Tag Archives: filo

Of all the pie joints in the world, she walks into mine

7 Mar

Tonight’s theme was Moroccan! As usual, I took a recipe and altered it: this time, it was a veg tagine from my Africa & The Middle East cookbook, but of course I had to throw in a few extra vegetables.

I was super excited because last night in Camden I found a shop selling yams! I lifted one up – it weighed probably four pounds – and asked the guy what it was just to be sure. I didn’t want to carry it around the whole night, so I promised to return later; unfortunately I forgot on my way home and Laura J had to go back and buy it. The man at the store was even nice enough to pull out his machete and chop it into pieces for her. Oddly, it was white inside, sort of coconut-textured – I was expecting it to be orange. The sweet potatoes she bought at that shop were also white inside! According to wikipedia, yams (Dioscorea spp.) can vary in color from white to orange to purple. However, sweet potatoes (Ipomoea batatas) are apparently referred to as yams in some parts of the US. Although I’ve never heard anyone refer to sweet potatoes as yams, I guess it’s percolated into my mind enough to make me think they could be orange. Confusingly, the page on sweet potatoes says that they come in soft, orange varieties and firm, white varieties, but that the orange one is called a yam to distinguish it from the white one. Sweet potatoes and yams are in the same family (Dioscoreacae), but note that this is not the same family as the common potato (Solanaceae, specifically Solanum tuberosum). (If any of you can make some sort of infographic to sort this out, that would be greatly appreciated.)

In addition, “yam” apparently is Brummie dialect for “I am”.

Leaving the matter of nomenclature to rest, suffice it to say that I was very excited to have white sweet potatoes and also a giant yam. On to the pie!

The veg: 2 sweet potatoes, yam, 2 carrots, cauliflower, 2 onions, 2 zucchini, 1 can of chopped tomatoes

The spice: s+p, cinnamon, honey, ras el hanout, oregano, fresh coriander, 3 saffron threads, veg stock

The rest: filo dough

The method: There are a lot of vegetables! Mis en place is important! Cube the peeled sweet potatoes and yam, which you’ll have to peel with a knife. Parboil these together.

Slice the onions into strips or rings, whichever suits your fancy. I chose strips, and apparently also chose to slice a large slit into my thumb. Caramelize them in olive oil; when they’re about half-done, toss in the thin-sliced zucchini rounds. When this mix is nearly done, transfer into a bowl or other storage container. (I mean, you don’t need to do this, but I only have one pan.)

Put the parboiled mixture into the pan with chopped cauliflower, sliced carrots, and the canned tomatoes. Add in veg stock and water to about 3/4 the level of the potatoes with the saffron threads. Cover and let simmer. When the potatoes start to feel done, add in the onions and zucchini and season. I used a whole bunch of cinnamon (it was an accidental pouring), two squirts of honey from a bear, about 2 T ras el hanout, and a little bit of oregano. Leave until it’s a big mass of delicious-looking mush. Add in the coriander at the end.

Butter a square pan and layer filo and pie mixture. (Alternately, mix with couscous or put in a wrap.)

This was a really good pie. I think I would use orange sweet potatoes next time as I think they’re sweeter than the white variety, but this was a good shot; I’d also use butternut because I love it so much. The ras el hanout (Arabic for “top of the shop”) and cinnamon balanced really well, a savory-sweet blend I’d definitely repeat. The yam was really interesting – quite sweet, but with sort of a bitter aftertaste. There was so much of it we made yam chips as well, just roasted. The bitter aftertaste might have been my lack of skill at making chips, though; I originally tried to fry them. It tasted great in the pie though.

Only three people showed up (!) so I have lots of leftovers. Laura took home the rest of the yam to cook with. We decided a yam is about equal to eight potatoes, and you only have to peel one big rind.

Thanks to Laura J for buying some veg and helping cook! Thanks to Laura T for the oatmeal cookies and Shimam for the choco biscuits! And thanks to mom for the idea.



