Food

Spinach & Anchovy Pies – Maltese Qassatat

Date: 18 Apr 2014 Author: Jacqui Categories: Food, International Cuisine, Main Dishes, Savory Snacks & Nibbles Comments

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This is the Maltese Qassatat Recipe that was featured for the Month of April on a US Celiac Site, Celiac Corner (www.celiaccorner.com).  For all those foreigners who have stumbled on my website, in Malta we have these lovely pastries called Qassatat, (plural, single would be Qassata) with a silent Q, and pronounced AS-SA-TAT, which are a Maltese street food, found in these little shops scattered all over the island. They are very popular and they appear in these shops early in the morning together with another type of pastry called Pastizzi and these are sold throughout the whole day. They are like open-topped shortcrust pastries and come with three fillings, Ricotta, Peas and Spinach & Anchovy.

They look like little money bags ‘pleated’ at the top. That is the traditional way. You have to have a knack for getting them so perfect! When I was a kid, mum used to make these in mini form every Saturday evening without fail. Her pastry was so good. I used to love them cold the next day!  Well that was before I was diagnosed Celiac.

I miss these pies and so wanted to try them out.  And I have made, with great success, shortcrust pastry for qassatat and savory pies. The secrets to this delicious pastry are two. The first is that items have to be freezing cold and the second … wait for it … Vodka!  The simple explanation for Vodka is that this gives the dough, the liquid a dough needs to come together but being mostly alcohol, evaporates in the oven, leaving you with a flaky dough.  So do not be afraid to use it.  Apart from the fact that you are using a small amount, there will also be no taste since it evaporates.  It is a really melt-in-your mouth pastry!

* I have tried making this pastry using shop bought flour mixes, however the result was very disappointing.  As you will notice in GF baking, you cannot just swop flour with any other flour.  My flour mix can be found under Resources, GF Flours Tab.  It is simple to put together ie if you find and have all the ingredients.  I can assure you that you will not be disappointed.

UPDATE

** I have changed some of the flour mix ingredients which have made the pastry even more tasty and light! I have used Sorghum Flour instead of the Brown Rice Flour (in the flour mix) and have decreased the amount of butter by 60 g and replaced that amount with strutto or vegetable shortening instead.  If you do not find Sorghum Flour, just use the Brown Rice Flour.  You will still have great results.

For the amounts below I made twelve mini pies.

Ingredients

    • 300g gluten free flour*
    • 1tsp gluten free baking powder
    • 160g butter, cut into cubes
    • 70 grams water (weigh this on digital scales)
    • 30 grams vodka
    • 1tsp of sea salt

Method for Pastry


Before you start this pastry, please follow these steps.

Put the measured flour with the baking powder in a bag, the water and the butter in the freezer for about 2 hours.  Cut the butter in small cubes BEFORE as otherwise it would be too difficult to cut the butter once frozen.  Take the items out of the freezer, place the flour mix and the butter pieces in a food processor and mix until it looks like coarse crumbs. Start adding the Vodka followed by the icy water till it starts coming together. Be flexible with the ratios, some times it needs less liquid. Tip the dough in a plastic bag and knead it briefly through the plastic and then place in the fridge for another two hours before using. With this flour mix, I found that I do not have to use any paper when rolling out the dough. It is soft and pliable and does not stick.  Use this dough for any of your savory pies, qassatat or quiche bases. It behaves perfectly!

Whilst the dough is chilling, you can prepare the filling.  I made Spinach and Anchovy Filling below.  You can find the Ricotta Filling and the Pea Filling on another post.


Ingredients for the Spinach & Anchovy Filling

      • 1 onion
      • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
      • 2/3 anchovy fillets, more if you like a stronger taste
      • 1 package frozen spinach, defrosted
      • 1 can of tuna
      • 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
      • 10 large pitted and chopped black olives
      • 2 tbsp capers
      • Salt & Pepper
      • Beaten Egg for glazing

In a pan, fry the onion until translucent.  Then add the garlic and anchovies, breaking them up as you cook. Add also the spinach and peas and cook until tender. Throw in the tuna, the chopped olives and capers and mix well.  Season. Take off the heat and leave to cool before using.

Method


On a floured surface, roll out the dough and cut rounds of dough around 4 to 5 inches in diameter. Glaze the inside with beaten eggs. Place a spoonful of filling in the center and gather the dough up towards the center making pleats as you go along to make into our traditional qassatat, or else follow my steps below and shape like roses.

phonto(8)This is an easier way rather than folding into pleats.  That way you do not ‘strain’ the delicate pastry too much.

Glaze with egg wash and bake in a 160 degree oven until golden brown.  You may need to cover them with foil so the tops will not burn, until all the pastry is cooked.

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