About Sofia Larrinua-Craxton

I have a BSc in Food Science, a BA in Humanities and Hispanic Studies and have finished an MA in Anthropology of food, I cook and like growing my own food. I live of my cooking and of teaching how to cook. I am interested on food issues like food poverty, sustainability and the relationship between humans and how we produce and eat our food.

Tarta Pascualina / Easter Pie

As Easter approaches fast, I would like to share a seasonal recipe for a delicious pie that is eaten in Italy as well as in South America: Tarta Pascualina.  I first came across this dish in Mexico City, at an Uruguayan home, the one that belongs to the family of my very good friend Ana.

One day she offered us a spinach pie with eggs that was very different to anything I had eaten before ‘La Tarta Pascualina’ they called it.  Later on I found out that this dish originates in Genoa, port from which many migrants sailed off to find a future in the new world.  To distant lands these intrepid travellers went, and so to Argentina and Uruguay they arrived.   These migrants took with them the nostalgic flavours of home, particularly those which are linked to celebrations like Easter and they therefore took with them Tarta Pascualina.

This dish contains the word spring all over; it is made with the first young tender spring greens and it contains a high symbolic value because it is served at Easter time, hence the word ‘pascualina’: Pascua = Easter.  Since it is an easter/spring dish, it contains eggs which are folkloric symbols of resurection.

I first had this pie, not at Easter but as part of a South American buffet that my friend’s family hosted.  Julio her father was known for making this dish his speciality and delicious it was.  I remember eating this warm pie with a little tomato salad and it was very good.

My friendship with Ana has survived many years in spite of us being separated by thousands of miles and the memory of this pie stayed in my mind always.

Below is a recipe that is similar to the one Julio makes, however I have changed the pastry and here I use hot watercrust pastry, which is one of the easiest types of pastry and one that produces spectacular results.  I make a raised Pascualina pie by putting it inside a springform cake tin, filling with a spinach and pepper mixture and by placing some eggs inside, then the whole thing is baked, left to cool down and eaten with some garlicky tomato salad with basil, when you eat this, you will be transported perhaps to Genoa, but certainly to Montevideo.

An Easter egg from Rococo Chocolate

An Easter egg from Rococo Chocolate

Tarta Pascualina

For a deep cake tin about 20 – 23 cm in diameter:

450 g flour

1 tsp salt

100 g lard

100 g butter (you can use 200 g butter only)

225 ml milk and water mixed in equal proportions

Warm a mixing bowl and sift in the flour and salt, make a well in the centre

Heat the lard/butter or only butter in the milk and water until just boiling

Pour this mix into the well in the flour and stir quickly with a wooden spoon until thick

Continue working by hand to a smooth dough.

Cut in two, wrap in cling film and chill for about 30 minutes

Roll the pastry in two sheets of greaseproof paper until it is about 5 mm in height and the pastry fits the size of your tin, one is for the mould itself and the other one for the lid.

For the filling:

1 kg leaf spinach

1 Tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions, finely chopped

3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 red peppers, char-grilled and skinned, finely chopped

6 eggs

100 g grated Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese

Salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste

Wash the spinach and place in a pan, heat up without adding any water, cook stirring until it completely collapses.

Sauté the onions with some olive oil until soft, add the garlic and continue cooking until soft.

Add the spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg.  Cook and season accordingly

Take off the heat and add the grated cheese, 2 beaten eggs and the peppers.  Mix very well.

Put this mixture on the baking tin filled with pastry; make 3 spaces in the filling.  Break an egg and put its contents in this space, repeat with the other 2 spaces.  Put the pastry lid on the pie seal.  Using a fork prick the pie avoiding the eggs.  Brush with a beaten egg.

Put in the oven and bake for about 40 – 50 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown. To un-mould, loosen up the sides using a knife and open the hinge (or spring). Brush with egg all over the sides and put in the oven for another 10 minutes so that the pie goes golden brown all over.

Sprouting Broccoli

After many months of waiting for the ‘triffid’ plants also known as sprouting broccoli, here they are finally ready to be harvested.  If you grow broccoli, you will have been waiting almost as much as waiting for a child to be born!  Now is the time to be rewarded with the shoots of broccoli.

Here is a simple recipe that uses both green and purple sprouts, you don’t need to use both, they can be interchanged, also instead of boiling, you can pan fry them until they are golden or roast on a tray with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until soft outside and crunchy inside.