22 Feb

Yesterday was GREEK-THEMED PIE NIGHT, which was probably my second-most fun pie experience. I love Greek food pretty much more than life, and maybe slightly more than Persian food. Greece is a wonderful country for pies, as I found out while living there two years ago. They love layering in particular, and of course stuffing vegetables into things. Here are some of the best:

  • spanakopita (σπανακοπιτα): spinach pie. Blanch about 3 pounds of spinach and mix with 2 chopped and caramelized onions and a big bunch of dill. Mix 1 pound of feta   (yup, a a pound of feta) with 3 eggs, then combine this with the greens mix. Season to taste. Butter a square pan and make layers: (1 sheet filo dough+brush of olive oil)x10, plop of cheesy spinach, repeat. End on a filo layer, and brush the top with some beaten egg to make it shiny. Bake at 200 C for about 25 minutes. This amount of filling will make about 2 medium pan-fulls, maybe enough for 10-15 people depending on how much you like spinach. These are the most filling creatures known to man though. When Sam HRB and I were Masters Cooks, we made something like 8 zillion spanakopitas one night. I don’t remember the exact quantity, but I know we bought enough spinach that I had to use a rolling suitcase to get it from the car to our building. Fortunately the spinach was cheap, so we could afford the $25 of feta squares. (It was enough for Sam to make the same face he did for six pounds of ginger, which was a great moment. Kind of like an “ohgodwhy” mixed with amazed fascination.) In Greece spanakopita is served both in slices and as individual dumplings, usually in a pasty/empanada shape.
  • tiropita (τυροπιτα): cheese pie. Basically the same as above, but with ricotta and no spinach. Some recipes recommend cinnamon, which sounds like a fine idea. You could even sass it up and add some other Greek cheeses.
  • moussaka (μουσακάς): mmmm. The best kind is with lamb, but without eggplant. I can’t really comment on the recipe as I’ve never made it, but it seems to be lasagna noodles layered with ground lamb, tomatoes, sometimes potatoes and zucchini, and topped with bechamel.
  • pastichio (παστιζιο): kind of the same as moussaka, but with more bechamel and macaroni instead of lasagna. More like a casserole.
  • dolmades (δολμαδες): the epitomic Greek dumpling: rice/lamb stuffed into grape leaves. I made the rice mixture on Sunday – after cooking rice and allowing to cool for about 10 minutes, add oregano, chopped mint, s+p to taste, and the juice of 1 lemon. One should then proceed to wrap the mixture in the leaves, but since I thought of this at the last minute I had none. Anna P told me it’s best to steal them from your nearby vineyard. Sadly, we can’t all live in Tuscany.
  • One can also make dolmades with cabbage leaves (lahanodolmades/λαχανοδολμαδες), or stuff the same mixture into zucchini with the seeds removed (kolokythakia/κολοκυθακια). Or into tomatoes, or peppers, or…
  • Oh wait, we can’t forget baklava, which is filo layered with nuts and honey.

Uh, so I believe I was going to tell you about my pie. I made a version of my Greek pasta – not actually Greek, but rather invented in Greece by my hungry room-mate and I after a market trip – with filo. I don’t know if anyone at TPS has ever bought as many zucchini as I did – 8, I think. Here it goes:

The veg: 8 zucchini, 5 smallish tomatoes and 1 can diced tomatoes, 5 red onions, 2 big handfuls spinach

The spice: s+p (fresh-ground is very important!), oregano, dill, ~100 grams feta, filo dough

The method: Slice the onions into rings and caramelize. Slice the zucchini into short spears and either roast or sautee. After removing about half the seeds, salt the tomatoes and blend them to small chunks; cook on the stove with salt until some of the liquid is gone. Blanch the spinach and set aside. When the tomato mush and the zucchini spears are almost ready, mix them together and add in the onions, spinach, and tomato paste. Add the oregano, dill, salt, and pepper to taste. Note that although it may taste ok now, the cheese really rounds of the dish. Feta adds a sort of coolness to all the warm vegetables – maybe that’s why a Greek salad tastes so good (cool with cool, warmed by tomatoes). Butter a pie pan and layer filo at the bottom as in a spanakopita. Add about an inch of vegetable mix, some crumbled feta, and then some more filo. Continue until you run out of vegetables; end on a filo layer and try to tuck it in at the corners.

Τα ρεστα: [This is a Greek phrase that means “the change”, but I always think of it as “the rest” as it’s spelled – as in, the rest of the work is complete, go have a rest with your full stomach.] I used olive oil to to cook everything in this meal instead of Flora. It makes things taste much more Mediterranean (accepting that the idea of Mediterranean food” was really only cemented 25 years ago, but that’s another story). Also, be sure to use either fresh or really, really good dried oregano. This is so important.

I have no further comments. It was delicious. The meal was supplemented by tzatziki, Laura J’s cucmbers and hummus and Greek salad, Anna P’s Greek yogurt dessert with honey and pine nuts, and Laura T’s bread.


UPDATE: I completely forgot about the cheese, which is UNACCEPTABLE. I tried to make saganaki by frying breaded slices of halloumi, but they just wouldn’t catch fire. Despite their inflammability, they were the highlight of the party. I originally made one slice per person but ended up using the rest of the block, which was devoured by the guests like the raptor scene in Jurassic Park.