Herb Pie from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem

It’s that time again on the blog, when I wax all lyrical about the Yotam Ottolenghi/Sami Tamimi collaboration.  Instead of repeating myself I’ll point you herehere and here.  And is that me talking about then in the Globe?

Yeah, I’m kind of a fan.  You may have heard about their latest book, Jerusalem, which came out about a year ago.  There’s been plenty of press on it (including that recent Globe article), and with good reason–it’s amazing.  I have a lot of cookbooks, and there are very few I cook from nearly every week, but Jerusalem is one.  I always have to do a quick scan around the house for it because it never makes it back on the bookshelf–it’s in the sunroom, or the TV room, or the living room as often as it is in the kitchen, because I’m daydreaming and planning what I’ll be making next.  The hummus recipe‘s exceptionally smooth puree, the chocolate babka utterly decadent, the mejadra (lentils and rice) fragrant with coriander, the helbeh (a fenugreek cake) a surprising delight…

I could go on.  But I’ll limit myself for the moment to herb pie.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Assembly 1

This tart is right up my alley.  I love savory middle-eastern pies–bureks from Bosnia and the Balkans, Greek spanakopita and variations thereon, you get the idea.  So what makes this one special?  The  generous handfuls of parsley, cilantro, arugula, and chard.  Herbs are the heart and soul of the tart, not just an accent.  That’s for the cheese to do.  Olive oil binds the phyllo together rather than butter (which is easier to work with, as you don’t have to guesstimate at how much butter to melt, leaving your leaves of phyllo to dry out while you melt more butter).   And the magic of lemon zest.  All this makes for a lighter, fresher finished product that disappears quickly.  Too fast, apparently, for me to remember to take pictures.  For that (and another take on this recipe), check out Sparrows and Spatula’s post here.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Assembly 2

As you scan the ingredients, you’ll note that the recipe calls for anari cheese, which is not even carried by the fancy-schmancy Whole Foods cheese department.  Ricotta can be used as a substitute (and like anari is a cheese made from whey, so it is a very close substitute from what I can tell).  The second time, I tried ricotta salata, and both attempts were delicious.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Assembly 3, ready for the oven.

When assembling the pie, you are instructed to layer the oiled leaves of phyllo together and then place them all at once in the pan:  once for the bottom crust, once from the top.  Maybe it’s nothing revelatory in the grand scheme of things, but for me it certainly was–I’ve always made spanakopita by buttering each phyllo leaf and then haphazardly transferring the delicate sheet to a pan.  So much easier to build up the layer on the countertop and then place it the baking dish.

Another herb pie from #TastingJrslm.  Cooling!

Because I have so many cookbooks, and so many things I want to try, I don’t normally repeat a recipe only weeks after trying it for the first time.  This is the exception– and there’s more phyllo squirreled away in the freezer for the next time.

Finally–a moment for the blogosphere.  If you want to see other great things that are being made from this cookbook, check out the Tasting Jerusalem blog group here (featured in the New York Times article linked to above).  This is also my first contribution to the Let’s Lunch group–thanks to Cheryl (author of A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family, a great book I read when it came out) for inviting me along!

Herb Pie from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem
Cuisine: middle eastern
Author: adapted from Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem, also available [url href=”http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2010/mar/20/herb-pie-recipe-vegetarian-ottolenghi”%5Dhere%5B/url%5D
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for brushing the pastry
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 lbs. Swiss chard, stems and leaves finely shredded but kept separate
  • 3-4 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 4 scallions (green onion), chopped
  • 1 3/4 ounces of arugula
  • 1 ounce flat-leaf parsley, chopped (about 1/2-3/4 cup)
  • 1 ounce fresh mint, chopped (about 1/2-3/4 cup)
  • 2/3 ounce dill, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 4 ounces of anari or ricotta cheese, crumbled
  • 3 1/2 ounces aged cheddar, grated (about 3/4 cup)
  • 2 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
  • grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 1/3 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 9 ounces filo pastry
  1. Preheat the oven to 400F/200C. Pour the olive oil into a deep frying-pan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 8 minutes without browning. Add the chard stems and the celery and continue cooking for 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the chard leaves, increase the heat to medium-high and stir as you cook for 4 minutes, until the leaves wilt. Add the scallion/green onion, arugula and herbs and cook for 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and transfer to a colander to cool.
  2. Once the mixture is cool, squeeze out as much water as you can and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the three cheeses, lemon zest, eggs, salt, pepper and sugar and mix well.
  3. Lay out a sheet of filo pastry and brush it with some olive oil. Cover with another sheet and continue in the same manner until you have 5 layers of filo brushed with oil, all covering an area large enough to line the sides and bottom of a 8 1/2-inch pie dish, plus extra to hang over the rim. Line the pie dish with the pastry, fill with the herb mix and fold the excess pastry over the edge of the filling, trimming the pastry as necessary to create a 3/4 inch border.
  4. Make another set of 5 layers of filo brushed with oil and place them over the pie. Scrunch the pastry a little to create a wavy, uneven top and trim the edges so it just covers the pie. Brush generously with olive oil and bake for 40 minutes, or until the filo turns a nice golden brown. Remove from the oven and serve warm or at room temperature.

