The speed and the abundance with which these wild shoots grow is surprising, especially after a light spring rain. Very early this morning, I’ve put my leather boots back on again and walked down my garden, the ground still wet, to pick up some more of these fresh shoots, the same I used to make the risotto a few days ago. (Read here about Bruscandoli, the wild hop shoots and for another recipe made with this ingredient).
The pear tree is in full bloom now. When I pass underneath, looking for some hidden corners where I can find the bruscandoli, some white petals fall in my hair, as if light snow. Maybe tomorrow I’ll come back here to lie down under such a delicate white cloud.
It’s nice to enjoy one’s own garden through the changing of the seasons. I remember when I lived in Milan, the times I was homesick and longing to hear the sound of the leaves without any other background noise, such as that of the constant road traffic. But here, I can even hear the sound of these tiny petals laying softly on the ground. I get almost crazy about it, but I can’t say how much peace it gives me.Tomorrow, I want to come back underneath this tree again to listen to the silence. Then, when I have enough I’ll listen to my jaws chewing something good, because one can’t stay under a blooming pear tree without thinking about having a picnic.
With today’s harvest I’ll prepare a flan that won’t have to go very far. I’ll put it on a wooden tray, then on the windowsill on the square window overlooking the garden and then I’ll take it under the pear tree, passing through the vegetable garden. I already know that my old cat will be there waiting for me. She is constantly purring and sleeps while standing up. She also drools in an absolutely disgusting way. She’s adorable.
Now I’m placing all the ingredients on my very old table, which despite being so old, it becomes more and more beautiful every day. Even though I’m not very careful with it and often leave sticky spoons on it or mark it with the blade of some old knives, it becomes even more special. The sunlight entering from the window makes some patterns on the table that suggests tomorrow will be another fine day.
There is a kind of lightness in the air – or maybe it’s only I who feels it – which makes me fancy baking a flan using some very simple and delicate ingredients, like the rice milk that I’ll use to prepare the cream for the filling and the oat flakes that I’ll use for the dough to make it a little more crunchy. I’ve never made this flan before, I’m making it up right now, using the ingredients I’ve found in my old wooden cupboard with its slightly hunched doors. From time to time I like preparing non-pretentious dishes and using only what I ‘ve got in the house. I’ve learned it from my mother who is always able to cook something delicious, even when, in my opinion at least, the cupboard is practically empty. The vegetable garden is a great resource because in every season it has something to offer and today I want to honor it by making this recipe.
- 100 g oat flakes
- 80 g plain flour
- 3 tbsp chestnuts flour (you can use farro flour instead)
- 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp plain flour
- 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp organic sunflower oil
- 250ml rice milk
- 1 egg
- 1 small bunch of Bruscandoli *(link below for to know where to find them and how to prepare it)
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- A pinch of nutmeg
- Start making the pastry by soaking the oat in a little lukewarm water for about 10 minutes. Squeeze it well to get rid of the water (it'll be a bit gluey) and put it in a bowl. Add the egg, salt and oil and stir well. Mix the plain flour and the chestnut flour together and add to the bowl, a little at a time till you have a firm dough.
- On a lightly dusted wooden surface, use a rolling pin to roll out the pastry to approx. 0,5 cm / ¼ in. thick and to approx. 5cm / 2in. deep. Preheat the oven to 180 C°/350 F°.
- Line the tin with the pastry and prick it with a fork, then cover it with some dry beans or similar (I've used some dry chickpeas) to weigh down the pastry and bake it for approx. 15 minutes. Remove the beans and leave it to cool.
- Start to prepare the sauce for the filling by toasting quickly the flour in a small non-stick pot. Remove it from the heat, add the olive oil and the sunflower oil, stir very well to get rid of any lumps. Add the rice milk, a little at a time and keep stirring using a whisk. Put it back on medium heat stirring constantly until it thickens (a thick creamy consistency). Add the salt and the nutmeg and leave it to cool.
- When cooled, add the egg and the cheese to the sauce and stir well. Add the bruscandoli that you'll have previously cooked and well-drained.
- Fill in the pastry case with the sauce and sprinkle some more of the grated Parmesan on top. Put the flan back into the oven and bake it for approx. 20-25 minutes at 180 C° / 350 F° till the top is golden brown.
- Take the flan out of the oven and leave it to cool a little. Serve warm or cold.
* Read here about Bruscandoli for to know where you can find and how to prepare them for this recipe.