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Spanakopita (aka: spinach pie)

Some who know me say this is my signature dish. It’s certainly a favourite. It’s the food my daughter requests when I’m in Hobart and has done for every birthday most of her life. One thing I know is that it’s ALWAYS delicious!

Spanakopita is so simple to make and extremely good for you, especially as it is so high in iron from all that wonderful deep green spinach.

I serve mine with my delicious tabbouleh – you’ll find my recipe here.

Spanakopita and me – a potted history

I was first introduced to this fabulous food  in my late teens and took it on as my own.  I was living in a share house with five other people, so this was a perfect and a wonderfully inexpensive pseudo-hippy share house meal that served lots of people – because there were always extras for dinner in our house.

In early 1980s Hobart, real spinach was unheard of, so I made this pie with silver beet, which was a passable alternative. I’ve never looked back since being able to source – and grow – real spinach. Nothing compares.

Since those early days in the kitchen I have researched, remodelled, refined and rejoiced in the simple goodness of this pie.  It is the perfect recipe for your vegetarian and meat eater friends alike. In fact, I’ve never met a person who didn’t love it.

Some notes

The spinach: Wash the spinach well, because if you don’t you’ll end up with little gritty bits on every second bite and that’s not nice. Run a sink – or fill a large dish – full of cold water. Pull each leaf off the base with most of the stalk attached (no need to waste that) and put into the water, then when all the spinach is in the water, swish it around to get all the dirt out. Pull out, shake and place into a colander. Drain your sink, rinsing out the dirt and run the spinach under cold water just to wash away any missed bits. Now it’s ready to cook.

The feta: all feta cheese is not created equal and the feta you use will affect the flavour of the finished pie.  I use either Bulgarian mixed sheep/cow milk or Dodoni Greek feta, depending on what’s available.  They both have different flavours and do the pie justice. Bulgarian is inexpensive and I really do like its flavour in this pie, so tend to buy that when at a market with cheese choices.

The ricotta: Source and use fresh ricotta where possible. If not available, try to find a good, fresh ricotta in a tub – often found in local European-style markets or specialty stores. If you can’t source fresh or fresh tub ricotta, just use the standard supermarket variety. It will be okay, but the quality and texture will be inferior.

Make extra: This pie freezes really well. I often make a large one then cut it into portions that I freeze individually and take to work, keep in the fridge until lunchtime, then heat up in a microwave.  You’ve no idea the comments this elicits from colleagues … “mmmmmm that smells/looks gooooood”!

Special equipment: You’ll need a pastry brush to spread the butter over the filo layers.

One more thing:  You can make one whole pie and cut into slices/wedges to serve. Alternatively, make individual, bite size pies, folded into triangles or rolled into cigars. They all work well.

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