Friday, May 24, 2013

Prasopita (Leek Pie with Feta) and
Vegan Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)
with home-made filo pastry, two ways


I'm not going to pretend making your own filo pastry is easy as pie, because it isn't. Just as well the two pie dishes with which I chose to practice making home-made filo pastry are forgivingly rustic and don't highlight pastry failings in the way a croissant might.


Two classic Greek dishes, Spanakopita (spinach pie) and Prasopita (leek pie) kindly allowed me to use them to experiment with some filo-making techniques. The traditional technique mastered by Greek yia yias (grandmothers) involves hand stretching the dough over a large round table until it is paper thin and bigger than the table itself. I wasn't going anywhere near that technique.

Unfortunately no one in my family could impart any knowledge on home-made filo pastry, so I did a bit of research online and I kept coming across a very popular method where by the pastry is carefully rolled, buttered and folded several times to create the layers needed. This sounded like a pretty easy method so I decided this would be the first technique to try.

Another method I was determined to tackle was from a Greek cook book my sister recently gave me. It's a little closer to the traditional technique of stretching the pastry, but with only half the degree of stress!

Not to say that these methods aren't stressful! They both require lots of time, patience and strength, especially if you knead dough like never and your rolling pin is made of solid marble and weighs 5 kilos.


So are you completely inspired now to make your own filo pastry? Well I should also tell you that along with the difficulties of making the pastry, the end results didn't turn out that well either. The top layer of the folded pastry came out quite hard and thick and the other pastry was a little on the rubbery side.

Neither were anything like the flaky sheets of commercial filo pastry we know and love, but despite their textural misgivings, they actually didn't taste too bad. I'm fairly certain the delicious fillings had something to do with that :)


Because these methods didn't quite work for me I wasn't going to detail them in this post, but then I thought that perhaps it was just my crappy kneading or rolling techniques that messed things up and I shouldn't presume that everyone would experience the same failings that I did. I'm sure someone who knows what they're doing would probably have great success with these methods, and if you do, I would love to hear about it.

These two pies are absolutely delicious in their own right anyway so I owe it to them to share with you their recipes. And feel free to use commercial filo pastry! I know I will be next time I make them!

Prasopita (Leek Pie with Feta)


Adapted from the recipe for Greek Leek Pie from the Authentic Greek Recipes blog

Serves 8 to 10 (using a 25cm x 30cm baking dish)

Ingredients

For the pastry
  • 500g plain flour
  • 280ml soda water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 150g butter, melted, for brushing
For the filling
  • 2 large leeks, finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 250g feta cheese, roughly crumbled
  • 100g ricotta cheese, roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. Begin by making the pastry. Combine the flour, salt and soda water to form a dough and knead well for around 10 minutes, until smooth.
  2. Divide the dough into four balls, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, fry the leeks in olive oil over low heat until soft and lightly golden and transfer to a large bowl to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Add cheeses and salt and pepper to taste, then lastly the eggs. Mix well and set aside.
  5. Remove pastry balls from fridge and roll the first one out to around 40cm in diameter.
  6. Brush pastry generously with melted butter and fold the pastry as illustrated in the photos below to form a square shape. Set aside.



  7. Roll out another ball to 40cm diameter, place first square of folded pastry in the centre of the circle you have just rolled out, and fold into a parcel as illustrated below. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for one hour.



  8. Repeat with the the remaining two balls of dough.
  9. Once dough has rested, remove from the fridge and roll one of the squares out so it is large enough to fill your baking dish and come up the sides.
  10. Butter the baking dish and lay the pastry in the dish, stretching it up the sides and to the edge of the baking dish.
  11. Place the filling over the pastry and fold the sides of the pastry over the filling (see below).



  12. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  13. Roll the second square of pastry out so that it is large enough to cover the pie. Pinch the edges to join with the pastry beneath and brush top with melted butter (see above).
  14. Bake for 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.


