Happy Valentine’s Day, or, as we call it here, Violetine’s Day! Today is the arbitrary date we chose to be our rescue dog Violet’s birthday. She is four and, mercifully, starting to calm down.
Wombat and I don’t do Valentine’s Day. There are many reasons, most of them practical in nature (Try booking a restaurant and a sitter for tonight? No, thanks!), but our primary reason is this: we got engaged on February 9. We have our own holiday, we call it Us Day.
Yes, Us Day is sweet and special and not hyped by Big Greeting Card, but it’s not untouchable. In the past we’ve gone to fancy restaurants, done a weekend away, really put effort into making Us Day about, well, us. Of course we’ve also had years when Wombat was at sea or I was significantly pregnant (One year had both. Not my favorite), but this year was something truly special.
This year, on Us Day, Wombat took Peanut and Meatball on an overnight with Cub Scouts and I had the house to myself for 18 hours straight and it was everything I could dream of and more. No one asked me for a snack for a whole day. I was able to knit uninterrupted, take up the entire bed, and best of all, make something no one else likes for dinner and not hear a single complaint.
Old Rag Pie caught my eye the first time I leafed through Simply Nigella because it includes Feta cheese and honey, and I am a sucker for any sweet/savory combination. It’s filo pastry, cheese, and custard with herbs and honey and would be perfect if not for my family, who hate Feta (Wombat and Meatball) and/or eggs (Peanut). I had all but forgotten about it when it popped up as the recipe of the day on Nigella’s Instagram the very morning of Us Day. The only ingredient we didn’t already have on hand was Feta. Perfect. This recipe was dinner and breakfast for my period of solitude.
I made this cheese pie while enjoying other cheeses with wine because there is no such thing as too much cheese.
Old Rag Pie from Nigella’s Recipes, as always, my notes are in bold.
- 7 tablespoons soft unsalted butter I used 8 because I’m apparently too lazy to cut a tablespoon off a stick of butter.
- 10 ounces frozen filo pastry (thawed) I used 8 ounces because my one pound box of frozen phyllo was divided into two individually wrapped rolls and see above.
- 8 ounces feta cheese No change, my feta arrived at this weight (yay!).
- 2 teaspoons grated parmesan
- 2 teaspoons leaves from fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried) I used dried and totally winged it on quantity. I measured in “sprinkles”.
- 2 large eggs
- ⅔ cup whole milk
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds I did not have these, nor did I miss them.
- 1 jar of good honey (such as Greek thyme honey or orange blossom honey) A couple things about the honey: first, the jar is for serving with the pie; I freaked out about how much honey is “1 jar” for too long before reading the whole recipe. Second, use GOOD honey. I used wildflower honey that my mom orders from some place in a state where neither of us lives. Find a quality honey, local if possible. Something with a complex flavor, not that clover stuff from the grocery. I realize I sound like a honey snob but because you pour it on at the end, it really does make a difference.
You will need 1 x 20cm/8-inch square cake tin (preferably non-stick). I used a 9 inch round because I don’t have a square nonstick and I hate scrubbing. I also lined it with parchment.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then take it off the heat.
- Line your cake tin with a layer of filo, making sure it comes up the sides; you will need to use more than one sheet. Then pour 1 tablespoon of melted butter over the pastry.
- Using one third of the remaining filo sheets, tear and scrunch the sheets up and drop them loosely in the tin. Then crumble in half the feta, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Parmesan and just under ½ teaspoon of thyme leaves (or ¼ teaspoon of dried thyme) and pour a third of the remaining melted butter over the top. My filo hadn’t quite thawed so it mostly crumbled. My final product was perhaps a bit dense because of this but I’m not complaining. Turns out, I’m more impatient than I am a perfectionist.
- Repeat, so that you use up all but a little of the butter and a small amount of thyme. For the last layer, you can use larger pieces of filo “rags” (as it’s the lid), filling the tin a little more tightly, but still scrunching them.
- Fold the edges of overhanging filo over themselves, and pour the remaining butter on top. Using the sharp point of a knife, make 2 cuts down and 2 cuts across into the filo-packed tin, from edge to edge to create 9 sections. I cut my round tin into 8 wedges. It’s important that you don’t use a blunt knife, as you don’t want to drag the filo or press down on it. This whole process went poorly for me. I don’t know if it was my pan or the knife or my frozen filo, but in the end I decided to perforate the pie rather than slice it, which worked well.
- Beat the eggs with the milk, then pour over the contents of the tin. Sprinkle the last bit of thyme along with the sesame seeds on top. Let it stand for at least 30 minutes in a cool place before baking. If 2 hours is easier for your timetable, then put it in the fridge. And you can do this in advance (see Note).
- Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/gas mark 6/400°F, and bake the pie for 30 minutes. When it’s ready, the pastry will be golden and puffed up, and the inside set.
- Let it stand for 10 minutes, then spoon 1 tablespoon of the honey over the top. AT LEAST 1 tablespoon. I went for broke with the honey and have no regrets.
- Cut into slices or slabs – using a serrated bread knife and sawing action to prevent squishing the filo on top too much, then pushing the knife down to cut through. Serve the pie directly from the tin and put the jar of honey, with a spoon in it (or you can pour it into a jug) on the table for people to add extra as they eat. The parchment enabled me to slide the whole thing out of the pan and slice it on a cutting board, which was much easier on both me and the pan. And always yes to extra honey.
The recipe site includes directions for making ahead and chilling/freezing before baking, which would make this a great dish for entertaining. It also reheats very well. You may be tempted to eat any leftovers cold the next day, but reheating in a 350 oven for 5 minutes (for one slice, the website says 300 for 15 for more) is more than worth the time.