Filo Picnic PiePosted: September 8, 2013
Doesn’t time fly when you’re enjoying yourself!? Already we’re at Week 4 of this year’s Great British Bake Off and the theme this week appears to be Pies and Tarts – I say appears because the theme sometimes completely passes me by – my own series included! Still, the Radio Times says it’s Pies and Tarts,so that’s good enough for me!
The Signature Bake is a double-crusted – i.e. pastry top and bottom – fruit pie. Bit of a redundancy methinks, since I’m pretty sure the word ‘pie’ implies a lidded pastry to most people, but better to have everyone clear. I toyed with the idea of just pointing you at my Green Chilli Apple Crumble Pie and suggesting adding the oats to the cheese pastry for extra crunch, but that seemed a bit lazy, so I opted for having a go at the filo pastry showstopper pie.
Since last year the contestants were tortured with making their own strudel pastry, I’m guessing that this year they’ll be asked to make their own filo pastry.
Me make filo pastry? Yeah, that ain’t gonna happen. Who has the time/inclination, outside of a competition??
I opted (as if there was ever a choice!) to use ready-made, thereby freeing up time to refine the filling, which I’ll get to via the following brief detour.
One of my first, favourite food blogs was the awesome http://fxcuisine.com/, written by the multilingual Swiss national François-Xavier. Alas, since October 2009, Monsieur FX has move on to other adventures, but his magnificently photographed blog remains – catch it while you can!
It was on FX’s blog that I discovered Gomser Cholera Pie. Hey, come back! Why are you running away shrieking!? The pie is thought to have acquired its somewhat grisly name in the early 19th century, when the first major cholera pandemic hit Europe, with Switzerland suffering especially harshly. Without knowing the cause of infection, isolation was the safest way to ensure ones health remained robust. Peasants living in the Goms valley, high in the Swiss Valais, relied on the foods that they had to hand in their stores: apples, pears, potatoes, onions, leeks, raclette cheese, local bacon, butter, and flour.
FX makes his Cholera Pie with the same, traditional ingredients and encases it in puff pastry for a beautiful and refined dish. I’ve loved this combination of flavours for years, adapting it to make use of British ingredients. Switching the puff pastry for filo pastry was straightforward. Since the filling is mostly pre-cooked, it holds it shape well as the pie bakes, with little shrinkage and the mashed potato absorbs any moisture released during cooking. Other changes I made included adding some chopped parsley to the mashed potato, to freshen up the flavour, and shuffling the order of the layers about to pair the flavours more evenly. I decided to line the whole pie with the mashed potato mix to increase stability and keep any juices away from the crisping pastry. I opted for red onions, since their purple colour contrasts so well with the green of the leeks.
After trialling a variety of shapes, I elected to use my long, slim bread tin as the mould for my pie. I wanted to create something different from the usual “scrunch it all up and plonk it on top” style of filo pie, and the smooth, regular, rectangular shape of the loaf pan seemed ideal. The neatness was emphasized by baking the pie upside down, or rather, turning the pie out and serving it upside down to the way it had been baked. A couple of strips of filo ‘twine’ and a rosette baked separately finished off the decoration.
Deliciously crisp and crunchy when freshly baked, I call it picnic pie, because, once cooled, it is pleasingly robust, losing only a few flakes of pastry when jostled about and ideal for packing in a basket for an al-fresco meal.
Filo Picnic Pie
2 packets of Jus-Rol filo pastry
250g unsalted butter
Obviously, the quantities will vary depending on what you have to hand and the size of the tin you use, but I used the following:
250g smoked bacon, cut into 2cm cubes
2 dessert apples
2 firm pears
250g grated mature/vintage cheddar
1 large leek
2 red onions
1 large bunch (100g) of flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper
Prepare the fillings
This takes quite a while, so maybe do the preparation on one day and then assemble the pie on another. Toss the cubed apples and pears in lemon juice to keep them from going brown, or just leave them until you’re ready to fill the pie. Once prepared, the fillings will happily keep in the fridge for several days.
- Bacon: Cook the bacon cubes until no-longer translucent and all liquid has evaporated.
- Fruit: Peel and core the apples and pears and cut into 2cm cubes.
- Leek: Cut the leek in half lengthways and rinse all grit and dirt from between the leaves. Lay onto a cutting board and cut it again lengthways, quartering it. Slice thinly, both white and green parts. Season with salt and pepper. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and cook the sliced leek gently until softened, keeping the colour bright. Do not brown.