Warm Broccoli Salad

Serves 6

1 head of Broccoli, separated into florets

200 g sprouted purple broccoli

50 g crumbled fetta cheese

70 ml extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp dried oregano

1 Tbsp flat leaf parsley, chopped

The juice of half a large lemon or 1 small one

Salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp pine-nuts, toasted

black olives


Boil both types of broccoli in separate saucepans of lightly salted water until soft but still firm, about 4 minutes [you can pan fry the florets or even roast them instead].  Drain very well and combine in a warmed salad bowl.  Sprinkle the fetta cheese on top.  Mix oil, oregano, parsley and lemon juice together, heat the dressing up in a microwave or gently warm up in a saucepan.  Add to the broccoli –be extra careful because this might sizzle.  Lift and turn the pieces to mix properly.

Sprinkle the toasted pine-nuts and black olives.  Serve immediately.

Leeks, glorious leeks!

Leeks are in season right now and if you grow your own, I need not to tell you that they are just like asparagus, best when they are young and do little to them, braise them in wine for instance or pan-fry them with a little olive oil.

Larger leeks are slightly tougher and they need more time to soften, braising again is a good method of preparation.   Below is a nice recipe from Jane Grigson’s great Vegetable Book, for a very simple Leek Pie.

Flemish Leek Pie


125 g butter

1 medium onion

375 g leeks, sliced

125 g double cream

1 tsp plain flour

salt and pepper to taste

500 g puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

In half the butter, cook the onion slowly to soften, add the rest of the butter and put in the leeks.  Cover the pan and leave the vegetables to cook for 5 minutes.  If there is much liquid left, raise the heat to evaporate, making sure the vegetables do not brown or burn!

Beat the cream into the flour to make a smooth paste and stir it into the leeks.  Cook for one minute, then remove from the heat, season and cool down.

Roll out the pastry and cut two large circles, one slightly bigger than the other.  Put the smallr of the two on a moistened baking sheet.  Spread the leek filling in the middle, leaving a 2 cm rim.  Brush the rim with egg.  Place the larger circle over the top.  Press the edges firmly together and twist to seal.  Make a hole in the centre of the lid and score the pastry lightly with the tip of a knife.  Brush with the beaten egg and bake for 15 minutes at 220 C / Gas Mark 7, then lower to 180 C / Gas mark 4 and continue baking for 20 minutes.

If you have a wet filling or if you are unsure about baking a flat pie, you can always fit in a cake or flan tin 22-23 cm in diameter.

Something delicious to do with Cavolo Nero

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Here is another good recipe for cabbage cooking, today it is the turn of delicious Cavolo Nero, which is not only abundant, but especially tasty, because this nice brassica, improves its flavour with a good frost!

Celery is in season as well in January/February, so it is good to try these two vegetables in this dish.

Braised celery, red onions and Cavolo Nero

Serves 4

1 Tbsp olive oil

1 large red onion

½ head celery

500 g curly kale or cavolo nero or any other beautiful seasonal cabbage or spring greens

50 ml olive oil

50 ml water

a good measure of vermouth about 50 ml.

the zest of a lemon

salt and pepper to taste

1 Tbsp parmesan (optional)


Pre-heat the oven to 180 C

Cut the onion into wedges

Trim the celery and slice in a diagonal, 1 inch slices are nice

Trim and wash the kale, reserve

In a large pan, heat up 1 Tbsp of olive oil and sauté the onion for one minute; add some of the greens and sauté for another minute.  Transfer to a baking tray and mix well with the celery and the rest of the greens.

Mix the oil and water with the vermouth and pour this mix onto the vegetables, mix to coat well, season with salt and pepper and cover tightly with foil.  Put in the oven and leave to braise until the vegetables are soft.  This can take about 30 minutes.  If you want to make this dish in advance, cook until the vegetables start to look cooked but they still feel al dente, later on you can put back in the oven and continue cooking until they are soft; this last process can last about 8 minutes. Once ready, mix with the lemon zest.

Serve on a dish and decorate with some shaved or grated parmesan and eat immediately.

Half marathon on behalf of Second Sight

I need your money and with that to help restore the sight of millions of people in rural India.

Last October my husband Oliver finally got a place to run the London marathon and in solidarity I started training again, this time the training happened with my friend Paula who had done very little running in the past.  We did a programme that begins with one minute jog and it stretches to complete a whole marathon.  I had decided to train with Paula and hopefully get her to like jogging, and also I wanted to do all the training with Oliver as well.

