I remember being first introduced to the world of Greek cuisine. I worked in a little independent coffee shop run by an eccentric Greek coffee roaster. He would spend hours listening to the coffee beans as they crackled inside the giant roaster, waiting for the perfect moment to open the hatch and let them tumble into the cooling tray where we would sort through the beans, discarding anything too light or too dark. The toasty coffee smell filled the surrounding streets and customers would come from all over Melbourne to buy our blend.
While his coffee was excellent, he was no cook, and the food in the cafe was bought from a local Greek lady who filled the shelves with delicious things like spanakopita, loukoumades (doughnuts), kourabeithes (almond biscuits), and my personal favourite – galaktoboureko (kind of like a vanilla slice). I quickly became very fat, trying all these new (to me) foods!
Spanakopita is the one thing I make regularly. It can be changed to contain just about anything and there are countless varieties and fillings depending on who you talk to. This is my version.
See this dish as part of a MEAL PLAN
Prep time: 1.5 hours
6 sheets filo pastry
1kg spinach leaves
1 clove garlic
400g feta cheese
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sumac
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried mint
Salt and pepper
Sesame seeds for decorating
Oil for frying and spraying the filo sheets.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees C.
Wash and chop the spinach leaves and leave aside while any excess water drains away.
In a frying pan heat a little olive oil over a medium heat and sweat down the finely chopped onion. Add in the sumac and cinnamon and continue to fry until the onions are translucent. Add in the garlic and spinach and cook down until the leaves have halved in size. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and add in the feta. Mix well, season, and allow to cool thoroughly.
To make the spanakopita itself, take two sheets of filo and lay them on top of each other. Spoon one third of the cooled spinach mixture along the longest edge of the pastry about an inch wide. Next, roll up the pastry into a long sausage shape and pinch at the ends (use a little egg wash or water to seal). Repeat with the remaining filo and spinach mixture until you have three ‘snakes’.
To assemble the spanakopita, take a medium sized frying pan and coil the three snakes inside it, starting in the middle and working your way to the edge, so they resemble a snail shell. Spray with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Cook in the oven for 45 minutes or until the top is golden brown and crispy. If it is browning too quickly, simply cover with tin foil.
To finish, sprinkle over a tea spoon each of dried dill and mint leaves.
Grated lemon zest would add summery freshness
I often use silverbeet leaves instead of spinach
Instead of spinach and feta use lamb mince or boiled potatoes with chili
A drizzle of tzatziki and crisp cos lettuce
Mixed tomato and mint salad