Spanakopita

Spanakopita is a type of spinach pie made with filo/phyllo pastry, spinach, and feta cheese. Crispy phyllo pastry with melt in mouth spinach filling is one of the best Greek dishes I have tasted. Being a vegetarian in a foreign country can be a tough thing but you also get to try vegetarian dishes from different cultures. I had some wonderful Greek friends who modified their dishes for my no egg diet and this is one of them.

Phyllo Pastry Sheets

This is a very simple dish with very few ingredients. Fresh spinach leaves, fresh paneer, and Feta cheese mixed with basic spices like salt and pepper make a wonderful melt in mouth filling. Try to make fresh paneer for the filling and you will not even realize the absence of egg in the filling. Curdle the milk and strain it using a muslin cloth. Hang it for an hour or  till all the water is drained out and you have fresh crumbly paneer ready. You can also use ricotta cheese. Feta cheese by itself is very salty so be careful with salt in the filling.

ingredients for Spanakopita

Make sure the oven is preheated and keep checking the pastry. Don’t let it get too brown or it will taste bitter. Traditionally it is brushed with butter but olive oil works just fine too. Spankopita can be eaten warm or cold.

Spanakopita/Spinach Pie

Ingredients

Makes 12 pieces

  • 2 cups spinach washed and finely chopped
  • ½ cup feta cheese crumbled
  • ¼ cup ricotta cheese or fresh paneer
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 8 phyllo pastry sheets
  • 1 green chilli
  • ¼ tsp black pepper powder
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil/butter to brush (appx 3-4 tbsp)

Recipe

Feta cheese is very salty. Always taste the filling and add the salt in the end when using feta cheese in any dish.

Defrost or thaw the phyllo sheets. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan. Add chopped garlic and sauté. Add chopped green chillies and onions and cook for 1-2 mins. Add chopped spinach and mix well. Cook for 2-3 minutes or until the spinach is wilted. Remove from heat and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the crumbled feta cheese, crumbled ricotta/paneer, and pepper powder. Mix well and check for seasoning. Add salt now if required.

Take an 8 inch baking dish. Brush olive oil or butter at the base and layer a phyllo sheet to cover the pan. Brush some oil/butter on this sheet and layer one more sheet. Repeat this for two more sheets. Now add the spinach mixture and spread evenly. Cover the spinach filling with a phyllo sheet and brush oil/butter. Add 3 more sheets in the same pattern. Brush the top sheet with oil/butter again and put the baking dish in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins. The top should be golden and filling should be warm. Let the dish cool down for 5-10 minutes before cutting to make pieces.

Cut in squares and serve.

Dal Maharani

Dal maharani – I don’t know the reason for this name or origins of this dal but this is one of my favorite dals. Urad dal cooked with onion, tomato, and spices. This is an in house speciality at my home. Some dishes taste best when cooked by certain people and this is surely one of them. My aunt’s signature dish which I relish with hot parathas or bajra rotis.

Tempering for the Dal

A very simple dal but with a difference. It does not need any trips to the grocery store but yet will pack a punch on those cold rainy nights. I enjoy this mostly on its own with a dollop of ghee.  Bajra roti or parathas are the perfect companions for this nutritious treat.

Dal maharani with Bajra roti

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup urad dal soaked in plenty of water for 3 hours
  • 2 inch piece of ginger
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 3 green chillies
  • 2 tbsp oil/butter
  • ¼ tsp tsp mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp cumin seeds
  • 10-12 curry leaves
  • 2 dry red chillies
  • 1 big onion finely chopped
  • 1 big tomato finely chopped
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 1tsp red chilli powder
  • ½ tsp garam masala

Recipe

Wash and soak the urad dal in plenty of water for 3 hours. Drain the water and put dal in a pressure cooker.  Add 2 cups of water and some salt and cook for two whistles or until it is cooked. The dal is cooked when it gets mushy when you mix it. Keep it aside.

Grind ginger, garlic, and green chillies coarsely.

Heat 2 tbsp butter/oil in a kadhai or a thick bottomed pan. Add mustard and cumin seeds. Once the seeds pop, add curry leaves, and dry red chillies. Add the ginger, garlic and green chilli paste and onions. Saute and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes and little salt, red chilli powder, turmeric, and garam masala and mix well. Cook till oil separates and tomatoes are mushy. Add the cooked dal and mix well. Taste and adjust salt. Cook on slow gas for 7-10 minutes mixing in between. Serve hot with a dollop of butter and a squeeze of fresh lime.