The spanakopita or spinach pie is a very traditional Greek dish, made from layers of paper like pastry called phyllo or filo pastry. It can be made as a pie or as individual triangles great to serve as a snack, side dish or ideal for a healthy lunch or dinner. Traditionally a spanakopita is filled with silver beet, feta cheese, dill and parsley using eggs to bind it together. In this recipe for my Wild Greens Cheese Pie I have used several different greens, vegetables and herbs to give it a unique flavour. This is a slightly different take on the Greek pie, but I can assure you, ever so delicious.
1 bunch of silver beet, stalks and leaves
1 bunch of kale or cavalo nero**
1 bunch of Chinese choy sum, English spinach or other greens
1 teaspoon of olive oil
1 cup sliced spring onion (scallion) use the white and green part
1 medium zucchini, grated and squeezed of most of its liquid
1 medium potato, peeled and grated
Zest of 1 lemon
90g feta cheese
100g grated parmesan cheese
90g ricotta cheese( the firm ricotta from the deli)
Handful of basil, mint and parsley leaves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon Salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon of butter melted
2 tablespoon olive oil
Filo pastry *
1/2 tablespoon of sesame seeds
*The best filo pastry I find is the Antoniou brand which you will find in the chilled fresh pasta section of the supermarket, usually near the garlic breads.
**Cavallo Nero is a type of kale although it has a black leaf, which Italians generally associate with Northern Italian cooking and Tuscany. A member of the brassica family along with kale, Cavollo Nero is a popular ingredient in many classic Italian meals from soups, sautéed greens to vegetable dishes. It’s a leafy cabbage that doesn’t form a tight ball like others, but rather resembles palm fronds, with deep greenish black leaves and pronounced ribs, and unlike the curly kale, Cavallo Nero surfaces have a distinctive bubbly appearance.
Although kale has early roots in Greek and Roman culture, it remained a relatively minor commercial crop until recent years. Kale had been a popular ‘peasant food” vegetable stepping out into the market in the 80s and gaining more and more traction until it reached celebrity status around 2012, appearing on menus of Michelin star restaurants and becoming the choice ingredient of millennial food bloggers. Kale displaced other greens in salads, soups, and pesto, and even showed up in the snack aisles as chips. Bon Appétit magazine named 2012 the year of kale, and on October 2, 2013, “National Kale Day” was launched in the U.S. Now this unassuming green which was once used for decoration has become one of the 21st century most popular superfoods. Who knew a vegetable could be so cool?
A member of the cabbage family, Kale is classes as a cruciferous vegetable like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts. There are many different types of kale. The leaves can be green or purple, and have either a smooth or curly shape. The most common type of kale is called curly kale or Scots kale, which has green and curly leaves and a hard, fibrous stem.
Why should you be growing Kale? If you can grow Kale you will be saving $$ on your multivitamin bill. Kale is very high in nutrients and very low in calories, making it one of the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet. Many powerful antioxidants are found in kale, which have numerous beneficial effects on health. Kale is extremely high in vitamin C, an antioxidant that has many important roles in the body in fact a single cup of raw kale actually contains more vitamin C than an orange. It is best eaten steamed as steamed or cooked Kale contains substances that bind bile acids and lower cholesterol levels in the body. A single cup of kale contains 7 times the RDA for vitamin K – an important nutrient that is involved in blood clotting. Kale is very high in beta-carotene, an antioxidant that the body can turn into vitamin A. Many important minerals are found in kale, some of which are generally lacking in the modern diet. These include calcium, potassium and magnesium.
Pre heat your oven to 180c
Steam or boil the greens until just cooked, drain well and allow them to cool. Roughly chop the greens and place them into a large bowl. Heat the olive oil in a small frypan over a moderate high heat and cook the spring onions, grated potatoes and zucchini for 5 minutes or until softened, add this to the chopped spinach. Combine the lemon zest, crumbled feta, grated parmesan and the crumbled ricotta with the eggs and mix well. Pour this into the spinach with the chopped mixed herbs and the seasoning. Stir to combine all of the ingredients and set aside while you prepare the pastry.
Into a 22 x 31cm baking dish or similar, lightly grease the base and sides with the combined melted butter and the olive oil, lay down a sheet of filo pastry and brush again with the oil and butter, lay down one more and then pour in the filling. Smooth the filling over to ensure that its even, then lay down a sheet of filo on top. Brush another piece with the oil and butter and place it buttered side down, repeat one more time and gently brush the top sheet with the remaining butter and olive oil, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 50 minutes.