Sweet and savoury filo treats

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
Wrap yourself up in a chickpea and beetroot tart, urges Nigel Slater. Or, if you’re feeling a little more adventurous, try ricotta, lemon thyme and clementine pastries.

I think of filo pastry as edible wrapping paper. Something in which to hide fragile fillings, such as feta cheese and thyme leaves, ricotta and lemon zest or pistachios and honey. A crust so fine it will shatter into thousands of pieces when tapped with a pastry fork, the layers of pastry held together with butter, almond paste or rosewater-scented syrup. Filo’s point is its crispness. As you crunch through the crackling crust, it is something to hear as much as to taste.

Made of little more than flour, water, olive oil and a dash of vinegar to encourage the crucial crispness, the simple dough is enriched by brushing each layer with melted butter or oil. Making your own is a right old faff, and after a morning of mixing and rolling and cutting, the result will be no better than you can buy from the supermarket freezer.

I often see recipes using 5 or 6 layers of pastry to wrap a tart or little parcel. The result is inevitably a wodge of uncooked dough at the bottom — 2 or 3 layers is enough for most things. The trick to getting a crisp base is to put a baking sheet in the oven to heat up first, before placing the tart or little parcels on it. The direct heat will work wonders on the texture of the pastry. It is something I do with most baking but is, I think, essential with filo. After all, crispness is pretty much all this pastry has. — Guardian News and Media

Chickpea and beetroot filo tart Ricotta

I do think the accompanying carrot and coriander sauce is perfect. It adds a clean, fresh note to the sweetness of the tart filling.

Serves 4

1 large onion

3 Tbsp olive oil

3 cloves garlic

3 tsp mustard seeds

500g cooked beetroot

2 tsp garam masala

2 400g cans chickpeas

6 sheets filo pastry

3 Tbsp olive oil

For the sauce

150g carrot

4 Tbsp coriander leaves, chopped

200ml kefir


Peel and finely chop the onion. Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan, add the chopped onion and cook for about 10 minutes until translucent.

Peel and crush the garlic, add to the softened onion then stir in the mustard seeds and continue cooking until the onion is gold in colour.

Put the cooked beetroot in the bowl of a food processor and blend to a thick puree. Blend in the garam masala, salt and pepper, then stir into the softened onions. Drain the chickpeas and add them to the beetroot, then set aside to cool.

When the filling is cool, heat the oven to 200degC. Place a baking sheet in the oven to heat up. Line a 20cm tart tin with a sheet of filo, letting it overhang the tin where necessary, brush it with olive oil then place a second sheet on top. Brush the second sheet with olive oil. Place a third sheet in the tart tin, at a slight angle to the others, brush with oil and place another sheet on top.

Spoon the beetroot filling into the tart, gently smooth the surface, then loosely fold the overhanging pieces of pastry over the filling, leaving the centre open.

Place the tart on the baking sheet and leave to bake until golden and crisp, about 35 minutes. (If the pastry is browning too quickly, then cover lightly with a piece of silver foil.)

To make the sauce

Coarsely grate the carrot and fold into the kefir with the chopped coriander. Serve with the warm tart.

Lemon thyme and clementine pastries

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images
As you fold the pastry sheet around the filling it is essential to seal it securely. Use a little beaten egg for this and let the parcel sit for a while so there is no danger of it coming unwrapped in the fryer.

Makes 6, serves 3

500g ricotta

125g soft amaretti

1 tsp lemon thyme leaves

1 small clementine

1 small lemon

1 egg, beaten

1½ sheets filo pastry

groundnut or sunflower oil for

deep frying, about 1.5 litres

To finish

a little icing sugar

1 tsp thyme leaves, chopped

1 tsp clementine zest, finely grated


Remove the ricotta from its mould and place in a sieve over a bowl. Leave for 2 hours. The whey will gradually drip away, leaving the ricotta slightly firmer.

Unwrap the amaretti and crumble in a mixing bowl. Finely chop the lemon thyme leaves and add them. Finely grate the lemon and clementine and add the zest, then stir in the drained ricotta.

Place the filo pastry on a clean, perfectly dry work surface and cut the large sheet into quarters, the small piece in half. Place 2 heaped tablespoons of the ricotta filling on to each square and pat into a short thick barrel. Brush the edges of the pastry with beaten egg, then fold the pastry over the filling as if you were wrapping up a present, pressing the edges firmly together. Place the parcels on a small baking sheet to chill for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil to 180degC in a medium-sized, deep pan. The oil should come no more than half way up the sides of the pan.

Lower the parcels, one at a time, into the oil, without crowding the pan. (I cook no more than three at once) turning them over occasionally with a draining spoon. Let them cook for 3 or 4 minutes until they are pale gold. Lift each parcel out and place on a sheet of kitchen paper.

Sieve the icing sugar over the pastries then add a little chopped thyme and clementine zest.


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