude of wild flowers that make the phenomenon an enchanting and unique attraction.

La fioritura a Castellucchio di Norcia

The flowering of Castelluccio di Norcia (photo: Aura Moia)

The Castelluccio lentil is small, round and has a thin skin so that it does not have to be soaked to cook it. This pulse was one of the main sources of sustenance for the shepherds of the area, who combined it with the other ingredients offered by sheep farming. This is the origin of the Ricotta and lentil tart, a cake where lentils replace chocolate chips in a delicious way. I wanted to prepare this recipe because for those of us who do not live in Castelluccio, eating lentils as a dessert is certainly less common than the wonderful soups that, here, are often flavoured by the presence of pork.

Zafferano di Cascia dell'Associazione Zafferano Purissimo dell'Umbria

Cascia saffron of the Associazione Zafferano Purissimo dell’Umbria (phooto: Aura Moia)

Another small but pleasant discovery: the ricotta and lentil tart can be made even more delicious by flavouring the ricotta with Cascia Saffron – Pure Umbria Saffron another of the jewels of small family farms whose economy is linked to the production and direct sale of saffron and the other products they grow, such as lentils, grass peas, spelt, Roveja (do you know it? It will be the star of the next Umbrian recipe) and cheese. I tried it using the yellow gold of the Zafferano e Dintorni company which I recommend you to try by going there as soon as you can or by ordering it directly from their website.

Gli ingredienti del ripieno della Crostata di ricotta e lenticchie

Ricotta and lentil tart   

36.61g carbohydrates per 100g

 Ingredients for the pastry for a 20cm diameter tart

  • 125g GF flour mix for sweets, brand Sarchio**
  • 50g butter
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 15g brown rice flour*
  • ½ lemon, peel
  • a pinch of salt

Ingredients for the filling

  • 400g sheep’s milk ricotta
  • 60g sugar
  • 40g Castelluccio lentils*
  • sweetener* or sugar
  • cinnamon powder

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Prepare the shortcrust pastry (of course you can also use other recipes for shortcrust pastry); pour the powders (flour and sugar) into a mixing bowl or planetary mixer, add the butter and start to knead it into the powders, then add the egg, the grated peel of half a lemon and a pinch of salt. Mix until the mixture is smooth, then place it in the refrigerator wrapped in cling film while you prepare the lentils and the filling.
  2. Place the lentils on a plate and make sure they do not contain other pulses or cereals, then rinse them well and place them in a saucepan with water and a bit of sweetener (I used Tic) or a teaspoon of sugar. Bring to the boil and cook the lentils for 15 minutes. Drain them and keep them aside.
  3. Put ricotta cheese in a bowl, add sugar, a pinch of cinnamon and the drained lentils.
  4. Roll out the shortcrust pastry into a thin disc; I used a 20cm diameter perforated metal ring to cut the base on a perforated silicone mat and then I covered the ring to form a pastry shell for the tart; alternatively, cover a 20cm cake tin with baking paper. Fill the pastry with the ricotta and lentil filling and bake in a static oven preheated to 180°C for about 30 minutes. Let it cool and serve.
  5. Bake in a static oven preheated to 170°C for 45 minutes.

La Crostata di ricotta e lenticchie con gli ingredienti per il ripieno

Version with gluten of Ricotta and lentil tart

Use a standard shortcrust pastry, whereas the filling is prepared with naturally gluten free ingredients, so no other adaptation is necessary for its version with gluten.

 

Torta del Vescovo (Bishop’s Cake ) is typical of the towns in the province of Parma and the name is intended to recall its importance. Indeed, while the plum jam tart is perhaps one of the classics par excellence, given the popularity of the Plum trees in this area, in the past chocolate was a rather rare ingredient and therefore reserved for special occasion desserts (such as a Valentine’s Day Sacher?).

Well, as the name suggests, this cake used to be prepared when the bishop travelled to provincial towns to celebrate the confirmation of children: in its simplicity, the contrast between jam and chocolate makes it a real treat.

Another cake? Try this with fresh fruit.

Bishop’s cake

48.83g carbohydrates with cake basted with

70g fruit juice, no liquor

Ingredients for the dough

  • 300g flour mix for bread, brand BiAglut**
  • 150g butter
  • 100g wholemeal rice flour*
  • 100g sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 8 g baking powder*
  • a pinch of salt

Ingredients for filling and coating

  • 450g plum jam with no added sugar*
  • 150g dark chocolate with no added sugar*
  • 80g fresh cream
  • 20g butter
  • rum and other dessert liqueurs*, water syrup and/or fruit juice

**Ingredients specific for celiacs

*Ingredients whose labels must read “gluten-free” (or, in Italy, present on  Prontuario AIC)

Preparation

  1. Prepare the shortcrust pastry in the traditional way, i.e. by mixing all the ingredients until a compact and homogenous dough is obtained. Cover the pastry with cling film and place it in the refrigerator for about ten minutes.
  2. With the help of a sheet of parchment paper, roll out a little more than half of the shortcrust pastry to form a disk to cover a baking tin about 26cm in diameter, leaving the edges slightly high so that they can be folded well once the cake is filled.
  3. Stuff the pastry with jam and cover with a second disc, trim the edges if they are too high and fold them inwards using a fork to press them down well so that the jam does not spill out during baking.
  4. Bake in a static oven preheated to 180°C for 30 minutes or anyway until lightly browned. Let the cake cool completely.
  5. Prepare a syrup with about 70g water and a tablespoon of sugar, or a few drops of sweetener (alternatively use the same amount of fruit juice), add the liqueurs and leave to cool.
  6. With a toothpick, pierce the surface of the cake, then use a brush to wet it well with the syrup-liquor mixture.
  7. Melt the chocolate with the cream on a very gentle heat, or in the microwave, then add the butter, mix well and coat the surface of the cake perfectly.
La torta del vescovo: una crostata con marmellata di prugne ricoperta di cioccolato

Bishop’s cake: a tart with chocolate-covered plum jam

Version with gluten of Bishop’s cake

When preparing the pastry, replace the 300g of gluten-free flour with an equal amount of standard cake flour.