Rose wanted me to call this a pasty, she thought I was being pretentious but I’m sticking to my guns because I think they are a little more refined than a true pasty. Of course you could make them much bigger if you wanted to use them for a lunch dish or a picnic but these are perfect for a starter size with nice dressed salad.
I had a walk along the riverbank yesterday morning and collected some lovely young wild greens/herbs. I just needed a few handfuls and fifteen minutes of foraging gave me a lovely selection of Ground elder, Stinging nettles, Common sorrel and Cleavers.
Common Sorrel rumex acetosa
A perennial plant that grows to 80cm tall when flowering. Outside its flowering season common sorrel has oval dark green leaves up to 12cm long and 4cm wide. The leaves have two pointed lobes that stick back from the leaf stem. The flowers grow on stems up to 80cm tall and are like little red and green beads. The leaves on the flowering stalks are smaller and more pointed than those that grow from the ground. They clasp around the stem.
Cleavers galium aparine
One of the first plants to emerge in spring. This annual plant has a distinctive growth pattern where rings of narrow slightly bristly leaves are borne at regular intervals along the slightly bristly stem. The plants leaves are up to 3cm long. It will generally climb up the plants near it, managing to grow through hedges up to 1.5m. The tiny greenish white flowers open in summer to be followed by little hard ball seeds that stick to your socks.
Ground elder Aegopodium podagraria
A perennial plant that can spread to form dense patches. The leaves grow to approximately 30cm tall, the flowering stalks to 70cm. The leaves grow straight out of the ground in early spring. They have a grooved stalk which divides into 3 and each of these 3 stalks has 3 leaves on it. These oval leaves have a serrated edge and a pointed end. There are also smaller leaves with fewer leaflets. In early summer the plant sends up a grooved flowering stem. This branches and has umbrellas of white flowers (sometimes pinkish) which smell a bit like celery and aniseed.
Wild herb and ricotta pithivier Makes 6
500g pack of puff pastry
250g Ricotta cheese
30g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 tablespoons of olive oil
5 large leaves of wild garlic
3 Handfuls of wild greens
Salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten for egg washing
Wash the wild greens very well, blanch them in boiling water for 20 seconds and refresh in very cold water. Once completely cold, squeeze out as much water as possible from the greens and blend to a paste with the olive oil and Wild garlic in a pestle and mortar or stick blender.
In a bowl, stir together the Ricotta, Parmesan and herb paste until you have a nice even mix. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set this filling aside and prepare a well floured surface to roll out your pastry. Divide the pastry into two and roll each piece out to about a 2mm thickness, you really need to get the pastry this thin as it will overwhelm the flavours of the filling if it is too thick. Out of one sheet cut out six circles 11cm in diameter put onto baking parchment and set aside. Now cut six 12cm circles from the second sheet, these will form the tops of the pithivier and need to be this slightly bigger size to accommodate the filling.
Lay out the bases (smaller circle) and divide the filling between the discs making sure you leave enough pastry around the edge to seal it, about 1cm should be good. Egg wash this outside ring of pastry and place a larger pastry circle on top , push down the sides and seal the egg washed edges You can then use a larger circular cutter to trim the sealed parcels into a perfect circle if you wish. I then use a fork to seal the edges further by pressing the tines all around the edge where I have sealed it with my fingers. Repeat for the other pastry discs. Use a knife to make two holes in the top of of each sealed parcel.
Egg wash the pithivier, place on a lined baking sheet (or two) and bake at 180 centigrade for 20 minutes until golden and puffed up. Allow to cool for 5-10 minutes before serving with a dressed salad.