Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Putanesca Chicken Filo Parcels

At the risk of my blog actually becoming a food blog, here is another post about yumminess.

I love filo pastry.  Well to be honest, I love pastry in all its forms.  But filo is particularly great in how its extremely thin sheets can so effectively hold delicious fillings, keeping in moisture so that you have the fantastic combination of flaky pastry and hot steaming sauces.

The putanesca sauce in this recipe was inspired by a fish dish my brother-in-law made which reminded me why I love the rich, earthy flavours of a putanesca and how they can take other fairly ordinary ingredients and make them really delicious.  If you are not a fan of anchovies, don't worry you can't taste them.  They add a salty complexity to the sauce that is fantastic, and even S who really doesn't like fish at all had no idea (I'd snuck them in when he wasn't looking just to double check this aspect of the recipe).

When it comes to filo, I always use the stuff you get in the refrigerated section of the supermarket - near the fresh pasta etc.  One trick I've learned is that if you leave it out of the fridge (but still in its packet so it doesn't dry out) for 30-60 minutes, it is much easier to use.  It doesn't stick together or crack and is generally much easier to handle (sometimes it does actually pay to read the packet!).  The filo will dry out when you take it out from the packet, so I suggest having all of your ingredients made and sliced, ready to assemble, that way you can quickly make your parcels before it drys.

I also suggest halving the chicken breast before butterflying it.  That is because I've used normal supermarket chicken breast.  If you use free range chicken the breast size is often much smaller, so you can just butterfly it.  I prefer free range, but we all do have to count the pennies and I'm taking frugal February to heart.

Ideally the filo keeps all the delicious sauce and melted cheese in, but the parcels can spring a leak so be careful when taking from the pan (or when taking the baking paper to the bin as S discovered when he dripped juices all over the kitchen).

Finally I served this with baked potatoes, however I think mash would probably be a better counterpoint.

Putanesca Chicken Filo Parcels
(makes 8)

1 packet filo pastry
olive oil spray
4 chicken breast fillets - halved lengthwise then butterflied out so about half a centimeter thick
1 bunch spinach, leaves picked, stem removed and wilted by pouring hot water over, then refreshed with cold and squeezed out
1 large mozzarella ball sliced into 8 half-centimeter slices
melted butter

Putanesca Sauce
olive oil
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
3 large (or 5 small) anchovy fillets minced finely
8-10 large tomatoes diced (or a can of tomatoes if good ones aren't about)
2-3 tablespoons capers
50g kalamata olives, pitted and cut in quarters
1/4 bunch parsley chopped

Putanesca Sauce:
Heat the olive oil in a frypan over a medium heat.  Add garlic and anchovies and cook till very fragrant.
Add tomatoes and capers and cook over a medium-high heat until it has reduced down to a thick sauce (not much moisture left).
Remove from the heat and stir through the olives and parsley.
Set aside to cool to room temperature

Filo Parcels
Lay one piece of filo on your bench and spray with the olive oil spray.  Top with another piece of filo, then spray half and fold it in half, so you now have 4 layers.

Place a chicken breast in the middle.  Top with a couple of tablespoons of sauce (basically an 8th of what you have made), a few pieces of wilted spinach and a slice of mozzarella.

Spray around the edge with the olive oil spray and wrap the filo over lengthwise then wrap the ends up, like you were wrapping a parcel.  Everywhere you want to stick, spray with the olive oil.

Turn it over, set aside and make the next parcel.

When you have made all 8, brush the tops with melted butter.

Bake in the oven on a tray lined with baking paper at 180 degrees for 20-30 minutes until they are golden brown.

These also freeze really well.  To freeze, after brushing with melted butter (but before baking) individually wrap the parcels in glad wrap (actually I find it is easier to put them on the glad wrap, then brush with the butter) and freeze.  To maintain a nice parcel shape, freeze them on a tray, then when they are hard you can just put them in a drawer etc.

Thaw in a fridge overnight, then bake as usual.


  1. Seriously if food like this is one of the little things that makes you smile, I'm all for you sharing as much of it as you'd like! These look delicious.

    1. Thank you CheezyK! This sure did make me smile. And the thought that there are another 6 in the freezer is a big smile. Nothing like fresh, healthy, homemade food for those nights when we are too tired and busy to make an effort.

  2. Yum! Definitely trying this one. You can never have too many food posts in my opinion!

    1. Yay! I hope you enjoy it as much as we do. Although apparently I need to put more sauce in. According to S it would be better with about 4 tablespoons of sauce and a bit more cheese.