A couple of months ago I was buying puff pastry to make apple crumble and noticed another type of pastry next to it called phyllo pastry. I took a quick look at the box and it said “something something Greek island style pastry…” I was sold!
On the box were a couple of suggestions as to how one would use it but basically (like all pastries) you use it to wrap stuff in. Pretty simple. The uniqueness of phyllo pastry lies in it’s thickness. It is very thin (it’s the thickness of about 3 or 4 A4 papers put together) and therefore it’s very delicate and dries out fast. When using it, you have to cover it with a damp towel to stop it from drying out. When layering the pastry sheets together when cooking, melted butter has to be brushed on it to make the sheets stick together. Apart from those two special treatments, it works like any other pastry really. I will not attempt to make it myself any time soon. I don’t think I have that level of skill just yet! For now I’m perfectly content spending 30 pula to buy a roll from Pick n Pay or Spar. Storage wise it stays in the freezer till you need it. To thaw, you put it into the fridge for 12 hours and then it’s ready for use. It can stay in the freezer for 6 months or so before it needs to be thrown out.
Now on to the Spanakopita. This pie can either be made in triangles or as a square that you cut after it’s ready. Given the flakiness of the pastry after it’s baked, I opted to go with triangles which also make storage easier. The recipe below is a combination of two recipes I found online.
- A bunch and a half of chopped spinach
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped dill
- 2 eggs lightly beaten
- 1/2 cup cottage cheese or ricotta cheese
- 1 cup crumbed feta cheese
- 1/2 cup melted butter
- Half a bunch of green onions, chopped
- 2 teaspoons of minced garlic
- 2 tablespoons of oil
- salt to taste
- 8 sheets of phyllo pastry
- Preheat the oven to 170 degrees Celsius and grease a baking tin.
- Fry the onions in the oil on medium heat, add garlic, some salt, chopped herbs and then the chopped spinach. When the spinach has wilted remove from heat. Drain as much water from the spinach as possible either by putting it between two plates and pressing the liquid out, or by putting in a strainer/sieve and pressing down. It is essential that you get as much liquid out as possible or your pie will be soggy.
- Mix the eggs with the feta and cottage cheese then add the spinach mix.
- Take one sheet of pastry, lay it flat on chopping board or on any clean surface, brush the pastry with melted butter. Put another sheet on top and repeat so you have 2 sheets brushed with melted butter. (Make sure to cover the pastry you are not using with a damp towel.
- Cut the pastry into 3 long strips with a knife. On the first strip, place about 1/3 cup of the spinach mixture into the top corner of the strip in a triangular shape.
- Fold the pastry over the the spinach filling by pulling the top corner of the pastry down to the bottom therefore maintaining the triangular shape. Continue folding along the length of the pastry always maintaining the triangular shape (similar to how you fold a samoosa for those who have experience with that).
- If there is excess phyllo at the end, trim it off and close the triangle by sticking the pastry down with some butter.
- Brush the phyllo triangle with butter on all sides.
- Repeat steps 3-6 with all 8 sheets of the pastry
- Place the completed triangles on the greased baking tray as you work.
- Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, until the triangles are golden brown.
- Remove, let them cool a little then serve!
For those who are still unclear on how to fold the triangles, watch the video below. It helped me quite a lot.
If you do not want to bake all of the Spanakopitas at once, you can just fold them and freeze them for future use. Then you can bake them when they are wanted.
I want to try this same method with different ingredients in the future. Maybe add some minced meat with the spinach and try a different soft cheese or add tomatoes. We’ll see how my experimenting goes.
I had the pies with some spicy grilled chicken. A dip can also be made for the pies with some cottage cheese and sour cream.