What began as a solidarity campaign, has become a challenge that I feel I need to complete on behalf of Paula and Oliver!  At this point Paula is unsure she can join due to personal issues and Oliver is not able to compete for health reasons.

This means that I am training more or less alone and this is quite challenging…, now the running has more meaning, I am doing this to get funds to help second sight

To run 13 miles is nothing compared to the daily challenges that blind people have to endure to live a normal life.  There are millions of people in rural India who are blind due to cataracts, they don’t need to be and they won’t be if you help to sponsor Second Sight, you can do this by sponsoring my run, by buying this book or from your own initiative.

Twenty pounds is enough to buy a round of drinks at a pub, a meal at a mediocre restaurant or to restore somebody’s sight in India.   If you want even more for your money you can give twenty pounds and get this very inspiring book that tells you the story of this interesting charity.  ALL the money raised goes towards restoring people’s sight.

So come on! Like Bob Geldof once said GIVE US YOUR MONEY and restore the life of somebody by giving back their sight.   To make it extra easy, click here and donate.


Thank you.

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Caldo Verde or something delicious to do with a Savoy Cabbage

Wintertime is cabbage time and here is a recipe that is says simplicity all over: Caldo Verde.  This is a very simple Portuguese soup that uses Savoy cabbage which is abundant at this time of year, you can also use spring greens, Cavolo Nero, and plain or curly kale for this.

This is a meatless version, if you want to add meat, try some pan fried pancetta, chorizo or some sausage.  Delicious winter warmer, cheer me up type food!

Serves 4 – 6

Medium sized Savoy cabbage about 400 g

1 kg potatoes

3 garlic cloves, peeled and made into a puree

2 large tomatoes, peeled, seeded and finely chopped

1.5 litres of vegetable stock

½ tsp pimenton –maybe more according to taste

salt and pepper to taste

Garnish with finely chopped parsley that is pounded with olive oil and pimenton –if you want you can add a little garlic to this mix.

Prepare the cabbage by removing the outer leaves and cut into quarters, then core and slice very finely.   Peel and dice the potatoes and put in a pan with the garlic, tomato, pimenton and stock.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes and break the potatoes to a rough puree.  Season with salt and pepper and add more pimenton if you want.

Just before serving, add the sliced cabbage, bring to a simmer and cook for about 5 minues or until the cabbage has cooked.

Make a garnish by putting some finely chopped parsley, pimenton a clove of garlic and some olive oil, pound and mix until it resembles a puree.

Serve in bowls and put a teaspoon of the garnish.

A wine event

François Rabelais University, Tours, France
and the European Institute for the History and Cultures of Food, Tours, France (IEHCA)
announce the Ninth summer school in Tours, France
August 28 to September 4, 2011
Wine, economy and social norms
In most cultures, alcoholic beverages have a symbolic function. For various reasons, the place of wine is quite special. Consumed regularly, wine has profound economic and cultural connotations. The choice of a wine defines the nature of an occasion (solemn, official, convivial or intimate) and the relationship between drinkers. Whatever the occasion, the social and cultural meanings of various wines and “crus” are quite complex, following subtle rules (connected to ordering and context, etc.), such that the drinking of wine has given rise to its own vocabulary and related discourse. As a powerful marker of social status, wine choice and consumption may also be used as a means to identify oneself with a community, or nation. Drinking wine is therefore a means of affirming ones identity, as well as communicating, associating, and sharing with others.
Following on the proliferation of historical, anthropological and sociological works on the production, trade and consumption of wine, this Summer School will view wine through the lens of the long-term, exploring a range of methods and concepts while encouraging interdisciplinary approaches.
Thibaut Boulay, Maître de conférences, ancient history, University François-Rabelais, Tours, France
Allen J. Grieco, Senior Research Associate, Harvard University Center for Italian Renaissance Studies, Villa I Tatti, Florence, Italy
Marc Jacobs, Director FARO, Flemish interface centre for cultural heritage, Brussels, Belgium,
Peter Scholliers, Professor of History, Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Brussels, Belgium
Harry West, Professor of Anthropology, Chair Food Studies Centre, SOAS, University of London,
If you are interested, please contact Marie-Claude Piochon at: mc.piochon@iehca.eu who will forward a program (latest update) and the registration forms.