The sweets of Brazil are all absolutely mouth watering and there is always something new to try. But the savory dishes also all have the tendency to keep you coming back for more. This is exactly what happened to me with the heart of palm pie, or, as it is called in Brazil Torta de Palmito.
The first time I ate hearts of palm was in Brazil. Coming from England and the northeast of the United States my exposure to hearts of palm was, well, zero. To me they were an exotic food and at first rather strange. Seeing this white-cylinder-like food was not a normal site and I was a little apprehensive at first to try it. But, after my first bite I was hooked and quickly started ordering anything I could find that came with hearts of palm, and in Brazil that isn’t hard as hearts of palm are used in many dishes!
My introduction to heart of palm pie was my mother-in-laws homemade pie and it goes without saying that I found my favorite pie. After eating my mother-in-laws pie I knew I had to learn how to make it and once I had the recipe I set to work in the kitchen. Not a difficult pie to make, I soon was making this pie for all different occasions, dinners, lunches, and just because I wanted it in the fridge so that I could grab a piece at any time. This pie is wonderful because it is simple, you can add other ingredients if you like, such as peas or green olives, and you can eat it in many different ways: for lunch, as a snack, for a light dinner, or as a side with a big dinner. My favorite is to have it for lunch or a light dinner with a big side of salad.
After having made this pie many times there are a couple of things I always like to keep in mind when making it:
= Add the water, a little at a time, when making the pastry
= Don’t work the pastry too much; once it forms a ball, don’t work it anymore
= Leave the pastry for at least 1 hour; this has usually given me the best results
= The ketchup is not a MUST. I usually do a little bit less than what the recipe asks for; GO BY TASTE!
= When adding the milk: I dissolve the cornstarch in one cup of milk, then pour this into the pan, I only add the remaining 1/2 cup of milk a little at a time. The mixture needs to remain thick, and I never like to cook it too long because otherwise everything turns to mush!
= Adding the peas or olives gives more flavor and color, but are not absolutely necessary!
= I like to eat this pie a little above room temperature; let it cool for at least 15-20 minutes before eating.
Where to buy Heart of Palm: You can usually find canned heart of palm in most supermarkets. Take a look in the international foods section and it is likely to be there. Otherwise, take a look at some links that I have here to order online!
For the Crust
500g (2½ cups) All-purpose white flour
200g unsalted butter
1/3 tablespoon salt
½ cup cold water
For the Filling
40g (3 tbsp) butter
1 large onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
600g (21oz) hearts of palm (about 2 jars), thinly sliced
2 tbsp ketchup
1 vegetable bouillon cube
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 1/2 cups milk
2 tbsp parsley leaves (or cheiro verde), finely chopped
1 cup frozen peas (optional)
1 cup pitted green olives, finely sliced (optional)
salt and black pepper
For the crust, combine the flour, salt, and butter in a large bowl, rub with your finger tips until the mixture resembles bread crumbs, and then add cold water, little by little, as needed, working the dough until it is smooth and does not stick to your hands (you can use a food processor).
Wrap the dough with plastic wrap (cling film) and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 days.
For the filling, heat butter and a drizzle of olive oil in a medium pot, add onion and, when it begins to brown, add garlic, and fry until fragrant.
Mix in sliced hearts of palm, ketchup, vegetable bouillon cube, and cornstarch – previously dissolved in 1 ½ cups milk – and, stirring constantly, cook until it boils and thickens.
Adjust salt and pepper and, if necessary, correct acidity by adding a pinch of sugar; fold in chopped parsley (or cheiro verde), frozen peas, and sliced olives and let cool.
To assemble the pie, use a 30cm (12inch) spring form pan, or an ovenproof dish, if you’re not considering removing the pie from the dish.
Dust a work surface with flour and, using a rolling pin, roll out a large portion of the dough into a circle about 45cm (18inch) in diameter.
Line bottom and sides of one pan with this circle and spoon the filling into it. Roll out the remaining dough into a circle about the diameter of the pan and cover the pie, pressing the two crusts together gently to seal.
Cut out decorative shapes and press them onto the top crust, brush with egg yolk, and refrigerate for about 15 minutes, while you preheat the oven to 180C (350F/moderate/Gas 4).
Bake pie for about 45 minutes, until the crust and tip are deep golden brown. Remove from heat, wait 10 minutes, and remove from pans onto serving platters (or refrigerate and heat thoroughly in the oven before serving).
For a PDF of this Recipe CLICK HERE!