I have a vivid childhood memory of watching an episode of a food programme where women with headscarves and aprons plucked wild greens from hillsides and carried them back to their homes in woven baskets. They were making hortopita or wild green pie. At the time I was amazed how anyone could possibly identify the edibles in the vast green landscape.
Over the last few years, I have become a forager too. I became better acquainted with the wild greens in my surroundings while living on the Kintyre peninsula in Scotland; in a climate that didn’t feel entirely conducive to growing delicate greens year-round. With patience and perseverance, I found wild carrots, radish, mustard, dock, oraches, chickweed, red dead nettle, dandelion, miners’ lettuce. And almost on my doorstep, I found sorrel and wild garlic – which emerged alongside the bluebells in the woodland off our driveway, which was nearly half a mile long.
Now back in New Zealand, we have moved to a rural town; our back yard has plenty of wild sorrell and growing under the huge oak tree in our front yard. We have a healthy dandelion patch behind our house along with puha (sow thistle), and of course, we have the usual selection of wild greens aka weeds.
Incorporating a mixture of wild green makes sure the flavour of your pie isn’t dominated by one taste.
Mustard greens have a sharp taste. Sorrell can be tangy and sometimes citrus-like. Miners’ lettuce and chickweed have a sweeter, milder, flavour. The young leaves of the dandelion are less bitter if picked before they flower.
For a wild green pie, you will need 5-6 cups/250-300g of wild greens. It’s easier, and more fun, to collect if you forage with friends; alternatively you could pad out your wild harvest with leaves from your vegetable garden (or greengrocer) such as spinach, sorrel, silverbeet, bok choy or kale.
Wild Green Pie or Hortopita
5-6 cups/250-300g of wild greens
Tofu Ricotta (recipe below)
1 Tablespoon minced garlic – you may want to leave it out if you use wild garlic
2 red onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon dried dill
1/2 cup chickpea flour
1 cup cold water
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
salt and pepper to taste
In a small bowl, mix nutritional yeast and chickpea flour with cold water and set aside.
Coat the base of a medium-sized heavy-based frying pan with olive oil and bring to a medium heat. Saute sliced red onions until soft and lightly caramelised then add minced garlic and cook for another minute.
Depending on the selection of wild greens you have, you may wish to chop or shred large leaves. Add them to the frying pan and saute until soft and season with salt, pepper and lemon zest to your taste. Add the tofu ricotta and dried dill, stir to mix then set aside while you prepare the filo pastry casing.
Spray a baking dish or pan (20-25cm) with oil, lay over a sheet of filo pastry, spray lightly with oil. As you add sheets, roughly overlap them so that the sides hang over the edge of the dish – this excess filo will be used to close the top of the pie. Spray each sheet as you add it and repeat. Expect to use 6-8 sheets, depending on the thickness and size of the sheets.
Once your baking vessel is lined with filo, combine the chickpea flour batter with the wild green/tofu ricotta mixture. Pour this into your filo pie casing. Wrap the sheets of filo over the mixture to encase your pie. Spray the pie top with oil.
Bake for 25 to 35 minutes at 180 – 200 ºC.
This dish serves well cold.
280g firm tofu
7g nutritional yeast
2 tbsp minced shallots
2 cloves of grated garlic
¾ tsp sea salt
Zest of a lemon
First, make tofu ricotta by crumbling the tofu into a bowl and mixing in other ingredients, it’s that simple! Adjust seasoning and lemon to suit your tastebuds. This can be made ahead of time, or make a double recipe as it is tasty and useful to have in your fridge. It will keep for up to five days.
Serve with Tzatziki
This recipe was first featured here