Vegan Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)


Adapted from the recipe for Lenten Spinach Pie from Recipes from a Greek Island by Susie Jacobs

Serves 8 to 10 (using a 25cm x 30cm baking dish)

Ingredients

For the pastry
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 80ml water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil for brushing
For the filling
  • 1kg spinach, thick stalks removed
  • 500g mixed greens such as endive, amaranth, chicory, mustard or beetroot greens
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 40g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 40g fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest and 1 tablespoon of juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon rice
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Begin by making the pastry. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and water and mix well to form a dough.
  2. Knead dough for around 10 minutes, until smooth. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for one hour.
  3. Meanwhile, place spinach and mixed greens in a large pot with around 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer with lid on for a few minutes, until leaves have wilted. The greens can be steamed if you prefer. Drain well and allow to cool slightly. Once cool enough to touch, squeeze out any excess liquid, roughly chop the cooked leaves and set aside.
  4. In a large pot, add oil and fry the spring onions over low to medium heat until soft. Remove from heat and add chopped greens, parsley, dill, lemon zest and one tablespoon of lemon juice and toss well.
  5. Season well with salt and pepper.
  6. Remove pastry from fridge and divide into four balls, two of them slightly larger than the other two.
  7. Roll out one of the larger balls so that it is large enough to fit inside your baking dish and come up the sides. The pastry will be very thin and fragile. Gently stretch the pastry with your hands to increase its size.
  8. Lay the pastry sheet into the baking dish, pressing out any air bubbles and stretching the sides further if they don't quite reach the top edges of the dish. Brush the pastry with olive oil.

  9. Look how thin I rolled it!



  10. Repeat the process with the other larger pastry ball and place over the first sheet of pastry. Brush again with oil.
  11. Sprinkle the tablespoon of rice over the pastry to absorb any excess liquid from the filling and place filling over the rice.
  12. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  13. Roll out one of the remaining smaller balls of dough so that it is large enough to fit over the filling and brush with oil. Repeat with the last ball of dough.
  14. Fold the sides of the pastry over the top of the pie and brush entire surface with oil.
  15. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and pierce surface of pie with a fork.
  16. Bake for 45 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

27 comments:

  1. Kudos for tackling such labor intensive recipes! I'm sure they're absolutely delicious...can almost taste them through the screen ;)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Christy. The fillings are definitely the heros (and saviours!) of these recipes :)

      Delete
  2. It's a funny thing, my grandmother made her own filo-esque pastry using those basic ingredients and it was perfect every time. I wonder if it's because she used a broom handle for a rolling pin :) She did do the stretching-over-round-table thing. My other grandmother had a rectangular table and would still roll the dough out thinly but it was still 'thick'. Neither made layers I don't think-- instead the dough, once rolled out, would be brushed with melted butter then spattered with the filling. Then rolled up from one end and placed in a large round oven tray in a coil, starting from the centre of the tray.

    I really wish I'd paid more attention or gone to learn how to make this stuff with my grandmothers but I guess I naievely assumed time was on our side! I think my grandmother who made the filo style pastry may have scored it before cooking so it all crumpled up a bit. I'll have to ask my parents. Meanwhile this was an interesting read: http://www.kontos.com/Pages/history.html

    BTW Lisa, were you in Coburg today by any chance? I was outside Cafe Sarabella and there was a woman who looked like you (well, your photos!) sitting right outside.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! That was me in Coburg! I was catching up with an old friend. You should have said hi! That would have been so funny! What a small world we live in..

      Thank you for sharing the stories of your grandmothers pastry techniques. I love hearing stories like that :) I've seen ladies in Limnos making the rolled and coiled pastries. I would love to try that one day. And using a broom handle for a rolling pin - that is so cool.

      And thanks for the link on Mr Kontos. What an amazing man! I love the sound of 10 guage Country-Style Filo, might be almost as thick as mine!

