Spanakopita – A Classic Greek Dish

My brother put me on to this and it’s a tasty lunch or dinner, best veggie I think. It is an easy Greek filo pastry based pie and can be prepared a bit in advance. Serve at room temperature, or just lukewarm.
It’s really a traditional spinach and feta Greek “pie”, but can be varied in many directions. The dish is traditionally veggie but I suppose you could put some minced lamb in it and some Middle East type spices? Probably a hanging offence in Greece.
I use my loose bottomed flan dish that I also use for quiche. It works well and makes removing the finished pie much easier.
I find I have more filo than I need for one. You could get two spanakopita from a pack. Don’t think it would freeze well from a cheese/egg perspective so you’d need to eat them both from the fridge over a couple of days.
Lovely served with a nice salad.
Ingredients
  • A pack of filo pastry
  • Small butternut squash
  • 120g of young spinach, wilted and drained. Use a sieve or muslin/tea towel.
  • 200g Feta chopped up, there need to be cubes of cheese, probably about 1.5cm square
  • 2 beaten eggs
  • 50-75g melted butter to coat the filo
  • Mint leaves chopped (careful not to overdo as it can be a bit too minty), some basil wouldn’t go amiss
  • Optional – some small chopped courgettes.
  • Courgette flowers for decoration or you can put some in the pie if you have enough.
Method
  1. The butternut squash needs peeled and cut into 2cm chunks. Coat in olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast it at 180C fan for about 30-40 minutes till cooked. A bit of colour is no bad thing.
  2. Mix the cooled butternut squash with the eggs, cheese, spinach, herbs. Season well with salt and pepper.
  3. Cover the bottom of the flan dish with a sheet of filo then brush it with butter. Put on two more, coating them with butter and rotating them a bit so that all the sides of the dish are covered.
  4. Tip the filling into the dish and level out.
  5. Fold the edges of the filo base back over towards the middle
  6. Now cover with about another 3 layers and any loose scraps of filo, buttering each piece.
  7. Decorate with some courgette flowers, coating them in butter, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.
  8. Cook at 180C fan for about 20 minutes, more or less depending on how golden it goes
Best served lukewarm or at room temperature, probably with a Greek salad. The Spanakopita can be kept chilled overnight in a fridge. It also reheats to crisp up the soggy pastry.
The filling is easily varied:
  • Leaves could be rocket, horseradish, chard, kale
  • Cheese could be gorgonzola or any other cheese but not sure how well some would work. Experimentation carries a risk.
  • Herb could be mint, basil, thyme, tarragon, fennel, oregano, dill, parsley
  • Squash could be carrot, could add some finely chopped onion, probably cooked off slightly for best results.
  • Mix and match veg as you wish just be careful not to add something too wet, or that needs a lot more cooking. In which case, pre-cook and/or drain.

Kozani Chicken – Simple Greek Food

Kozani chicken is a Greek recipe and this based on a version from Rick Stein. These quantities serve about 4 people depending on the size of the chicken pieces etc.
It is very simple but quite tasty. A nice saffron tone, with some sweetness from the prunes. It might even stand a pinch of sugar, taste and season once it’s cooked.
I’ve made it with chicken thighs with bones in (after removing their skin) and this is probably better for flavour. Some folks can’t be fussed with the bones and if you are wanting to serve as a fork and bowl TV dinner then you might prefer to use boneless and skinless thighs. I haven’t tried with chicken breast but this might work if the breast was kept in large pieces, perhaps halved, and then poached, taking care it isn’t cooked too long.
Reducing the sauce was essential. I took out the chicken when I was reducing. In a wide pan, this doesn’t take long. While it reduced I stripped the chicken flesh from the thighs and put it back in for a couple of minutes to re-heat at the end.
Serve in a bowl with some simple boiled rice or some boiled potatoes, and a Greek side salad.
Ingredients
  • 8 chicken thighs, skin removed
  • pinch of Kozani saffron (or Spanish saffron) – I just used regular saffron
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 red onions, thinly sliced
  • 1½ tbsp sweet paprika (that’s the normal plain paprika, neither smoked nor too hot)
  • 20 pitted prunes (The soft “ready to eat” ones are Ok but don’t need much cooking so perhaps add them later in the process so they don’t over soften)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • A few turns of ground black pepper, or more if you like more kick
Method
  1. Put the chicken thighs in a large saucepan with about 1 litre water and the saffron. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and poach the chicken for 10–15 minutes. Drain, reserving the now yellow and saffron flavoured cooking liquid.
  2. At the same time heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and sweat the onion gently until very soft, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. Add the paprika, cook for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken thighs, about 700ml of the cooking liquid and the prunes. Season with the salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes, until heated through and the chicken is cooked. This is where pieces of chicken breast may need less time. (You could always remove the breast and sit to the side while the sauce finishes.)
  5. If the sauce is very watery, which it almost certainly will be, remove the chicken with a slotted spoon and keep warm while you reduce down the sauce so that you have enough to spoon over each portion.
  6. A sprinkling of fresh parsley might be nice.