As any regular reader of Gourmet Goddess knows, I have an almost evangelical fervour about eating seasonally and as locally as possible. In the modern world where mass marketing and huge scale food production has completely exploded, to eat seasonally isn't as straightforward as you might think. It means getting educated about what grows when - as well as the conditions under which it grows, how far it travels and what happens to it when it reaches the place where it is sold. The more interested in this I have become, the more I find there is to learn. It really is an endless education process and one that has completely transformed the way I shop, grow things and cook. One of the most rewarding aspects of this for me, has been how it has really strengthened my connection to nature, and to the seasons - and provided so much inspiration for what I eat and cook.
As I was sitting sipping my coffee this morning, I was looking at all the greens that were ready to harvest in my garden and for some reason remembered a conversation I had with an Italian grocer in Marrickville who was selling big bunches of nettles. I asked him what they were used for, and he told me that they grew abundantly at that time of the year, and that his Greek and Italian customers would make a sort of spiral shaped pie with them, using cheese and any other greens and wild herbs they could find. That conversation and my own harvest is the inspiration for today's recipe.
A Green Bounty
From left: Sorrel, Basil, Chives, Kale, Spinach, Parsley
As well as my own greens and herbs, I also had a small bunch of kale, as well as some spinach that arrived in our organic vege box this week, grown locally and super fresh. I gathered it all together to form the basis of this delicious, tasty pie. To the greens I added a little goat cheese from the Hunter Valley, some ricotta and a touch of cheddar, garlic, a small amount of breadcrumbs and a free range egg to bind it all together. I was really inspired by the idea of a traditional spiral shaped pie, so thought I would have a go at creating one - making a series of sausage shaped, filled filo pieces that I then formed into a large spiral.
Creating the first section - about to be rolled
The end result was a lovely rustic, flaky pie packed with amazing local greens - some from my own garden - and that tasted delicious. I really like the visual appeal of the spiral shape too. Actually, the spiral makes complete sense aside from looking nice - It means you get a taste of pastry with every bite. Genius.
Being a rustic dish, don't feel you need to be too precise on the measurement of your ingredients - and use whatever greens you have in the fridge or the garden, as well as whatever cheese you fancy. This is a dish created from whatever was growing in the vicinity at the time, so use the same principle to make your own version. I'm calling mine Green Goddess Pie.
Green Goddess Pie
You will need: 1 box (about 350g) filo pastry, 250g ricotta cheese, 100g soft goat cheese, 1 cup grated cheddar cheese, 2 tablespoons breadcrumbs, handful of chopped parsley, handful of chopped mint, basil, chives (whatever you have), bunch of spinach, bunch of sorrel, bunch of kale, 2 cloves finely chopped garlic, generous pinch cayenne pepper, salt and pepper, 1 egg, 2 tablespoons melted butter, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds.
Note: You can be very free and easy with the greens you use in this recipe. I used spinach, sorrel and kale - but you might want to use just spinach or silverbeet, extra herbs, watercress, nettles - whatever is available.
Method: Roughly chop the spinach, kale and sorrel and blanch in salted boiling water for about a minute. Drain well, and when cooled slightly, squeeze the liquid from the greens.
In a large bowl, place the greens, goat cheese, ricotta, cheddar, breadcrumbs,all of the herbs, garlic, egg cayenne. Season generously with plenty of salt and pepper. With clean hands, mix the ingredients together thoroughly. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed. Allow the mixture to cool for 10 minutes or so.
Preheat the oven to 200C.
Remove the filo from the pack and unroll it. Cut it length ways. Take two of the filo pieces and lay it flat, brush with melted butter. Working fairly quickly, lay another two strips of filo on the top of those and brush with the melted butter again. Along the left hand edge of the pastry, lay a line of the filling mixture.
With dry hands, roll up the filling to form a long cigar or sausage shape. Now roll up the pastry to form a coil or snail shape - this will form the basis of your spiral. Gently place the spiral on a baking tray lined with baking paper (I used a pizza tray)
Repeat the process to make more long sausage shaped pieces of pastry and filling, adding each one to the first spiral you made to build up an even bigger one. Brush the pastry at the ends to help you join the pieces together. Continue this until you have used all of your filling.
Brush your spiral with the last of the butter (or you can use a beaten egg if you want to) Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake in the oven for 30 -40 minutes - or until the spiral is golden brown.
Allow to cool for 10 minutes before slicing and serving. Serves 6.