Phyllo cheese and spinach pie

This is one of my all time favorites, everyone seems to adore it at our dinner parties and not miss the hunk of dead protein on the plate! The crispy phyllo pastry almost hovers above the creamy, flavorful filling.


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Serves 6 to 8

7 oz butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 lbs fresh spinach, central core removed
2 tbsp chopped fresh dill
salt and pepper
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
8 oz Greek feta cheese, crumbled
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
14 oz phyllo pastry, defrosted

Melt about 3 oz of the butter in a frying pan and fry the onion until golden. Wash the spinach and cook in the water that clings to the leaves for 5 minutes. Drain it thoroughly, then add it to the onion and cook, stirring for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, add the dill, seasoning and nutmeg.
Leave to cool. When cool, add the feta cheese and eggs and mix well.

Melt the remaining butter. Place one sheet of pastry in a greased 14 x 8 1/2″ shallow tin. Brush with the melted butter. Tuck in the edges neatly. Continue to make layers with half the pastry, brushing each one with butter.

Spread the spinach and cheese filling over the pastry, then use the remaining sheets, brushed with butter, to cover the filling. When the last sheet of pastry is in place, brush it well with butter and using a very sharp knife, score the top in a square or diamond pattern.

Bake at 375 F for about 40 minutes or until golden brown. Cool in the tin for about 10 mins, then serve


Middle Eastern herb filo pie

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Another gem from Ottolenghi. With Sephardic roots, this is a wonderful centerpiece for a dinner party, whether vegetarian or not.

Serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil plus extra for brushing the pastry layers
1 large onion, diced
1lb Swiss chard, stems and leaves finely shredded but kept separate
5 oz celery, peeled and thinly sliced
2 oz green onions (scallions) chopped
2 oz arugula
1 oz flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 oz fresh mint, chopped
2/3 oz dill , chopped
4 oz ricotta cheese, crumbled
4 oz aged Cheddar cheese, grated
2 oz Greek feta cheese, crumbled (not pre-crumbled)
grated zest of 1 lemon
2 large organic eggs
1/3 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp superfine sugar (caster sugar)
9 oz filo pastry

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Pour the olive oil into a large, deep frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 8 minutes without browning. Add the chard stems and celery and continue to cook for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the chard leaves, increase the heat to medium high and stir as you cook for about 5 minutes or until the leaves wilt. Add the green onion, arugula and herbs and cook for 2 mins more. Remove from the heat and transfer to a colander and cool.
Once the mixture is cool, squeeze out as much water as possible and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the three cheeses, lemon zest, eggs, salt and pepper and sugar and mix well.
Lay out a sheet of filo pastry and brush it with some olive oil. Cover with another sheet and continue in the same manner until you have 5 layers of filo brushed with oil, all covering an area large enough to line the sides and bottom or an 8 1/2″ pie dish, plus extra to hang over the rim of the dish. Line the pie dish with the pastry, fill with the herb mix and fold the excess pastry over the edge of the filling, trimming the pastry as necessary to create a 3/4″ border.
Make another set of 5 filo layers brushed with oil and place them over the pie. Scrunch up the pastry a little to create a wavy, uneven top and trim the edges so it just covers the pie.
Brush generously with olive oil and bake for 40 mins until the filo turns a nice golden brown.
Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.



New Zealand bacon and egg pie

This is the ultimate NZ recipe and a dish I would “kill” for! Nothing brings back those memories of picnics more than this. It’s also the best bacon and egg pie you could ever eat, as the eggs are left whole and when you hit one of those rich canary-yellow yolks, it’s like winning the lottery, aside from the big chunks of bacon.

