I love wild herbs. But above all I love harvesting them. On Spring, in the lawn, at the bottom of drywalls or at the borders of the streets where they love growing.
Walking in the middle of the nature, our first true home. The pungent odour of the hearth warmed by the sun, the busy buzzing of the bees, the swish of the leaves cradled by the wind, the creaking of the shoes stepping on the rests of the dry winter.
The eyes wander around, in all directions, eventually free from the narrow borders of a smartphone screen.
And then there is the harvesting. An ancestral gesture, marked in our genetic memory forever.
Kneeling down, genuflecting out of respect and gratitude for nature, for what she stretches out of the ground.
In that very moment when your hand grabs the turgid leaves, just before tearing them off, you and nature are one and the same, and your soul remember the ancient agreement for survival entered with nature.
Harvesting and then bringing everything at home, for cooking. Right away. The scent of chlorophyll that fill the kitchen opening the bag and that amplifies when the herbs are put in fresh water. A scent that during cooking changes, transforms, and becomes the deep taste of a morning spent in the fields.
My last walk along drywalls and narrow terraces clinging on the sea resulted in a big basket of borages with their small elegant indigo flowers. That morning this poem of the Polish poet Czeslaw Milosz came to my mind:
At home, then, I decided to do something new, something different with these wild herbs. No more fresh pasta, savoury pies, frittatas or veggie balls. No, I decided to trust my intuition and prepare that bizarre recipe I found in an old book of my granny’s dedicated to the use of wild herbs in the kitchen, in patisserie as well. And so borages tartlets!
The result was so much surprising that I’m quite confident to share it. These borages tartlets are perfect for a picnic (maybe for the traditional one – at least here in Italy – of Easter Monday) but they are good as well warm just brought out of the oven. In both cases they will surprise you and your guest, at least for the illusion to have in your hands a savory pie!
And every bite will be like taking a step in a sunny lawn.
- 1 cup (140 g) of powdered sugar
- 4 eggs yolks (the whites will need for garnishing)
- 3 cups (300 g) of flour, sifted
- 7 oz (200 g) of unsalted butter, cold and cubed
- 3,5 oz (100 g) of borages plus some of their indigo flowers
- 2 cups (250 g) of ricotta cheese
- 2 eggs
- a pinch of salt
- peel of an organic orange
- 1 teaspoon of powdered cinnamon
- 1/3 cup (30 g) of granulated sugar
- Wisk the egg yolks with the powdered sugar and a pinch of salt until they become foamy, puffy and clear.
- Add the sifted flour at once and beat quickly just until the dough becomes like sand (made of thin grains)
- Add the butter and knead until it is fully combined. Be careful not to overmix. The dough should be able to be pressed together between your fingertips and hold when done. Gather the dough together and press into a round disk. Wrap in plastic warp and chill for at least half an hour (or up to two days).
- Clean and boil borages, squeeze and finely cut them.
- In a bowl mix the ricotta cheese, the sugar, the eggs and the pinch of salt. Add the boiled borages and mix gently.
- Add a scratch of orange peel and the teaspoon of cinnamon.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F
- Remove the dough from the fridge and let it soften for a couple of minutes or until it is cool to the touch but starting to feel pliable.
- On a working surface well dusted with flour roll the dough out in a 1/3 inch layer. Cut the dough in rounds bigger than the tartlets pans remembering to save some dough for the garnish. Fit the dough down into the shape of the pans (remember to grease them before). Trim the edges with the help of a knife.
- Pour the filling in the dough shells. Flatten with the help of the back of tablespoon.
- Garnish the tartlets with the remaining dough and brush with the beaten white eggs.
- Bake for 40 minutes or until the edges of the dough are golden and the filling firm at the touch.
- Serve warm or cold. Garnish with indigo borages flowers.
As I am a book shopping addict, especially when it comes to deepen a new subject on my head, yesterday I bought the book (in Italian of course) “Hidden Natural Histories | Herbs | The secret properties of 150 plants“. It’s a very nice book, with a lot of colorful and detailed drawings (see the one above on borages) and many interesting stories, informations and legends on the most common wild plants. If you are interest in harvesting wild herbs by your self (and prepare these borages tartlets) you should go for it!
Finally, if you want to know something about the bouquet of wild herbs that traditionally is used in the Italian Riviera cooking, you can read my post “Prebuggiun: wild herbs in the Italian Riviera cuisine“
Happy harvest! Happy baking!