I don’t know what it is about Good Friday, perhaps it all that Christ death symbolism swirling round but it’s always a bit of a downer of a day. I always seem to feel unwell, with some kind of headache or even a full-blown migraine. This good Friday was no exception. I had a headache all morning but managed to recover enough in the afternoon to go and see the film, Oz the Great and Powerful, with my son and partner at our local cinema. I still can’t get over having cinemas and even some shops open on Good Friday but it was dead out on the street. There were no people out and no cars on the roads and felt like we had moved into a post- apocalyptic world with everyone bunkered down nibbling on their hot cross buns, waiting for the Easter bunny to turn up and the party to begin.
I’ve been complaining a bit about the unseasonably hot spell Sydney has been having in the lead up to this Easter holiday. Easter is my favorite food making festival of the year. The worst of the heat is usually over but we still have plenty of late summer and early autumn produce to play around with and the spinach (which is one of my favourite things to eat) has started to come back into its own again after the wilting heat of summer. I was feeling pretty devastated by the thought of a sweltering Easter break. In the end we had beautiful weather all Easter, Thursday was a scorcher but the heat had broken on Friday so it was actually a beautiful day despite the sombre mood that blanketed the city. After the film we came home and ate spanakopita because there is nothing like a spinach and cheese pie to cheer you up when your suffering the good Friday blues.
I remember first making spanakopita when I was about fourteen. I substituted cottage cheese and grated cheddar for the feta, silver beet from the garden for the spinach and because filo pastry was completely unheard of in the small country town I came from I made a kind of layered wholemeal pastry from one of my older sister’s wholefood hippy cookbooks. I can’t remember if I used any herbs (but probably not) and the pastry was kind of weird and a bit tough. but overall it wasn’t that bad and it certainly didn’t put me off the whole notion of spinach and cheese pie. Later, when I left home became a vegetarian, spanakopita became part of my standard repertoire and has been festive centrepiece for many celebratory meals. I’ve made it in various incarnations, experimenting with different cheese combinations and various herbs. For a while I was adding rice and making a very thick pie. Then a few years ago I was brought back to my senses by a recipe from Jill Dupleix’s Favourite Food. This is a simple, elegant spanakopita, made how it should be, with just spinach, feta, green onion, dill and egg encased in golden buttery layers of filo (which is thankfully readily available now) and it is simply the best spanakopita I have ever made. I know it’s definitively the best now, because when I first started this blog last year, I wanted to post a spanakopita very early on. You think I would have learnt from years of messing around with this pie that it’s best NOT to mess around it, but I’d cut out a recipe from the newspaper that promised to be the ultimate spanakopita. It looked great on paper with loads of mint, parsley and dill – my favourite herb combination. How could it go wrong.? It even had impeccably authentic credentials coming from the writer’s local Greek veggie shop owner, Maria. I made it, photographed it – it even looked fantastic – but it was all a bit meh. In fact it was a bit dry and dense a fatal failure in spanakopita which needs to be eggy and airily light.
People are very passionate about their favourite spanakopita recipe, but I’m going to call it on this one. Here it is – the world’s best spanakopita – serve with a dollop of Greek yoghurt because you really should. Spanakopita Adapted from Jill Dupleix – Favourite Food.
- 3 – 4 bunches of spinach
- 2 tablespoons of olive oil
- 4 green (spring onions) finely chopped
- freshly ground black pepper
- grated nutmeg
- 300 grams (11 ounces) feta cheese
- 4 eggs
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped dill
- 1 packet of filo pastry
- 125g (4 ½ ounces) melted butter
- Pre-heat oven to 180 C (350F)
- Trim tough stalks from spinach and rinse leaves well in a sink of cold water. Drain and chop roughly.
- Heat olive in large pan ( I usually use a large stir fry pan) and add spinach and green onions, tossing until all the spinach is wilted. Place spinach and onion in a colander, allow to cool and press out as much excess water as you can.
- Roughly mash feta and add lightly beaten egg, dill, nutmeg and black pepper. Then add cooled drained spinach and onion, Mix well.
- Unwrap filo and cover with a damp tea towel so it doesn’t dry out while you work.
- Melt butter and butter a oven proof baking dish about 24cm by 28cm (9 ½ by 11 inches) Butter layer of pastry and lay in baking dish allowing to overlap the sides. Keep adding buttering and adding the pastry to the pan until you have six layers.
- Add spinach and cheese then butter and layer another six layers of pastry on top.
- Tuck pastry in to the dish and trim any excess pastry. Score top of the pie (but not down to the filling into squares. Butter top of pastry.
- Bake for 40 to 50 minutes until golden and the filling has set. Cool for ten minutes and cut into squares to serve.
Note: It’s hard to use too much spinach in this pie. The spinach I used in this particular pie was in fairly small bunches so I used four, but I reckon it could have taken another bunch. Feeds Four