Spanakopita – a piefull of iron.

Although my tastebuds recognise it’s Greek provenance, to my heart & mind it’s Catalan cuisine.  Specifically post-cava and cocktails street food in late night Barcelona about 10 years ago.  You see I had friends that lived there after we graduated, and deep in the heart of tapas land, my vegetarian friend Fiona introduced me to the wonder of spanokopita, or spinach pie to give it its’ more pedestrian name.  It was purchased from a tiny shop in a dingy square* and the flaky pastry parcel combined with the tangy feta was perfect post pub grub.  The lashings of spinach were just a positive by product, and set it apart from a greasy kebab.

Fiona herself has made spanakopita (not for me mind, hmph!) but I’d never had it outside of holiday scenarios.  I don’t cook with pastry a lot, or ever really, but when the ever reliable Domini Kemp featured it in the Irish Times last saturday, I had to give it a go.  It really is pretty close to store cupboard stuff.  Only, with our small freezer I wouldn’t generally have a kilo of frozen spinach lying around, it would take away space from the Ben & Jerrys.  Still, Popeye type quanties of spinach though it seems, it was actually less than 1.5 bags from Dunnes.    This is definitely a frozen spinach recipe, you would need a ridiculous amount of the fresh stuff to the same yield.  Feta & puff pastry are everywhere, though I got mine in Aldi, and the rest I had.  I believe filo pastry is more authentic but whats a million layers of flaky pastry between (hungry) friends?

Spanakopita 

Serves 4 

1kg bag frozen spinach, ideally defrosted

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 large onion, finely sliced

Few pinches dried oregano or mint, or any herb

Squeeze of lemon juice

2 eggs

200g feta

100ml crème fraiche

35g pine nuts

300g puff pastry

Salt and pepper

Heat an oven to 200 degrees/gas six. If the spinach hasn’t defrosted, you can heat it up in saucepan with some water and a good knob of butter, then drain and squeeze it dry in a tea towel. Sauté the fennel seeds in a frying pan until you can get a good whiff from them and then add the oil and onions and sweat it slowly. Add the herbs and when the onions have softened up a bit, add the lemon juice. Roughly chop the spinach and then add it also. Mix well and season lightly, then take it off the heat and let it cool down.

Beat the eggs and pour a small amount into a cup, which you can use for glazing the puff pastry later. Chop the feta into cubes and add it and the rest of the beaten eggs to the spinach mix, along with the crème fraiche and pine nuts. Mix well and adjust the seasoning.

Pour the filling into a buttered gratin dish. Roll out the puff pastry big enough to cover the spinach. Press the pastry into the edges of the dish, trim off the excess, and glaze with the beaten egg. Make a few slits in the pastry. Bake for about 30 minutes until it has puffed up and is golden brown. Allow it to settle for a few minutes and then serve.

Dominic, after dinner

This was absolutely beautiful, and I can see me coming back to it again and again.  I didn’t change one single thing about the recipe either. A complete miracle! We had an impromptu grateful dinner guest,  Dom ate loads (he was particularly enamoured by the pine nuts) I ate seconds, and husband bagged the last slice for his lunch today.  You could feed 4 hungry or 6 polite adults I reckon.   I would like to try it as picnic lunch type pastry parcels though, so I might have to experiment.  Mark’s making mac n cheese for tonights dinner as I type, but I really wish I had more leftovers for of this for me now!

*update, Fiona has a remarkable memory and tells me that it was Dionisos, The Quick Greek, in Placa De George Orwell 

Jill

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Tomato & Aubergine Curry with Quinoa

One of these weeks, we’re going to do a meal plan.  We’re going to online shop and get it delivered in a late night cheapo slot.  Then we’re not going to phone each other at 5pm saying “any thoughts about dinner?”.  We’re not the worst in the world for store cupboard ingredients and there’s nearly always assorted fresh veg in the bottom of the fridge so I can usually rustle up something but it’s often a bit meh!

This tasty curry came from one of those evenings – sometimes I do hit the nail on the head.  After a lazy day out and about having fun I had a craving for something ‘good’ to eat.  The child is gone crazy for ‘teetos’ (potatos) lately so I’m trying to balance it out with slightly more exotic meal-bulkers hence the quinoa!  There was an aubergine in the fridge and a quick google led me to this tasty Aubergine Curry with Fresh Tomato.  You’ll notice I’ve switched the name round in the post title, that’ll be because I only had 1 aubergine handy, large though it was, it didn’t deserve top billing.  I added in mange tout to bulk up the veg quotient.

See, I have to show off these things, to balance out the chips & a 99 days.  Dominic absolutely lapped this up, and I loved it too.  Where possible, I don’t fry aubergine slices – I coat them with some olive oil using a pastry brush & stick them under the grill, turning once.  You get more done at once, they don’t need such careful minding, and they don’t soak up as much oil.  Whether you consider that a good thing or a bad thing now, is up to you…

Jill

Here comes the sun. Oh, no, there goes the sun.

It seems hard to fathom after a grey day of cold rain, dressed in my parka, that this time last week it was beautiful out.  Nearly 20 degrees! In March! For about a week! The drying out was mighty.  Lots of pottering in the garden was done, so consequently less tidying to be done come bedtime.  That means good moods and good sleeps all round.  Winner!

So although I didn’t set us up at the outdoor table just yet, as it was still March, there was plenty of eating out done.

Too busy for breakfast indoors – dry toast eaten under a blue sky and the watchful eye of a local cat.  She’s not one of ours, acts like she is though.

I’ve just realised how odd our garden looks with our ugly breezeblock wall, strange cats, wilted plants, half hearted pots, and Sheela Na Gig overlooking the whole show.   At least I can always rely on the hydrangea (far left) ready to burst in to bloom any month now, no matter how neglected.

(The wilted plants are this years indoor hyacinths, ready to return to dust and from dust they shall return next spring.  The ferns are struggling, but I think they’re going to make it.  The pots hold ignored baby carrots.  And the grass is threatening to take over if I don’t do some weeding soon)

So it’s no surprise that we couldn’t spend all the sunny days in my shabby little back garden so we set off to Howth, land of seals, piers, boats, buskers, traffic, chips & 99 ice creams.   He spent a good half hour running around the playground sometimes climbing on equipment but mostly excitedly pointing out the aquatic themed inlays in the rubber surface.  Then after one collision with a bigger boy, we  took a nice stroll along the pier pointing out rocks & boats – that took a while – and then mama needed some sustenance.  I had a food packed for Dominic in anticipation of my carb fuelled lunch, but I think his dada explained the notion of “chippys” from the chipper while I queued inside so snacks were mainly ignored.  Needless to say, he took to them fairly well noshing down in between collecting daisies for (‘auntie’) Paula who was with us.   He burned off some of his carbs dancing to a trumpeting busker.  I didn’t, I washed mine down with an icecream.

Sometimes, it’s the simple things in life…

Jill