Working with filo dough is not something I look forward to do. But the idea of making a zucchini filo pie is new and different and interesting. That overcomes my initial reluctance in working with an unfamiliar and finicky ingredient. The recipe comes from Huge Fearnley-Whittingstall, the featured chef at IHCC. I’ve found most of his recipes to be easy to follow, with minimal amount of fuss. When he describes this dish as intriguing and that it’s as tasty as it is cunning. I don’t really get what he means. The only way to find out is to make the pie.
I had the finished pie sitting on the kitchen counter and my husband mistakenly thought this was a quiche. (One of our favorites.) He likes this filo pie a lot. It is light and all the ingredients gel together to make it enjoyable to eat. The crispy texture adds a lot to its appeal. You can hear the crunch as you cut into the pie. This is a fantastic and unusual pie with the combination of lovely taste, architecture and the crumbled look.
I may attempt to make something similar, a pie which is as light as air with a clean and delicate flavor. But I haven’t yet come up with any vegetable that works well as a blank canvas, like the zucchini, enclosed in a filo dough environment. You need a vegetable that softens quickly, without turning the inside of the pie waterlogged, meanwhile maintaining a crispy exterior. Making a good and well composed pie can be challenging. All I can cobble together for a similar attempt at a filo pie is a dessert, using berries and almond cream. Any suggestions?
Quiches have eggs and cream to bind the ingredients together in a custard-like filling. This zucchini filo pie is much lighter, both in weight and taste and ingredients. It is held together with just two eggs and a small amount of goat cheese and rice. The recipe calls for white rice. I only have brown rice. (The brown rice has to be precooked.) All the fillings are then poured into the baking pan lined with sheets of filo dough. The prime ingredient is definitely the zucchini. I used two good-sized zucchinis (500 grams), grated finely. But zucchini never takes over the taste department. It’s a team player working in harmony with the goat cheese and rice. A truly outstanding pie.
I won’t call the pie cunning. I’d say it’s smart.
Zucchini and Rice Filo PiePrint Recipe
- 500g zucchini (courgettes), coarsely grated
- 75g long-grain white rice
- ½ medium red onion, finely chopped
- 75g hard goat’s cheese or mature Cheddar, grated
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- A handful of dill, chopped
- A good handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
- 250g ready-made filo pastry
- 75g unsalted butter, melted
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 190°C/375°F. Mix the courgettes, rice, onion, cheese, eggs, olive oil and chopped herbs together in a large bowl. Season with plenty of salt and pepper.
Take a sheet of filo pastry, brush with a little melted butter and use it to line a smallish ovenproof dish, about 1.5 litre capacity, placing the pastry butter side down. Let any excess hang over at the ends. Add another buttered sheet on top and continue until you’ve used all but one sheet of the pastry.
Tip the filling into the pastry-lined dish. Fold over the pastry ends to enclose the filling, dabbing with a little more melted butter to keep the pastry together. Take the remaining sheet of pastry, crumple it lightly in your hands to give a nicely textured finish and place on top of the pie, tucking in the edges around the side.
Dab a little more butter over the surface and bake for 45 minutes until golden. Serve hot or warm.
Adapted from River Cottage by Hugh-Fearnley Whittingstall