Tourte de Blettes

Swiss Chard Pie

After some discussion with three generations of Niçois, everyone agreed that this pie is the main speciality of Nice. And traditionally tourte de blettes is served as part of the Provençal Grand Dessert at Christmas Eve. The recipe is slightly adapted from Jacques Médecin’s Cuisine du comté de Nice. How recipes change with time and place is always fascinating; Médecin says his recipe is traditional while Prosper Montagné, writing fifty years earlier, omits an important ingredient, the apples, from his version. I prefer the pie made without the sugar; it is then suitable for serving warm at the start of a meal.

Ingredients

Pastry

  • 340 g(12 oz) flour
  • 200 g(7 oz) butter, softened
  • 1 large egg

Filling

  • 55 g(2 oz) seedless raisins
  • 55 g(2 oz) currants
  • 6 tablespoons eau-de-vie
  • 570 g(1 lb4 oz) green part of Swiss chard (blettes)
  • 55 g(2 oz) Parmesan cheese, freshly grated
  • 2 eggs
  • 115 g(4 oz) pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 30 g(1 oz) caster sugar (optional) or salt, milled pepper
  • 225 g(8 oz) Reinette or Cox’s Orange apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons dark rum

Method

Sift the flour on to a cold working surface or a wide shallow bowl (which can be chilled in the fridge first). Make a well in the centre, add the butter and egg and, using the fingertips only, draw the flour into the centre and gradually mix with sufficient cold water to make a soft dough. Wrap and chill for 30 minutes.

Soften the raisins and currants in the eau-de-vie over a low heat and leave in a warm place until needed. Wash the leaves of the Swiss chard and then cut into narrow strips and wash again in plenty of cold water until all traces of green in the water have disappeared. This makes the vegetable less bitter. Obviously use your judgement about all this washing. I find Swiss chard straight from the garden is not at all bitter but if your leaves are huge and a touch elderly it may be wise to follow the instructions given. Cook the leaves in boiling salted water until tender but still bright green. Drain well, wrap in a clean cloth and wring out all the surplus water.

Chop the leaves finely and turn into a bowl with the dried fruit mixture, the cheese, eggs, pine nuts, olive oil and sugar or salt and pepper. Mix well.

Roll out two thirds of the pastry and line a buttered 25 cm(10 in) flan dish or tin; it should be rather deeper than a tart tin. Spoon half the filling into the pastry case, add a layer of the sliced apples and cover it with the remainder of the filling. Sprinkle the rum over the top and cover with a lid of pastry. Squeeze the edges together firmly and cut a few steam vents in the lid.

Bake in a moderate oven (Mark 5, 190°C, 375°F) for 30–40 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp. Serve warm or cold.

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