22 November 2013

Pastiera Napoletana

It all happened in late October, when I was on Pinterest looking through hundreds of Pins of cakes, pastries and desserts for a new recipe to try when I came across a photograph by Valeria Necchio of "Pastiera Napoletana".  It really captured my imagination and I knew at once that this was the one that I wanted to try and replicate in my humble little kitchen in Tunis.  I clicked on the image and in an instant I was transported to Valeria's blog http://www.mylifelovefood.com/2013/03/easter-pastiera.html an absolute treasure trove of Italian recipes.  Since my accidental discovery of Valeria's blog I have included it in my Link List on my blog page, as I know that this will be a blog that I will dip in and out of over the coming months and years.  Not only are the recipes original but Valeria's photography really captures the essence, the goodness and the freshness of her cooking/baking.  Then there are the stories which come with each recipe beautifully and earnestly told making the reader feel a part of her life.  When I read the story which eventually led to the recipe for Pastiera Napoletana I felt like a privileged guest sitting around her dining room table listening or rather reading about her life growing up in Veneto and of her family and especially about her (now famous) aunt who lived in many towns and cities throughout Italy with her engineer husband.  Valeria recounts with fond memories that it was her aunt who had first introduced her to pastiera.
I read through Valeria's blog post about Pastiera Napoletana several times especially the recipe until I felt satisfied I knew what was involved in making it.  Then I went on a hunt for the ingredients I could source everything except the "wheat berries" and I even had to ask Valeria what she meant by wheat berries.  She very kindly wrote back to say that wheat berries were the name given to the whole wheat kernel and Valeria even said that most health food stores stocked it and she kindly provided a web address where she said I could source it.  However, health food stores don't exist in Tunis and I did not want to order them on the internet as I was doubtful whether it would ever arrive here so I had to improvise with Bulgur which is cracked wheat.
For the past five days I have been working on the recipe.  I find myself curiously drawn to slow food recipes.  The more time consuming the better.  Not having a work permit in Tunisia and therefore not being allowed to legally work here, I have all the time in the world.  I am also a firm believer that good things are worth the effort and are definitely worth waiting for.  So, happy in the knowledge that this was a special recipe I embarked on it bright eyed and bushy tailed.  I printed out Valeria's recipe and felt she was with me in my kitchen every step of the way over the next five days.
Today, I finally tasted the fruits of my efforts and it was good to share it with a Polish friend of mine who I had invited for afternoon tea.  I was particularly pleased that my Pastiera Napoletana looked very much like Valeria's and it tasted and smelt divine.  The heady aromas of orange flower water, cinnamon, vanilla extract and lemon zest were almost intoxicating in a delicious kind of way.  However, I was a little critical of my filling as it did not have the cake like consistency of Valeria's,  mine was a little more moist and creamy.  This I thought was probably due to my idea of substituting bulgur instead of whole wheat kernel.  Still, despite the creamy consistency of the filling the taste was delicate and delicious. Here are a couple of photographs of my Pastiera Napoletana.
Grazie Valeria!



You can find the recipe for Pastiera Napoletana in English and in Italian on Valeria's
 blog page:  http://www.mylifelovefood.com/2013/03/easter-pastiera.html

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