A pithivier is a classic French savoury pastry, with a distinctive round shape and sunbeam pattern scored on top. Here the pastry is filled with potatoes, red peppers, spinach and garlic in colourful layers.
1 x 450g/1lb bag baby potatoes
5 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1¼ tsp caster sugar
1½ tsp chopped rosemary
1½ tsp chopped thyme
2 tbsp chopped tarragon
500g/1lb 2oz spinach, washed
200g/7oz soft goat’s cheese
130g/4½ oz mature cheddar cheese, grated
2 free-range eggs
salt and freshly ground pepper
For the rough puff pastry, sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour. Do not take it to the fine breadcrumbs stage, as we want squashed pieces of butter showing in the mix. Add 140-150ml water to bring it all together. This dough does not require kneading.
Flour a work surface and roll out the dough into a neat rectangle that is three times longer than its width. Fold one-third of the dough towards the centre and cover this with the other third, so it is neatly folded, like a letter. Cover the dough and rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
Remove the dough from the fridge and with the long side towards you, roll it out again to three times as long as it is wide, and fold as before. Turn the folded dough 90 degrees and repeat the rolling and folding. Cover the dough and let it rest again for a minimum of 20 minutes in the fridge (up to an hour if you have the time). The dough is now ready to use.
For the potato layer, cook the new potatoes in salted, boiling water until tender. Drain the potatoes and set aside to cool. Once cool, cut the potatoes into 5mm/¼ in slices. Place the potato slices onto a plate, season with freshly ground black pepper, and set aside.
For the red pepper layer, heat olive oil and butter in a large frying pan. Cook the sliced peppers for five minutes, or until soft. Add the ground cumin, sugar and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and mix well. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
For the spinach and caramelised garlic layer, simmer the garlic cloves in boiling water for three minutes. Drain well. Transfer the garlic cloves to a large saucepan and fry in olive oil for four minutes, until gently browned.
Add the balsamic vinegar and 240ml/9fl oz water to the garlic cloves and simmer for 10 minutes.
Add the sugar, rosemary, thyme, tarragon and season with salt. Simmer until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are coated with the dark caramel.
Heat the spinach in a large saucepan, until it starts to wilt. Season the spinach, then drain and press out as much water as possible. Mix the spinach into the garlic mixture. Whisk together the soft goat’s cheese and one of the eggs. Add this to the spinach and mix thoroughly. Set aside until needed.
Preheat oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.
To assemble the pithivier, roll out two discs of pastry, one 32cm/13in diameter for the base, and one 35cm/14in diameter for the top and 3mm/ 1/8in thick.
Whisk the remaining egg to use as egg-wash. Place the pastry disc for the base onto non-stick parchment lined baking tray. Brush the edges with egg-wash, leaving an unwashed area in the centre the size of a saucer or side plate.
Layer on the sliced potatoes, leaving a 4cm/1½in border around edge. Season with freshly ground black pepper.
Next, layer on the prepared red peppers, covering the potatoes.
Then lay the garlic and spinach mixture, over the red peppers.
Sprinkle the grated cheddar cheese on top. Using your hands, neaten the filling into a mound.
Place the larger pastry disc on top of the filling and let it join up with the base. Press both together to seal. Cut off excess pastry.
Create a scalloped edge using the back of a knife by pressing the pastry between your thumb and forefinger. Transfer to the fridge to rest for 15 minutes.
Remove the pithivier from the fridge and brush with egg-wash. Make a small hole in the centre and four other small openings around the upper edge to allow steam to escape.
Using a small knife, decorate the pithivier with a radiating sunbeam pattern; start at the centre of the pastry, mark lines running out the edge. Avoid cutting all the way through. You can also score the scalloped edge.
Bake the pithivier in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 200C/400F/Gas 6 and continue to bake for another 15-20 minutes.
When cooked, cool the pithivier on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temperature.
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Paul and Mary share some of their favourite festive recipes in this one-off special.
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