A delicious summer pie with crispy layers of flaky filo (phyllo) pastry and filled with my favourite cheese, feta and some little strips of sun-dried tomatoes! Great for brunch, lunch or dinner on a summer’s day or evening, served warm with a salad and maybe some nice, fresh crusty bread. It’s a lovely addition to a picnic and perfect for a pot-luck dinner.
I made spinach, feta and sun-dried tomato filo pies for years at the Cafe but they were singles and had cream added to the mix, so very tasty. I really, really, love sun-dried tomatoes with their intense, sharp flavour adding a taste of summer to any sandwich, salad or pie. I wanted to do a less fiddly pie here so I omitted the cream and made it spanakopita style. This is a reasonably quick pie to make if you use frozen spinach but a tad longer if using fresh (all that ‘destalking). It’s also an easy recipe to try if you’ve never used filo before, it’s pretty straightforward and fail proof. 🙂
GEEKY STUFF B’COS I’M A JUST A BIG NERD – Once upon a time the only means of preserving tomatoes was to salt them and drying them out naturally under the hot summer sun for several days. This drying out removes all of their water content, resulting in tomatoes that are deeper in colour and richer in taste. According to wikipedia it takes 8 to 14 kilos of fresh tomatoes to make just 1 kilogram of sun-dried tomatoes…..now I know why they are so expensive. Also good to know that compared with fresh, tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes contain 20 percent more lycopene, an antioxidant associated with lower risk of certain cancers.
400 grams fresh (weight includes stalks) or defrosted frozen spinach
125 grams cheddar cheese (approx. 1 1/2 cups)
125 grams feta (3/4 cup when crumbled)
5 large/10 small sun-dried tomatoes
8 eggs (any size)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 small brown onion (or 1/2 medium sized)
1 medium clove garlic (or 2 small)
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
50 grams butter
6 sheets filo (phyllo) pastry
Optional – 1 teaspoon black poppy seeds or 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
- For this I used a 29 cm L x 19 cm W x 5 cm D ovenproof dish, any ovenproof dish will do as long as it’s approx the same size so that our cooking time is the same. If yours is smaller than mine but deeper you may need to cook it for a further 5 minutes to make sure it’s done in the centre. On the other hand, if your dish is a bit bigger than mine your pie won’t be as deep and may be ready 5 minutes sooner.
- I know a few people who don’t like sun-dried tomatoes (this makes me really sad) so if you are one of them a handful of cherry tomatoes chopped in half is a nice, juicy replacement.
- Unless you are a veggie gardener using frozen spinach is less expensive and a lot quicker but of course fresh is always nice. If you are using frozen you can skip the washing and wilting section of the walkthrough.
- If you love parmesan you can throw a handful into the mixture also, it’s delish and if I had some spare in the fridge I would.
- I prefer to use butter for flavour and even though traditionally filo is brushed with butter you can switch it to olive oil if you are trying to cut down on fat.
Getting started, remove the spinach leaves from the stalks. Wash them in a sink of cold water and then remove the plug.
Fill and boil your jug (kettle).
Place the leaves in a large bowl and just cover them in boiling water. Leave them submerged for 30 seconds and then…..
…..pour the spinach and water into a colander (or a large sieve) sitting in the kitchen sink and run some cold water through it until it’s cooled down.
Next using your hands squeeze most of the water out and then place it in the centre of a tea towel (a clean one of course!)
Wrap it up in the tea towel (like a vagabond’s bag) and then over the kitchen sink squeeze it through the tea towel, removing any remaining water.
Using a large knife, roughly slice or chop it up. Once done you can just leave it on the board.
- If you are using frozen spinach you only need to wring it out in the tea towel and then chop it up…..nice ‘n’ easy!
Also, grate the cheese, crumble up the feta with your fingertips (or dice it up into little bits) and thinly slice up the sun-dried tomatoes and put it all aside with the spinach.
Now finely dice up the onion and the garlic and set them aside also.
Next, break all of the eggs into a large bowl and whisk them together, making sure the yolks and whites are well combined.
Then take out 2 tablespoons of the beaten egg and place in a wee bowl to be used to glaze the top of the pie later.
In a medium-sized pan over a medium heat, heat up the oil and one teaspoon of the butter.
Add the onions and stirring often saute them for 3 minutes or until they are soft and clear.
Add the garlic and the nutmeg and…..
…..continue cooking for1 more minute.
Add it along with the spinach, feta, grated cheese, sun-dried tomatoes and the salt and pepper to the bowl containing the beaten eggs and using a large spoon mix it all together.
Time to crank the oven up so place a rack just below the centre of the oven and preheat your oven to 160°C fan bake oven or 180°C conventional oven, on bake.
Now melt the butter in the microwave (around 40 seconds) or in a little saucepan.
Using a pastry brush, lightly brush the inside of your ovenproof dish with some of the melted butter and then set it aside.
Time to do the pastry. So take the filo from the box, unroll it and lay it out on a clean bench.
Carefully take 1 sheet from the top of the pile and lay it out on a board or the bench. Using the pastry brush lightly brush it all over with butter, working fast because it dries out fast.
- If you haven’t worked with filo pastry before you may like to lay a damp (not wet) tea towel over the stack of filo that you are taking from because if it sits there for a long time it will dry out and go brittle. Also if some of it rips just patch it up, it’ll be fine.
Next carefully lay a second sheet on top of the one you just buttered and also brush that with butter. Lastly lay a third sheet on top and butter it too….so 3 sheets in total.
Then fold it all in half (this will create 6 layers) and…..
….. lay it in the bottom of the buttered dish. You can scrunch it up a bit to fit perfectly like I did but if it is flat that’s cool too.
Spoon the filling on top of the pastry and spread it out.
Repeat the buttering with 3 more sheets of filo, folding them in half again, creating 6 layers.
Lay the filo on top of the filling in the dish, scrunching it up again if you have to so that it covers the filling.
Roll up the remaining filo and rewrap it well before returning it to the fridge.
- Another note, if you haven’t used filo before, make sure it is well wrapped before returning any remaining pastry to the fridge or it will go brittle. I pop it back in its bag and then wrap it with cling wrap too. 🙂
Using the pastry brush now brush the top of the pie with that tablespoon of egg you set aside earlier.
If using the grated parmesan or poppy seeds, now sprinkle them all over the top.
Pop it into the hot oven and bake it for 30 minutes or until it feels firm to touch in the centre and the pastry is a deep golden brown.
- It’s better to overcook this pie than being worried and take it out to early. If underdone the egg won’t be cooked in the centre and the pastry will look insipid and not be as crispy as it could be. So my advice is that if you are even the slightest bit worried it’s not done, leave it for another 5 minutes. I always take my pastry things to the brink…..ever since my ‘threw out the apple tarts that I thought were burnt but were apparently perfect so yelled the French chef incident’.
I serve this pie warm with a nice green salad and sweet chilli sauce!
Keepin’ it fresh – Good for up to 3 days if kept well wrapped in the fridge. To reheat; The microwave will cause the pastry to go soft (we can’t have that!) so I like to lay the leftover pie on some cooking foil and fold the foil up around the sides just leaving the top pastry exposed. I then heat it up on a lower temp like 150°C fan bake oven or 170°C conventional oven, on bake, until it’s warm.
How many nights a week do you enjoy ‘meat free’ meals?