Rain, rain, rain! Vivid shocking green is the landscape – and dashed are the plans for long lazy afternoons in the sun. Our summer took a decidedly wet turn over the past week or so. At least it’s not cold, my mother points out, to cheer me up. She knows I am a sunshine girl. I thought I would bring a little of the Mediterranean into my kitchen by baking some fragrant, warmly spiced filo pastries. What do you think? It worked!
These crispy, flaky pastries are generously laced with melted butter and filled with sharp feta and smoky grilled aubergines. Or eggplant, as I also like to say. Sweet fried onions and a hint of North African spice too. I can eat far too many of these – good thing my little boy loves them as well.
Of course if you know me, you will be expecting what I will say next. The recipe that I share to make these pastries is infinitely variable. I think that the filo, feta cheese and butter are the only constants. If you don’t like aubergine, or you prefer spinach, or you have some cooked chicken you would like to add – well go ahead! I often add a few raisins because I love the sweet and salty feta combination. Toasted pine nuts also give an amazing burst of flavour. Essentially, a tasty mixture wrapped in buttery filo pastry will always be uplifting and delicious. Even when the sun is hiding.
Filo and Feta Cheese Pastries
1 onion, finely chopped
1 aubergine, sliced
1 package (200g) feta cheese
1 teaspoon of mixed dried herbs, such as herbes de Provence, or thyme and oregano. Fresh herbs lovely too. You choose.
1 teaspoon of mixed spices, such as cumin, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, pepper. I have a North African blend for couscous which is great for this. These spices are heady and strong so use with care or leave out if you prefer.
Optional – a handful of raisins, toasted pine nuts
100 g of butter, melted
1 package, about 10 sheets of filo pastry
Fry the onions in a little olive oil until soft and slightly caramelised. Remove from heat. Meanwhile, rub the aubergine slices with some olive oil and grill on both sides until golden. Dice the grilled aubergine into smallish bits and add to the onions. Crumble the feta cheese into the onion mix, along with the herbs and spices. Melt the butter in a separate small bowl or pan. Set aside the melted butter and the filling for a moment and get ready to deal with the filo pastry.
Take the filo sheets from their packaging, unroll them gently and lay them out flat, covered with a clean teacloth. These sheets can dry out quickly (unless you live in super rainy England!) so you need to work fairly briskly.
Brush the top sheet of filo with butter. Put two to three tablespoons of filling towards the edge of the narrow side. Roll it up cigar style once or twice, then flap the sides over, and then roll up the the rest of the way. Crikey – does that make sense? Let me know if I can make it clearer. Continue with the rest of your sheets and filling.
Put the rolls on a baking sheet lined with baking paper. Bake in 180 degree centigrade oven for about twenty minutes, until the pastries are all golden and crispy.
Try and let them cool a bit before tucking in. Drop me a comment and let me know what you think – I love to hear from you.
I’ll leave you with a picture of the rain drenched pears outside my cottage. We’re off to jump in some puddles now!