When one asks what Greek food is, one of the first things that comes to mind is pies. Yes, pies are what most Greeks associate with home. We may not all know how to make them, but we sure know how to appreciate them.
During our first workshop in May, our guest chef Despina introduced us to the world of pies. We all made together a delicious leek pie using filo pastry. The filling was sweet leeks, feta cheese and lots of herbs. Pie making skills? Check. Pie eating? Check.
As we are waiting for our next workshop, we decided to put our skills into good use here. And hopefully to inspire you to play around and experiment with filo (or phyllo) pastry at home. In Greece, most spinach pies include eggs and feta cheese. Here, we are offering you a twist to what most Greeks might be familiar with. We wanted to bring out the flavour of spinach and herbs. So we decided to omit the eggs and include just a tiny bit of feta cheese. The feta cheese in such small quantity adds the needed tanginess and saltiness but is not visible in the pie. So spinach and herbs prevail!
What is magical about pies is that you can include whatever you have in your fridge. It’s the dish that represents no-waste. So, in the recipe we are suggesting below, do include whatever you have in your fridge. A green pepper or a few strips of bacon? Finely chop and add to the spring onions. Wilted greens or lettuce? Add them to your spinach. Of course, feel free to add an egg or more feta cheese. We usually make pies once a week, as a way to clear the fridge. Sunday is a great day to make a pie. You have the time it takes to prepare everything. And you have your lunch sorted for the week.
For a medium sized pie you will need:
1 pack of filo (phyllo) pastry at room temperature (you can find it in Greek and Turkish speciality shops)
1 kilo spinach,
5 spring onions
1 small bunch of dill
2 springs of mint
2tbs olive oil (frying) and 3/4 cup (brushing the filo)
Preheat the oven to 180C. Wash your spinach. Finely chop the stems and roughly chop the leaves. Finely chop the spring onions, dill and mint. You can use the stalks of your herbs if you want to – we did.
In a large frying pan add the olive oil and gently fry the spring onions. Set aside in a large bowl. Add the spinach and gently fry until it releases most of its liquid. Add to your bowl. Let it cool down. Add in the herbs and crumble the feta cheese. Mix everything together.
Unwrap your filo pastry. Place it on your kitchen counter with a wet cloth on top, to prevent it from drying out.
Using a brush, cover your tray with olive oil. Here we are using our 27C extra virgin olive oil, as spinach pairs perfectly with its rich flavour and aromas. Lay 5 sheets of filo pastry, brushing with olive oil in between each layer. Add your spinach mixture and pat it so that it’s uniform around the tray. Add 5 more sheets of filo pastry, again brushing with olive oil in between each layer. If you have leftover filo pastry, you can crumble it on top of the pie to decorate it.
Bake at 180C for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with a green or a tomato salad.