A landscape of both fertile valleys and wooded alps, landlocked Piedmont, in Italy's north-west, has one of the nation's strongest cattle and dairy traditions. Tartra, a custard infused with onion and herbs, served as a dip, is a simple dish reliant on very basic farmhouse ingredients, and has been part of Piedmontese cuisine for centuries. It was often served with bagna cauda, another regional specialty, the pungency of the bagna cauda a contrast to the tartra's richness.
- ½ ciabatta loaf, thinly sliced
- For drizzling: extra-virgin olive oil
- To serve: inner celery stalks
- 50 gm butter, coarsely chopped
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 sprig each rosemary and sage
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- 200 ml pouring cream
- 250 ml milk (1 cup)
- 3 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 20 gm finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (¼ cup)
- 1 garlic head
- 60 ml extra-virgin olive oil (¼ cup)
- 10 anchovy fillets
- Finely grated rind of 1 lemon
- 1For tartra, preheat oven to 170C. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium-high heat, add onion and herbs and stir occasionally until tender (4-5 minutes). Add cream, simmer to infuse (2-3 minutes), remove herbs (discard) then process cream mixture in a food processor until smooth. Transfer to a saucepan over medium heat, add milk and warm through. Whisk eggs, yolks and cheese in a bowl to combine, whisk in milk mixture, season to taste and transfer to two 500ml shallow ovenproof dishes placed in a roasting pan. Place in oven, carefully add water to roasting pan to fill half-way up sides of dishes, and bake until custard sets (30-35 minutes). Remove dishes from pan and cool to room temperature.
- 2Meanwhile, place ciabatta slices on an oven tray, drizzle with oil, season to taste, bake until crisp and golden (5-10 minutes) and set aside.
- 3Increase oven to 200C. For bagna cauda, wrap garlic in foil and roast until very tender (35-40 minutes). When cool enough to handle, squeeze cloves from skins into a food processor, add oil, anchovy and lemon rind, season to taste with freshly ground pepper and process to a smooth purée. Serve with tartra, with ciabatta and celery stalks for dipping.
This recipe is from the April 2012 issue of .