Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Recipe: Spinach and feta pie (for Shannon)


This recipe is not really mine as it is a very popular dish found in Turkey and Greece and in Italy where ricotta cheese replaces feta. The method is more or less the same in all three countries but of course, my variation uses loads of garlic and bacon for that extra flavour. If you’re a die-hard vegetarian, omit the bacon. If you’re pressed for time, use shop bought filo pastry instead of making the shortcrust recipe below.

I make my own pastry as I like to know what goes into my food plus it is easy and quick to make in a food processor.


Make the pastry first:

4 oz unsalted butter
12 oz plain white flour
pinch salt
2/3 cup of very cold water

Blitz the flour, butter and salt in a food processor until you have the same consistency as fine breadcrumbs. Turn the mixture into a bowl. Add the cold water slowly and mix with the blade of a knife- this brings the mixture together nicely and without annoying bits sticking into clumps. Once the mixture is homogenous- i.e. has come together, use your hands to squash gently into a ball. Do not be too enthusiastic at this stage as you want air bubbles in the pastry dough so it will be light. Be very careful to just bring the dough together and then stop. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

For the filling:

200g or more of spinach leaves (washed)
one medium onion
four cloves garlic
100g smoked bacon cut into cubes or pancetta
splash olive oil
pinch salt
good grinding black pepper
pinch nutmeg
one egg
200g feta cheese, broken up/crumbled into small pieces

Peel and finely chop the onion. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed pan over medium-high heat. Fry the bacon pieces until just beginning to brown. Add the onion and fry until brown around the edges- around 7 minutes. Peel and chop the garlic cloves really finely. Once the onion is browned, add the garlic and toss for 30 seconds max. Garlic burns easily and becomes bitter- so be careful as the bitterness will ruin the dish! Wash the spinach in a bowl of water. Lift the leaves gently out of the bowl and add to the pan. There should be enough water from rinsing the spinach so no need to add any more. Cook the spinach over medium heat uncovered. The spinach will release its own juices and become very limp. Continue cooking over medium heat uncovered- this ensures that the spinach does not become too acidic tasting. Once the spinach mixture has cooked for around 20-25 minutes the liquid will have evaporated until there is little to none left. Allow the mixture to cool completely.


Butter a pie dish (12 inches in diameter). Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface. Place the pastry in the pie dish and set aside- forget about the overlapping, untidy edges for now.

Lightly beat the egg and add to the spinach mixture. Crumble the feta in. Grate the nutmeg into the mixture and add a pinch salt and pepper. Mix it all together. Place the mixture into the pie dish. Using a spatula, even out the mixture. Slice off the overhanging pastry and place decoratively on top of the spinach mixture. Place the pie in a preheated oven (200 degrees C) and bake for 20 minutes. Turn the heat down to 180 degrees C and continue baking for a further 20 minutes. Serve warm with a salad and copious glasses of red wine.

Words and photo copyright SvD.

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