Often I think of food as an anchor that holds my memories at the port of consciousness, protected from the ocean of oblivion, as there are several times that a specific food reminds me of moments and stories from the past. So strong is the connection of food and memory to me, that foods or ingredients associated with an unpleasant moment are not welcome in my kitchen and I do not eat them until a very tempting recipe or a chance to see them under a new, brighter angle – such as a cozy table with people I love or a journey – give me the incentive to retry them. These correlations between emotions – sensations – food is the reason why, when I share a recipe with you, I start by sharing a remembrance, a short story, filed concurrently with the specific food or dessert in my mnemonic library.
Although I could keep writing about memory and oblivion for the next few paragraphs, for the moment I will just share a memory concerning my relation to spinach-pie or spanakopita, a well-known traditional Greek food that everyone seems to like, during my childhood. Well as a child, my first reaction in front of a freshly baked, hot spinach-pie was to pinch my face, so much that several small creases were formed on my nose and around my eyes, to grit my teeth, to turn my head on the other side and with clear and loud voice to say “yuck” to anyone – usually an uncle or a grandma – who seemed to have a hard time comprehending my reaction. What if spanakopita today is one of my favorite dishes – especially this one I could eat it every day, for lunch and dinner for the next month; or that spinach was what made Popeye so strong. No matter how hungry I may was, I would not change my mind. I would never eat it simply because spanakopita was in the list of “yuck” foods. If this is not a reason not to eat spinach-pie one then what is?
However today, although I find washing spinach boring, I prepare spinach pies frequently and I always smile with this funny irony, since now in the view of spinach-pie, my eyes open widely and my salivary glands become overactive – clear evidences that spanakopita has officially entered the “yum” foods list. What I enjoy most is its crust that, especially when homemade, is by itself a reason for a second and third portion. The recipe I am sharing today is an easy and delicious spanakopita (or spinach-pie if you prefer) recipe with a crispy, bread-like crust -maybe something between a tart crust and a scone- and a juicy spinach stuffing which is tender as cream and packed with the aromas of a green garden during winter (snow-free and relatively hot Greek winter of course!). Ideally, if you can find someone willing enough to wash the spinach, this pie takes minimal effort to prepare and it remains crispy and delicious even the next day.
(for a baking pan of 30 cm diameter)
for the dough
- 3/4 cup olive oil
- 3/4 cup lukewarm water
- 1/4 cup white wine
- 2 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp salt
- 3 1/2 – 4 cups all purpose flour or whole wheat plus a little more for rolling out the dough
for the filling
- 750 g fresh and tender spinach, chopped
- 1 bunch dill, chopped
- 5-6 spring onions, chopped
- 4 tablespoons all-purpose or whole wheat flour
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp cumin
black-caraway and sesame seeds for sprinkling
1. Crust: Mix the olive oil, water and wine together with the baking powder and salt, and add the flour gradually, kneading for a few minutes until a soft, non-sticky dough forms. Cover with a towel and let it rest for at least half an hour.
2. For the filling: Mix all the ingredients with your hands so as to reduce their volume a little bit and let them stand for fifteen minutes while you are rolling out the dough.
3. Preheat the oven to 200 ° C and grease a 30 cm diameter baking pan. Divide the dough into two pieces, one slightly larger. Take the larger piece and on a floured surface roll out with a rolling pin a round sheet of 1 / 2-1 cm thickness. If the dough is sticky sprinkle with a little flour and continue rolling out. Line the pan with the dough sheet making sure it covers its sides. Sprinkle evenly the filling. Roll out the smaller piece of dough to the same thickness and cover the pie. Trim excess pastry and with wet fingers gently press the edges to seal.
4. Sprinkle some water on the pie and with a fork make several small holes on its surface. Sprinkle with caraway and sesame seeds and bake for about 50-60 minutes or until golden. Let it cool slightly and serve.
Note: The dough should not be kneaded too much so as to become crispy and fluffy. If you prefer you can substitute wine with equal amount of orange juice.