Moldovan Giant Cheese Twist

11th June 2015

Interview: Killian Fox
Photographs: Yousef Eldin

“There are many versions of this dish including sweet ones, and Moldovan friends tell me that their grannies call this dish invirtita and saralie. My half-Moldovan grandmothers used to make this all the time and it’s hard to stop eating it – the pastry is crispy on the outside and soft and salty on the inside. There is also a version using goose or duck scratchings instead of cheese that is equally glorious, but pieces of streaky, crispy bacon would work equally well. Don’t be scared of this dish – you should attempt it when in a playful mood. The pastry will start stretching slowly and then it can suddenly go nuts, so have fun with it, embrace the holes and stop stretching just in time before it tears completely.”
Olia Hercules, food writer, London

Serves 8


2 eggs, lightly beaten
175ml warm water
360g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
4 tbsp sunflower oil, plus extra for oiling
400g salted syr or feta cheese, crumbled


Mix one of the eggs and the warm water together in a large bowl. Gradually add the flour, stirring the mixture well with a fork and working it into a slightly sticky pastry dough.

Cover the dough with clingfilm and leave to rest in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes, preferably 1 hour. It should be firm and only slightly wet.

Flour the work surface really well and knead the dough briefly until it stops sticking to your hands. If the dough feels soft and very sticky, then add more flour to your work surface and knead it into the dough.

Divide the dough into 2 pieces. Roll one piece into a 30cm (12 inch) diameter circle. Gently stretch the edges of the circle with your hands.

Flour your work surface very, very heavily – you will later place your stretch pastry on it and it will have to be very well floured so that you can roll it up.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/Gas Mark 6.

Now lift the pastry circle and (gently!) suspend the edge over the back of your hands. Keep spinning it, moving your knuckles gently around. The weight of the pastry at the bottom will help stretch the thicker edges of the pastry over your knuckles. Holes will probably appear, but don’t worry – a couple are fine. The trick is to be confident when handling the dough. If you can see that a particular area needs stretching, then move your hands round to it; don’t feel you have to stick to manipulating the edges. Just watch that it doesn’t break up completely, so stop immediately if you feel that it’s about to collapse.

The dough should stretch to about 60-80cm (23½-31½ inches) in diameter and ideally, as my mum says, you should be able to read a newspaper through it. Carefully place it on your well-floured work surface. If the edges are still a lot thicker than the middle, stretch them gently.

Carefully brush 2 tbsp of the sunflower oil all over the pastry – my grandmother used sterilised goose feathers to do this. Then sprinkle over half the cheese.

Next roll out the second piece of dough and stretch it like you did the first one, again into a thin sheet about 60-80cm (23½-31½ inches) in diameter. Gently place it over the first sheet. Oil the top of it as before and sprinkle over the remaining cheese.

Starting at the edge nearest to you, roll both sheets of pastry up together into a long sausage, keeping it an even size all the way along; if the middle becomes too thick, try to roll it out to the edges. Cut off any extra dough that doesn’t have cheese to avoid the twist getting too fat. Twist it at either end as if you are gently wringing a piece of clothing. If you feel that both ends are too thick and don’t have enough cheese in them, just cut them off.

Finally, keep one end still and curl the other around it, creating a beautiful shell shape (think ammonite fossils).

Brush the vertuta very generously with the remaining beaten egg. I simply tip the whole beaten egg on and rub it over the vertuta gently with my hands. Oil a baking sheet or a large, shallow cake tin lightly, pop the vertuta on and bake it for 40 minutes or until golden brown all over. Let it cool slightly and eat half of it at one sitting.








Posted 11th June 2015

In Recipes


Interview: Killian Fox
Photographs: Yousef Eldin