I've never rated Nigel Slater. He writes good food - that's how come I've been seduced on occasion into buying his books - but so often the words on the page don't translate to anything exciting on the plate. I suspect that sometimes it's because in his enthusiasm for a 'fast' result, he omits important steps because they would take too much time (cooking the plums before mixing them with blackberries and brandy, for instance, so that the end-result is melt-in-the-mouth...instead of which, in his uncooked-plum version, everything remains chewy and individual, and nothing blends together at all), and sometimes, it's just because he gets it wrong - no, Nigel, when Mascarpone is grilled, it doesn't 'melt' unctuously, it merely consolidates into a claggy lump. Nice idea, but in practice it just doesn't work.
However. I fell across a version of this recipe several months ago in his '30 Minute Cook' and because it suited an immediate need, I tried it. And, it is splendid! I've served it at supper on a number of occasions now, and always to critical acclaim - the combination of chocolate and orange, alone, is particularly beguiling. I've added sugar (or sucralose) to his version, and only used sultanas, instead of a combination of sultanas and raisins ( we can't get the latter here, for some reason; same with currants. Non ci sono.) The recipe itself is a first cousin to Budino alla Toscana, in its combination of cheese and ground almonds and dried fruit, but since it is encased in Phyllo, there's no need for the egg which Budino uses, and there are some other differences too in the flavouring elements which are included. In this house, we've taken to calling this Bougaza, in memory of the sweet-cheese phyllo slabs (there was no other word for them) which we used to get in the seventies from the baker behind the Old House, in Greece. There are elements in this dish which seem as old as time...
For two individual pies:
1 sheet phyllo, approx 12" x 18"; 1 tbs melted butter; 110g mascarpone; 25g ground almonds; 1 tbs sugar; 40g sultanas; 15g chocolate (calletes, or else roughly chopped); grated zest of one orange.
1. Heat oven to 200 degees C.
2. Brush the phyllo with melted butter, and cut the sheet into four. Use two of the pieces to line each of two 10 cm flan tins (I ease the pastry sheets into the greased tins at right angles to each other, and then, once the filling is in place, fold the overhanging pastry over the filling to enclose it fully).
3. Combine all remaining ingredients thoroughlyl, and divide the mixture between the two pastry shells. Close the pastry shells, brush the top with any remaining butter, and bake for about twenty minutes or so, until golden brown.
Allow the pies to cool slightly before serving.