• Galaktoboureko (Souvlaki for the Soul)Source: Souvlaki for the Soul
Whether you're into sweet or savoury (or even both at the same time), filo pastry delivers with dozens of distinct layers.
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18 Sep 2020 - 11:40 AM  UPDATED 18 Sep 2020 - 1:30 PM

Step aside, puff, it's filo's time to shine. Layer upon layer of paper-thin pastry that crisps up, with just the right amount of give. Filo - or phyllo or fillo - is a staple in Middle Eastern, Balkan, Greek and Cypriot cuisines, but also pops up in Italian, Maltese, Pakistani and Indian cooking. (It's versatile like that.)

Filo is an unleavened dough that is stretchy enough to be rolled out cellophane-fine. If you can't read the morning paper through your filo, keep rolling. Making your own filo requires a fair amount of skill and certainly way more time than any of us ever have, so it's reassuring to know that quality store-bought filo is a respectable substitute.

50 years of baklava: That’s a lot of filo
Unravel the many layers behind my mama's baklava brain. Who knew opposites attract when filo pastry and a cheesegrater join forces?

If you can't read the morning paper through your filo, keep rolling.

Get your hands on a packet, start at the top our list and work your way down. Does it help to know that filo is made without added fat, so is generally considered a healthier pastry? Thought so...

Make way for makaronapita 

Makaronapita is the kind of showstopping dish that ought to be much more difficult to prepare. The lesser-known savoury Greek pie (see spanakopita, below) is filled to the brim with macaroni, spicy beef and cheese. It tastes as good as it looks.

Spanakopita addiction

This recipe adds chicken to a classic Greek spanakopita. The big spinach and fetta flavours shine through, but the chicken brings extra satisfaction. Make this recipe for your yiayia with confidence.

Highly strung

While we're on a chicken pie bender (because that's such a good idea), let us just slip in a little kataifi number. Kataifi is a string-like pastry that's technically not filo, but let's not mince words - just pastry. The vermicelli-like strands make Greek sweets like baklava taste even more amazing and are also perfect on top of this chicken pot pie.

Thai chicken pie

I love a good Thai chicken curry, fragrant with spices, chilli and ginger, and creamy with coconut milk. This is my pastry-topped tribute to that dish.

Chicken and leek pot pies

This version of the classic chicken and leek pie adds a pinch of nutmeg and diced bacon, and double-stacks the puff pastry for an extra crunchy crust.

Rustic Moroccan chicken pie

This rustic chicken pie will be a welcome addition to your repertoire this winter, with its golden flaky pastry and Moroccan-spiced filling with a hint of sweetness from the dates.

Special delivery

The only thing better than sharing one big pie is getting your own individual pie. That way, you get more filo pastry. These little lamb parcels are flavoured with big Middle Eastern flavours like cumin, cinnamon, sumac and pomegranate molasses.

Know when to fold 'em

This flaky mushroom and leek soufra is made by folding, not rolling the pastry for an impressive finish and cross-section. It's simple to make but set one down in the middle of the table and you're sure to impress.

Yes to koupes

We're sneaking in another kataifi recipe in here, simply because these harissa lamb koupes are just so beautiful!

Sweetened savoury

Moroccan food mixed sweet and savoury flavours in a way few other cuisines can manage. These mini chicken pastillas are a case in point. Apricot and honey mingle harmoniously with turmeric and ginger, garlic and onion. The result is a crispy icing sugar-dusted little parcel that is very big on intrigue.

Galaktoboureko us up

Galaktoboureko

Galaktoboureko is far and away one of Greece's most popular dishes. The creamy semolina custard pie is decadently sandwiched between twenty buttered filo pasty sheets. Which surely isn't enough?

Yiayia Marina’s baklava

Yiayia Marina’s been making it the same way for over 60 years and it continues to make an appearance at every family gathering, large or small. Our family’s recipe is for a large-sized tray, enough to make 100 tiny bite-sized serves, or 25 larger dessert sized portions. 

Ruffled filo pie with pistachios and honey
Tapping into Greek desserts, this one calls for creamy custard, sweet, sweet honey a little nuttiness and of course, crispy filo for the win!
Sweet semolina filo pie (bougatsa)

Bougatsa is, arguably, one of Greece’s greatest gifts to the culinary world. Layers of buttered filo encase a sweet semolina custard which is baked into a golden flaky pie. Dusted with icing sugar and cinnamon, it’s the perfect accompaniment to, well, just about anything.

Sneaky string

Here's that stealthy kataifi worming its way onto the filo list again. Shh, let's have a piece of ekmek kataifi and look the other way. Thick layers of custard and cream have a way of bringing things together harmoniously.

Top of the dome

This baklava dome cake is the dessert you bring out when you have people to impress. Even if it's just your family on a random Friday night. Life is too short to not eat plenty of filo-wrapped cakes, don't you think?

Keep calm and filo on
7 ways to fall in love with filo pastry
We're falling for the crisp, golden and satisfying moves of filo pastry. Whether you make filo from scratch or go store-bought, here's how to double your pastry offering by going savoury and sweet in one sitting.
Pumpkin, spinach and chickpea filo pie

Comfort food need not be unhealthy, with a protein-packed pie covered with a light, flaky filo pastry to warm you from the inside.

Five Greek women share the secrets to making filo and pita
A life of (Greek) pie is easier than you think.
Technique: How to shape your filo pastry
Whatever your filling option, using this creative filo technique will give your pie an easy way to play with your pastry servings.
Orange filo pie (portokalopita)

If you’re looking for the ultimate Greek sweet, look no further than portokalopita. This crispy, syrupy, custardy concoction makes perfect use of Greece’s famed yoghurt, which is strained to remove the whey to create a thicker, creamier result. Believed to hail from Crete, this rich pie makes use of the island’s orange bounty, resulting in a refreshingly zesty dessert that’s delicious served warm in winter or chilled with ice-cream in summer.

Sour cherry filo pie (pita sa višnjama)

Where I come from, cherry pies are made with filo pastry and sour cherries. During cherry-picking season, my family always makes one to eat after pitting all the cherries, our fingers and clothes stained with the juices. If you ask me, the best sour cherries for this pie are a bit sweeter, but still tangy. However, any sour cherry, including frozen, can be used. You can also substitute other fruits, such as apple, which I grate and combine with cinnamon and nutmeg. Just make sure to adjust the sugar.

Sundried tomato and pine nut filo pies

Kefalotiri and kefalograviera are hard Greek cheeses made from sheep’s or goat’s milk, and both are excellent melting cheeses.

Filo rolls with manouri, walnuts, raisins, figs and mint

I am using many of the ingredients we saw in Kalamata market in a modern but nonetheless Greek way.