Nigella's Old Rag Pie

Dealing with leftover bits in the freezer - in this case that phyllo that is getting crumbly.  Turns out, it's not just for Baklava!

By now we’ve all tired of trying to find unique and interesting ways to complain to people who are too  preoccupied by their own discomfort to listen. Misery may love company but if the cause of misery is the lack of company, we are just chasing our figurative tails in a seemingly endless loop. 

We’ve looked at and around our homes more than we ever thought we would. Some discoveries are distressing (Look! Are those mouse droppings? Where? Just there!  Oh and there!). Some discoveries are challenging and exciting (Look! At last! A successful loaf of sourdough bread! It has an ear!). Some are downright perplexing (What do you suppose this is? Where? Here. This box of something in the freezer…).   

Well, a Google helped dispatch that half jar of tahini. Turns out it’s not just for hummus, Darling. In fact, it turned out to be useful for so many things that you needed to buy another jar.  

So maybe Google could be the path of enlightenment for this stuff as well.

Filo? Phyllo? And how even to pronounce it?  (Feel-oh actually).  

Ah yes. Baklava. Purchasing this thin brittle pastry seemed like a grand plan after a lovely meal at a Greek restaurant back when going to restaurants was commonplace, but the right day never seemed to present itself to put that phyllo to use.  While a piece of baklava is heavenly, a full pan of it can be an overwhelming prospect. So there sits the phyllo. Frozen in time. 

Turns out phyllo pastry is handy for all sorts of things. You can layer it, for instance, to create both sweet and savoury pies. Drape it in a pie pan, brushing between layers with melted butter and maybe sprinkle with a bit of sugar and finely chopped nuts between layers for a fruit pie. For a savoury pie such as a quiche, some crisp buttery Pandora breadcrumbs and a sprinkle of Parmesan make a nice addition between every few layers. Seven layers probably. Anyway, it looks impressive, tastes delicious and disguises the fact that you are not confident about your pie crust skills.  It can, of course, dress up leftovers. Chop up whatever you don’t think will sell to your picky eaters. Put a spoonful into a few layers of phyllo, roll it up into a cigar shape or triangles, brush with butter and bake. Serve with a sauce that you have kicking around, and watch your leftovers disappear before your very eyes!  Phyllo can also be useful to line baking pans. I like to line a pan of scalloped potatoes with several sheets of butter-brushed phyllo, and  cleanup is a breeze! A side benefit is the impressive looking crispy edges!

All very fine, but this package has been lingering there for awhile and the edges might have started to dry a bit. 

Well, back to the Greek bakers. Do bang together an OLD RAG PIE.  I find this version by Nigella Lawson (nigella.com) just so very good!

“Try this salty-sweet version (think Greek cheesecake) of the Greek Patsavouropita, created by bakeries as a way of using up old scraps of filo pastry: the ‘old rags’ indicated by the name. 


7 tablespoons soft unsalted butter

10 ounces frozen filo pastry (thawed)

8 ounces feta cheese

2 teaspoons grated parmesan

2 teaspoons leaves from fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)

2 large eggs

⅔ cup whole milk

1 tablespoon sesame seeds

1 tablespoon good honey (such as Greek thyme honey or orange blossom honey), plus more to serve


You will need 1 x 20cm/8-inch square cake tin (preferably non-stick).

Melt the butter in a small saucepan, then take it off the heat.

Line your cake tin with a layer of filo, making sure it comes up the sides; you will need to use more than one sheet. Then pour 1 tablespoon of melted butter over the pastry.

Using one third of the remaining filo sheets, tear and scrunch the sheets up and drop them loosely in the tin. Then crumble in half the feta, sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of Parmesan and just under ½ teaspoon of thyme leaves (or ¼ teaspoon of dried thyme) and pour a third of the remaining melted butter over the top.

Repeat, so that you use up all but a little of the butter and a small amount of thyme. For the last layer, you can use larger pieces of filo “rags” (as it’s the lid), filling the tin a little more tightly, but still scrunching them.

Fold the edges of overhanging filo over themselves, and pour the remaining butter on top. Using the sharp point of a knife, make 2 cuts down and 2 cuts across into the filo-packed tin, from edge to edge to create 9 sections. It’s important that you don’t use a blunt knife, as you don’t want to drag the filo or press down on it.

Beat the eggs with the milk, then pour over the contents of the tin. Sprinkle the last bit of thyme along with the sesame seeds on top. Let it stand for at least 30 minutes in a cool place before baking. If 2 hours is easier for your timetable, then put it in the fridge. And you can do this in advance (see Note).

Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/gas mark 6/400°F, and bake the pie for 30 minutes. When it’s ready, the pastry will be golden and puffed up, and the inside set.

Let it stand for 10 minutes, then spoon 1 tablespoon of the honey over the top.

Cut into slices or slabs – using a serrated bread knife and sawing action to prevent squishing the filo on top too much, then pushing the knife down to cut through. Serve the pie directly from the tin and put the jar of honey, with a spoon in it (or you can pour it into a jug) on the table for people to add extra as they eat.”

Very like your new friend, tahini, phyllo will be one of the lucky side benefits of this pandemic. People will continue to complain. As will you and I. But we will complain just a bit less loudly with a piece of Old Rag Pie and a fork in hand while we’re at it. Now for the next surprise discovery as you poke around your house.  May it be a delicious one!