In preperation for the 'great pork pie' challenge scheduled for early next week I decided to try my hand at something similar but different, if you know what I mean!
Cleaning out the refrigerator I had an assortment of goodies that really needed eating up, some filo pastry, ricotta cheese and a bag of baby leaf spinach. One of my favourite tricks is to add the word recipe to this list and see what that nice Mr Google comes up with. Such a clever chap he is!
Well this time sure was a winner, surprisingly simple to make it turned out brilliantly and we thoroughly enjoyed eating the result, definitely something to add to my repetoire...
kg (2lb 4oz) spinach, washed and destalked
1kg (2lb 4oz) leeks
175g (6oz) butter
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
75g (2¾oz) grated parmesan
500g (1lb 2oz) ricotta, drained of any water
4 large eggs, beaten
300g (10½oz) feta, crumbled
1 tbsp dill, chopped
300g (10½oz) filo pastry
Put the spinach into a large saucepan with the water that clings to it after washing. Cover and set over a low heat. Let the spinach wilt for about five minutes, turning it over a couple of times to make sure it doesn’t burn. Leave to cool.
Slit the leeks lengthwise so that they open up like fans. This makes them easier to wash properly. Clean under running water, making sure all soil is removed. Trim and discard the bases and slice finely. Heat 75g (2¾oz) of the butter in a heavy-bottomed saucepan, add the leeks and season. Throw in about 30ml (1fl oz) water, cover with a lid and sweat the leeks over a low heat until they are really soft. You’ll need to stir them every so often. Check the leeks don’t burn and that they stay moist, adding a splash of water if not. It will take about 15 minutes for them to become soft. Once they’re soft take the lid off and turn up the heat to boil off any excess liquid.
Squeeze all the water out of the spinach – you can do it in your fists, or press it between two plates. This is really important or you’ll end up with a watery pie that won’t set. Chop roughly. Heat 25g (1oz) of the butter in a pan and add the garlic. Sauté till soft but not coloured, then add the spinach. Turn round in the butter, season and add half the parmesan. Set aside.
In a bowl mix together the ricotta, eggs, feta, dill and the rest of the parmesan. Season.
Now assemble the pie. You can make it in a spring-form tin 26.5cm (10½in) across and 5cm (2in) deep, or in a tart ring set on a metal baking-sheet. Melt the rest of the butter. Keep the pastry under a tea towel as you work with it, otherwise it becomes brittle and breaks. Brush the tin with melted butter (no need to line it with paper), then use two thirds of the pastry to line it as follows: first lay four overlapping sheets on the base to cover it completely, then place sheets like the spokes of a wheel, radiating from the centre of the base, with each sheet covering the sides of the tin and hanging over the edge. Brush each piece with butter after you have placed it in the tin. Lay the spinach on the base, then spoon on half the leeks. Put the cheese and egg layer on next, and top with the rest of the leeks. Now pull the dangling bits of filo over to cover the filling, brushing them with butter. Use the rest of the pastry to cover the top, overlapping the sheets and tucking them in down the sides. Brush the top with lots of butter. Don’t worry about it being neat – it will look great once it turns golden.
Put in an oven preheated to 200°C/400°F/gas mark 6 and cook for 50 minutes. The pie should be golden. If it is getting too dark, cover it with foil. Leave it to sit for about 10 minutes to firm up a bit, then carefully remove the ring around the pie and slide it on to a warm serving dish. Since there is a lot of greenery in it, serve a colourful vegetable such as roast squash or red pepper on the side.
It was just as good eaten cold, maybe even better than when it was hot, savoury, light and wonderfully crisp. Yum!