Despite thoroughly reading the instructions for this recipe and watching Jamie Oliver effortlessly make it (twice!) my first attempt was a struggle. My basil dressing was chunkier than pictured, the cooked spinach was too wet, the bottom layer of filo stuck to the baking paper and worst of all, the pie filling leaked through the pastry when I assembled it.
In the end none of it mattered; it came together beautifully even if the presentation was a bit rustic*. Jamie Oliver says that the pie is the hero of the meal but I think it’s also the basil dressing and coated ice cream; they took minutes to make but tasted unbelievable. So much reward for such little effort.
Armed with more experience and confidence, 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 (the book omits this step). I think the wet paper contributed to my pastry problem
- Drain the spinach of any excess water to prevent the filling from becoming too wet. (If your pie leaks like mine did, don’t worry. Once the eggs cook, everything thickens up and holds together)
- Add less salt - the feta is salty enough.
*My ovenproof frying pan wouldn’t fit in my oven so I used a 26cm springform cake tin instead. As I wasn’t able to heat the cake tin on a hob I gave my pie an extra 10 minutes in the oven. When I cut into the pie the egg was still runny so it went back in for a further 10 minutes. This probably wouldn’t happen with a frying pan.
Spinach and feta pie
- 100g pine nuts
- 5 eggs
- 300g feta cheese
- 50g grated cheddar cheese
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- zest of lemon
- knob butter
- 400g spinach
- 270g pack of filo pastry
- cayenne pepper
- 1 whole nutmeg
- 1 handful basil
- small handful Greek basil (or ordinary basil)
- crushed clove garlic
- 1 tbs white wine vinegar
- Assorted cherry tomatoes (on the vine if possible)
- 1 cucumber
- 10 black olives
- 2 tbs balsamic vinegar
- 3 spring onions
- half lemon
- 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- half red chili
- few sprigs fresh mint leaves
Coated ice cream
- 4 tbs coffee beans (I used much less)
- 100g hazelnuts
- 100g dark chocolate (minimum 70% cocoa solids)
- Vanilla ice cream
- olive oil
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 200°C (fan). 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). Scrunch the paper up and then lay it out flat. Grease well with olive oil. 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. Mix well, 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 the sides. Push the pastry into the sides of the pan (don't worry, filo is stronger than it looks) then pour in the filling. 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 whizz 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.
- Cucumber salad - Score down the outside of the cucumber with a fork then quarter it lengthways, cut into half inch chunks and place into a mixing bowl.
- Tear 10 black olives into the mixing bowl and add two tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. Finely slice the spring onions and add to the bowl.
- Drizzle over a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil and squeeze in the juice of half a lemon.
- Deseed and finely slice half a red chili and add to the cucumber along with some sliced mint leaves. Mix everything well.
- 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 now dress. 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 should be much quicker next time.