“This showstopper of a pie from grandmother, Christina Phillips, is full of green goodness. Christina is from Northern Greece and still cooks her treasured recipes; her protégé is her grandson, top chef Matt Germanchis, who leads the Pei Modern restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne.” Maeve O'Meara, Food Safari Fire
Horta (wild greens) and feta
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) English spinach
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) silverbeet (Swiss chard)
- 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) nettles or bitter greens like chickory, dandelion
- large handful of sorrel, optional
- 60 ml (2 fl oz/¼ cup) olive oil
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 400 g (14 oz) Greek sheep’s feta
- salt and pepper
- 1.2 kg (2 lb 7 oz) plain flour, sifted
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 tsp dry yeast
- 500 ml (17 fl oz/2 cups) lukewarm water
- 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 120 g (4½ oz) butter, melted
- 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) extra-virgin olive oil
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.
Resting time 1 hour
To prepare the horta and feta, wash the greens and chop roughly, keeping the sorrel aside if using. Wilt the spinach, silverbeet and nettles in a dry, covered saucepan over low heat for about 10 minutes until tender, adding the sorrel and removing the lid towards the end. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is very soft. Set aside to cool for about 5 minutes.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and return the green mixture to the saucepan until just sizzling. Add the eggs and remove from the heat. Stir well, ensuring the egg does not curdle — it is just to thicken the mixture.
Add 200 g (7 oz) of crumbled feta, cook at a low temperature for 4 minutes, then remove from the heat and strain the excess liquid. Cool then mix in the remaining olive oil, seasoning and 100 g (3½ oz) of feta. Refrigerate until required.
For the filo pastry, mix the dry ingredients, water and oil in a large bowl and knead for about 10 minutes until it has a smooth bread dough consistency. Rest for an hour at room temperature.
While the dough is resting, melt the butter and add the extra-virgin olive oil.
Once rested, divide the dough into 12 balls. Knead six of the balls, adding flour as necessary.
With a long, thin rolling pin, roll each ball into 20 cm (8 in) circles. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter/oil mixture to five of the circles and brush evenly with a pastry brush. Pile one on top of the other, finishing with the one without the oil. Press the layers together well with your fingertips.
Roll out with the rolling pin, turning, to make the pastry as large as possible. Add flour if the rolling pin becomes sticky. Towards the end stretch by hand, being careful not to break the pastry.
Once the pastry is at the desired thickness, around 2–3 mm, line a 50 cm (19 in) baking pan with baking paper and lightly brush with the butter oil mixture.
Roll the pastry onto the rolling pin, then starting at the edge of the pan gently unroll the pastry, let it overhang at the edges. Using the pastry brush, gently push the pastry into the edges. Brush with butter/olive oil mixture.
Spoon the horta mix into the pan and spread almost to the edges. Crumble 100 g (3½ oz) feta over the top.
Of the remaining six pastry balls, roll out three at a time, repeating the process above to make two separate layers. Gently roll the first pastry circle over the pan and unroll, moving the rolling pin from side to side to achieve a folded effect. Brush with the butter oil mixture and repeat with the final pastry circle.
To finish, twist and plait the edges. Then cut the pastry into squares. Brush lightly with the butter/oil mixture.
Cook in a wood-fired oven at 200°C (390°F) for 15 minutes, then sprinkle with a little water by dipping your fingers in the water and flicking onto the pastry. Cook for a further 10–15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and flaky.
Recipe from Food Safari Fire by Maeve O'Meara (Hardie Grant, hbk, $55). Photography by Toufic Charabati.