Serves 12, (or in my case, 1)

1/2 cup ketchup
1/4 cup Worcestershire sauce
2  9” by 11” sheets of frozen puff pastry, thawed and chilled
20 eggs
1 tbsp heavy cream
8 oz grated mature cheddar cheese
1lb sliced bacon, roughly chopped
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oven to 400 F
Whisk together the ketchup and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl; set aside.
Using a rolling pin, roll one sheet of puff pastry on a floured work surface to form an 11” x 14” rectangle;  transfer to a 9” x 12 1/2” baking pan and let the excess hang over the sides.

Separate 1 of the eggs and place the egg yolk in a small bowl; stir in the cream, and set egg wash aside.
Place the remaining egg white evenly on top of the pastry, crack the eggs and drop them on top of the pastry, spacing them evenly apart, and sprinkle evenly with bacon, drizzle the ketchup mixture evenly over the eggs and bacon and sprinkle over the cheddar cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

Fold the dough hanging over the edge of the pan, back over the ingredients and brush with some of the egg wash; roll the second pastry sheet into a 10” x 13” rectangle and place on top of the eggs and bacon, tucking the edges into the sides of the pan.
Cut 4 slits in the top of the pastry with a paring knife then brush completely with egg wash.

Bake until golden brown and the eggs and bacon are cooked through, about 1 hour; cut into squares and serve


Roasted butternut squash, spinach and feta tartlets topped with pine nuts.

Once the cooler weather arrives, I just love cooking with pumpkins and squashes.  This is a twist on the Greek dish, Spanakopita but has the addition of roasted butternut squash and pine nuts to add sweetness, along with the spinach and feta cheese. So good!!
You can also add sweet potato instead of the squash and replace the dill with other chopped herbs, like parsley or basil or use sun dried tomatoes, or some diced bacon with the onion. If you don’t like feta cheese, try parmesan or mozzarella or even a blue cheese.

6 sheets filo (phyllo) pastry, thawed
2 cups peeled, diced small butternut squash
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh spinach (around 8 oz) stems removed, chopped
1 tbsp finely chopped fresh dill
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1 tbsp melted butter
2 tbsp raw pine nuts

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Toss the diced squash with 1 tbsp of olive oil, place in a single layer on a baking tray and cook for 15 minutes.
While the squash bakes, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.
Cook the onion for 6 minutes, then add the spinach and cook for 4 minutes, stirring regularly.
Stir in the dill, salt and pepper and remove from the heat.
Stir in the crumbled feta and baked squash (keep the oven heated to 350 F) and set aside.
Combine the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil with the melted butter in a small bowl.
Place 2 filo sheets side by side on a work surface and brush each sheet evenly with the butter-oil mixture.
Place 2 more sheets on top and brush with butter-oil, then repeat once more.
Cut each stack into six 5 inch squares, for a total of 12 stacks with 3 sheets each.
Lightly grease a standard 12 cup muffin pan with butter-oil mixture.
Place each square filo stack into a muffin cup, pressing gently to mould the pastry into the bottom.
Spoon 1/4 cup of the spinach-pumpkin filling into each and fold the extra pastry back over the filling, roughly crumpling around the edges so that the filling is still exposed.
Brush the edges with the remaining butter-oil mix.
Sprinkle pine nuts in the middle of each tart.
Bake for 18 minutes, then remove from the oven and transfer the tarts from the muffin pan to a cooling rack.
Let cool slightly then serve.

Variation ; Instead of making 12 muffin-size tarts, you can make four individual pie-sized tarts or one larger pie

Gloria’s Fish Wellington

This is such a lovely recipe and much lighter and less expensive than beef Wellington.
Gloria used to cook for my mother and father after my mother became ill and I remember her making this, but I’ve never seen the recipe in any book.
It’s well worth trying and you can also make a nice cream fish sauce to go with it,  but it’s not necessary.

