After my first attempt at making spanakópita, I packed the leftovers and brought it to my day job for lunch. I’ve got a reputation for bringing ‘nice’ lunches (even though they’re usually leftovers) so my co-workers were doubly impressed with my efforts. “Wow, there might be a Greek yiayia (grandmother) in you!” one of them exclaimed.
Hmmm. I don’t think one spinach pie makes me an expert on Greek food, but I guess people were surprised to see an Asian cooking a traditional Greek dish.
Anyway, a Greek friend told me that you can also use other vegetables in a spanakópita recipe. Since I had some butternut pumpkin on hand, I decided to use that in my next pie.
The result was quite interesting. I substituted half of the spinach with pumpkin, and found the taste to be quite different. The sweetness of the pumpkin balanced out the salty flavour of the feta, so this pie doesn’t have the same ‘oomph’ of traditional spanakópita.
However, I love the flavour of this pie. It’s sweet rather than savoury, and the pumpkin complements the spinach well without taking over the entire dish. In fact, I think this might be a great way to introduce kids to spinach!
Pumpkin, Spinach and Feta Pie
Six servings, as a main
Adapted from World Food Greece by Susanna Tee
2 tbsp Greek olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
500g (1lb 2 oz) fresh spinach, washed and drained
or 250g (1/2 lb) frozen spinach
500 g (1lb 2 oz) butternut pumpkin, peeled and grated
2 eggs, beaten
4 tbsp fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped (optional)
2 tbsp fresh dill, chopped (optional)
200g (7 oz) authentic Greek feta cheese
salt and pepper
100g (3 1/2 oz) butter
225g (8 oz) filo pastry, preferably Greek
Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F, Gas Mark 5).
To make the filling, heat the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan or sauté pan. Add the onion and fry until softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add the pumpkin and the spinach. Cook until the spinach is wilted. Fresh spinach will cook in about 5 minutes, frozen spinach a bit longer. Turn off heat and leave to cool.
When the spinach has cooled, drain off the liquid in the pan. Add the eggs and optional dill and parsley. Crumble in the feta. Season with salt and pepper. The feta is already salty so extra salt may be unnecessary.
Melt the butter over medium-low heat and lightly grease a 30 x 20 cm (12 x 8 inch) baking dish.
Cut the filo pastry sheets in half width-wise. Work with one sheet at a time, keeping the remaining pastry under a damp tea towel. Line the base and sides of the baking dish with half of the filo pastry, brushing each layer with the melted butter.
Spread the filling into the lined baking dish, and top with the remaining pastry sheets. Brush each sheet with butter, and when the last sheet is in place fold or tuck the edges towards the inside of the pie. With a sharp knife, score the top layers of the pie into six squares.
Bake for about 30-40 minutes until pastry is crisp and golden. Serve hot or cold.