Eleonora Galasso’s taste of home

Mak­ing the glo­ri­ous ri­cotta and can­died fruit-filled pastiera with her favourite nun from con­vent school is

The Guardian - Cook - - To Finish -

t Christ­mas time, the kitchen re­joices with re­as­sur­ing smells. While a fes­tive cotechino cooks qui­etly in the oven, I some­times take a break from the boil­ing and chop­ping to sit down by the fire and peel some wrinkly, of­ten gi­gan­tic, or­anges.

As I throw the peel on to the fire, the scent of orange oil brings back mem­o­ries of the cakes I made as a child. Many Ital­ian cakes cel­e­brate cit­rus, but the most splen­didly cit­russy of them all is pastiera, a glo­ri­ous pas­try pie stuffed with a sym­phony of soft

Ari­cotta, cooked wheat, eggs, or­ange­blos­som wa­ter, spices and can­died fruits. It’s ac­tu­ally an Easter recipe tra­di­tion­ally, but its in­gre­di­ents sing of Christ­mas, and you can find it on Ital­ian ta­bles all year round.

I spent my child­hood in a con­vent school. I was an un­ruly kid and was of­ten put in the cor­ner to “re­flect”, so to speak. On a good day, my favourite nun, Suor For­tu­nata, would take me to the kitchen to help her cook. She was not only a teacher but took charge of the school re­fec­tory, over­see­ing what was served to the pupils. On Thurs­days, the day be­fore the tra­di­tional ma­gro – a day of ab­sti­nence from all an­i­mal prod­ucts and sweet in­dul­gences – we would reg­u­larly be served pastiera. We were a rowdy lot, but just the sight of the pastiera had us gog­gle-eyed and or­derly with an­tic­i­pa­tion.

Or­anges are the essence of this cake. When eat­ing it, I can’t help but be taken back to those child­hood days when their bit­ter­sweet fra­grance wafted through the air. The smell, the taste and the ri­tual of mak­ing pastiera makes me feel at home.

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