Thursday, May 27, 2010

Green Pie

In a family of young children, it helps to have staples: foods that turn up again and again, and that the kids like. We have a list on our fridge of the ten dinners my children have agreed to eat. When, in their fickleness, they point to the meal on their plate and say 'don't like it!', I point to the list and remind them it's not an option.

A very loose interpretation of spanakopita features on this list. Perhaps it would be better to call it 'green pie', although we so often fill it with rainbow chard and beet leaves that it is, more properly speaking, a murky red. We make it from whatever's at hand: silver beet, rainbow chard, beet leaves, spinach; parsley, mint, dill, fennel tops; brown onions, spring onions, red onions, shallots; pine nuts, walnuts or no nuts at all. Sometimes I even hide a layer of mushrooms under the green stuff. My kids confuse them with the pastry and gobble them down – but that's our little secret.

In short, it's a filo pie stuffed with a great wodge of green stuff, a heap of herbs, and a bit of egg and cheese. And, most of the time, my kids like it.

Green Pie

- half a pack of filo pastry (180g). Note that the pastry needs to be at room temperature before you can make the pie; check the instructions on the packet for how long you need to leave it out.
- 1 hefty bunch rainbow chard, silverbeet, beet leaves or spinach or a combination, washed and chopped
- a slosh of olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- a bunch of spring onions, chopped
- 375 g feta cheese, crumbled (less is okay, but don't skimp too much: the feta's salty tang cuts through the green stuff and renders it not just palatable, but divine!)
- 4 eggs
- 1 bunch parsley, chopped
- 1 bunch dill, mint or fennel tops or all or none of these herbs
- a big lump of melted butter
- optional: a handful of pine nuts or walnuts. If you are using walnuts, chop them. (Local walnuts are easy to find; pine nuts can be gathered from the foreshore at Queenscliff!)

Drizzle some olive oil in a warm wide sauté pan and add the onions. Sauté until they are translucent, then add the spring onions and sauté a little longer. Add the greens, clap on the lid and steam until they have softened, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the lid, and cook away any residual water in the pan.

Stir in the chopped herbs, and leave to cool a little.

When you are ready to make the pie, heat the oven to 180. Lightly beat the eggs and stir through the greens; then add the crumbled feta cheese.

Brush a rectangular dish (I use a 8" by 11" glass dish because that's all I have, but a metal tin would make the bottom of the pie deliciously crisp) with melted butter. Line it with two layers of filo. Brush the filo with butter, and continue layering and buttering until it is 8 to 10 sheets thick.

Fill the dish with the green mixture, smoothing it into the corners.

Add another two layers of filo, brush with butter, and if you are using the nuts, sprinkle them over the pie at this point. Then continue layering and buttering until the filo is used up. Tuck in the edges, ensuring everything is nicely buttered, pop it into the oven, and cook for 35 to 45 minutes until all is golden.

Leave to rest for a few minutes before serving.

(Backyard: parsley, mint. Local: rainbow chard, olive oil, onions, spring onions, eggs, feta, nuts. Partly local, partly not: filo pastry.)

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