This rich and vegetarian take on a medieval ‘greyte pye’ includes an unorthodox garam masala that is really more like a medieval spice blend. In this modern version, vegetables, dried fruit and pulses replace the traditional game or fowl, enabling these once exotic and sought-after fragrant spices to be savoured in a new way.






Skill level

Average: 3.7 (46 votes)


Garam masala spice mix

  • 2 tbsp cardamom seeds, toasted and ground 4 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • 4 tsp ground cinnamon (or 1½ cinnamon sticks, charred and ground)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds, toasted and ground 1 tbsp ground nutmeg
  • 2 tsp ground allspice
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground 2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tsp licorice powder (optional)
  • ½ tsp fenugreek powder


Turmeric melted onions

  • 50 g (1¾oz./½ stick) butter
  • 60 ml (¼ cup) grapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 4 medium brown onions (450g/1lb.), halved and thinly sliced
  • 10 grinds black pepper (optional)



  • 2 or 3 small sweet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 400 g (14oz.) can white cannellini beans or chickpeas, rinsed and drained well
  • 70 g (2½oz./½ cup) sultanas (golden raisins)
  • 2 pieces preserved lemon peel, shredded or zest of ½ lemon
  • 100 g (3½oz./¾ stick + 1 tbsp) butter
  • 5 tsp garam masala spice mix (see above)
  • 6 filo pastry sheets, opened out flat, covered with a damp cloth
  • ½ quantity turmeric melted onions (see Note)
  • 200 g (7oz.) baby spinach, rinsed and patted dry
  • 3 large eggs
  • 100 g (3½oz.) ricotta (or farmer’s cheese or cottage cheese)
  • 13 cherry tomatoes, with stalks


Cook's notes

Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.


To make the garam masala spice mix, blend all spices in a mortar and pestle and transfer to a jar, until required.

To make the turmeric melted onions, heat the oil and melt the butter in a pan over medium–high heat. Stir in the turmeric and cook for 1 minute. (Adding turmeric to the sizzling oil intensifies the flavour and nutrients; the pepper adds even more goodness.) Add the onions and when they begin to let off steam, turn the heat down to medium–low and cook for 20–30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until translucent, melted and light-yellow-brown in colour. Add the pepper and stir for a few minutes. Remove from heat, cool, then cover and chill until needed.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F/gas mark 5). Lightly oil a 30 x 15cm (12 x 6in.) baking dish.

Blanch the sweet potato slices in boiling salted water until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain well and set aside. Mix the beans, sultanas (golden raisins) and lemon peel or zest together in a bowl and set aside.

Melt the butter with 2 teaspoons of the spice mix. Brush two filo (phyllo) pastry sheets with this spiced butter, fold them in half and lay them side by side in the bottom of the baking dish so that they just overlap in the centre and the edges hang over the sides of the dish.

Layer the potato slices over the bottom of the dish, then add an evenly spread layer of the Turmeric Melted Onions and sprinkle over ½ teaspoon of spice blend. Next add an even layer of the bean and sultana (golden raisin) mix then sprinkle with a further ½ teaspoon of the spice blend. Cover with the spinach.

Beat the eggs with 1 teaspoon of spice mix. Pour over the spinach and gently shake the pan to settle. Spoon dollops of ricotta on top. Fold the edges of the filo (phyllo) just inside the edges of the dish.

Brush spice butter on the remaining filo (phyllo) sheets, fold in half, then cut into a grid of eight rectangles. Scrunch the filo rectangles into kerchiefs and arrange over the top. Pierce each tomato then tuck randomly on top, scattering a big pinch of spice blend over all. Sprinkle salt flakes on top if you like.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until filo (phyllo) is browned and vegetables bubbling. Serve hot or at room temperature with a nice flagon of wine or ale!



• The turmeric melted onions recipe makes 2 cups. Use 1 cup for this recipe. 


Recipes and images from Spice Health Heroes by Natasha MacAller. Photography by Manja Wachsmuth. (Murdoch books, $49.99 hbk). Read an extract right here.