- Onions: Remove outer leaves and cut in half. Lay the halves flat and make 2 or 3 cuts across it, then slice thinly. Try and get the onion into similar sized pieces as the leek. Season with salt and pepper. Proceed as for the leek, softening the onion in a little oil.
- Steam or simmer the potatoes in their skins until tender. Allow to cool for 30 minutes, then remove the skins and push through a potato ricer.
- Parsley: Chop finely and mix lightly into the riced potatoes. Don’t compress the potato – you want to keep it dry and fluffy.
To Assemble The Pie
I will include instructions for the decoration, but the pie is just as delicious plain and unadorned.
- Have a damp cloth to hand, to cover the sheets of filo pastry, so that they don’t dry out as you work.
- Unpack the pastry from one packet and lay it on the worktop. Cover with the damp cloth.
- Take one sheet of filo and halve it lengthways.
- Twist each half around itself until it resembles a rope, then lay inside your loaf pan at right angles, like wrapping for a present.
- There’s so much butter in the pastry, I don’t usually grease the tin, but spritz with cooking spray if you’re at all concerned.
- Cover the loaf tin with a damp towel, while you prepare the rest of the filo.
- Take the next sheet of filo and lay it on the counter top.
- Dot over it with melted butter.
- Lay a second sheet of filo on top of the first and dot with butter.
- Repeat for all 5 sheets.
- You now have a rectangle made up of 5 sheets of filo laminated together with melted butter.
- Line the loaf tin with the prepare filo. It should lie smooth against the bottom and sides of the tin. The excess pastry at the end should be folded neatly, as if wrapping a present. You can just about make the folds out on the picture.
- Leave the excess pastry trailing over the edges of the tin.
Adding the ingredients
- Line the pie with the potato/parsley mix. This will help keep the filo moist until you bake it. Press the mashed potato against the sides and bottom of the tin – it will have enough moisture to stick together. Make sure there is about 1cm depth all around.
- Add the rest of the ingredients in the following order:
- Apples and pears mixed
- Leeks and onions mixed
- Mashed potato and parsley
The diagram shows the different layers when the pie has been cut. Since the pie will be inverted to serve, the fillings need to be added in reverse order.
- Press the ingredients down firmly to give the pie stability when baked.
- From the second packet of filo, laminate 3 sheets of filo with butter and lay them on the top of the pie. Fold the excess pastry from the sides back over them and press to seal. Brush the whole with melted butter.
- Preheat the oven to 200°C, 180°C Fan.
- Put the tin on a baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes. Don’t be tempted to remove the pie early – the top will always be darker than the sides and the sides need to be cooked and crisp or the pie will collapse when removed from the tin. If in doubt, remove the pie, invert it and slide the tin up a little to check the colouring on the pastry.
- When happy that the pastry is crisp enough all over, allow the pie to cool in the tin for 15 minutes before removing and serving.
- If you’re taking this on a picnic, allow it to cool completely and then chill in the fridge. Turn the cold pie out of the tin and set onto a baking sheet. Crisp up the pastry in a 100°C, 80°C Fan oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool before wrapping in parchment/foil.
Due to the nature of how this pie was baked, I baked the rosette separately and just balanced it on top to serve.
- Using the remaining filo, laminate the sheets together with melted butter.
- Cut ribbons of laminated filo using either a sharp knife or a pizza cutter. Make the ribbons about 3cm wide.
- Take 3 x 15cm strips and fold the ends into the middle to make the loops of the rosette. I used scrunched up foil to keep the loops nice and round.
- Lay the strips evenly across one another to make the six ‘petals’ of the rosette.
- Cut another 2 strips of pastry and use scissors to cut an inverse ‘V’ into one end of each.
- Tuck these ribbons underneath the rosette, arranging the ends over more scrunched foil to make them stand in waves.
- Finally, cut a 10cm square of pastry and crumple into a ball to form the middle of the rosette.
- Arrange the rosette on an upside-down loaf tin. Let the ends of the ribbons trail down the side if liked.
- Spray the whole with cooking spray.
- Bake for 10 minutes only in a 200°C, 180°C Fan oven.
- Allow to cool and add to the pie just before serving.
 I don’t usually specify brands, but the sheets of filo here are especially large (255mm x 480mm), allowing you to line the tin without having to patch and join sheets together. Each pack contains 6 sheets.
 You might not use all of the butter