In spite of huge efforts I wasn’t able to make this dish look even half as luscious as it was in reality, so I hope you will trust me if I say that this first attempt at home-made Spanakopita was a tremendous success. I liked its freshness, its difference of textures and its pleasant lightness and was extremely proud to add another dish to my humble list of Greek recipes. I was particularly thrilled to learn that dill, a wonderful herb reminiscent of my childhood, is a perfect company for both spinach and feta. I think that not only avowed carnivores, but even those who turn their nose at spinach would change their view after tasting a piece of this vegetarian pie.
I am of course not the author of this recipe and owe the excellent result entirely to my Greek friend Katerina, from Culinary Flavours, whose fascinating blog has never ceased to inspire and motivate me to explore the extraordinary world of her country’s cuisine. Katerina’s version gives a lighter, fresher, more aromatic and simply better result than any Spanakopita I have ever tasted. First of all, contrary to most sources, her recipe calls for fresh, raw spinach; moreover, the filling is generously seasoned with fresh dill (not present in many Greek recipes I had seen before) which suits perfectly both feta and spinach. The presence of cracked wheat is a very clever idea, preventing the mushiness. Thank you so much, Katerina, for this marvellous recipe, for your constant encouragement and inspiration!
Most of you have already tasted spanakopita or have at least heard about it. As a quick reminder, this Greek pie consists of the phyllo pastry layers filled either with spinach or with both spinach and cheese. Spanakopita is baked as a pie or made into smaller individual triangles and eaten as snacks. Thanks to Katerina, I now know that “Spanakopita” is a simplified name for this pie. Technically “Spanakopita” contains only spinach, while the cheese and spinach version is traditionally called “Spanakotiropita”. Since Katerina says even Greeks call both Spanakopita, I felt comfortable leaving the name which is more known abroad.
I have followed Katerina’s recipe quite closely, but reduced the amounts by half (which I regretted afterwards since Spanakopita disappeared in no time at all). I couldn’t resist adding some garlic which proved to be a good idea (at least for a garlic addict!). The only thing I omitted was Katerina’s impressive homemade phyllo pastry I wasn’t brave enough to try. I strongly encourage you to visit Katerina’s blog, admire her home-made phyllo pastry and browse through her inspiring, clearly explained – not only Greek – recipes. You will certainly find real treasures.
Before going to the recipe details, I would like to express my gratitude to A_Boleyn for her regular encouragement which led me to buy my very first package of phyllo pastry, the step which in turn led to my very first Spanakopita.
TIPS: Garlic is my own idea and its presence is not necessary.
Strangely, both me and my husband preferred this dish completely cold. We thought it tasted even better the following day, straight from the fridge, so if you have leftovers, taste them cold before reheating. Maybe you will prefer spanakopita this way too.
If you don’t have cracked wheat I suggest substituting it with semolina.
If you cannot find fresh dill, the best would be frozen dill here. Dried dill loses its refreshing aroma.
Ingredients (fills a 20 x 20 cm baking dish:
1 small package (250g/oz) phyllo pastry
350 g fresh spinach
200 g feta
a handful of chopped fresh dill
1 spring onion, chopped
4 flat tablespoons cracked wheat or semolina
(2 garlic cloves, chopped)
1 tablespoon olive oil + more for brushing phyllo pastry sheets
Preheat the oven to 175°C/350°C.
Wash the spinach, drain it and squash well in your hands to diminue its volume.
Stir-fry the garlic and the onion for a couple of minutes.
Put the spinach into a big bowl, add the stirred-fried garlic and onion, the dill, the seasonings, the egg and the cracked wheat.
Crumble the drained feta and either combine it with spinach now or put it into the dish afterwards as a second layer.
Divide the phyllo pastry sheets in two equal parts.
Grease the baking pan.
Layer the first half in the greased dish, brushing every layer with olive oil and leaving some pastry “hanging” out of the dish, so that you will be able to close the pie at the end.
Place the spinach mixture over the pastry sheets.
(Add the crumbled feta on top if you haven’t mixed it with spinach).
Take the second half of the phyllo sheets and layer them on top, greasing every sheet with olive oil. Trim the excess pastry layers which go out of the dish (do not cut the lower pastry sheets which were left to hang out of the dish!).
Turn the “hanging” sides of bottom pastry sheets inside, so that they close the whole pie.
Cut the pie into square or rectangular portions.
Brush with olive oil, spray with water and bake for about one hour or until the pie becomes golden at the top.
Serve warm or cold.