Friday, 27 April 2012

Ricotta and Spinach Slice
I have probably made this slice for every gathering we've had in the last few years...except once...and then I was asked if it was still in the oven!  It seems to be universally popular, which is somewhat surprising given that most people wouldn't eat spinach on its own.  It is one of the most versatile dishes too: you can cut it into 25 dainty 'entertaining-the-mother-in-law' pieces, into 4 'hungry fella' slabs...or anything in between; serve it hot with vegetables for dinner, warm with a salad for lunch, or cold and on its own in a lunchbox.  And it's very forgiving: you really don't need to be exact with the measurements and you can substitute ingredients quite happily if you need to.  For example: you can take it in a Provence-ish direction by using silverbeet (chard) leaves and a sprinkling of thyme, you can take it to Greece with filo pastry and a smattering of fetta, you can even go all Espanol with manchego cheese and a few chopped olives.  And I've seen big burly blokes go for seconds and thirds when I've served it piled on platters as part of a buffet.  Not only do "real men eat quiche", they eat this too!
2 sheets puff pastry thawed
400g Ricotta (smooth or lumpy, it makes no difference)
2 bunches of fresh spinach, or 1 package of frozen spinach thawed and well squeezed!
50g /2oz good hard cheese such as Cheddar or Jack, grated
25g / 1oz freshly grated Parmesan or Grana Padano or similar
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 nutmeg grated (or 1/4 tsp of ready ground nutmeg)
2 eggs
1/2 tblspn milk
1 tsp sesame seeds
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F.  Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper or baking parchment and place one sheet of pastry on it (remove the plastic backing of course!).
  2. If you're using fresh spinach, wash it well and cook it in a dry pan for a few seconds until it is JUST cooked, remove it to a chopping board and chop well with a mezzaluna or heavy bladed knife. 
  3. In a large bowl mix together the spinach, the cheeses, the pepper and nutmeg.
  4. Break the eggs into a cup and beat fairly well.  Pour most of the eggs into the spinach mixture - you need to reserve about 1/2 tblspn in the cup.  Mix everything together really well with a fork (it helps to break up any lumps on spinach).
  5. Pile the mixture onto the pastry sheet and spread to within 1cm / 1/2 inch of the edges.  You need to make it as even as possible and avoid a dome in the middle.
  6. Mix the milk with the reserved egg and use it to moisten the edges of the pastry.  Place the remaining pastry sheet on top and seal the edges by pressing down with a fork.  Brush the egg & milk mixture over the top of the slice to glaze it then sprinkle the sesame seeds over.
  7. Bake for 25 minutes or until golden and shiny.
  8. Allow to cool a little before serving, or completely before wrapping and storing.

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