(Guest post by Rachel Kruse)
Being a kiddo was an awesome time. No worries about the world, no worries about anything and whenever I was hungry all I had to do was scream out loudly: “Mom what are you preparing for lunch, I am hungry.” My mom’s spinach pie was one of my favourite dishes from childhood. Mainly known as spanakopita, this is not a simple dish and contains a bit of Iraqi flavour with some cheese along with a plethora of other flavours.
As I have grown old, my love for Middle Eastern food has also grown. But when I got married in Melbourne, Australia, my attempts at cooking Middle Eastern food were not working out so well. My husband asked me what was wrong and I told him that I wanted to eat the spinach pies my mom used to make, but I didn’t know the recipe and none of the local restaurants served the same standard.
My husband suggested I call my mother to ask for the recipe, which is exactly what I did. She instructed me well and I started with the preparations. She gave me tips on how to make the phyllo dough in such a way that it should be refrigerated overnight, otherwise it will crumble. I needed to make sure the dough was handled at room temperature and remained covered at all times. She said that good phyllo dough does not flake at the room temperature. and if it did, this meant it was not well prepared.
Finally, I tried it at home and after few experiments managed to make it. I conquered my mom’s special Middle Eastern spanakopita recipe. I tasted it several times and found that I had prepared it well. I could not stop eating and it was like I was eating with my mom and she had prepared the dish for me. Here is the recipe…
- 15-17 sheets of phyllo dough kept at room temperature
- Fresh and chopped spinach – 3 cups
- Scallions, chopped – 1/3 cup
- Finely chopped Flat leaf parsley – 1/4 cup
- Finely chopped onions – 1/2 cup
- Minced garlic and cloves – 4
- Black pepper – 1 teaspoon
- Sumac (Middle Eastern spice) – 1 teaspoon
- Fresh lemon juice – 1/2 tablespoon
- Crumbled feta cheese (low sodium) – 1 cup
- Crumbled queso fresco (low sodium) – 1/2 cup
- Finely shredded mozzarella cheese – 1/2 cup
- Extra virgin olive oil for brushing – 1/2-1 cup
- Olive oil for sautéing – 1 tablespoon
- Medium size egg – 1
- No need to add salt as feta cheese and queso fresco contain high amount of salt.
How to Prepare
Preheat oven to 350 ºF
- Divide the phyllo sheets into two halves and create 30 to 34 sheets of phyllo dough.
- Cover it and keep it aside to bring it to room temperature.
- For filling: Add a tablespoon of olive oil in the pan, add onions and mix for a few minutes. Add garlic and parsley and sauté. Now add the cup of spinach and sauté until the spinach begins to wilt. Add pepper, lemon juice and scallions. Turn off the heat and place spinach mixture into a bowl to cool down.
- Once the spinach has cooled, add cheese and mix it together.
- Beat an egg and add to mixture.
- Take 1 phyllo sheet, arrange it on the table and brush with olive oil. Top it with another phyllo sheet and again brush it with olive oil.
- Now put a heaping tablespoon of filling material in the sheets and keep on folding the sheets. After shaping, seam down on a large baking dish lined with parchment and brushed with olive oil.
- Bake the pies in the oven until they get golden brown, for 20-25 minutes approximately. Transfer it to the rack to cool down slowly.
Try it and enjoy it! You will definitely love it.
Rachel Kruse is a journalist working in Australia. She is from the United Arab Emirates and came to Melbourne after being married. She loves Middle Eastern food a lot and expresses this through her blog Fine Dining in Melbourne You can find her on Facebook, Twitter and Google+