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Friday, 15 November 2013

Spanakopita (Σπανακόπιτα)

Making a Greek pita is, for me, a mindless task. Rolling out pastry is not a mental chore, it's a physical one. So while I'm rolling out my pastry, I have much time to think and organise my thoughts. To make the task more challenging for me, I try to invent a new design to score the pastry.

Apart from a design I learnt from a youtube video...

and the classic square-shaped pieces...

I also do one of my own designs, which I call 'marigold':


Cooking can sometimes be mundane, but you can make it more exciting in your own way.  However I decide to score the pastry, I don't worry about it breaking - it still sits nicely on the top of the pie, and it was going to break anyway once it is served. 
I make a pita every week in the winter. This week's pita contained spinach and soft white cheese. It was made in a square-shaped baking vessel - for a change. I always make layered pastry pies - so my filling is never one layer - it's usually 2-3 layers, with pastry in between. Square pies are easier to deal with when you use store-bought pastry.

You needa
500-600g finely cut spinach (I used spinach frozen from last spring to make the pita in the photo)
1 large onion, finely chopped
2-3 sprigs of finely minced fresh mint (or a teaspoon of dried mint)
500g Cretan mizithra or crumbled feta (I use mizithra because it's cheaper and possibly tastier)
1 egg
3-4 tablespoons of breadcrumbs (to ensure that any moisture in the filling is soaked up and won't make the pastry soggy)
salt and pepper (don't use too much salt if you use feta cheese)
10 sheets of filo pastry (I make my own filo pastry, which is a little thicker, therefore I use fewer sheets, about 8)
olive oil for brushing over the pastry

Thaw your pastry first (if you are using store-bought pastry). Mix all the filling ingredients together. (If you are making your own pastry, you should have the filling ingredients ready first. Then roll out one sheet at a time and use it immediately.) Turn on your oven to pre-heat to 200C.
Layer 1Grease the bottom of a baking vessel (pyrex or tin). Place one sheet of pastry on it. (This piece of pastry should hang slightly over the sides of the baking vessel so that it will seal the pie at the end. In my photo, you will see that I didn't do this perfectly, but I use my own home-made filo pastry which is sturdier than store-bought pastry.) Grease the pastry and lay another sheet over it (do this twice). Dot a third of the filling evenly over the pastry. 
Layer 2: Lay another sheet of pastry over the filling. Press it down to make the filling spread evenly below the pastry. Grease the pastry and lay another sheet over it. Dot another third of the filling over the pastry. 
Layer 3: Repeat the instructions for Layer 2. Grease the pastry and lay another sheet over it (do this twice). Brush the final layer of pastry with olive oil, then turn the pastry hanging over the sides of the baking vessel over the top layer of the pie. Brush those with olive oil too. Then score the pastry with a knife, making cuts right down to the bottom of the baking tray, to make the cuts you want when you finally serve the pie.
You can see each layer of filling and the pastry layers.
Place the pie on the lowest shelf of your oven. Turn on the 'fan' function, which circulates the air all around oven. Turn down the temperature to 180C. Cook the pie for 40-50 minutes, depending on how golden you want the pastry. The fan function is important, so that you do not get soggy pastry at the bottom of the pie. If you do not have a fan function in your oven, cook it at 200C for at least an hour. Some ovens also have a function that allows them to cook using only the bottom heating elements. You can use this at high heat for 10 minutes or so, at the end of baking time. Allow the pie to cool for 10 minutes outside the oven before serving - you will need to cut again wth the knife to ensure that each piece comes out separately.

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