Having moved to my old, (and four years abandoned) house recently, means facing everyday “decay” challenges. A house that had no electricity, many broken roof tiles and weathered wooden doors for that long, is no easy thing and as winter approaches (thank God it’s Greece) I am in a constant fight with time. A situation that really kills my “slow living” mood, but on the other hand boosts my creativity towards DIY cheap solutions, for almost everything. Although the roof tiles are already fixed since last year (water was literally coming in!) and we have done small scale paint jobs ourselves (we are the craft type), I still need the professional’s help for many things that mainly have to do with humidity issues from the yard. That is why I enjoy so much these super sunny November days here in Athens. It was more than helpful to have that kind of weather for some garden work as well. Half the garden will be a cottage kind flower garden and the rest will be left as it is, natural as it always have been, a little “forest” with pine trees and plenty of wood for the fireplace.
All this winter preparation, plus the fact that I got some nice spinach, dill, and leek and all the good things from the street market on Friday, just brought one thought in my mind. Grandma’s Spinach Pie (or Spanakópita). I had kept her recipe notebook as a precious item in my drawer and now it was time to use it again four years after her passing. What better way to remember her, than make of my most loved recipes of her?
The weekends were always grandma’s house visits and I could smell the pie in the oven, even from my bed on Sunday mornings! Sometimes I would help her cook (I am happy I did that) and of course there was always a little, separate spinach pie that I would make in small scale exclusively for my favorite Barbie (which by the way was Indian, brought from abroad (couldn’t find a non-blond Barbie here in the 80’s) as I had asked for a brunette one cause I wanted to relate. 😛 This “Spanakópita” recipe, always reminds me of my otherwise posh grandma (just as much as her “Joy” by “Jean Patu” fragrance) and I am more than happy that I could keep and pass on the taste together with the memory.
2 1/2 kg of fresh spinach, washed and chopped since the night before (just to save some time in the morning)
300 gr yellow salty grated cheese (I use “kefalotiri” or “kefalograviera”)
700 gr all purpose flour
4 cups of finely chopped dill
1 chopped leek (optional)
warm water (to work with the flour)
Wash the spinach thoroughly and chop the leaves in pieces (just like a green salad). You can do this overnight (cause it takes some time), or in the morning, but keep in mind that if you want to have the pie ready for lunch you should better start early. Chop the dill and leek (I just added this even though it was not in the original recipe and I was not disappointed, but you can skip it if you like). Add the cheese and mix everything well inside a very large bowl (the spinach takes a lot of space, I used a large casserole). Leave it there for a while and after you finish with the pastry go back and add a cup of olive oil and mix well again.
In a large bowl add the flour, one cup olive oil and 2-3 cups warm (not hot) water. Start working with it and add more flour or more water if you think it is needed. In the end, the dough should not be sticking in your hands. Divide it into 6 pieces (for a large pan). Sprinkle some extra flour on the surface that you are going to work on and start “opening” it with the rolling pin. The pastry has to be a bit longer than the pan you are going to use and wide enough in order to be able to roll over the spinach filling. Very essential here is to make it as thin as possible in order to become crunchy. Otherwise, if it is not thin enough, you will find it quite hard to bite. Try to make its as this as to be able to “see” the shape of the spinach when you roll it.
Add a generous amount of spinach on top and carefully roll the pastry over and seal it. Remove any excess dough at the two ends of the roll. Carefully lift it (be careful it can easily open!) and place it in an (oiled) pan. Do this until the pan is filled (it takes about 3 pies in a single pan) and pour some more olive oil on top (spread it with your hands in order to help it go everywhere, especially in-between the pies. Pre-heat the oven and bake it for about an hour in 180 degrees C. If you see liquid boiling at the bottom of the pan, it is normal. All this spinach has a lot of water and you have to let it evaporate before taking the pie out of the oven. The end color has to be golden brown. Remove it, let it rest for about 5 minutes and enjoy!