I don't give up easily. When we visited Kira and Kevin last weekend I spent some time flipping through Kira's cookbook on Greek cuisine. I landed on a recipe for Spanakopita and saw that it included instructions for making phyllo dough from scratch. I loved this of course because of the sheer impossibility of buying phyllo in my town. arrgh. I love you, Jamie Oliver, but No, filo (as he calls it) is NOT available in all supermarkets nowadays (a maxim from Jamie at Home). At least not in Hobro, Denmark.
So the recipe intrigued me and I felt compulsed to tackle the challenge of making my own phyllo. It was not an east feat, trust me, but I managed to roll 8 individual layers that would end up enveloping the spinach filling. The sweat literally poured off me as I rolled each piece of dough as thin as paper. In a warm house, in summer. However, I wiped my brow before any dripped on to the dough, I promise.
I was pleased with the finished product even before I slipped it into the oven. Fully baked, I was even happier. While my phyllo was not nearly as light and flaky as the commercial variety, it was far better than I imagined it would be. I will definitely make this recipe again and each successive time I'll endeavor to roll the phyllo lighter and thinner. In the case of homemade phyllo, the adage practice makes perfect couldn't be more fitting.
Dough issues aside, what I love most about this pie is its filling. It's very simple and yet so darn delicious. I modified the recipe by adding cottage cheese and an egg to the spinach mix because, well, I like it this way. I think the combination of the white cheese and greens is both lovely and tasty.
Adapted from The Best Traditional Recipes of Greek Cooking by Dimitri Haitalis
1/2 kilo (1lb, 2oz) fresh spinach
6 spring onions, finely chopped
1/2 teacup fresh dill, finely chopped
1.5 teacups olive oil
1.5c cottage cheese (optional)
1 large egg (optional)
salt and pepper
1/2 kilo (1lb 2oz) flour
1/2 teacup melted butter
1 teacup warm water
1. Clean and wash the spinach meticulously, then drain well. Saute the onions in olive oil on medium heat until transparent but not brown. Shred spinach in large pieces and add to onions. Season to taste. Cook for 15 minutes until all the liquid is gone. Remove from heat and stir in dill.
3. Optional - in a bowl mix 1.5 cups cottage cheese with 1 large egg. Add a tiny bit of the warm spinach mix to the cold cheese mix and stir well. Then, in small amounts, keep adding spinach mix until it is all incorporated. Set aside and get on with preparing the phyllo dough.
4. Place flour in a bowl, add eggs, melted butter, salt and as much warm water as in necessary for a dough that is pliable. Knead well and roll out in thin pastry sheets with a rolling pin.
5. Line an oiled pan with a pastry sheet, brush with olive oil, then lay 2 or 3 pastry sheets on top brushing each one with olive oil. Spread filling evenly over the pastry sheets and cover with 3-4 more layers of pastry, oiled in the same way as previously.
6. Bake in a 180C or 350F oven for 45 minutes. Serve hot or cold.
My notes: Feel free to make the original version without cheese; I've included instructions if you want to add it though. Greek cooking uses teacup measurements. One teacup is equal to 3/4c. I really just eyeballed my measurements and probably used less olive oil than called for.