Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Low-fat Filo

When it comes to lowering the fat content of the foods we eat, we normally avoid any dish made with pastry, particularly puff pastry due to the high amount of fat it contains. This does not mean we need cut out pastry altogether, for filo pastry is very low in fat, and although normally brushed with melted butter to keep the sheets apart when layering, a light spray of oil is sufficient.
Filo pastry comes in fairly large packs, and when using should always be covered to prevent the sheets drying out. It keeps well in the fridge, so take out only the amount you need, re-wrap the remainder and keep chilled.. If necessary cover the sheets waiting to be used with a damp cloth to keep them flexible.

The low fat recipes today are all made using filo pastry, and once tried feel that almost anyone will prefer these to the heavier (and fattier) shortcrust.

The first recipe is a nutritionists dream as it contains calcium-rich salmon, and mineral and vitamin rich spinach. Although the recipe is said to feed four, the amount of salmon used we would expect to feed one, so this makes an economical ‘light’ lunch or supper dish, or even a ‘starter’.
Salmon in Filo Nests: to serve 4
1 bay leaf
4 peppercorns
2 springs parsley
6 oz (175g) salmon fillet
4 large sheets filo pastry
oil spray
4 oz (100g) baby spinach leaves
8 tblsp low-fat plain yogurt or fromage frais
2 tsp Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
Put the bay leaf, peppercorns and parsley stalks (reserve the leaves) into a frying pan. Lay the salmon on top and add enough water to just cover the fish. Bring to the boil, reduce heat to simmer, cover and poach the fish for 5 minutes, or until it flakes easily. Then remove fish from the pan and set aside.
Lay out a sheet of filo pastry and give a light spray with oil, then scrunch up the pastry round the sides to make a nest approx 5” (12.5cm) diameter. Repeat with the remaining three sheets making 4 nests in all.
Place the nests on a baking sheet and bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 10 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.
Meanwhile, blanch the spinach in salted boiling water for 2 minutes, then drain well and keep warm.
Finely chop the parsley leaves and mix with the yogurt or fromage frais and the mustard, adding seasoning to taste. Warm slightly.
Remove any skin from the salmon and flake the fish. Divide the spinach between the filo nests, cover with the flaked salmon and spoon over the yogurt and parsley sauce. Serve immediately.

If care is taken skimming the fat from the top of home-made chicken stock (or use a cube), the skin and all visible fat removed from the chicken breasts, and oil is sprayed on the filo, this again make a very low-fat dish.
Chicken and Mushroom Pie: serves 4
1 onion, finely chopped
1 leek, trimmed and thinly sliced
8 fl oz (225ml) chicken stock
2 – 3 chicken breasts (according to size)
5 fl oz (150ml) white wine
1 bay leaf
4 oz (100g) button mushrooms
2 tblsp plain flour
3 tblsp cold water
1 tblsp finely chopped fresh tarragon
salt and pepper
approx 3 oz (75g) = 5 sheets filo pastry
spray oil
1 tsp sesame seeds
Put half the stock into a saucepan with the onion and leek, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 5 minute, then remove lid and cook until all the stock has evaporated and the vegetables are tender.
Cut the chicken breasts into small cubes. Add these to the pan of onions together with remaining stock, wine and the bay leaf. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the mushrooms and cook for a further 5 minutes
Mix the flour with the water, then stir this into the pan and stir constantly until the liquid has thickened to a sauce. Season to taste and stir in the tarragon.
Remove the bay leaf and spoon the contents of the pan, including the sauce into a 2 pint (1.2ltr) pie dish.
Take each sheet of pastry, spray lightly with oil, then crumple up and place on top of the contents of the pie dish, working across from one side, and doing the same with each sheet of pastry, until the top of the pie is covered. Give a final spray of oil over the pastry and sprinkle over the sesame seeds.
Bake the pie at 190C, 375F, gas 5 for 20 minutes, or until the pastry is crisp and golden. Serve immediately with seasonal vegetables of your choice.

Final filo recipe today is for a ‘pudding’. Admittedly there is some butter and oil in this dish, also an orange curd, but even so it still comes under the ‘low-fat’ banner. Not as low as I would wish, but it should not be beyond a cook to substitute the curd for perhaps low-fat custard (with maybe some orange zest folded in). As with most recipes, take the idea then adapt it according to fruits in season and your personal tastes or needs.
Plum Pudding Pie: serves 4
1 ½ lb (700g) plums, stoned and quartered
2 tblsp soft brown sugar
zest of 1 small lemon
1 oz (25g) butter, melted
2 tsp olive oil
6 sheets filo pastry
7 oz (200g) orange curd
2 oz (50g) sultanas
icing sugar
half-fat thick Greek yogurt to serve
Put the plums in a pan with the sugar and cook gently, over a low heat, for 8 – 10 minutes until the fruit has softened. Then remove from heat and set aside.
Mix together the lemon zest, butter and olive oil.
Spray an 8” (20cm) round cake tin with oil and lay one sheet of pastry in the bottom, brushing with the lemon/butter/oil mixture, then fold over the surplus pastry towards the middle, so that it makes a neat base. Brush the surface with the lemon mix.
Cut 4 of the remaining sheets of filo in half, and place one piece in the cake tin, brushing again with oil, this time leaving surplus pastry up the sides of the cake tin. Continue layering the pastry in the same way, but turning the pastry sheets so that all corners end up lining the sides of the tin. Any corners sticking up will later be folded over to part-cover the pie (the aim being to form a filo pastry case into which the fruit will be spooned).
Mix together the plums, sultanas and orange curd and spoon into the pastry lined tin, pulling the pastry edges back over the filling as far as possible. Brush remaining sheet of pastry with the lemon mix, fold in half and cut into thick strips, then crunch up each strip and place over the top of the visible fruit.
Bake at 200C, 400F, gas 6 for 25 minutes or until the pastry is crisp and golden. Serve dusted with icing sugar and a dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt.