Filo dough is difficult to work with. But not as totally impossible as I thought, and the results are so beautiful and delicious, it’s one of those kitchen feats that’s worth the effort. A key step in any filo creation is the painting on of melted butter or olive oil, which it turns out is an ideal task for little hands. I’m not sure if it’s because he can, because it comes out so pretty, or just because it’s so perfectly delicious, but my picky five-year-old gobbles this up and asks for seconds!
Once, I tried to make filo dough from scratch. That was not worth it. Buy a package of filo dough. Remember to leave time for thawing if you get it frozen. While the dough comes to room temperature, prepare the filling.
1 lb. ground lamb
1 large onion
6-8 oz. feta cheese
1 large bunch of spinach
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. dried thyme
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1 T olive oil
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Saute the onions in olive oil until they begin to brown. Add the ground lamb, salt, pepper, oregano and thyme and sauté, stirring frequently, until browned. Meanwhile, blanche the spinach, drain very well, and chop finely (or defrost a package of chopped blanched spinach that you blanched prepared over the summer!). Mix together the meat and the spinach. When it’s cooled to about room temperature, mix in the eggs and 2/3 of the feta. Set aside.
Melt 4 T butter or put 4 T olive oil in a bowl and pull out a pastry brush. Pull off four sheets of filo dough. If they won’t quite peel off in single layers or if they peel off with lots of holes and tears, don’t worry. This is a particularly forgiving crust. Lay the filo sheets flat on a table and cover with tin foil. Lay one sheet over a deep pie pan, with a lot hanging over the edge. Brush with olive oil or melted butter. Give the pan a ¼ turn and lay a second sheet over it, letting it hang out over another side. Brush with olive oil or melted butter. Repeat with the remaining two sheets.
Dump the meat mixture into the crust. Crumble the remaining feta cheese over the top. Fold the filo dough over the top, covering the meat mixture completely, and leaving a rough sort of unkempt set of layers. Bake at 350 for 30-40 minutes, until the top turns a nice golden brown.
If you end up with a bunch of left over filo bits, try this delicious dessert:
Line a cupcake tin with 1-4 layers of filo dough, leaving any extra pieces sticking straight up. Brush with melted butter. Place 1 dollop of jam in the bottom of each one. Then set 4-6 raspberries (frozen work perfectly; do not thaw in advance) into each one, and sprinkle with a pinch of sugar. Bake at 350 for about 10 minutes, or until the filo dough begins to turn golden brown. As soon as you remove it from the oven, drop 1-2 small chocolate nibs, squares, or chips into each one and allow to melt before serving. Very nice with vanilla ice cream.