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I bet you enjoy a slice of pie! It is probably the number one comfort food, with crunchy filo dough gently wrapping your filling of choice – the combinations are endless, pleasure unlimited! Pies enjoy a very special place amongst Greek cooking. They are the unsung heroes, always on the table, always discreet and extremely satisfying.
The village oven in Greece has always played a central role in daily life. Undisputed meeting point almost like the cafeneio, or the café where the usual ones always find themselves discussing, playing and exchanging jokes.
In whatever village you are, on the Cyclades islands as well as in the mountains, it is easy to smell the freshly baked bread from the early hours of dawn.
Entering a traditional Greek bakery is a mystical experience. You will be immediately invaded by an unmistakable scent of all daily productions. For example, you will smell the pungent scent of cheese, the undisputed king of savory baked goods. The famous tiropita is in fact a focaccia made only with cheese.
Or that of mixed herbs that form the traditional xortopita, an exquisite focaccia with herbs. Sister of xortopita is the famous spanakopita, a pita filled with spinach, leek and cheese.
These are focaccias filled with natural ingredients, exquisite and able to satisfy all appetites. In fact, it is not unusual to dine only with stuffed pita bread.
Greek pies are interwoven in the fabric of traditional Greek cuisine. In older times, way before we entered our urban dwellings, pies were the centrepiece of the rural table. A pie would make the main meal of the day, complemented with a salad or cold cuts of preserved meat. As for the pie fillings, these were as plentiful as the imagination of the cook.
Even in winter, with very few fresh produce available, resourceful cooks would retreat to pies for a delectable meal, combining ingredients, sometimes preserved, others grown in the backyard, very often foraged. Wild greens such as nettles, fennel or dandelions would make their way into pies, too, with excellent results.
In Northern Greece there is a tradition for sturdy meat pies, always baked in large round trays on wood fire. In Southern Greece, you come across small bite-sized pies, filled with salty cheese or delicious greens, fried as a quick treat, like the Cretan marathopitas.
Pies are the ultimate comfort food, not just for the one enjoying a scrumptious piece, but also for the cook. You can make a pie up at no time with any ingredients you have at hand. Spanakopita spinach pie tends to be the most loved filling. Below, you can see the spinach pie recipe so you can enjoy at home.
1. Rinse the spinach very well, blanch them in boiling water, drain them well and let them cool completely. Once cooled squeeze with kitchen towels any excess water out, chop coarsely and easy open the spinach leaves.
2. Chop the green onions finely, golden brown them in a pan and set aside.
3. In a large mixing bowl add the chopped spinach, onions, chop in the dill, crumble the feta in small chunks and crack in the eggs.
4. Mix well and you are ready to add the spinach mixture into the pastry.
5. Start with 3 filo pastry sheets for the first layer, one or two for the middle and preserve three of them for the top.
6. Brush your tray with extravirgin olive oil, place the first sheet and repeat for the second spinach and feta cheese mixture.
7. Once you place the third filo on, it doesn’t need any olive oil. Place more of your spinach pie mix towards the edges so that you don’t get thick and empty crust.
8. It can have one or two middle layers, entirely up to you, just make sure you spread the filling evenly.
9. Brush the top 3 filo layers with olive oil.
10. Cut through before baking at 180 oC in a medium heated oven, cook time 40 to 50 minutes until golden.
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