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Pumpkin & Onion Tourte

Inspired by a recipe from Bartolomeo Scappi’s Opera (1577)

Like many recipes of this period the original (which you can see below) included a lot of sugar which I have omitted. By cooking the onions long and slow they will naturally caramelise and give this tourte a sweetness (which can be enhanced further if you use a sweeter squash such as a butternut). I’ve reduced the amount of cinnamon and have included nutmeg in my spice mix as the latter is such a good bedfellow with pumpkin.

Provatura was a semi soft cheese not unlike mozzarella. It could be smoked or unsmoked. Autumn always reminds me of bonfires so I’ve opted for smoked mozzarella to fit the season but unsmoked would be fine to use too.

Plus this is another great way to use up that Halloween pumpkin!

Bartolomeo Scappi's Pumpkin & Onion Tourte

To prepare a pumpkin-and-onion tourte

Get the same amount of each and parboil them in water; take them out and squeeze the water out of them so that they end up quite dry. Beat them on a table that is not of walnut and sauté them in butter or lard. When they have cooled, for every two pounds of fried pumpkin and onion, get a pound of provatura, a pound of creamy cheese ground up with the provatura, half a pound of grated Parmesan cheese, ten fresh eggs, a beaker of milk, a pound of sugar, three quarters of an ounce of pepper, an ounce of cinnamon and a little saffron. With that mixture make up a tourte with a lower and upper shell and the flaky-pastry twist around it. Bake it in an oven or braise it. A tourte like that always needs to be served hot. In the filling you can put a handful of beaten herbs – that will depend on the taste of the person it is intended for.

Ingredients (Serves 6-8)

1 small pinch saffron soaked in 2 tbsp milk

1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

400g onions, peeled, halved and sliced

400-450g pumpkin or squash, peeled and deseeded

250g ricotta

125g Scamorza (smoked mozzarella) or regular mozzarella, roughly chopped

50g parmesan, finely grated

2 large eggs plus 1 egg, beaten to glaze the tourte

¼ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground white pepper

¼ ground nutmeg

Salt & pepper to taste

1 tbsp chopped mixed herbs (e.g. rosemary, thyme and parsley – leaves only) (optional)

500g block puff pastry

  1. Before you start preparing the filling make sure you soak the saffron in the milk for around 30 minutes to an hour. If you are short of time put the milk in a microwave for 5-10 seconds to warm it up (this will help the saffron flavour to disperse more quickly).

  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the sliced onions and reduce the temperature. Cook for 30-40 minutes or until the onions are soft and lightly caramelised.

  3. Meanwhile, cut the pumpkin roughly into 1cm chunks. Steam the pumpkin for 3-5 minutes until just tender. You still want it to have a little bite to it (it will finish cooking in the pie) and should not be mushy. Around 5 minutes or so before the onions are finished add the pumpkin along with some salt and pepper.

  4. Place the saffron infused milk, ricotta, smoked mozzarella (or regular mozzarella), parmesan, 2 eggs and spices into the bowl of a food processor. Process until combined. Add more salt if needed and the chopped herbs if using. Transfer to a bowl.

  5. Preheat the oven to 180℃. Lightly butter a 23cm loose bottomed flan tin.

  6. Roll two thirds of the pastry so that it fits the tin comfortably leaving a little pastry hanging over the edges (if there is a lot of pastry overhanging the tin trim off a little of the excess and add it to the remaining third).

  7. Once cooked and slightly cooled add the onion and pumpkin mixture to the cheeses. Mix well then pour into the prepared case.

  8. Roll out the remaining pastry for form a lid for the tourte. I used a pastry roller to create the lattice but you could make a lattice from strips or just top the tourte with a solid lid (like a pie). Brush with egg wash and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour. The filling should be completely set and the pastry crisp and golden. Allow to cool for 10-15 minutes before removing from the tin and serving.

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