Check out the other Let’s Lunch creations!

Annabelle‘s Chocolate Pie at Glass of Fancy

Anne Marie‘s Apple Pie Sandwiches at Sandwich Surprise

Betty Ann‘s Calamansi Pie at Asian In America

Grace‘s Easy Apple Pie with Lard Crust at HapaMama

Jill‘s Guava and Cream Cheese Empanadas at Eating My Words

Lisa G‘s Sweet Ricotta Noodle Pie at Monday Morning Cooking Club

Lisa K‘s Great-Grandmama’s Chocolate Pie at The Little Good Ride

Linda‘s Biscoff Banana & Pear Galette at Spicebox Travels

Lucy‘s Sweet Potato Custard Pie at A Cook and Her Books 

Mai‘s Caramel Apple Pie Sundae at Cooking in the Fruit Bowl

Margaret‘s Cushaw (Squash) Pie at Tea and Scones, Too

Nancie‘s Edna Lewis’s Tyler Pie at Nancie McDermott

Naomi‘s Huckleberry Pie Ice-Cream at The Gastro Gnome

Rebecca‘s Summer-Fall Hand Pies at GrongarBlog


Leek and Celery Pie

When I lived for a summer in Sarajevo, one of my favorite things was the local “fast food.”  Enjoying cevapi  (kebabs made with ground lamb meat) with hot charred bread on a warm summer evening in the old town center of Bascarsija was only made better when followed by a scoop of ice cream or a selection from a stunning array of baklavas.  But for a meal on the go–breakfast, lunch, or dinner–the burek shops had you covered.

Leek and Celery Pie (2 of 2)

You have had something similar to burek if you’ve ever had a spanakopita (the Greek version) or a borek (the Turkish name).  You could even stretch the definition a bit to include a Viennese apple strudel.  The idea is the same, regardless of the language:  a filling of meat, vegetables, or cheese, wrapped in flaky layers of phyllo dough, butter as the glue holding it all together.  I usually went for the spinach or cheese versions–no surprise there–sometimes the meat, and once even the potato pie.  (But to be honest, none of it is exactly what I’d call diet food).

As you know, I’m often drawn to recreating these food memories at home.  And with that, here’s a homemade, burek-inspired savory pie. 
Leek and Celery Pie-drizzled 1

I initially shied away from this recipe when I saw it on epicurious–were they really asking me to make my own phyllo dough?  Let out your breath:  you’re not rolling out 20 paper-thin sheets, but rather just two rectangles.  The dough is extensible and easy to work with, and best of all can be made in advance.  It’s tender thanks to the vinegar and yogurt in the crust, and even becomes flaky as it bakes in the oven. (And if you’re still panicking–or even just pulling a face at the idea of this–just use storebought phyllo dough or puff pastry.  Because you still want to make this).

As for the filling, it’s a mix of many flavors that encourage the best out of each other, and that makes for a remarkably satisfying meal.  Mild, gently cooked leek and celery are boosted by feisty aged cheese, and generous handfuls of chopped parsley, mint, and dill keep it lively.

