I’m taking a short break from the ongoing reporting on my Roman feast to bring you this seasonal pie – cherries are available only briefly and for the rest of the year you just can’t get them, so better torte while you can.
The receipt comes from Maestro Martino of Como, a 15th century Italian chef who left us with a collection of his dishes, the Libro de Arte Coquinaria. The work has been translated into English and the beautiful edition even comes with a selection of modernized receipts.
The ingredients I used were:
- 500g cherries, pitted
- 1 tsp rose water
- 250g ricotta cheese
- 100g gruyere cheese, grated
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp ginger
- a little pepper
- 2/3dl sugar
- 2 eggs
- pre-made pie dough (yes, from the freezer isle. Don’t judge me. Martino of Como would have done the same, given the chance)
- 2 tsp sugar and 1 tsp rose water for sprinkling
Now, these proportions are entirely spurious. But I’ll get back to that in a moment.
I masticated the cherries in a food processor. Then I just mixed in all the other ingredients.
Now, the original recipe calls for roses to go into the mix. Cherries may be in season right now, but roses certainly aren’t – all of mine finished blooming weeks ago. I didn’t want to buy any because the ones sold at flower stores aren’t meant for eating and so you never know if they’ve been sprayed with harmful pesticides. The proprietor of my local flower store is lovely and I’ve asked her about organically grown roses, but ultimately I feel that my once-a-year cooking something that requires roses doesn’t warrant her making an enormous effort to procure edible roses. So, I put in rose water instead. Like my list of ingredients says.
To get back to the amounts. I have a large pie dish (30cm in diameter) and so I attempted to end up with enough filling to fill my pie.
You might have a smaller pie dish, though, so scale down the amounts if you think half a kilo of cherries will be too much. Ultimately the amounts are up to you. Mix and taste, and add ingredients as you go. I ended up with a pie that was not very sweet, so if you want sweet you might want to add more sugar. The rose flavor was very faint and in hingsight I could have put in more rose water. The main point is, start with the cherries and then taste your way forward.
And don’t forget the cheese! I was suspicious of the aged cheese, but encouraging comments from historic-foods-Twitter caused me to re-think and I ended up choosing a Swiss gruyere. I figured that was fairly close to the author in geographic terms.
When you’re happy with the balance of flavors in your cherry mix line your pie tin. Pour in the mixture and, if you want, decorate with lattice work or other decorations. The filling is quite runny so keep your decorations big enough not to sink in. Bake your pie. I had it in 150 degrees C for 50 minutes.
This torte was great with a cup of tea. Not terribly sweet. The texture from the ricotta was nice and soft, and the gruyere gave it a savory bite enhanced by the spices. The pepper and ginger gave it a light afterburn but wasn’t overpowering.