April 27, 2009
I'm envious and admiring today of people with houses and gardens and vegetable patches; of the pleasure they must feel at this time of the Northern Hemisphere year, when just three days of bright, hot weather can make all the difference to their sprouts and seedlings. Suddenly, we have blossoms and magnolias, buds on the barest of winter trees, and birds singing late into the evening. This tangible sense of the world's turning still astonishes my sub-tropical soul. It also makes sense of a great deal of poetry.
These crisp filo pastries filled with tart feta cheese and bursts of mint are just right for eating out of doors with a green salad and a glass of white wine some sweet, late-April evening - like this one.
Take the sheets of filo pastry out of the refrigerator only when you're ready to use them (they dry out quickly). Work with the pastry as fast as you can for the same reason. Brushing with the melted butter will soften areas that have hardened, and don't worry too much about neatness.
It's also quite difficult to explain in words how to form the triangles themselves. I've included some photographs of the process, but the need to work quickly so the filo won't tear made that difficult. It's much easier and more intuitive than it looks; once you're in the thick of things, the next step will feel obvious.
Feta & Mint Triangles
adapted from Claudia Roden, Arabesque (US, UK)
7 oz feta cheese, mashed with a fork
1 egg, lightly beaten
3 tbsp chopped mint
1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
salt & pepper
8 large sheets filo
1 stick (8 tbsp) butter, melted (yes, this feels like a lot of butter, and I didn't use it all. You might want to begin with half a stick and gauge what more you think you might need.)
To make the filling, mash the feta cheese with the egg, chopped mint and lemon juice. Season with a little salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 300° Fahrenheit / 150° Celsius.
Just before you're ready to use them, cut the sheets of pastry into four rectangles measuring about 12 inches x 4.5 inches and put them in a pile on top of each other. Brush the top piece of pastry thoroughly with melted butter.
Take about a tablespoon of filling and place it in the upper right hand corner of the top sheet of pastry. Fold this upper right hand corner across the filling in order to form a triangle, leaving about a 1 cm strip of pastry free (see photographs below).
Fold this free strip of pastry over the edge of the triangle, brushing with butter and tucking the excess at the very top underneath. Now you should have a folded triangle of cheese-filled pastry with about 2/3 of the filo rectangle still visible. Brush with more butter and then lift the highest tip of the triangle and fold it down over the pastry once; brush again with butter, and fold again until you have a neat triangle shape. There should be a little excess pastry, which you can neaten by brushing with butter and folding over the edge of the triangle.
Do the same with the remaining strips of pastry and cheese filling. Place the triangles, seam side down, on a baking sheet and brush the tops with melted butter. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Serve warm.