The Hairy Bikers have a lot of fans. I am not one of them. I do, however, love pies. So when a copy of The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies landed on my desk, I wasn’t quite sure what to think. However, on balance, I love it.
Split into categories such as double-crust pies, handheld pies, potato-topped pies and plate pies, Perfect Pies celebrates The Pie in all its forms, from all corners of the globe. From Middle-Eastern burek to Spanish empanadas, French galette des rois (King cake) to North American Pecan pie, it makes you realise how ubiquitous the humble pie has become across the world.
There are tarts and quiches, pasties and canapes, suet puddings and hot pots – you name it, this book’s got it. The superb ‘How to’ section at the back gives you step-by-step instructions to make 9 different types of shortcrust, rough puff, flaky freezer, sweet and hot-water crust pastry, with tips on how to get the perfect pastry and avoid soggy bottoms. There’s also an ingenious ‘Leftovers’ section with ideas on what to do with all your pastry off-cuts, so nothing goes to waste.
Each recipe is accompanied with beautifully rustic photographs and I’d defy anyone to flick through without finding at least 10 recipes you want to try right away! I decided to make the Spinach & feta filo pie (recipe below). I adapted it slightly, halving the recipe and trying to make it a little lighter using cooking spray instead of butter between the filo pastry sheets. I also used a loaf tin to make it a deeper pie than the original recipe.
I’ve got to say, the end result was delicious. Cut through the crisp, crunchy filo and the mellow flavours of the ricotta are set off perfectly against the tangy feta. Rich and comforting without being too filling, and just as good cold the next day as piping hot out of the oven.
The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies (Weidenfeld & Nicolson) is published on 13 October, RRP £20. You can buy it from Amazon for £9 delivered.
Spinach & feta filo pie
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
260g young spinach leaves
2 large eggs
250g pot ricotta cheese
large pinch dried thyme
200g feta cheese, drained
1 tbsp plain flour
5 filo pastry sheets
low-fat cooking spray/oil
5g butter, melted
You’ll also need a 23cmx13cm (2lb) loaf tin.
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Gently fry the onions and garlic for 15 mins until softened. (TIP: Don’t be stingy on the onion time– you’d be amazed how much an extra 10 mins releases and develops the flavours). Add the spinach and cook for a further 5-6 mins. Tip the spinach mixture into a sieve or colander and squeeze out as much liquid as possible using a ladle or wooden spatula (it will be hot!) Make sure you get every last drop out, or your pie will end up soggy.
Beat the eggs in a large bowl, then stir in the ricotta until well mixed. Grate in the nutmeg and a generous amount of black pepper. Add the thyme, crumble in the feta, sprinkle over the flour and stir well to combine. Once the spinach mixture has cooled a little, stir this in too, making sure you’ve broken up and distributed the spinach evenly.
Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Take 5 sheets of filo pastry and measure out the size you need to line your loaf tin with enough overlap to cover the top. I used about two thirds of a sheet. Cut off the excess, wrap in cling film and keep for another recipe (such as ‘Deli tomato & cheese filo tartlets’, in the Leftovers section). Take one of the trimmed pastry sheets and place it on a board. Spray about 7 times with cooking spray and brush the oil over with a pastry brush. Lay the next sheet on top and repeat, doing the same for the remaining sheets until you have a stack of 5 oiled sheets.
Line your loaf tin with the stack of filo pastry, then tip in the spinach and ricotta mixture. Fold the excess pastry over the top of the mixture, and use a rounded knife (or spatula) to push the sides of the pastry down into a little parcel, to seal the mixture in. Finally, brush with the melted butter and sprinkle with some freshly ground black pepper.
Bake for 45-50 mins, until the pastry is crisp and golden and the filling has set. Cool for 10 mins before serving.
PER SERVING 427 kcals, protein 21g, carbs 23g, fat 28g, sat fat 15g, fibre 3g, salt 2g