CHERRY AND RICOTTA STRUDEL

Oh my, are we here already? It's Summer's eve and November seems to have rolled into December like a steam train. Soon the christmas parties will start filling up the calendar and the weather will turn so unbearably hot that we will all pine for the water and be dreaming of somewhere, someplace, just a little cooler. This time of the year, however, also brings with it an abundance of irresistible fruits, the kinds that you find yourself besotted with in the market, filled with their heady aromas. Mangos, peaches, nectarine and my goodness, so many beautiful cherries. 

We picked up some stunning ones from my friends Matt & Lentil from Grown and Gathered  . My first taste of summer's bounty, and what a treat! Most of them were devoured before we even arrived home – balancing an armful of them wrapped in newspaper as we meandered home. With some foresight, I kept some aside to make this cherry and ricotta strudel. Flaky buttery pastry, sweet cherries and spiced ricotta! I've also included two versions, one requires you to make your own pastry (which I assure you isn't all that tricky) and the other using bought filo pastry brushed with melted butter and scattered bread crumbs and cinnamon! The latter produces a dangerously moreish result! You can also swap the fresh cherries for Amarena sour cherries which turns this into an anytime strudel, rather than just a Summer one!

Summer's first cherries from  Grown & Gathered

Summer's first cherries from Grown & Gathered

CHERRY & RICOTTA FILLING

400 g ricotta cheese

90 g caster sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

60g almond meal

1 egg, lightly beaten

175 g Amarena cherries, drained, or 175g fresh cherries, pitted and halved

85 g plain flour

PASTRY (OPTION 1)

50 g dry breadcrumbs

95 g caster sugar

1 tsp ground cinnamon

4 sheets of filo pastry

100 g unsalted butter, melted

PASTRY (OPTION 2)

300g '00' flour

2tbsp extra virgin olive oil

100 g unsalted butter, melted

Illustration by Mara Lythgo

Illustration by Mara Lythgo

FOR THE FILLING

In a bowl, mix the ricotta, sugar, cinnamon and almond meal together. Add the egg and mix to combine. Dust the cherries in the flour and shake to remove the excess. Set aside.

PASTRY OPTION 1

Preheat oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Combine the breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon in a small bowl and set aside. Lay the first sheet of filo on the baking tray. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with some of the breadcrumb mixture. Place another sheet of filo on top of the first one and repeat the process with remaining filo and breadcrumb mixture, keeping some of the mixture aside for the top. 

PASTRY OPTION 2

Preheat oven to 200C and line a baking tray with baking paper. In a large bowl, place the flour and a tsp of salt. Slowly add 200ml luke warm water and the olive oil. Mix to combine and then turn out onto a lightly floured bench. Knead until dough is soft and elastic, for around 7 minutes. This can also be done in a mixer fitted with a dough hook. Leave to rest for an hour.

When dough is ready, begin to roll out on a floured bench. Then gently stretch out using your hands until dough is very thin, almost translucent and forms a rectangular shape. You can lay a tea towel under the dough to stop it from sticking (this will also help you when rolling up the strudel). Trim the thick edges and discard.

TO ASSEMBLE

Spread the ricotta mixture across the short side of the pastry, leaving a 3cm border around the edges. Scatter the flour-dusted cherries over the ricotta mixture. Roll the pastry up widthways to form a roll, being careful not to tear the pastry. As you roll the pastry, brush with melted butter and tuck in the edges to seal. Brush the strudel with the remaining melted butter and the last of the breadcrumb mixture if using option 1. Bake the strudel for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden. Cool slightly and serve in slices with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.