Life’s a Feast: Prawn, salmon and fennel filo

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Filo, phyllo or fillo. No matter how you spell it, this fine, flaky pastry is always fun to work with and wonderful way to showcase your ingredients encased within.

Don’t be intimidated by these tissue-thin sheets of dough, as working with filo is relatively easy and offers you a unique way to bring different textures to your meal. Several different cultures stake claim to its inception.

The Greeks claim it was mentioned in Homer’s Odyssey, in 800BC. While the Turks claim that 1000 years ago they were eating thin unleavened dough fried on a simple iron sheet.

Regardless of its origins, once you give the recipe below a go, you will see how easy filo is to work with and add to your pastry repertoire with regularity. Enjoy!

PREP TIME: 15 mins

COOK TIME: 30 mins

SERVES: 3-4 people

Ingredients

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 cup milk

1 fennel bulb (small to medium)

220g back baby spinach

1/2 cup grated cheese

500g uncooked prawns, roughlychopped to 2cm pieces

200g smoked salmon, roughly chopped

2 teaspoons capers chopped

1 teaspoon caper juice

1 tablespoon lemon

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Pinch cayenne (optional)

Pastry

1 box frozen filo pastry

100g butter melted

Method

1.Take the filo out of the freezer and set aside and heat the oven to 200degC.

2.Melt the two tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour once the butter has melted. Cook, stirring, for 2 minutes over medium-low heat with a wooden spoon.

3.Remove from heat and gradually add milk, stirring until smooth. Pop back on heat, stirring constantly until you can see it thicken a little more, then add a little more milk, stir again until smooth and keep going until you have used the milk. If it goes lumpy, use a whisk to make it smooth again.

4.Thinly slice the fennel (or use a mandolin) and add into the white sauce and simmer for 2-3 minutes.

5.Next, boil a full jug of water, place the spinach in a colander and pour the boiled jug over the spinach until it is completely wilted. Take a large spoon and press down on the spinach to get as much water out as you can from it. I actually picked it up and squeezed it out in my hands. Set aside.

6.Next add in the cheese to the sauce and stir until melted through, then add in the spinach and the chopped capers and caper juice. Thoroughly combine.

7.Tip in the prawns when the sauce is back to simmering and cooking for 2-3 minutes until they are cooking through.

8.Add in the salmon, parsley and lemon juice and stir through. Taste and add a little more lemon if you think it needs, and season with salt and pepper.

9.Take off the heat and let it cool for about an hour.

10.Remove filo from the packaging and place on a clean surface. Cover with slightly damp tea towel to prevent the dough from drying out.

11.Very carefully remove one sheet of filo and place on a clean surface. (I used a cutting board, but your counter would also work.)

12.Brush melted butter over the entire surface of the filo and place another sheet on top.

13.Repeat one more time, so you have three sheets of filo stacked together. Slice your pastry in half length-ways. Place about two tablespoons of filling in bottom left corner of pastry, leaving a 1cm border. Don’t overfill triangles or they will split.

14.Gently lift bottom right corner and fold tightly diagonally over the mix to create a triangle (take care not to tear pastry). Continue folding, retaining triangle shape.

15.Brush the top with a little more butter and pop on to a baking tray. Repeat with the others. You can adjust the size of the triangle by adjusting the width you cut the pastry.

16.Bake for about 20 minutes until the filos are golden and serve immediately with a salad.