Oh I know you’re all hankering for that cheesecake recipe (and boy am I hankering for another slice of said cheesecake) but you’ll have to wait until maybe Monday or Tuesday because I couldn’t help but bust this guy out into the internet first.
Mainly because of its insides.
Make that its delicious layered green, cheesy insides.
There was an audible gasp when I brought not one, but two trays of crackly brown, spiral patterned pastry to the table, the white rimmed plates set upon upturned ramekins.
“And now I know why you chose the Greek theme” said Tissue, sniffing at the buttery pastry.
“Because I wanted an excuse to eat too many olives?” replied I, faux-innocently.
“You just wanted to make pie.”
She was right, of course, having been well-versed in the knowledge that pie is one of my favourite food groups (slipping in there after fruit-that-someone-else-has-cut-up-for-me and anything-soup-noodle). I’d been busting at the seams to make a spinach and feta and filo pastry concoction for months.
(But with a mostly lactose-intolerant / vegetarian-meal-intolerant family, it wasn’t ever going to be a practical option for dinner).
I sat in my kitchen, the bench covered in damp tea towels, greaseproof paper, brushes and melted butter (oh, and the two packets of filo pastry that took me three different supermarkets worth of hunting through to find), and braced myself for inevitable disaster.
Filo (or phyllo) pastry and I had not been friendly in the past. My impatience at its thawing time and its tendency to dry out and crackle into a million pieces at the slightest sign of ignorance on my part had rather strained the relationship.
But for the good of Greece (or, as the case may be, Koji’s Greek-ish themed entertaining area), I persisted.
And it was calming, in a strange sort of way, to be brushing and layering and covering and rolling and repeating round and round until I had two none-too-shabby snails of ready to be baked pastry in front of me.
The sound of a hero being stabbed in the Chinese movie my Ah-ma had playing in the background didn’t hurt either. (Though I’m sure he would disagree).
We ate three quarters of one and a third of the other that scaldingly hot Saturday, almost justifying my choice to make two instead of one.
(And I’d suggest you do similarly, as reheated pie crisped up under the grill makes for a more than marvelous midweek dinner.)
sort of spanakopita (spinach & cheese pie)
I say “sort of” because, apart from having no claim whatsoever to any particular knowledge of authentic Greek food, I largely made this recipe up after tasting some delicious triangular pastries that were served to me once at a restaurant under that same name, and finding out from various conversations and internet wikipedia-ing that yes, ricotta appeared a suitable addition.
you will need:
2 packets of phyllo pastry
1 brown onion
3 cloves garlic
1kg frozen spinach (four boxes)
1 bunch of parsley, chopped finely
500g greek feta
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
1/4 tsp nutmeg
a pinch of dried chilli flakes
(optional: 1/4C pine nuts, toasted)
how to do it:
1. Take the phyllo pastry out of the freezer and place it in the fridge for at least three hours, if not overnight, to defrost in its plastic packet. Take the spinach out of the freezer and let it defrost too.
2. Chop the onions into a fine dice and mince the garlic finely. Fry the onion and garlic in a saucepan with a little bit of oil until they are translucent, but not browned. Set aside to cool.
3. Take the defrosted spinach and tip it into a chux wipe, over a large bowl. Gather up the sides of the chux wipe and squeeeeeeeeeeze as best you can to get as much of the liquid out as possible. After turning my sink a pale green colour, and tipping the remaining spinach out of the chux wipe, I ended up with about 350g of the green stuff. This is good.
4. Mix the squeezed spinach with the chopped parsley, crumbled fetta, ricotta, spices, eggs, cooled onion & garlic and (if you wish and don’t have nut allergies happening) some chopped, toasted pine nuts. Split the mixture into two equal portions.
5. Take the phyllo pastry out of the fridge and lay it flat on top of a sheet of greaseproof paper. Lay a slightly damp tea towel over the top to protect it from drying out.
6. Take a second piece of greaseproof paper (about the same size as the phyllo sheets) and place that in front of you. Melt half the butter and grease two 23cm round cake tins well. Hold onto that brush!
7. Take one sheet of phyllo pastry (and re-cover the rest with the tea towel). Lay the phyllo on the greaseproof paper in front of you and brush thoroughly with melted butter.
8. Take a second sheet of phyllo pastry and lay it on top of the first, smoothing it out. Now brush that layer of pastry with melted butter.
9. Lay a third sheet of phyllo pastry on top of the second, buttered, sheet of pastry and smooth it out. Repeat the process with a fourth sheet.
10. Once you have buttered the fourth sheet of phyllo pastry, take about 1/8 of your total mixture (so 1/4 of the mix that you have set aside for this pie) and place it in a sausage along the long side of the pastry stack, about 1 inch in from the edge.
11. Using the greaseproof paper to help you, roll the pastry over the sausage of green mixture, and the nround and round until you have what looks like a sausage roll. Curl it up into a spiral and place the rolled pastry into the middle of a cake tin.
12. Repeat the process (adding additional pastry cheese spinach sausage shaped lengths to the end of the existing ones) until you have squeezed four lengths into each pan and all of the mixture is used up.
13. Brush the tops of the pastry with (yet more!) butter and bake for about an hour in a 180C oven while you clean yourself (and your counter) of grease.
14. Eat hot!