Torta de acelgas, or Swiss chard pie is a dish typical of Gibraltar, probably of Italian origin. This pie is usually made at Easter time, coming from the tradition of not eating meat on the main festive days, although it is also enjoyed all year round. The filling is quite firm and set, and it is one for garlic and cheese lovers. There may be quite a few steps to this pie, but it is so worth it and one that the younger generations should keep alive as this is one of Gibraltar’s star dishes. This family recipe calls for making your own dough, but this is optional as you can buy store bought short crust or flaky pastry. Some people even make it with puff pastry but quite frankly it is not the same. The quantities here are for a baking tray approximately 40cm long by 30cm wide, but if you do not want to make one this big (it makes 48 servings after all!) you can scale down (or even up!) if need be. A baking tray 20cm by 20cm (8 inch) will take about half the amounts. One thing that should not be compromised is the cheese. If you cannot find mature edam (it is quite popular here but not easily found elsewhere) you can replace with parmesan, grana padano or similar.
Swiss chard by itself doesn’t really have much flavour which is why this recipe calls for spinach. However since Swiss chard is seasonal you can replace it will spinach entirely and it will be just as delicious. This recipe calls for cooking the spinach and Swiss chard from fresh and wilt over a medium heat, however if you wish to cheat a little and save some time and work you can also buy it frozen, allow to defrost and squeeze the water as indicated. This pie is usually served either at rooms temperature or cold, and even though it is a bit of a calorie bomb, it make a nice meal on it’s own with some salad. However it is difficult to have just one piece!
For the filling
- 750g spinach (leaves)
- 750g Swiss chard (leaves)
- 100g fresh marjoram (or 50g dried)
- 100g breadcrumbs
- 1 head of garlic (10-12 cloves)
- 150g fresh parsley
- 250ml extra virgin olive oil
- 12 eggs
- 1 tsp ground nutmeg
- 450g mature edam (can be exchanged for parmesan or similar)
- 250g extra mature cheddar
- salt to taste
For the dough
- 700g plain flour
- 350g butter
- 2 eggs
- 4 tbsp water, room temperature
- juice of 2 small lemons or 1.5 large lemons
- 1 tsp salt
For the filling
- Rinse the Swiss chard to remove any dirt and remove the leaf part from the stalk. The stalk can be discarded but can be reused for soups or other dishes, but note that is not used in the pie.
- Roughly chop the Swiss chard leaves and add to a large pan with half a cup (125ml) of water and a pinch of salt on a medium heat in order to wilt the leaves. This can take between 5 -10 minutes. Once the leaves are wilted put them in a colander or sieve for them to cool down and also for them to release any liquid. The leaves don’t need to be completely wilted because they will be baked in the oven anyway, just enough for them to soften.
- Repeat the process with the spinach leaves, although if you buy them in a packet they don’t need to be rinsed. This will take even less than the Swiss chard because they are softer.
- While the spinach and Swiss chard are cooling, finely chop the garlic cloves (peeled), the marjoram and the parsley. This can be done in a food processor if you have one to make life that little bit easier! Add these to a large bowl.
- Add the grated cheese and the breadcrumbs.
- Sprinkle the nutmeg and a teaspoon of salt. Mix it all very well so it is pretty much uniform.
- With your hands squeeze the Swiss chard and the spinach to remove as much water as possible from them.
- Chop the spinach and Swiss chard, add to the bowl and mix again.
- Beat the 12 eggs in another bowl, add to the bowl together with the extra virgin olive oil.
- With your hands mix all the ingredients in the bowl so the filling comes together. Doing it by hand is easier than doing it with a spoon.
- Once it is combined you can taste it for seasoning, but take into account that the cheese will provide extra saltiness and savouriness once baked.
For the dough
- Mix the flour and salt with the butter at room temperature so it becomes of a sandy consistency, much like a crumble.
- Beat the eggs,add the water and the lemon juice and add to the flour mixture. Mix it all together and a dough will form. You can either do it in a mixing machine or by hand.
- Let it rest for 20 minutes. Dive the dough ball into two, but one part, the bottom, should be slightly larger than the other.
- Get the part that is for the bottom and start to stretch it with a rolling pin. For this size pie it may be a bit too big to work with so you can always do this in two or 3 parts and simply join inside the baking tray. Roll until it is about half a centimetre thick.
- The baking tray should should be lined with butter and have flour sprinkled evenly all over. It is preferable for it to be a non stick teflon lined tray as it bakes easier and quicker than a glass pyrex tray.
- Place the dough at the bottom (join the parts if need be) and the sides, and pierce all around and evenly with a fork to ensure it baked well at the base.
- Add the filling to the tray and spread evenly.
- Roll the rest of the dough to the same width (about half a centimetre) and add to the top of the tray. Paint with water where the two sheets of dough will join together so as to form a seal and crimp the edges all around.
- With a skewer pierce the top of the dough lid evenly. It needs to be pierced quite a few times so that the top of the dough doesn’t break.
- Wash the top with milk instead of egg (otherwise the pie crust will become too dark).
- Place in a preheated oven for 45-50 minutes 180C fan until the top is evenly golden in colour.
- Allow to cool completely. This pie is served at room temperature or cold.