4 rashers bacon, finely chopped
1 medium onion finely chopped
1lb white fish  fillets, chopped
1/2 cup fresh white breadcrumbs
1/2 cup cream
2 eggs, separated
1 tbsp dried dill weed
1 packet frozen puff pastry, thawed

Preheat the oven to 350 F
Combine the bacon and onion in a small frying pan and cook for about 3 minutes or until soft.
Put the fish, breadcrumbs, cream, egg whites and dill in a food processor and process until combined.
Empty into a bowl and stir in the bacon mixture and season with salt and pepper to taste. Tip into  a 8″ by 5″ greased loaf tin and bake uncovered for about 45 minutes.
Cool to room temperature.
Roll the pastry to about 10″ by 14″ rectangle and brush the edges with the beaten egg yolks.
Place the fish loaf in the center of the pastry rectangle, roll up, seal and trim any excess pastry around the edges.
Place onto a greased baking tray and brush all over with beaten egg yolk.
Bake until golden, about 30 mins or so, depending on your oven. Check occasionally.

Mini, creamy onion tartlets with peppercorns and currants

These are the loveliest mixture of creamy, spicy with the peppercorns and fruity with the currants. Use a mini muffin tin so the tartlets stay bite sized.

Makes about 24 little ones

2 oz butter
1 1/4lbs onions finely chopped.
5 fl oz heavy cream
1 heaped tbsp currants
1 tbsp black peppercorns, they must be freshly and coarsely crushed, not ground
2 eggs
8 oz frozen puff pastry sheets, defrosted

Preheat the oven to 400F.
Crush the peppercorns either in a small plastic bag with a mallet or pestle and mortar
Chop the onions finely or put in the food processor for a quick pulse
Melt the butter in a large saucepan and stir in the onions
Add the crushed peppercorns
Cover and sweat over a low heat for 30 minutes
Uncover, add the cream, currants and salt to taste.
Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes
Remove the pan from the heat and cool.
Cut one individually wrapped sheet of puff pastry in half and roll each piece quite thinly.
Cut out appropriate size circles, put int the greased muffin trays and prick lightly with a fork
Beat the eggs in a small bowl and add to the cooled mixture, fill the tartlet cases with this mixture.
Put in the oven for a minimum of 15 minutes and a maximum of 25 for larger tartlets.
Keep an eye on them after 15 minutes to make sure they are not getting too brown.

Thai salmon filo parcels

These are super low fat, highly tasty and healthy.
Wonderful to make ahead of time and perfect for entertaining. They are a Delia Smith fail-safe recipe that I often serve (UK chef and recipe book author)
Those lovely lime and cilantro flavors fill your mouth with freshness and the smoothness of the salmon and the crunchiness of the filo pastry says it all!
Serves 2 but can easily be doubled
2 middle-cut fillets of salmon, skin removed (about 5 oz each and an even thickness)
4 sheets filo pastry (approx 7 x 12″)
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
Grated zest and juice of 1 lime
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
2 scallions, finely sliced
2 oz butter, melted
salt and ground black pepper
To serve;
a few sprigs of fresh cilantro
1 lime, cut into quarters
Preheat the oven to 375 F
First of all, in a small bowl, mix together the ginger, lime zest, garlic, cilantro and scallion, then stir in the lime juice.
Now melt the butter in a small saucepan, then lay 1 sheet of filo pastry out on a flat surface, brush it all over with some of the melted butter, spread another sheet of filo on top and brush this lightly with melted butter as well.
Now position one of the salmon fillets near to one end of the filo, season it well and sprinkle half the lime and herb mixture on top.
Next, fold the short end of the pastry over the salmon, then fold the long sides inwards, roll the salmon over twice more and trim any surplus pastry (it’s important not to end up with great wedges of pastry at each end)
Wrap the other piece of salmon in exactly the same way and brush the parcels all over with melted butter and place on a greased baking sheet.
At this point you can cover and refrigerate them for up to an hour, making sure you bring them to room temp before putting them in the oven uncovered for 20 to 25 minutes or until the pastry is brown and crispy.
Serve garnished with sprigs of cilantro and wedges of the lime to squeeze over.