A combination of events have prompted me into making a dish that I haven’t done for a while. It’s one of my standard party or picnic dishes; you know the sort where you are asked to bring something along, and I always think finger food is easy, and Börek is just that, plus it’s delicious. I was given a bag of Spinach and Chard by a friend who also has an allotment, I have book group tonight and I said I’d bring something along to eat, plus I originally planned to make some feta pies for a friends party, but didn’t get round to them but still had the defrosted Filo Pastry sitting winking at me in the fridge.
I used to live in North London, where there was a large Greek/Cypriot/Turkish community, and the bakers were a sight and smell to behold. Fresh warm bread with sesame seeds sprinkled on them, pide – a type of Turkish pizza, and the cakes and Baklava, well that’s another story. As a skint student I used to pick up the Börek / Spanakopita fresh from the bakers, slightly warm, and beautifully made – they were hearty snacks, with thick dough. So on moving away I learnt how to make them – trial and error, and found I liked using filo best as it was lighter, and somehow lets the flavour of the stuffing come through.
Börek are baked or fried filled pastries made with filo pastry and stuffed with cheese, vegetables – spinach is popular, or meat. They originate from Turkey, but variants are made and eaten across the Mediterranean and throughout the Middle East. It’s a great snack or starter.And best eaten when slightly warm. You can make 1 large single pie, or individual pies; every household, baker or restaurant has their own favourite or specialty.
I love the earthy flavour of spinach and chard, and to combine it with creamy feta is a culinary treat.
I have to admit I have no actual idea as to how much spinach and chard I use, only the photo of the cooked spinach as evidence. So I’d say roughly 2 generous handfuls, of spinach/chard wilted, and with the excess water drained – the draining is important as you don’t want the pies to be soggy. You also don’t need to add any salt as the feta has plenty.
Spinach Filo Pie with Feta – Börek / Spanakopita
- 2 large handfuls of spinach /chard
- 200g slice of feta cheese
- 1 or 2 shallots or 4 spring onions chopped finely
- 2 cloves of garlic chopped finely
- A generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper
- 1 tbls of chopped flatleaf parsley
- Optional –
- Chopped Dill can be used as well as the Parsley
- A tiny pinch of nutmeg or mace, works well with spinach/chard
- Use a mixture of Halloumi / hellim and Feta cheese
- Turn the oven onto high –about 200C.
- Lightly oil a baking tray.
- Cook the spinach and chard, until it is wilted (I microwaved mine).
- Chop and drain the spinach chard mixture – you can place it in a sieve over a pan, and place a heavy object on it, to try and get as much water out as possible.
- Crumble the feta into a bowl and add a generous pinch of freshly ground black pepper.
- Add the garlic, parsley and spinach and thoroughly mix into the feta.
- I use the large pieces of filo pastry, so I cut them in half lengthways, if using the circular ones (as I do in France) then cut them in half and make triangles. Any shape is good!
- Now gently take a piece of filo and place it flat onto a bread board, oil the sides of the pastry and the ends.
- Take about a dessert-spoon of the mixture and place it near one end of the filo.
- Gently pick up the end and start to roll the pastry over the feta-spinach mixture until you reach the end of the pastry.
- It should be fairly tightly wrapped.
- I try not to put too much of the mixture into ends of the parcels as they can burst
- If the pastry starts to tear a little, don’t worry too much, just keep rolling and wrapping and the layers of filo will be fine
- Place on the oiled baking tray – so that the pastries don’t touch each other
- Now do the rest, as quickly as possible as the filo pastry can dry out. Place a damp and clean kitchen cloth over the pastry while you are making the pies.
- I used all my feta-spinach mixture up and had about 20 cigar shaped pies.
- Place them in the oven and cook for about 20 to 25 minutes, until they are golden brown
- Remove from the oven and leave to cool on a wire tray
In fact I seem to remember one particular holiday in Turkey, where I ate them almost every day, alongside a simple salad and some fresh bread, I loved them that much.
Cooking Notes ~
I have some leftover filo sheets to use – I’ll either make some individual fruit pies or some samosas out of them. In the meantime, the filo is in a plastic bag in the fridge and will keep well for a few days, without drying out too much.
Gardening Notes ~
The Spinach and Swiss Chard are just starting to come into the own. I did an early sowing/planting as an experiment, but they have struggled with the dry summer heat. I have just planted out a second batch which, as long as it survives winter, will make perfect pickings in late winter and early spring when there is not much else fresh to be had from the garden.