By Elizabeth Hewson
Ciao from Bra, Italy. My name is Elizabeth Hewson and my blog (and book) is called Moving Out, Eating Out. I’m a 27-year-old Australian with an obsessive passion for food. Ever since I can remember, my book of choice was a cookbook, my TV show of choice was a cooking show and my idea of having a good time was pottering in the kitchen. Before I dive into my recipe, “easy peas-y spring tart” let me tell you a little bit about myself and how I came to live in Italy. I love to cook. It’s as simple as that. I cook when I’m happy, I cook when I’m sad, I cook when the sun shines and I cook when it rains.
My passion for food came about during my 3 years at university- when I first moved out of home. I left Sydney to study at Charles Sturt University in country NSW. At the end of three years, I walked away with a degree in Organisational Communications and Public Relations, some self-taught kitchen skills and a passion for cooking. I came back to Sydney and realised that if a girl wants to cook… a girls got to eat… so I needed a job. Whilst public relations was not the obvious career choice for a self-proclaimed-foodie, I managed to parlay my office job in PR into a way to follow my gourmet dreams. I was lucky enough to work for the likes of Australia‘s best restaurant; Quay, Australia’s best butcher; Victor Churchill, Australia’s best providore, Simon Johnson and the world’s best glassmakers; Riedel. All allowing me to (excuse the pun) feed my passion. But this didn’t quite satisfy my hunger for cooking. I needed something more, a creative outlet to share my love of food. And then came my idea about writing a book…and then a blog. I saw a gap in the market for something that catered to my lifestyle and needs when I started my own journey moving out of home. A book that understood that one night might involve eating alone, the next might suddenly be about feeding a group of six; a book that understood that ingredients need to be readily available and affordable as well as delicious; a book that didn’t require prior kitchen knowledge, but could just be picked up and cooked from. I wanted to write a book for fellow peers to share my love of food, my self-taught cooking skills but most importantly to get young people into the kitchen cooking and not heading down the road for take out. The book was published in October 2014 and the blog went live shortly after (the delay due to me braking my leg in three places – ouch)
After the launch, it became so clear to me that I had found my calling. I had my eyes well and truly set on a career in food. But what to do next…There is another thing you should know about me and that is that I have always felt a strong connection to Italian food – the spirit, the warmth, the tradition, the passion and simplicity – it’s a culture I’ve wanted to immerse myself in. A spirit I want to absorb. It’s my gastronomic home. And then, as thought the universe was hearing me, I stumbled across the University of Gastronomic Science, or the “Slow Food University” in a small town in Northern Italy. Almost immediately I applied, and then 3 months later packed my bags for my next chapter in Bra. So here I am, and it’s almost eight months since I first arrived in Italy and it has stolen my heart. The people, the food, the wine, the passion; it is everything I dreamt of and more. I haven’t yet properly mapped out the next “chapter”, but I do know for sure that it will involve food. And, well, that just makes me very happy indeed.
Now back to the tart, which I presume is the reason you all came here. My easy peas-y spring tart is beautifully green, fresh and simple. All the things you want when you are having a lunch with girlfriends. And it’s these meals I cook for friends and family that I enjoy the most. In my view, eating, laughter and enjoyment are inextricably linked and always should be. Enjoy this with a glass of crisp white wine, a gaggle of girlfriends and the backdrop off a beautiful spring day. You’ll be in heaven, I promise. Ex
PS. Of course if you can’t get fresh peas, like me when I shot this recipe, you can use frozen peas.
P.P.S This was shot by the multi talented Alecia Wood, a fellow Aussie here in Italy with me.
Easy Peas-y Spring Tart
Equipment: Baking tray
32cmx26cm sheet of all butter puff pastry
1 cup ricotta, full fat please
1 lemon, zest only
1 tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped plus extra for serving
Pinch of chili flakes
½ cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
2 zucchinis, thinly sliced
Drizzle of olive oil
½ cup fresh peas
Preheat your oven to 200°C
Line a baking tray with parchment paper. Roll your pastry on top. Fold the edges of the pastry in 1cm and then fold them over again. This creates a higher edge that will rise in the oven as the pastry cooks, creating a rectangular tart shell. Using a fork, prick the middle of the tart all over to avoid it rising in the oven. Place in the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes or until the middle has started to golden and the edges have risen. Don’t worry too much if the middle has risen slightly; just carefully prick with a fork to allow the pastry to deflate.
In a bowl, combine the ricotta, lemon zest, finely chopped mint, egg, chilli flakes and Parmesan cheese. Fill the middle of the tart with your ricotta mix. Lay your thinly sliced zucchini’s over the top making sure they overlap, gently pressing them into the ricotta mix. Drizzle over olive oil and season with salt flakes. Return to the oven and cook for 15-20 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and zucchinis are cooked. If you notice that your pastry is getting to brown, whilst your zucchini still needs a bit longer, carefully cover the pastry with foil to protect it from the heat.
Meanwhile, blanch your fresh peas in boiling water for 30 seconds and refresh under cold water. If you are using frozen peas, let them sit in a bowl of cold water for 5 minutes to defrost. Drain peas and put aside. When the tart is cooked, remove from the oven and decorate with peas. Garnish with mint leaves. Serve immediately.
Follow Elizabeth on her Italian food adventure on Instagram or Facebook or pick up a copy her book here.