Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Spinach and Feta Pie (Spanakopita)

Even if you haven't looked out of the window for several days, you will probably have been made aware from social media alone that IT IS SNOWING. It's cold and wet and inconvenient, but never mind that! Shut the curtains, stick some pictures of hot countries on the wall, make some of this tasty Greek pie and imagine you're in the Mediterranean.

This pie is dead easy, and is really adaptable to whatever you've got in the fridge - if you feel like throwing in some fresh herbs, some ricotta, some mushrooms which'll be on the turn in a couple of days, or whatever you like - it'll be perhaps less 'authentic' (so watch out for the pretentious food police) but it'll be all the better for it.

Because it's so rich I only really serve it with something simple and acidic like a tomato salad, but if you want to go all out you could do a proper Greek mezze. You can find a nice idea for an Easter Mezze of 3 different dips here, courtesy of Vegetarian Living.

What you need

olive oil
500g fresh spinach
200g feta cheese (Tesco & Co-op own brand both veggie at time of writing)
1 onion
1 clove of garlic
a generous grating of nutmeg
black pepper
ready made filo pastry (at least half what you get in a normal packet is enough)
1 medium egg

What to do 

Firstly, for those who have not cooked with spinach much in the past, don't panic at what looks like a crazy amount of spinach - it will all wilt down to a manageable amount!

Chop the onion, crush the garlic and sweat them over a medium-low heat in some of the olive oil until soft. This will take about 7-10 minutes, so in the mean time, wilt your spinach.

I find the easiest way of doing this is to put it in a colander and pour a kettle of boiling water over it, then run the cold tap over it so it's cool enough to handle. Then you need to squeeze as much water out of it as you possibly can, or your pie will be soggy! It can help to get a potato masher and squash water out of it with that. You'll probably have to do this part in batches, unless you have one massive colander.

Transfer the spinach to a mixing bowl and add: your softened onion and garlic, the nutmeg, some black pepper (I don't add salt because the feta's quite salty anyway, but you can if you want), the egg, and the crumbled feta - then give it all a good mix. Get the hands in there, everybody likes mess.

Layer a few sheets of filo pastry in the bottom of your pie dish - as many or as few as you like, I normally do about 4 - brushing each sheet with olive oil. Then add your spinach filling and layer another few sheets of filo on top, again brushing with oil.

Pop it in the oven for about 30 mins at 200 degrees C.


Sunday, 10 March 2013

Weekend Brunch Buttermilk Pancakes

There are few better ways to greet the day on a weekend than a stack of thick, American-style pancakes slathered in maple syrup. We're a bit late for Mother's day now, but why not give these a try over Easter bank holiday? 

This recipe is based on Delia's - which can be found here - just veggie-fied (minus lard!). 

If you want to go REALLY American-style, accompany these with some grilled rashers of veggie bacon.

Makes 10 - 14 pancakes, depending how generously you dollop the mixture! 

What you need

150g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
3 eggs 
120ml buttermilk
75ml cold water
oil for frying
maple syrup to serve

- TIP - proper maple syrup is pretty expensive, so if it's bit beyond your budget Lyle's do a maple flavoured golden syrup. Not quite the same, but tastes pretty good and MUCH cheaper.

What to do

Weigh out your flour into a mixing bowl, then add the salt and baking powder.

Measure out the 120ml buttermilk into a jug, then add the 75ml cold water and stir to combine.

Add the buttermilk/water mixture a little at a time into your dry ingredients, whisking after each addition (electric or by hand). 

Add the eggs one at a time, again whisking after each one. To save time, you can just slop all the wet ingredients into the dry without all the little-by-little stuff, it just means your mixture is less likely to be lumpy. 

Heat the oil in a non-stick pan over a high-ish heat. When it's hot enough, add a tablespoon-full of batter per pancake to the pan. 

Each side only needs a couple of minutes so keep a close eye on it. While you're cooking each batch, the rest will keep warm if you put them under the grill on its lowest setting.

Stack em up, drizzle a generous amount of maple syrup over, and enjoy!