After a Greek recipe posting bonanza a couple of years ago, I have been pretty slack since, which, considering the Perky Kebab’s heritage, could result in negative marks at my annual wifely appraisal (no, I’m not joking; this does actually happen). So today’s post is a step towards remedying this most ill of situations.
Before visiting Greece over a decade ago I had no idea how much the Greek population LOVE pies. There are bakeries everywhere you look selling an array of these pastry clad goodies. In fact I’m sure the reason McDonald’s isn’t able to crack the Greek market is because the Greek’s view is clearly “who needs a burger when you can have a pie?”.
And after trying my first spanikopita, I was totally with the Greeks. This was no ordinary pie. It was made of light, crispy filo pastry, with a filling laced with dill, full of slow cooked sweet onions, lashings of feta and delicious chopped spinach. Needless to say I ate one every day for lunch there after.
I was reminded how fabulous spanikopita is when we were in Greece a few weeks ago as my spanikopita guru (aka my mother in law) made an absolutely enormous pie which kept us in delicious lunches for a few days.
This is a dish that looks more complicated and time-consuming than it actually is so don’t let that put you off. It also keeps for a good few days wrapped in foil in the fridge so it’s worth making the big batch specified below and either sharing it with friends if you’re feeling generous or keeping all for yourself for a week of wonderful lunches. Bonus marks are achieved from the fact that, despite its high spinach content, children really like this too….well, the small sample of 5 children we gave it to this weekend did anyway!
One of the things I love about Greek cooking is the emphasis on throwing everything in and making sure it tastes delicious rather than focusing on exact quantities. I’ve measured everything out for you in the recipe below, but do feel free to take a Greek approach to things instead!
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, roughly diced
1 leek, trimmed and finely sliced
1 kg frozen chopped spinach
20g dill, leaves roughly chopped
400g feta cheese
Salt & pepper to taste
8 sheets filo pastry (large ones – about 40cm x 30cm)
75g butter, melted
You will need an oven-proof dish around 30cm x 20cm in size
- Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick saucepan over a low heat. Cook the onion and leeks gently until soft and silky for 15 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Add the spinach and turn the heat to high. Stir regularly until all of the spinach has melted then cook over a high heat for a further 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Pour the spinach mixture into a large sieve or colander and leave to drain for around 30 minutes. Use the back of a spoon to push the mix against the size of the sieve to aid draining too. You want to end up with as dry a mixture as possible as this will prevent a soggy pastry experience!
- Return the spinach mixture to the saucepan and add the dill and eggs, and crumble in the feta, season with salt and pepper to taste and mix thoroughly.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºc/160ºc/350ºf.
- Using a pastry brush, brush the inside of your dish with butter. Brush your first sheet of filo pastry with butter all over one side. Place this buttered side up in your dish, allowing some of the edges to overhang. Repeat with 4 more sheets.
- Pour the pie filling into the dish and smooth flat. Put the remaining 3 filo sheets on top (continuing to butter each one) and then fold any over-hanging pastry over the top. Brush with more butter then place in the oven to cook for 30-40 minutes until golden brown.
- Leave to cool for 10 minutes before slicing up and serving.
The pie will keep for at least 4 days in the fridge, well wrapped in foil. To reheat, place on a baking tray and heat up at 160ºc/140ºc/320ºf for 25 minutes until hot throughout.