Hortopita, Nettle and Feta Tarts

Spring is a great time of year to forage with a huge range of edible plants waking out of their winter sleep but in my opinion one of the greatest is the humble stinging nettle (Urtica dioica), eaten widely wherever it grows, it’s a true super food high in vitamins, minerals and unusually for a leafy green protein.

The recipe I’m sharing with you is based on both the Greek hortopita which uses large sheets of pastry to make one large flat pie and the dish borek, popular in turkey and the areas around Serbia and Bosnia, where they often roll the pastry into a long sausage shape and then roll it into a spiral. I’ve chosen to make little individual versions, but the method can be adapted easily enough.

Collecting nettle tops Image: Andy Neilson

First were going to need to find some nettles, I happen to have a neighbour with an extremely overgrown garden so that where I sourced mine, but wherever you get yours make sure your foraging ethically, legally, and most importantly safely. A little tip on foraging nettles at this time of year, is to avoid eating the ones that have flowered or gone to seed as there’s is a chemical change that takes place in the plant that leads to the formation of calcium carbonate cystoliths, which can cause irritation in the kidneys and urinary tract, but the best eating is in the tops of the younger smaller plants anyway, so aim to pick those.

Washing the nettles Image: Andy Neilson

It’s always good practice to give foraged plants a good wash before you use them, so grab a colander and throw your nettles in to give them a good rinse with some cold water. I gathered about half to two thirds of a colander of nettles, but you can alter the volumes and proportions to suit your personal tastes.

Cooking the nettles Image: Andy Neilson

Next, I softened half a diced onion and a couple of cloves of garlic in some butter, then added my nettles and gave it all a stir and put a lid on to allow the nettles to wilt down. Once the nettles have wilted, allow them to cool and squeeze to ring out a good amount of the moisture, as you don’t want your pastry to go soggy later.

Break up the cheese in a bowl Image: Andy Neilson

Break up your feta cheese in a bowl, I used 300g of feta and it was quite a cheese heavy mix, so feel free to use less if you prefer, but I enjoyed it as it was.

Finely chop Image: Andy Neilson

Finely chop your nettle, onion, and garlic mixture then combine them in a mixing bowl, I also chose to add the zest and juice of half a lemon and a good amount of black pepper.  I think that some finely chopped dill would be a good addition, but I didn’t happen to have any at the time.

Filo pastry cut into squares Image: Andy Neilson

Cut some filo pastry into squares, big enough to cover the spaces in a bun tray (I used shop bought filo, you can make it yourself, but quite frankly life’s too short). Layer thee layers of squares in the recesses of your bun tray brushing each layer with melted butter and top with a generous heaped tablespoon of your feta/nettle mixture. Put the tarts into an oven, preheated to 190C/GM5 and bake for 15 min or until the pastry is golden brown and the filling is hot through out.

Golden brown Hortopita, nettle and feta tarts Image Andy Neilson

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