How to make Börek or Spanakopita

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

Ingredients~

  • 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

Method ~

  • 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.

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10 thoughts on “How to make Börek or Spanakopita

  1. My eye was caught by the title … borek! There are a number of different versions of the pastry called borek, some using phyllo and some using a pie pastry.

    Phyllo sheets are very versatile aren’t they? I also made spanakopita lately, one in a round/pie form as well as the folded triangles, and a couple of different versions/shapes of baklava with it. I made a galactoboureko (semolina custard) with it some time back but the dessert itself didn’t appeal to me though the others who ate it liked it.

    • That’s great :) I always have filo in the freezer, I plan to make some pumpkin pies (savoury) soon, I love making them for picnics or parties, really easy to make and easy to dish out. I’ve also used filo for fruit pies too, halved peaches, some brown sugar and a dot of butter. YUM!
      I have a baklava recipe that I must get round to making one day, but I haven’t heard of galactoboureko before, so now I’m curious!

      • This is a recipe for galactoboureko that is similar to one I made though the syrup sounds more flavourful.

        Galactoboureko – Greek Custard Pie with Phyllo (~ 24 pieces)

        It’s a divine combination of creamy custard and flaky phyllo dough that is baked to golden perfection then drenched with a lemon and orange infused syrup.

        The only caveat is that this dessert is best served the same day it is made. Once refrigerated, the custard tends to harden and loses its lovely texture.

        For the filling:
        6 cups milk
        1-1/4 cup fine semolina (you can substitute Farina)
        6 egg yolks
        1/2 cup sugar
        1 tbsp. vanilla extract
        2 tbsp. unsalted butter

        For the syrup:
        1 cup sugar
        1 cup water
        2 inch piece of lemon rind
        2 inch piece of orange rind
        Juice of 1/2 a lemon

        1 lb. phyllo pastry sheets
        1/2 lb. unsalted butter, melted (for brushing)

        Preparation:
        Make the Filling: In a large saucepan, heat the milk over medium high heat until just boiling. Add the semolina and stir with a whisk. Lower the heat to medium low.

        Using a whisk, beat the egg yolks with the sugar. Ladle a cup of the warmed milk into the egg mixture to temper and then add the egg yolk mixture to the pot.

        Continue to cook over medium low heat until the cream starts to thicken, stirring continuously.

        When the custard has thickened, remove from heat and stir in the vanilla extract and the butter. Set aside.

        Unwrap the Phyllo: Carefully remove the Phyllo roll from the plastic sleeve. Most packages come in 12 x 18 inch sheets when opened fully. Using a scissor or sharp knife, cut the sheets in half to make two stacks of 9×12 inch sheets. To prevent drying, cover one stack with wax paper and a damp paper towel while working with the other.

        Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahreheit.

        Assemble the Galactoboureko: Using a pastry brush, brush the bottom and sides of a 9 x 12 rectangular pan. You will use approximately half the phyllo sheets for the bottom of the pastry. Begin by layering sheets one by one in the bottom of the pan, making sure to brush each one thoroughly with melted butter.

        When you have almost layered half the sheets, drape two sheets of phyllo so that they extend half in the pan and half out of the pan horizontally. Add the custard in an even layer on top of the sheets, smoothing the surface with a spatula. Fold the phyllo sheet flaps in over the custard layer. Add the remaining sheets on top, brushing each sheet with melted butter.

        Before baking, score the top layer of phyllo (making sure not to puncture the filling layer) to enable easier cutting of pieces later. I place the pan in the freezer for about 10 to 15 minutes to harden the top layers and then use a serrated knife.

        Bake in a preheated oven for 45 minutes or until the phyllo turns a deep golden color.

        While the Galaktoboureko is baking, prepare the syrup: Combine the sugar and water in a saucepan and add the lemon peel and orange peel. Boil over medium high heat for approximately 10 – 15 minutes. Remove the lemon and orange peel and stir in the lemon juice. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

        Caution: Do not pour hot syrup over the hot custard. Allow both to cool to room temperature and then carefully ladle the syrup over the galaktoboureko and allow time for it to be absorbed.

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