Spinach Soufflé Filo Tart

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Preparation info

  • For

    6

    • Difficulty

      Medium

Appears in

Food of the Sun: A Fresh Look at Mediterranean Cooking

Food of the Sun

By Alastair Little and Richard Whittington

Published 1995

  • About

One of the most famous Greek dishes is spanakotyropitta, the spinach-and-Feta filo pastry pie of a thousand Aegean island holidays, 2,000 Cypriot restaurants and 3,000,000 attempts globally to cook it at home. The combination of spinach and cheese has always made sublime culinary magic; for some of us, however, its more obvious manifestations have been leaden and prosaic.

We must all be thankful that filo - or fyllo or phyllo - the wafer-thin pastry of the Middle East, is now winking from every supermarket freezer cabinet. If you had to make it yourself then forget it... far too difficult... but you can use commercial filo, just like the best ethnic restaurants.

This recipe is the result of having enjoyed the classic Greek pie, but never being besotted by it. Here the classic ingredients meet a French souffle and are transformed to create a perfect first course.

Obviously it makes a great main course if sliced larger, or a wonderful supper to eat while listening to bazouki music. And it makes a seriously different breakfast with a bottle of Saint-Veran. The tart can be eaten warm or cold. It inevitably settles as it cools but, even so, stays lighter than any quiche.

Ingredients

  • 115 g/4 oz cottage cheese
  • 55 g/2 oz Parmesan cheese
  • 450 g/1 lb spinach leaves
  • 55 g/2 oz butter
  • 225 g/8 oz filo pastry
  • 55 g/2 oz flour
  • 300 ml/½ pt milk
  • 1/2 nutmeg
  • 6 eggs
  • salt and pepper

Method

Preparation

Put the cottage cheese to drain in a sieve. Grate the Parmesan.

Pull off any big stalks from the spinach and blanch the leaves in lots of fast-boiling salted water for 30-60 seconds. Drain immediately and refresh in ice-cold water. Drain again and squeeze gently to remove as much moisture as possible. Chop and reserve.

Melt half the butter. Working 2 sheets at a time and keeping the other sheets under a damp tea towel, brush each sheet of filo with the melted butter and use them to line a 23 cm/9 in tart tin, overlaying the sheets 3 deep to cover the bottom and overlapping them at angles to each other to create an even base. Allow them to hang over the edges a little. All this does not have to be too uniform. Make a thick bechamel: melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan, stir in the flour and then whisk in the milk. Bring to the boil, lower to a simmer and grate in nutmeg to taste. Whisk from time to time and continue to simmer for 10 minutes. It will be very thick. Season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Stir in the drained cottage cheese and the Parmesan.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas4.

Separate the eggs and whisk the whites until stiff.

Beat 5 of the egg yolks into the béchamel (keep the other in the refrigerator to enrich another sauce), then put the sauce into a large bowl. Take a scoop of the egg whites, throw it into this mixture and cut and stir it in with a spatula. Rotate the mix vigorously and then add the remaining egg whites. Gently but firmly cut them in until you have a light and airy mixture.

Spoon the soufflé mixture into the lined tart tin.

Cooking

Pull up any edges of pastry to sit against the filling and put on a rack in the centre of the oven.

Cook for 15 minutes and then test with your finger: it should be risen, brown on the surface and resilient to the touch. If it is still liquid in the centre, return to the oven for another 5 minutes or so. Transfer to a cutting board and leave for 3 minutes.

Serving

Cut into portion-size wedges and serve immediately, or leave to cool and serve at room temperature.

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