from one generation to the next
My hometown Melbourne has the largest Greek population outside Greece, in fact, my neighbourhood was dubbed little Athens in the 1960s. The “spinach filo pie” is frequently the predictable vegetarian option at the takeaway food counter, but as often happens, it has been reduced to a shadow of its former delicious self, short on cheese and full of tough overcooked leaves in hard dry pastry. Give this a go for the real deal.
One large bunch of fresh spinach or chard or 1 packet of frozen spinach, thawed
400g ricotta cheese
125g feta cheese
3 large eggs
4 spring onions, sliced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1 packet of commercial filo pastry, in Australia I recommend Antoniou brand
60g butter, melted or 1/4 cup grapeseed oil
Grease a 30cm by 20cm slice tin or dish. Preheat the oven to 180C
Strip the leaves from the stems of the spinach, wash in a deep sink of water to remove all the grit. Place the leaves in a pot with the water still clinging to the leaves and bring to the boil on the stove, cover with a lid and steam for a couple of minutes, only until the leaves are wilted. Refresh the spinach under cold running water then squeeze as much water as you can out from the leaves. Roughly chop the wilted spinach and put into a mixing bowl. If using frozen spinach, just squeeze all the water from the leaves.
Crumble the fetta and mash the ricotta cheese, then and add to the spinach in the bowl. Add the onion, eggs, nutmeg and pepper and mix all the ingredients together.
Line the base and sides of the baking pan with 6-8 layers of filo pastry, brushing every second layer with melted butter or grapeseed oil. Tip the filling into the pastry lined dish and spread to the edges. Top the Pie with another 6-8 layers of filo, again brushing every second layer with butter or oil. Trim off any overhanging pastry, brush the top sheet with butter or oil and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
Bake in a preheated oven for approx 30 minutes, until pastry puffed and golden. Best eaten immediately
VARIATION: SPINACH TRIANGLES
Omit the ricotta cheese and only use 1 egg in the spinach filling.
Lay the filo sheets on the worktop and cover with a dampened cloth. Remove one sheet at a time. Brush a sheet of pastry with butter or oil and fold lengthways into three. Place a generous teaspoon full of spinach mixture at the left had corner then fold the pastry into triangle shape along it’s length.
Seal the end of the triangle with a dab of butter or oil. Continue like this until the filling mixture is used. Brush the tops with butter or oil, sprinkle with poppy seeds and bake at 180C until puffed and golden. Uncooked triangles can be frozen to bake at a later date directly from the freezer.
Do not roll them too tightly or fill them too full as they will burst in the oven.