Filo Tart

Filo Tart

Winter is the season of comfort food. When the nights draw in very early and it’s dark and cold, we tend to cook comfort food. Hearty stews, thick soups, pasta dishes often loaded with a sauce, Sunday roasts. The kind of food that is often followed by a snooze on the sofa, under a furry blanket, in front of the wood burner. But, you can only eat this kind of food for so long, and as we have noticed spring bulbs beginning to emerge and days seeming to last a little longer before it gets dark, our evening meals are starting to change, too. Marinaded tuna, salmon, chicken fillets, lighter pasta dishes. And this weekend, a very spring-like filo tart, filled with punchy colours and flavours. It was the simplest and quickest tart to make, made up as we went along. The filo pastry was shop-bought – there is no way I’m standing in a kitchen making it, when it can just be unrolled from a packet. Sorry to pastry purists and serious cooks, but I’m not messing around with filo. And, within 10 minutes, everything had been chopped and prepared and it was in the oven.

The pastry was rolled out into rectangular baking tray and smothered in green pesto. Lightly roasted peppers and chopped cherry tomatoes were added, with back olives squished down into the veggie mix. Feta cheese was crumbled across the tart and chilli flakes sprinkled on top, then baked for about 25 minutes. It was served with a fresh spring salad and potato rosti. The pesto made a real difference as it during the cooking, it soaked into the base, giving it a creamy texture. A lovely, light and fresh dinner dish – which reminded us that spring is not too far off…

spanakopita

spanakopita

No visits to Greece is ever complete, without numerous visits to local bakeries for the delicious spanakopita, those gorgeous filo parcels, packed full of spinach and feta and pine nuts. Back home from idyllic Greek islands, I’d never contemplated trying to replicate these, because I felt that if you didn’t make your own filo pastry it was cheating, but making it seemed a complete hassle. I also didn’t think I’d ever be able to replicate that special taste, so never tried.

I’m well over the cheating feeling now. As we don’t have the luxury of a local shop on the doorstep anymore, we need to think ahead a bit more and this means we’re definitely getting a bit more creative in the kitchen. It does help that we do now have a lovely new kitchen, rather than the one we inherited when we bought the house, which was functional but not really a pleasure to spend much time in…

So, this weekend, it was decided to bring a bit of Greek sunshine into the house – and the replication of the spanakopita commenced!

To be honest, I’m not sure why I’ve not done it before. It was quick and easy and the end result, because it’s actually quite difficult to go wrong with this, was delicious. And although this was a pie, rather than a parcel, it did take me right back to those warm summer days on Greek islands.

What you’ll need…

  • 500g spinach (fresh, if possible, rather than frozen)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 200g feta, crumbled
  • 4 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • 3 large free-range eggs, beaten
  • Filo pastry sheets
  • Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Nutmeg

Easy-peasy-how-to-do…

  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C/fan160°C/gas 4.
  2. Wilt the spinach in a large pan over a low heat and season well. Allow to cool, then drain well, squeezing out the excess liquid with your hands. Chop spinach up – scissors come in handy here!
  3. Heat (extra virgin, if possible) olive oil in a shallow frying pan and add the onion and garlic, cooking until soft. Add seasoning.
  4. Remove from the heat and add to a bowl with the spinach, crumbled feta, toasted pine nuts and eggs. Mix together and season well, adding a generous pinch of nutmeg. Spoon into the base of a baking dish.
  5. Lightly scrunch your filo pastry sheets and lay over the spinach mixture. Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the pastry is crisp and golden.

To accompany this dish I roasted some gorgeous new potatoes – they’re just starting to appear in Istria and are so much nicer than winter potatoes – and coated them in smoky paprika, rock salt and chilli flakes, to give the meal a bit of a kick. And, these certainly had a kick, so the addition of a fresh, zingy cherry tomato, cucumber and lemon salad worked a treat.

A great Greek treat on a cold night in Istria.