I’ve made this a few times, each time doing at least one thing the “wrong way,” but always enjoying the final product.  To avoid the effort of chopping, I’ve whirred up the leeks and celery in a food processor, but learned that it’s preferable to do the chopping by hand (sorry).  But you can go electric, just keep in mind that it’s very easy to over-process in the machine, and even if you don’t, using the processor releases a lot of liquid.  You can drain it off before proceeding, as I did, with perfectly good results, but my more “old-fashioned” attempt with a big old knife turned out better. 

I’ve also made this with less than the full 10 cups of leeks, which still yields wonderful, if perhaps slightly less generous, portions.  And I’ve even used a mix of dried and fresh rather than just fresh herbs (horrors!  heresy!), as my planning ahead skills are not always the best.  If you are better than I in this regard, but like me hate shelling out for bunches of herbs that you’ll only use a measly few leaves of, don’t worry: you’ll  get a lot of mileage (and tons of great flavor) out of your purchase here.

Leek and Celery Pie--fresh out of the oven

Leek and Celery Pie adapted from Epicurious

Note:  You will need a jelly roll pan or other rimmed baking pan to make this recipe

Crust (can use store-bought phyllo or puff pastry to similar effect)
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour (a little over 18 ounces) plus additional for dusting 
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/2 cup whole-milk yogurt (preferably Greek-style)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the bowl
  • 1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar


  • 4-6 lb leeks (white and pale green parts only),
    chopped (about 10 cups–though I’ve used less)
  • 1/4 cup plus 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 5 large celery ribs, chopped (about 3 cups)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 2/3 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1/4 lb Greek feta, crumbled (1 cup)
  • 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (about 1 1/2 oz) or preferably finely grated Kefalotyri if you can find it.
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 3 large eggs

Make the dough

Stir together flour and salt in a large bowl, then add the water, yogurt, 1/2 cup oil, and vinegar. If you have a stand mixer or food processor, it’s best to use these to very briefly knead the dough so that you don’t inadvertently add too much flour.  You want a soft, smooth, but pliable dough.  If you knead by hand, knead about 4 minutes and resist adding extra flour if at all possible.  Oil a large bowl, form the dough into a ball, and roll it around inside the bowl to coat.  Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a damp towel and let dough stand at room temperature 1 hour.  This will allow the dough to rest and relax, which will make it far easier to roll out–so it’s definitely worth the wait.  (You can keep the dough up to three days in the fridge before using, tightly covered with plastic or in a plastic bag.)
Make the filling

Wash the leeks and celery well and drain them, if you haven’t already.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a deep 12-inch heavy skillet or a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking (as you don’t want to brown the vegetables once you add them).  Sauté the leeks and celery with 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring frequently, until softened and translucent, around 10 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cool about 10 minutes (stirring will promote cooling).   Note: you can do this step a day in advance and refrigerate but like the dough bring to room temperature before proceeding.

Place your oven rack in the middle position and preheat  the oven to 375°F.

Stir the herbs into the leek and celery mixture along with the cheeses, pepper,  and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt. Lightly beat eggs with remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a small bowl, then stir into leek filling.  (This is why you want to allow the filling to cool slightly–so as not to cook the eggs or prematurely melt the cheese).

Make the pie
Brush baking pan with 2 tablespoons oil.

Divide dough in half and flour a work surface.  Roll out one half on a floured surface into a rectangle about an 1 1/2 to 2 inches wider on all sides than your pan (i.e. if you have a 17 X 12 inch pan, you want to roll out to about 20 X 15 inches at a minimum, or even a bit bigger).   If the dough resists, let it rest about 10 minutes, which will allow the gluten to relax and will result in the dough being more yielding.  Fold your rectangle loosely into quarters and transfer to your pan, then unfold dough and fit into the pan, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Spread the filling evenly in pan.

Roll out remaining dough on floured surface with floured rolling pin into a rectangle about 1 inch wider on all sides than your pan. Lift dough and drape it over filling, leaving it slightly wrinkled. Roll edge of bottom crust over top to
form a rope edge all around pie. Brush top of pie with remaining 2 tablespoons
oil (or drizzle it on and use your fingers to spread the oil out over the surface). Score top crust into serving pieces with a sharp knife.

Bake the pie until golden brown, 50 to 60 minutes.  Allow to cool and serve at room temperature.