Of all the uniquely Sardinian dishes, this is probably the best known on the rest of the Italian peninsula. Somewhat a pastry, somewhat savoury, it could hold its own as an entree but it's actually a surprising dessert – crisp, deep fried pastry filled with lemony, oozing cheese and soaked in warm honey.
Known in dialect as seadas (or, depending on which part of the island you may be, sebadas) were traditionally eaten around Easter or Christmas but now found year round. The main ingredients that set this pastry apart are undoubtedly the local Pecorino cheese and the local honey and their delicate balance – both important products in this region's cuisine.
The cheese typically used for these pastries is a very fresh, young Pecorino – a sheep's milk cheese in its early stages when still soft and slightly acidic, rather than hard and salty. It's unsurprising, then, to know that this dish's origins are in the pastoral areas of Sardinia's fertile centre and north-west, where shephards led their grazing sheep and would bring home this fresh cheese to prepare this dish.
The simple pastry is a rustic one, made with flour (or semolina) and water, with a bit of lard added to soften it to a silky smooth and quite elastic dough. Cut into rounds, the dough, like a large, round raviolo, sandwiches the cheese, which is melted down and infused with lemon zest, then cooled and cut into perfect rounds to fit the pastry. The seada is deep fried in olive oil and served piping hot with warm Sardinian honey generously drizzled over the top – the result is a honey-soaked crisp pastry, with melting, delicately lemon flavoured cheese. Quite a superb way to end a meal.
If you can't get hold of a young Pecorino for this, it would be quite unorthodox, but go for a soft, young asiago or something delicately, slightly acidic. In some of the island's variations, you may find, less commonly, ricotta in place of the Pecorino, powdered sugar in place of the honey or orange zest in place of the lemon.
For the most similar results to a real Sardinian seada, try an orange blossom honey or a wild herb honey, such as thyme. Some prefer the slight bitterness of a chestnut honey. —Emiko
(500 grams) of plain flour
(250 milliliters) cold water, or as needed
(50 grams) of lard or butter
(300 grams) of a young Pecorino cheese, cut into cubes
Zest of 2 lemons
Olive oil for frying
(250 grams) honey
In This Recipe
Make a dough by combining the flour and salt with some cold water bit by bit until you have a silky, elastic consistency. Add the lard (or butter) and knead until well incorporated. Let the dough rest about 30 minutes, covered.
In the meantime, prepare the cheese by melting it in a small saucepan over gentle heat. If you find that the cheese is separating when it melts, add a tablespoon of flour to bring it back together. When melted, stir in the lemon zest then pour it out onto a baking sheet lined with baking paper and gently spread out with a soft spatula to form an even layer of cheese, about a third of an inch thick. Let cool. Cut out 12 rounds with a cookie cutter about 3 inches wide.
Roll out the dough to about 1/8 inch thickness and cut out 24 rounds with a pastry cutter (you can follow the circumference of a small bowl or tupperware container, anything that is round and is roughly 4-5 inches wide).
Place one round of cheese in the centre of one round of dough, top with another round of dough and press the edges well with fingers or with the tines of a fork. If you go with fingers, you can also straighten the edges with a frilled pastry cutter for a traditional look.
Fill a wide pan with olive oil until it reaches a depth of one inch. When hot, fry the seadas until golden on both sides (some prefer not to flip them but to spoon the hot oil over the top). Remove from pan and place on kitchen paper until they are all ready (keep warm).
Gently warm the honey until liquid then pour over the seadas. This is best consumed freshly made and piping hot while the cheese is still oozing.
The Australian-Japanese cookbook author has lived in Florence (where a visit to a cheese farm once inspired her to start a food blog) for over 10 years with her Tuscan sommelier husband and two kids. Her third cookbook, Tortellini at Midnight, is out now.