I have never been so organised for the holiday season. The visitors don't start arriving until Sunday and not only are the beds made up, the presents wrapped and the tree and house decorated but I started cooking today. I usually do that in the wee small hours of the morning before they arrive. I think it must have something to do with retirement!
With half the family being vegetarian, I have two menus to prepare. I like to think up something special for those who won't be having the roast goose and baked ham and this pie is one of several dishes I'm preparing in advance. It looks and smells delicious and I suspect the meat-eaters will be demanding a slice or two.
Vegetarian food usually takes a little more thought and preparation than meat or fish dishes but it is worth the effort. Many people seem to be giving up or reducing the amount of meat they eat and I'm frequently asked for ideas other than meat-substitutes and dry nut roasts. Here is the recipe for the Christmas pie:
You will need:
An 8 inch spring form cake tin
1 pack of Filo pastry
5oz melted butter
4 tablespoons olive oil
6 scallions, chopped
1lb frozen spinach, thawed
12 oz plain cottage cheese, drained
1lb good Feta cheese, drained and crumbled
1 tablespoon uncooked long grain rice
Pinch mixed dried herbs or 1 tablespoon fresh herbs of choice, finely chopped
Salt, pepper, grated nutmeg
- Heat a little of the oil and gently fry the chopped scallions until soft. Add the spinach and heat thoroughly.
- Drain the mixture in a sieve, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Put into a large bowl together with the cheeses, herbs and rice and season to taste with salt, pepper and nutmeg.
- Combine the melted butter with the rest of the olive oil. Brush the bottom and sides of the cake tin with the mixture.
- Remove the filo pastry from the pack and cover it with a damp cloth to prevent it from cracking. Then start layering it into the cake tin: place one sheet of pastry in the bottom of the tin, paint it with the oil and butter mixture, place another sheet on top, at a slight angle to the first, paint this and then add another. Continue until you have about 7 or 8 layers of buttered pastry.
- Pour the cheese and spinach mixture into the pastry case.
- Fold the edges of the pastry over the mixture then take the extra sheets and place them on the top of the pie, tucking the edges neatly down the side of the pie. Brush each layer with the remaining butter.
- Take a sharp knife and cut the pie into 8 slices.
- Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds.
- 2-oven Aga cooks - place the grid shelf on the floor of the roasting oven and the cold shelf on the second set of runners. Cook the pie on the grid shelf for about 40 minutes.
- I think gas cooker equivalent is Mark 4 and electric 180 C, whatever is 'moderate' temperature.
The pie will keep well in the fridge or may be frozen. It is good to eat hot or cold.
That is Christmas Eve supper sorted, now how about the big day and Boxing Day? Mmm