Pastels (pies) or pastelikos (little pies) were traditionally made by the Jews of Thessaloniki for the Sabbath, bar mitzvahs and other special occasions. Most pastels use a simple pastry made from olive oil, flour and water – except for this one, which is always prepared with filo pastry. Pastel verde is usually filled with a mixture of spinach, lettuce, leeks, spring onions and herbs, but other greens can also be used, such as Swiss chard, beet greens, rocket, watercress or young, tender dandelion greens.
Green Pie from Thessaloniki
450g mixed greens
about 5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
1 leek (including the green part), trimmed and thinly sliced
handful of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
handful of finely chopped dill
200g feta cheese, crumbled
50g freshly grated Parmesan or kefalotyri cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 or 9 large sheets of fresh or thawed frozen filo pastry
2-3 tbsp sesame seeds
Wash the greens well, then cut into 1cm slices. Cook in a covered saucepan for 7-8 minutes or until tender – the water on the leaves is sufficient to prevent scorching. Drain well.
Heat 2 tbsp of the olive oil in a heavy saucepan and add the spring onions and leek. Cook over a moderate heat until they are starting to turn golden. Add the parsley and dill and cook for a further 3 minutes. Stir in the greens and simmer for 2-3 minutes.
Place the feta, eggs and Parmesan in a bowl and mix well. Stir in the greens mixture and season the filling with salt and pepper.
Brush a 23cm springform cake tin with olive oil. Place a sheet of filo pastry over the top and brush lightly with olive oil.
Repeat until half of the filo pastry sheets have been used. Spoon in the filling. Cover with another sheet of filo pastry and brush lightly with olive oil. Repeat until all the sheets of filo pastry have been used. Tuck in the edges of the filo pastry. Sprinkle sesame seeds over the top, then bake in a preheated 180°C/gas 4 oven for 40-45 minutes or until the top is golden. Remove from the oven, unclip the tin and serve hot.
Extracted from Hazana by Paola Gavin (Quadrille, approx €28). Photography © Mowie Kay.