Maltese Ricotta Pie with Lemon Syrup and Pistachios
by eat in my kitchen
My friend Essa baked a wonderful cake a few years ago that I never managed to get out of my head. It was a Maltese cheesecake made with ricotta and eggs on top of a thin short crust base topped with sticky lemon syrup and chopped pistachios. It was so good, I dreamt of it! We enjoyed it in her Mediterranean garden, the rustic limestone walls covered in fragrant blue plumbago and white stephanotis flowers – the tantalizing smell of the south and a sweet pie on my plate.
Years have past, Essa forgot about the recipe and I, sadly, couldn’t find the copy that I had made – until a few days ago. I gave it a go in my Maltese mother’s house, in Jenny’s kitchen, the same day I made the happy discovery and it came out as amazing as I remembered it. The filling refined with lemon zest is creamy but fluffy, not as dense as a New York cheesecake. The sticky and sour syrup on top and the generous amount of crunchy nuts turn this cake into something so delicious that I soon regretted the size of the pie tin I chose. We ate it all within less than an hour!
Maltese Ricotta Cake with sticky Lemon Syrup and Pistachios
For a 20cm / 8″ pie form you need
short crust dough 250g / 9 ounces (you can use 1/3 of the pastry from my fruit tart recipe, click here)
ricotta 380g / 13 1/2 ounces
lemon zest 1 heaped teaspoon
organic eggs 3
sugar 100g / 1/2 cup
butter, melted, 40g / 2 heaped tablespoons
semolina (fine) 1 heaped tablespoon
pistachios (unsalted), chopped, 40g / 1 1/2 ounces, for the topping
For the lemon syrup
freshly squeezed lemon juice 75ml / 1/3 cup
sugar 50g / 1/4 cup
honey 1 heaped tablespoon
Prepare the dough, form a thick disc, wrap in cling film and put in the freezer for 20 minutes.
Set the oven to 200°C / 390°F (top/ bottom heat).
Roll out the dough between cling film and line your pie form with the flat pastry. Prick with a fork and bake it in the hot oven for 12 minutes. Take it out when it’s golden and set aside. Turn the oven down to 190°C / 375°F.
In a large bowl, whisk the ricotta, zest, eggs and sugar. Add the melted butter and semolina and whisk until well combined. Pour the cheese filling on top of the pre-baked pastry and bake for about 30-40 minutes or until just set (I use a gas oven in Malta so the baking time can be different in an electric oven).
For the syrup, bring the lemon juice, sugar and honey in a sauce pan to the boil and cook for about 4-5 minutes on high heat until thick and golden. Whisk once in a while and mind that it bubbles up while cooking, it shouldn’t burn!
Drizzle the syrup over the ricotta cake and sprinkle generously with pistachios.