      Delete
    2. Ha! I was inside Cafe Sarabella when your friend went inside and asked for her cup to be refilled with hot water :) And I was outside with Husband and the kids, my kids were the ones sitting/standing on those green glass blocks, chasing the pigeons away and I was the one telling them (in vain) to stop...

      how cool is the 10 gauge filo page! Who knew?!

      Delete
    3. Yes I remember those kids chasing the pigeons! How funny!!

      Delete
  3. Congratulations Lisa, very good effort but I think the recipes not helped you.

    My grandmother was a very good cook and made amazing pies (pita). I've written the recipe as much as possible because the old cooks did not account the ingredients but reckon with the "eye" and years of experience.
    Tell me if you want to translate the recipe and send you with mail.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you so much Mina, I would love you send me your grandmother's recipe! That would be just wonderful :) I have sent you an email so you have my address.

      Delete
  4. looks so crispy, perfect & absolutely delicious....bookmarked it..

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Gayathri! The Leek Pie was actually my favourite :) The filling is so tasty and the leeks give it a slight sweetness which works really well with the salty feta.

      Delete
  5. I love the look and sound of the leek pie! I made a bit batch of feta last weekend and have been looking for different ways to use it - this is definitely going to be one of them!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Emily I would love to know how you make your own feta cheese!! And please let me know if you end up using it to make leek pie. I'd love to hear how it turns out.

      Delete
  6. They do look delicious. I think you do need a very thin rolling pin for that thin dough. I love leek pie, so I'll have to try your version with commercial filo. I love filo pies but I kind of love the convenience of the store bought filo as well.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You're right Elizabeth, a thin rolling pin is essential. My big marble monstrosity certainly wasn't the right man for the job! And I totally agree with you about the convenience of commercial filo!

      Delete
  7. I'm impressed that you tried this, that took gumption! And I'm glad that you documented it and blogged about it even if you weren't totally happy with the results. It does look quite hard, and you got it rolled out super-thin. The vegan spanakopita looks especially appealing to me, I may try it with some puff pastry that I have in the freezer.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Mary. I'm glad someone noticed how thin I rolled that dough!! Oh yes, the spanakopita will be delicious with puff pastry.

      Delete
  8. The steps look really helpful, and the dishes themselves are soooo delish! I am going to try this one, one of these days! :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. With commercial filo, that is... :)

      Delete
    2. Thank you Preethi! And next time I do these pies it will be with commercial filo too.. well, at least for the time being. I would love to try home-made filo again but not until I've had a bit more practice with kneading and I get myself a proper rolling pin!

      Delete
  9. yay! i knew you could do it! i love your progress pictures. they look PERFECT! what a delicious stuffed filo recipe.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you Caitlin, you're too kind!! I also fell in love with the original progress pics from the Authentic Greek Recipes blog. It really helps to see step-by-step pics of how something is done, especially when it's not easy to describe with words alone.

      Delete
  10. You are ambitious! I hardly have the patience to work with frozen filo, let alone make my own. ;) I love your step-by-step photos!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh I struggle with frozen filo as well. Luckily we have a local brand of packaged fresh filo available in our supermarkets here. I use it all the time. I haven't given up making my own filo just yet though! Perhaps next year I'll try again ;)

      Delete
  11. I'm so happy to find this! I married into a Greek family and have been vegetarian since I was 10. Meals with the whole family have been *interesting* let's put it that way. Can't wait to try these recipes!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Brittan! I'm so happy you found my blog :) I've only been doing this for six months so there's still soooo much more to write about! Hope to see you here again soon!

      Delete
  12. My mother taught me how to fold the sheets with less work and effort and maximum multylayers fillo effect best pies in the world

    ReplyDelete
  13. My mother taught me how to fold the sheets with less work and effort and maximum multylayers fillo effect best pies in the world

    ReplyDelete

Thanks so much for your comments and feedback.

To leave a comment, please choose your profile account from the dropdown menu below. If you don't have a profile account, you can use the "Anonymous" option but please remember to sign your name at the end of your comment so I know who you are.

Thanks and hear from you soon!