Until attemping this recipe I hadn’t really considered just how critical confidence is to cooking. I thoroughly read the instructions, watched Jamie Oliver effortlessly make this recipe twice and decided to omit the cucumber salad as the meal was only going to feed two. Despite this, when I started to cook, I felt disheartened that it wasn’t going very smoothly. My basil dressing was chunkier than pictured, the cooked spinach was too wet, the bottom layer of filo stuck to the baking paper, but worst of all the pie filling leaked out through the pastry when I assembled it.
In the end none of it mattered though; somehow it all came together wonderfully even if the presentation was a bit rustic*. Jamie Oliver says that the pie is the hero of the meal but I believe it’s the basil dressing and the coated ice cream; they took mere minutes to make but they tasted unbelievable. So much reward for such little effort.
I can’t wait to give this recipe another go as I shall be armed with much more knowledge and confidence; it might even take 30 minutes. Next time I will:
- Thoroughly oil the baking paper to stop the pastry sticking to it.
- Not wet the baking paper as directed on the TV programme (but not the book). I think this contributed to my pastry problem.
- Drain the spinach of any excess water to prevent the filling from becoming too wet (even if your pie leaks like mine did it’s not a big deal as once the eggs cook everything thickens up).
- Add less salt - the feta is already salty and doesn’t need any extra help.
*I didn’t have an ovenproof frying pan to cook the pie in so I used a springform cake tin to good effect instead.
This recipe can be made equally as successfully without eggs - simply replace them with a 300ml tub of creme fraiche. The filling doesn’t bind quite as well but it tastes just as good.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C. Put an ovenproof frying pan (around 26cm diameter) on a medium heat.
- Spinach and feta pie - Toast the pine nuts in the dry frying pan until they start to colour. Crack five eggs into a mixing bowl and crumble in the feta cheese. Add the cheddar cheese, salt, pepper, oregano, lemon zest and a tablespoon of olive oil. Stir in the toasted pine nuts and mix well.
- Heat the frying pan with a bit of olive oil and butter then add half of the spinach. Move the spinach around in the frying pan for about a minute and once it has wilted add the remaining spinach. Stir frequently.
- Cover your worktop with a 50cm piece of greaseproof paper (shiny side up), which has been greased well with olive oil. Scrunch the paper up and then lay it back out flat. Working quickly, arrange four sheets of filo pastry in a square, making sure that the inner edges slightly overlap. Drizzle a little olive oil over the pastry sheets before sprinkling with cayenne pepper. Repeat this process until you have three layers of pastry.
- The spinach should have wilted by now. If it's very wet, drain it in a colander then add it to the egg mixture and grate in half of the nutmeg. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
- Pick up the greaseproof paper that the pastry is sitting on and transfer it to the frying pan (or cake tin in my case) so that the edges hang over. Push the pastry into the sides of the pan (don't worry, filo is stronger than it looks) then pour in the egg mixture. Fold the sides of the pastry into the middle to seal the pie and put the frying pan back on the heat for a few minutes.
- Transfer the frying pan into the oven to cook for around 20 minutes.
- Coated ice cream - Remove the ice cream from the freezer to soften. Put the coffee beans and hazelnuts into a blender and blitz for around 30 seconds. Break the chocolate into small pieces, add to the blender and then whiz it up again for another 30 seconds. Pour the mixture into a bowl.
- Scoop a ball of ice cream for each person, place on a dish and coat in the chocolate/hazelnut mixture. If you have any leftover mixture (I had loads) it can be frozen and eaten at a later date. Place the coated ice cream balls back into the freezer.
- Tomato salad - Clean the blender and add the basil, salt, pepper, garlic, white wine vinegar and around 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Blend until you have a smooth, dark green dressing. Pour this into the dish that you will later serve the tomato salad in.
- Wash the tomatoes, slice them and then arrange them on top of the dressing - but don't coat them just yet. Sprinkle over the Greek basil.
- Check on the pie. Once it has turned golden brown remove it from the oven, lift it out of the pan and take it to the table along with the tomato salad, which you can dress now. Remove the ice cream from the freezer and sprinkle with a little more chocolate/hazelnut mixture for good measure.
- Enjoy and don't feel bad if the recipe took longer than 30 minutes; it'll be much quicker next time.