Introduction: Greek Spinach Pie
The spinach pie, or in Greek "spanakopita", is a typical healthy vegetarian dish from Greece, variations of which are found throughout the Balkans.
It is relatively easy to make and can be eaten as a main course, side dish or snack. In this instructable, I will follow the recipe that we use in my family but feel free to deviate from it and experiment if you wish.
Usually, it takes me around 1.5 hours from the moment I start preparing the ingredients until I take the pie out of the oven.
Step 1: Ingredients
- Filo dough: There are mainly two different types, the very thin, that can be also used to make baklava and a little thicker one, which I have bought for this instructable. I don't have any strong preference between the two, but it might be easier to find the thinner one, since it has applications in other cuisines. I usually go for the Greek brands, so to avoid surprises, however some Turkish ones have also worked for me.
- Spinach, 500-700 grammars: I buy frozen and already cut spinach, due to the fact I am simply bored to cut it myself.
- Feta cheese, 500-700 grammars: I personally like to put a lot of Feta cheese in my spinach pies. Feta cheese is expensive where I live, so I often buy other types of white cheese from the Balkans region instead, which have a similar taste.
- Onions, 2 medium sized: I usually go for two medium sized onions, but you can also use the equivalent (or more) amount of leek or scallions (spring onions).
- Eggs, 2
- Dill: If I buy fresh dill, I use one bunch, otherwise if I get it in dried or frozen form, I go for 3 or 4 tea spoons. You can also try fennel if you can find it. Gives taste an extra kick!
- Olive oil: Vegetable oil should also work.
That was it! Optionally you could add sesame, an extra egg as well as half a cup of milk.
Step 2: Chop the Onions
Cut the onions in small pieces or just put them in the chopper, let it do the job for you and save some tears. If you also have leek or scallions, chop those too.
Step 3: Saute the Onions
Warm a some oil in a deep pot (or a wok!) and put the chopped onions (leek or scallions) inside. Let them fry until they get softer. Don't forget to stir them a bit too, so they don't get stuck. They should be ready in a couple of minutes, depending on the temperature.
Step 4: Add the Spinach
Add the spinach to the onions, that should have gotten softer by now. There is no problem if the spinach is still frozen. Let it melt and stir occasionally. You will be done, when the spinach is completely unfrozen and the mix is even. Then you should remove it from the heat.
In the meanwhile, move on to the next step.
Step 5: Trim the Feta Cheese
While the spinach is melting in the pot (or... wok), start trimming the feta cheese. I personally like to take the knife and cut it in cubes, but you could always trim it like any other cheese with a trimmer or even with your hands.
Step 6: Add the Feta Cheese
When the spinach has melted and the cheese is trimmed, remove the pot from the heat and add the Feta cheese to the pot. Stir until they mix well.
Step 7: Add Eggs & the Spices
Break the two eggs and add them to the mix. Remember, that you should have already removed the pot from the heat, so the eggs won't start getting cooked. If you think the mix is still hot, let it cool down for a bit.
In this stage, you should also add the dill and any other spices you would like (i.e. fennel, parsley) or extra salt.
Mix everything well and you are done with the pie's filling.
Step 8: Add the Bottom Filo Layers
Open the filo dough package. You will place half of the filo layers on the bottom and the rest on the top. Usually they are already split for you, either 6+6 or 3+3 depending on which type of dough you bought.
Start by oiling up the pan or form, in which you will bake the pie. Then lay each layer separately and don't forget to add oil between them. You can use your hands or a brush to distribute the oil evenly. I have heard the more oil you put, the "heavier" but crunchier the filo layers become.
Step 9: Add the Filling
After placing the oiled filo layers for the bottom, it's time to add the spinach and cheese mix filling. Depending on the size of your baking pan, you can leave some space between the filling and the edges, as you see I have done in the photo.
Step 10: Add the Top Filo Layers
Add the remaining filo layers over the filling, oiling them, as you did before with the bottom ones.
Step 11: Roll the Edges
If possible, roll the pie's edges, so a crunchy thicker crust is formed on the sides. As a kid, that was my favorite part of the pie.
Step 12: Final Touches
It is a good practice to take a knife and gently slide it on the top of the pie before putting it in the oven, so to be able to cut the pie easily later, as well as to allow it to "breath" more, while baking.
Step 13: Extra Tips
To make the pie extra crunchy, be generous with the oil you use between the filo layers. If you are NOT using the baklava type filo (you can recognize it easily, due to the fact that it is really thin and you will usually find 12 layers in the package) you can mix half a cup of milk and an egg. Then pour it over the pie before putting it in the oven, distributing the mixture with a brush if necessary. This will give your pie a nice color and will make it crunchy. The thinner filo dough (baklava type), is crunchy anyway and I have noticed that it doesn't go well with the egg and milk mix.
Finally, you can complement your pie with some sesame on top.
Step 14: Bake & Serve It
Heat the oven at around 200 °C and then put your spinach pie inside. It should be ready in around 30 or 40 minutes, depending on your oven. Pay attention to it, it should have a golden brown color when it is done. If you see that the top is getting color too fast, decrease the temperature to 150 °C and move it lower in your oven.
When it is ready, take it out of the oven and if you want to retain its crunchiness, cut it in pieces and remove it from the pan it was baked it, as soon as possible. If you let it cool down in there, it has the tendency to become softer.
This is how mine looks after taking it out, cutting it and placing it into big plates, to keep it crunchy and fresh. I already ate a piece and it was really good!!!
Finally, I added a photo of pie I previously made, using the thinner (baklava type) filo dough. The procedure and the ingredients are essentially the same, regardless of the filo dough used.
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