I’m not a religious person, but I celebrate Christmas as a feast of light, as a markup that days are starting to grow longer and we’re heading toward spring and summer again. And of course it’s great to cook and spend time with the family, give and receive presents and just chill out.
This is a pie I’ve been making some years now, it has infiltrated to be one of my Christmas traditions. It takes pretty much time and effort to make, but it’s not complicated. Just a lot of chopping, preparation and mixing. So if you have a family or friends who enjoys helping delegate some of the preparation work to them. As a price you can promise a delicious, tasty and amazing pie. The phyllo pastry creates a crisp crust that is combined with a soft moist filling. The chestnuts have their own spectacular taste, as well as the warm zest of coriander, all smoothed and wrapped together with mild spinach and mushrooms. The long simmered tomato and ginger sauce adds a nice touch of lingering tastiness, with the smoothed spark of sherry adding interest to the flavours.
The original recipe is from a book I borrowed from a library many ears ago. I’ve altered the recipe a bit, sometimes adding raisins or funnel mushrooms, sometimes using all fresh spinach and sometimes deep frozen. Feel free to experiment!
Chestnut, spinach and mushroom pie with tomato ginger sauce
Ingredients for the sauce
¾ dl olive oil (don’t use the super expensive fruity one, super market quality will do just fine)
4-6 cloves garlic
5 cm/2 inch piece of fresh ginger
800 g crushed tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp demera sugar
1 ½ dl dry sherry
sea salt and cayenne pepper
Ingredients for the pie
500 g spinach (I used about half fresh and half deep frozen)
2 tbsp olive oil
500 g mushrooms (I used just champignons, but shiitakes and funnel mushrooms are excellent too)
2 tbsp ground coriander seeds
2 tsp cinnamon
3 cloves garlic
400 g chestnuts
2 heaped tbsp orange marmalade
5-7 sheets phyllo pastry
sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
Making the sauce
Do the sauce first, so it can simmer while you prepare the pie. First peel and chop garlic and ginger. Then heat olive oil in a pan, add garlic and ginger and fry until they start to scent. Add crushed tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and sherry. Let simmer for about an hour, add tomato juice or sherry if needed. Just before serving season with cayenne pepper and sea salt. Blend smooth or push through a strainer if you wish.
Making the pie
There’s no need to cook the fresh spinach if you’re using it with deep frozen spinach. If all your 500 g spinach is fresh, they fit better with the other ingredients if you cook it first. Simply boil it in a large kettle, just a little while so it starts to get wrinkled. When you’re using frozen veggies, let them melt in room temperature before using.
The recipe calls for 400g chestnuts. This is without the brown shiny husk and inner peel. I bough about 700 g chestnuts, and used almost all the fruit in the pie. There are always bad chestnuts even if you check them before buying. If you want to go easy, use canned peeled chestnuts, but it’s not quite the same.
Before cooking slash x-marks on the flat sides of the nuts with a sharp knife.
Bring water to boil in a large kettle and add chestnuts. Let them simmer for about five minutes, cut off the heat and start lifting small portions of nuts to be peeled. Use knife and you’re fingertips to peel the nuts, removing both the husk and the inner peel. Check the nuts, and discard any smelly, ill-looking ones, or remove any bad parts. Peel all the nuts. It’s good to have help here; it’s not a very funny job to do. Measure peeled chestnuts, use any excess toasted in salads, salted as snack or simply add any little excess to the pie filling. Half the chestnuts.
Preparing the Pie
Take the phyllo pastry into room temperature to melt.
Chop the onions, mushrooms and garlic cloves. Ground whole coriander seeds. Heat the olive oil in a pan, add onions, mushrooms, coriander, cinnamon and a little salt and pepper. Let simmer until the vegetables have been cooked and the liquid has evaporated. Add the spinach, then chestnuts. Cook 1-2 minutes; then add marmalade and heat thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste, and set aside.
Oil a 20-25 cm diameter spring form pan with olive oil. Carefully unwrap the phyllo pastry and lift one sheet to the pan. Place it so that it will cover the bottom and sides of the pan, but let the overlapping parts hang around the pan.
Brush the sheet with olive oil.
Place another sheet on top of the first one, so that it covers it up partially. Brush with olive oil.
Cover rest of the phyllo sheets with a damp towel if they start to dry up. Keep adding the sheets, until they cover the pan nicely. If some of the sheets get torn a little don’t mind it. And brush all the sheets with olive oil. Pour in the filling, and turn the hanging edges on top of the pie, covering up the filling.
Brush generously with olive oil. Cook the pie in preheated oven in 180 degrees Celsius (~350 F) for 30 minutes, then carefully detach the sides of the pan. Let the pie cook for about 20 minutes more, until the pastry is crisp and golden brown all around. Let the pie rest for a few minutes, cut it to pieces with a serrated knife and then serve with the warm sauce.