Wednesday, July 04, 2007

SPANOKOPITA
Greek spinach and feta pie

It might not be warm but it's summer, and the Mediterranean chefs know how to use these seasonal vegetables better than we ever did. I mean, what did the British ever do with courgettes and spinach before gratefully borrowing Ratatouille and Spanokopita? I don't mean to sound unpatriotic - it just seems to be the case that we eat more British food in the winter, and Mediterranean food in the summer. Probably because they know all about fresh alfresco-style dinners.

I've adapted this from a recipe by Sophie Grigson, whose book (Vegetables) I would highly recommend.

1 pack Filo pastry, defrosted
1 large bag spinach - around 500g raw
200g feta cheese
1tbsp olive oil
1/2 bunch of spring onions, finely sliced
2tbsp fresh dill, chopped
2 eggs

Serves 4

Preheat the oven to 180 deg C.

Wash the spinach and remove the big stems - a boring job, but worth it to rid the spinach of the characteristic bitterness. Put it straight into a large saucepan, cover and steam gently for about 5 minutes - until the spinach has collapsed in a sorry heap at the bottom of the pan and you wonder if you have cooked enough.

Drain the spinach in a colander, pressing it hard against the sides with a spoon to get rid of moisture. Slide it onto a chopping board and shred finely. Return it to the pan with the tablespoon of olive oil, dill, and the spring onions, and soften very gently for a couple of minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool while you start layering pastry.

Take 1/3 sheet of filo and lay it on a 10cm tartlet tin (or you could make one 30x20cm pie). Using a brush and a cup containing a scant tsp of olive oil, keep brushing and layering pastry and oil, building up perhaps 8-10 layers. There should be plenty of overhang on each one. (And don't worry, the pastry is fat-free, so the olive oil is the only thing to worry about, and you can brush very scantly). Do this for 4 tins.

To the saucepan, which is now cool, add the feta, and beat it in with a spoon. Finally add the eggs and beat it all together well. Use this to fill the pie(s). Now you can gather up the overhanging pastry and crumple it prettily over the filling, covering it completely. Brush with a few more dabs of oil, and whisk into the oven for 20-30 minutes. Serve with green salad and roasted cherry tomatoes.