Basically, lots over-sharing and "cooking for one" recipes for anyone who might be hungry and heartbroken.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

No Self Pity Phyllo Pie (With Spinach, Feta and Pancetta Filling)

Two posts in a day? Ah well. I couldn't resist the perfection of that video, but I have cooking to report on. So there you are.

You’ll probably notice, at least in these first few weeks, that the recipes will have a pretty pronounced vegetarianish slant. That’s because if there is anything my stomach hates more than food when I am sad, it’s meat. The only exception to this is cured fancy ham. I don’t know why. Maybe because it is wahfer thin. (Sorry.)

One of the difficulties of cooking for one is that little tiny recipes don’t use up whole things. The stuffed squash I made the other day only used half an onion, half a pepper, half a block of feta. And I still had a big bag of baby spinach starting to wilt in the fridge. I hate wasting food at the best of times, and during the worst of times, when every penny counts, it’s a straight up sin. So what to do? I don’t want to eat the same thing for days in a row. While I am sure it’s possible to love oneself through leftovers, it’s not much fun, and it kind of defeats the purpose of this blog.

So I pondered what to make with my odds and ends, and the idea of phyllo (or filo, or fillo, or  φύλλοfilo) pastry popped into my head. I love pretty much anything encased in phyllo, but I’d never used it myself before. I trundled off to the shop and picked up a packet of frozen phyllo dough and let it defrost on the counter for a few hours. With a few other odds and ends, I came up with this:
No Self Pity Phyllo Pie (With Spinach, Feta and Pancetta Filling)

small handful pine nuts
100g (half a package) feta cheese, crumbled
finely grated zest of one lemon

2 large knobs of butter.
½ an onion chopped
½ a red pepper chopped
3 cloves garlic, smashed and then minced
most of a bag of baby spinach, torn
100g pancetta, chopped

4 eggs

freshly ground salt and pepper

1 package filo pastry
⅔ cup finely grated parmigiano reggiano

Toast the pine nuts in a dry pan over medium high heat, until golden and fragrant. Put them aside in a medium mixing bowl. Crumble the feta in on top of them. Grate the lemon zest into the bowl as well.

Swear a lot because you left your nice sharp grater behind in the Kitchen Of Shattered Illusions, and the crappy flimsy dull grater you found in the cupboard of the Kitchen Of New Hope and Fresh Horizons is freaking useless. It will take a long time and the lemon will suffer. So will you. Resolve to buy a new grater. When you get utterly sick of attempting to zest the lemon, just grate a tiny little bit more onto a saucer and set it aside for later.

Put one of the knobs of butter into your frying pan and add the garlic, onions and pepper. When things start to soften and the colours change, add in the pancetta and let it start to shrivel and crisp. Add the spinach and cook down until limp and dark green. Take off the heat and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat 4 eggs until mixed and frothy. Combine everything you’ve done so far into one bowl, and mix thoroughly.

Stick the second knob of butter in the microwave to melt. Once it has, brush a bit of it all the way around the inside of a large pie tin. I didn’t have a brush, so I used my fingers. It was kind of gross, but nobody died.

Open the phyllo pastry (don’t open it before you need it, or it will dry out and break and make you unhappy all over again, just after you’ve gotten over the f*cking grater.) unroll it gently, and working quickly, drape two sheets of it onto the pie pan and gently pat it down. You just want to cover the tin, so overlap them as much as you need to. Loads will hang over the sides, which is fine. Leave them be and don’t trim them.

Brush all over with butter and sprinkle with a few generous pinches of parmigiano reggiano. Grind salt and pepper all over. Repeat this sequence with the rest of the phyllo dough, angling it slightly differently each time so that the hangovers are more or less even. Keep a few pinches of parmigiano aside.

Dump the egg/veg/cheese mixture into the centre of the pan and smooth it out evenly. Start folding the hangover edges in gently, using bits of melted butter as glue to make it stick together. Eventually all of the filling will be covered. Brush the whole thing with the last of the melted butter, and sprinkle it all over with the last of the grated parmigiano, the lemon zest, and a few more twists of the pepper mill.

Stick it in the oven at 150c for about 30 mins, checking occasionally to make sure it’s not browning too quickly.


Wow. This came out so beautiful looking it would break your heart all over again. I wish I had a stupid camera and could give you a beautifully styled photo of it, but then, I wish a lot of things. You’ll just have to trust me on this. It looked like a million million dollars, all golden and crispy and speckled. Perhaps soon I will have to love myself with an expensive smartphone with a great camera. It could be a plan.

It tastes great too, and the lemon zesting really was worth all the heartache. It added an important layer to the flavour.

This pie was HUGE. It could have fed me for a couple of weeks, and the whole idea was to avoid samey leftovers. If I’d had a cookie sheet to bake them on (alas, mine still lingers in the Kitchen O. S. I. probably having group therapy with the good grater) then I would have made parcels instead. A couple would have made a nice sized meal, and uncooked, they would freeze brilliantly, ready to be popped into the oven whenever I like. Next time.

As it happens, I have 4 boys as housemates now, and they were only too happy to help me dispose of the excess. Handy.

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