Some flavours are connected to memories and places …
These spinach pies will always represent, in my mind, the passion that the people of Paros have for cooking and sharing…
Mary, a lovely woman and friend of my beloved island, used to make these homemade spinach pies with the most amazing fillo crust and fresh spinach from the garden.
Each time we would visit in the winter, a plate of freshly baked pies would be waiting patiently to greet us, right there, on our kitchen counter!
I love making a big batch of these little wonders the I have fresh spinach, and store them in the freezer, for those sudden cravings….
Spanakopitakia – Rustic Spinach Pies
For the dough:
½ kg white flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup yogurt, from whole milk and Greek
1 cup olive oil
½ cup warm water, or more—as much as it needs to form a soft and firm dough, depending on the type of flour.
For the filling:
1 kg fresh spinach, washed
3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil
1 lettuce, chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely chopped
1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
½ cup fresh chervil, chopped
½ cup fresh dill, chopped
½ cup fresh fennel, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped
¾ cup Feta cheese, crumbled
pinch of nutmeg
1. For the filling: Heat a large sauté pan over a medium-high heat. Add a few large handfuls of spinach and wilt, tossing gently with tongs. As the spinach starts to wilt, add the remainder, a few handfuls at a time. Cook until all the spinach is wilted and bright green, about 4 minutes. Place a colander in the sink and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the spinach to a colander. Let cool slightly and squeeze any excess liquid through the sieve.
2. Heat the olive oil in the pan over a medium heat. Add the onions, leeks and lettuce. Cook until soft and fragrant, about 4 minutes. Stir in the spinach, turn off the heat, and let it cool for 5 minutes. Then stir in the cheese, herbs, nutmeg, salt and freshly ground pepper. Mix thoroughly.
3. Position a rack in the centre of the oven. Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F).
4. For the dough: In a large bowl, sift the flour and salt. Add in the olive oil and yogurt to combine. Mix with your hands. Next, add the warm water, in a slow stream, and knead, about 10 minutes. Dough will feel sticky at first but keep kneading until it becomes smooth and satiny. When smooth, wrap the dough in plastic wrap and leave it to rest at room temperature for about one hour.
5. Turn the dough out onto a floured, flat surface. Divide into 2 pieces and cover with a clean tea cloth to prevent it from drying out. Roll approximately 2 tablespoons of dough mixture out on a floured surface. Using a rolling pin, roll gently from the centre of the dough to the top and bottom edges. Rotate the disk and roll to the top and bottom edges again. Re-flour the work surface and rolling pin, turn the dough over and continue to roll the dough from the centre out to the edges. Flip over and roll again, rotating the disk to ensure even rolling until the dough is about 20 cm in diameter and approximately 8 mm thin.
6. Fill each round with a heaping tablespoon of filling in the centre and fold like an oblong package, tucking the sides underneath so that they stay in place. Continue the process with the rest of the dough.
7. Brush the spinach pies with olive oil and place on a baking sheet. Bake for about 30 minutes, or until pies are golden brown.
NOTE This is the most forgiving dough to work with. The yogurt allows this pastry some elasticity but still produces tender and flaky results. But even still, you have to practice a couple of times before you can make the perfect Spanakopitakia. But keep with it! It’s worth the effort!
Makes about 20 -25 pies.