WITH EASTER Sunday rapidly approaching I thought I would share with you a recipe for a traditional Neapolitan Easter cake that is undoubtedly unique in texture and flavour and most certainly reminds me of my heritage.

When I was a child my Nonna (grandmother) used to make it every year for the family get-together at Easter, and when she passed away my Nonno (grandfather) took up the role for a while, then my sister.

Recently it varies as to who makes the cake, all I know is that instead of getting Easter eggs I get Pastiera, and I love it!

As I have never made this cake myself before, I thought I would ask my Zia Giovanna who makes the best Pastiera for her secret recipe, although it’s not too secret anymore!

The modern version of this cake was invented by a nun in the Neapolitan convent of San Gregorio Armeno and takes at least two days to prepare.

This is due to the fact you need to soak whole wheat grain for 24 hours in water, cook the grain then rest it overnight to fully take on the flavours. Usually we start preparing this on Thursday or Easter Friday to be enjoyed on Easter Sunday.

These days you can cheat by buying precooked whole wheat in jars but somehow it never seems to taste the same. Lucky for me Zia Giovanna is a traditionalist!

Ingredients – Serves around 12 people

The pie crust

• 450g flour

• 225g lard (at room temperature)

• 200g sugar

• 4 egg yolks

The Grain

• 225g whole wheat (this needs to be soaked for 24 hours in several changes of water) or canned cooked wheat called ‘grano cotto’ which you can buy in most Italian delicatessens

• 375 milk

• The zest of half an orange

• A walnut sized piece of lard

• 1 teaspoon sugar

• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

The filling

• 300g ricotta

• 150g sugar

• 3 eggs, separated

• ¼ cup acqua di fiori d’arancio (orange blossom water), this again can be purchased from an Italian delicatessen

• A pinch of powdered cinnamon

• ¼ cup candied citron peel

• ¼ cup candied orange peel

• ¼ cup candied squash

Grain Preparation – 2 days

• If you have chosen to buy whole wheat grain then this needs to be soaked in water for 24 hours, changing the water several times.

• Drain the wheat well and put in a saucepan with the milk, zest, lard, sugar and vanilla and cook over a very low flame extract for four hours or until the grain comes apart and the milk has been absorbed so that the mixture is dense and creamy

• At this stage remove the grain, cool, cover and put in the fridge overnight