Barbagiuan is a savory, filled pastry originating in Monaco and is mainly found in the eastern part of the French Riviera and in northern Italy.
Barbagiuan, in the Monegasque language means ‘Uncle John’. It is thought that, long enough ago for the story to become the dish’s folklore, someone named Jean didn’t have a sauce for his ravioli and so stuffed it with Swiss chard and fried it instead. This new creation spread in popularity and became known as ‘Barbagiuan’ – a nod, in name, to its famous culinary creator. Across the border, in Italy, this pastry is called ‘Barbagiuai’ and the main difference is that it is filled with pumpkin.
There are two elements to Barbagiuan; the pastry and the filling. The two main ingredients that make up a traditional Barbagiuan are Swiss chard and ricotta, but there are various fillings – rice, onion, Parmesan cheese – that you’ll find included too. Despite its original recipe, many Monegasques will have had the recipe passed on down to them, so each family batch of Barbagiuan will have its own unique touch.
Being Monaco’s national dish, Barbagiuan is most notably eaten on the Principality’s national day, on November 19. On a daily basis, Barbagiuan is considered an appetizer or a small snack, so you’ll find it in the markets of Monaco. If you’re visiting, head to La Condamine market or find it served as a starter when eating out.
More recently, the Fete du Barbagiuan, which is celebrated tomorrow, – a festival of all things connected to Barbagiuan – has been set up to celebrate and educate on the national dish. Cooking demonstrations, classes and events are put on by A Roca, a company that promotes regional gastronomy.
Recipe (makes 20 portions)
|For the pastry
200g plain flour
|For the filling
15ml olive oil
Prepare the pastry
Sift the flour and salt into a bowl.
Add the olive oil and half the egg white and blend with a fork. Reserve the rest of the egg for the filling.
Add just enough water to bring the pastry together as a firm dough.
Turn this out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 min).
Wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Prepare the filling
Heat the olive oil in a shallow pan over medium heat and add the onion and leek and fry until golden (about 5 minutes).
Add the chard, spinach and oregano and fry until the chard is tender (about 10 minutes).
Transfer the contents of the skillet to a bowl and then mix in the cheeses and the leftover egg from the pastry.
Season with salt and pepper and set aside to cool.
Roll the dough out on a lightly floured work surface to about 2mm thick.
Use a floured 6cm round pastry cutter and cut into as many rounds as you can.
Gather the scraps, re-roll out and cut again. You should end up with about 20 circles.
Place 1 tsp of the filling in the centre of each pastry round and brush the edges with the egg white.
Fold the dough over to form a semi-circle and press the edges with the ends of a fork to seal.
As you complete each pastry, transfer to a baking tray lined with foil.
Note: at this stage you can freeze the pasties and then thaw before cooking, or you can cook them right away.
Pour vegetable oil into a deep pan (you need at least 4cm) and heat to fry.
Working in batches, add the pasties to the oil and fry until brown and crisp (about 5 minutes).
Transfer to a plate lined with kitchen towels using a slotted spoon.
Feast of the Barbagiuan will take place on 3 and 4 June from 8h30 to 17h30 at Market of Condamine.