M’pigliati (Calabrian 'Mince Pies')

M’pigliati (Calabrian 'Mince Pies') from Francesco Mazzei's Mezzogiorno

In accordance with the cucina povera tradition, pastry in the South is very often made using pork fat (lard), which is not only a way of avoiding waste, but also of adding a bit of richness and flavour (if you don’t like the idea you can easily use butter or olive oil instead).

These small pastries are quite dry on their own – the paste in the middle is similar to a sticky mince pie filling and they have quite a generous amount of pastry – but to serve them, you drench them with mosto cotto, which makes them beautifully moist. It also means that the pastries will keep for a couple of weeks if you store them in an airtight container – just keep feeding them with mosto cotto like you would a Christmas cake.

This might sound strange but I usually have my m’pigliata with a slice of pecorino as I like the sweet and savoury combination. However, they’re usually served with a glass of Marsala, and are often the dolci we serve to friends who drop by in the afternoon.

For how many? Makes 7

Ingredients

  • For the pastry:
  • 2 eggs
  • 500g strong flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp grappa
  • 1 tbsp Marsala
  • 200g whipping cream
  • 10g lard or olive oil or butter, at room temperature
  • For the filling:
  • 50g walnuts
  • 50g hazelnuts
  • 50g pistachios
  • 50g dried figs, roughly chopped
  • 150g blossom honey
  • To finish:
  • 2 egg yolks, beaten
  • 250ml mosto cotto (grape must syrup)

Instructions

Mix all the pastry ingredients together using a spatula until fully combined. You should have a soft but not sticky dough. Form the dough into a ball, cover with cling film and chill overnight.

For the filling, put the nuts and dried fruit into a food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Add the honey and pulse again until you have a chunky paste. Chill overnight.

The next day, heat the oven to 220ºC /fan 200ºC /gas 7. Line a baking tray with baking paper.

On a lightly floured work surface or using a pasta machine, roll the pastry into a rectangle 1mm thick. The pasta machine is the easiest way to ensure it's thin enough; you should almost see your hand through it when you lift it up. Trim the edges and cut the pastry into strips of 25 × 4cm (I used a crimped pastry cutter for the picture) then brush them with the beaten egg yolk.

Dust a work surface very lightly with icing sugar, then roll the filling into 1.5cm-diameter sausages long enough to fit the length of the pastry (25cm). Lay the rolls down the middle of each pastry strip, wrap the pastry up around it and brush the top and sides with more beaten egg so that they stick together. Carefully roll the filled pastry into a pinwheel shape. Repeat – you should have seven pinwheels. Place on the lined tray and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until golden brown. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Once cool, drizzle over the mosto cotto (they should be drenched) and serve.

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