This fresh and vibrant chicken pie with ricotta, feta and spinach comes from Cait McWilliams from the hugely popular BBC Lifestyle TV series the Great South African Bakeoff. Tonight is the finale of the second successful season and its going to be nail-biting. Cait is in the final with Carol and Nasreen starting out with the signature bake challenge then the technical bake challenge and the final challenge being the showstopper.
This pie was one that Cait made earlier on in the competition in a showstopper round and even made the phyllo from scratch. Hugely impressive I would say and definitely NOT something I was going to attempt. So in my version I’ve used shop bough phyllo – which is perfectly fine, but I did make my own ricotta.
Ricotta seems to be elusive at the very moment when you need it, so being fed up with this , I decided to attempt my own version using milk. I’ve made it in the past with cream, but it’s not necessary to go to those lengths and expense. Fresh whole milk – preferably that hasn’t been through the UHT process delivers great ricotta almost effortless. I simply brought 1 liter of milk to the C (just below boiling point), took it off the heat and added ¼ cup lemon juice and ¼ tsp salt and let the curd and whey separate itself. It was then a simple case of draining the solids through a cheesecloth, suspending it above the bowl and allowing the liquid to fully drip out. You could leave it overnight in the fridge but I used it right away in this chicken pie recipe. So easy.
Caits recipe is pretty big and since my ricotta only yielded just less than a cup (240gms) I needed to make a few adjustments. So I scaled things down a bit. I loved tha addition of pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes giving a lovely textural and flavour hit. This pie is perfect for lunch served with a big leafy salad.
I absolutely love working with phyllo and it is perfect to make a pie of this nature. The crispy topping creates the most wonderful texture to crunch your way through.
You can check out Caits original recipe here which includes details on how to make the phyllo from scratch. I found this pie very lemony despite having halved the quantity of lemon in her recipe so I suggest halving that again. This is my version of Caits show stopping Chicken pie with ricotta, feta and spinach
Recipe – makes one medium pie
- 600gms free range chicken (mix of breast and thigh) – cut into small chunks
- 200gms baby spinach leaves (or de stalked spinach)
- 3 garlic cloves
- olive oil
- 200gms ricotta
- 150gms feta
- 45 gms soft sundried tomatoes
- juice and zest of half a lemon
- 30gm toasted pine nuts
- 1 – 2 Tbs chopped parsley
- Pinch of dried chilli flakes – optional
- 10 sheets of phyllo
- Butter to brush between each sheet
Heat a splash of olive oil in a large non stick frying pan and brown the chicken until it is just cooked on all sides. Add the spinach and garlic toss to allow this to wilt (You can put a lid on the pan to create a little steam here). Remove and set aside to cool.
Mix the ricotta, crumbled feta, parsley, lemon juice, zest, pine nuts and chilli in a bowl until well combined.
When the chicken and spinach has cooked mix with the ricotta mixture until well combined.
Pre heat the oven to 180C / 350 F
Brush 10 sheets of phyllo with butter on one side and layer 7 of these over each other into a 23cm loose bottomed cake tin. The edges will hang over the side. It doesn’t matter if it tears a bit here.
Spread the cooled filling into the middle and smooth this out. Fold the pieces of phyllo over into the middle separately scrunching them a bit to make a birder.
Cut the remaining 3 sheets of buttered phyllo into quarters and then scrunch them up over the surface of the pie. Double up with a second layer scrunching it into the surface as you go.
Bake for 50 – 60 minutes until the top is golden and the bottom is bakes through. You may need to cover your pie loosely with foil from about 20 minutes into the bake to prevent over browning. The top crisps up much quicker than the bottom and the sides.
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