Filo pastry is paper-thin translucent sheets of pastry often used in Greek, eastern European and Middle Eastern cuisines. When working with filo, it is a good idea to use several layers together to strengthen the delicate sheets. Filo pastry is widely available in supermarkets or Middle eastern markets, it is sold ready-made in rolled layers, either fresh (in the refrigerated section of the supermarket) or frozen.
Actually, working with filo is easy. There is not even any rolling involved. But you have to work quickly with filo pastry or it will dry out. It is always a good idea to cover it with a clean, damp tea towel while working with it. The layers of filo are usually brushed either with melted butter or oil (I usually use a mild olive oil suitable for cooking) to help them brown.
You can fry filo or oven bake it and it can be used to make a variety of savory as well as sweet dishes such as the Greek spanakopita (the famous spinach and cheese pie) or sweet baklava (Middle eastern nut and honey pastries).
In general, filo pastry makes a great light tart shell perfect for all year round when filled with seasonal vegetables.
In spring I prepared a delicate Filo Tart with White Asparagus, Goat Cheese & Meadowsweet Blossoms (Filotarte mit weißem Spargel, Ziegenkäse & Mädesüßblüten) (HERE), come November, I like to make this Red Swiss Chard & Mushroom Filo Tart (Filotarte mit rotem Mangold & Pilzen) with red or rainbow Swiss chard and sautéed brown (chestnut) mushrooms.
If you like, you can substitute spinach or even kale for the Swiss chard. And if you prefer to use another type of mushroom, you can use white button, portobello or chanterelle mushrooms – in general any type of mushroom that is in season. No matter which mushroom you choose to use, make sure to pan-fry them before adding them to the chard mixture, as this will add even more flavor.
And if you aren’t really a fan of sesame paste and would rather not use the tahini, you can brush the filo layers with a mild olive oil or melted butter instead. But we love tahini and it does lend a special flavor component here that pairs beautifully with the earthy taste of Swiss chard.
Red Swiss Chard & Mushroom Filo Tart (Filotarte mit rotem Mangold & braunen Champignons)
For the Filling
- 2 spring onions, finely sliced
- 1 garlic clove (optional), finely minced
- a few pepperoncini flakes (Italian chili flakes)
- 500g Swiss chard (red or rainbow), washed and dried – tear the leaves into large pieces and slice the stems (keep the stems separate from leaves)
- 300g brown (chestnut) mushrooms, brushed and quartered
- mild olive oil (suitable for cooking)
- sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- black and white sesame seeds
For the Pastry
- 5 sheets of ready-made filo pastry, each about 32 x 38cm/13 x 15in
- 3 tbsp tahini (or more – if your tahini is a little too thick for brushing the filo pastry sheets, dilute it with some olive oil)
- In a sauté pan, add some olive oil and sweat the sliced spring onions, garlic (if using), and pepperoncini flakes. Then add the sliced Swiss chard stems and stir while frying over medium heat.
- Add the torn leaves and cook for another few minutes – make sure to stir regularly.
- Taste and season the mixture with freshly ground pepper and salt. Remove from heat and set aside.
- In a frying pan add some olive oil and fry the mushrooms in batches. If there is some cooking liquid that has not evaporated, make sure to drain it before adding the mushrooms to the Swiss chard mixture. Mix together well.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180°C (356°F).
- Lightly oil a 23cm (9in) loose-based fluted quiche pan or pizza pan (which is what I used) that is about 3.5cm (1.5in) deep. Line with baking parchment.
- Place a sheet of filo pastry in the baking pan, pressing it firmly against the base and sides. Using the tip of a pastry brush, brush the pastry with a little tahini then cover with a second pastry sheet at a right angle to the first. Brush with more tahini and cover with a third sheet at the same angle to the first. Brush with the tahini and cover with a fourth sheet, running in the same direction as the second. Cut the overhanding pastry (optional) and brush lightly with some olive oil.
- Scatter the chard-mushroom-mixture over the base of the pastry case and press down lightly, then drizzle a few drops of olive oil over the top.
- Bake the tart in the pre-heated oven for 25 to 30 minutes OR until the pastry is browned and crisp and the filling is set.
- Take the tart out of the oven and leave to cool in the baking pan for about 10 minutes before removing.
- Sprinkle with black and white sesame seeds and serve warm or cold.
If you have never cooked with Swiss chard, this is a great recipe to get started and if you have never used filo pastry for your savory bakes, this is definitely a recipe you would want to try.
- December Filo Tart with Mini Brussels Sprouts (Winterliche Filotarte mit Rosenkohlröschen) (HERE)
- Filo Tart with fresh Figs & Prosciutto (Filotarte mit frischen Feigen & Prosciutto) (HERE)
- Crispy, Crackly Apple-Almond Tart (HERE)
- River Cottage "Veg Everyday" Courgette and Filo Rice Pie (HERE)
- Filo Tart with White Asparagus, Goat Cheese & Meadowsweet Blossoms (Filotarte mit weißem Spargel, Ziegenkäse & Mädesüßblüten) (HERE)