Saturday, 11 August 2007

Greek Banquet

A couple of weeks ago, Maeve O'Meara inspired me to prepare a Greek banquet. I love Maeve, but I do question her dress-sense. To use a food related euphemism (or, as my Nan might say), "Mutton dressed up as lamb". I think she needs to have a convo with Trinny and Susanna. Anyhoo, I was watching the Food Safari DVD last night, and oh my, did I salivate. Actually, I always salivate whilst watching Food Safari (and not because of Maeve's tropical-fruit-coloured apparel). The battered figs served with a raspberry and rosewater sauce (link takes you to the recipe)... brings new meaning to the term 'gastroporn'.

Back to the food. We began with a Meze of marinated octopus, stuffed green olives, home made tzatziki, and some amazing marinated anchovies courtesy of Ample, a lovely little deli/ cafe in Belgrave (they were my favourite). Once again, I failed to take a photograph before all the food had been ingested, so imagination will have to suffice. We followed that up with Stephanie Alexander's version of Spanakopita, taken from the first edition of her 'Cook's Companion' (aka: bible). It is a deliciously creamy recipe; whenever I am making it, I always think there isn't enough cheese, but it works. The recipe calls for spinach, but I've also done this with silverbeet, and it works just as well. The span worked a treat with George Columbaris' nouveau (sorry, but that's the only word that adequately describes his style) Greek salad, which is made up of all the usual suspects (olives, fetta, tomato, cucumber, red onion) with the deliciously clever addition of rustic, oven baked croutons (I used ciabatta). Fantastic with a red wine vinaigrette. Another Food Safari gem.

In the interests of spreading the word of the food-God, I'm sure that Stephanie would be happy for me to share her lovely recipe.


1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbspn olive oil
2 spring onions, very finely chopped
1 large bunch spinach, stemmed, washed, dried and chopped
2 tbspns freshly chopped mint
2 tbspns freshly chopped parsley
freshly grated nutmeg
2 eggs
125g fetta cheese
125g fresh ricotta
60g freshly grated kasseri, pecorino or romano cheese
freshly ground black pepper
120 unsalted butter, melted
10 sheets filo pastry

Preheat oven to 180. Sauté onion in oil until softened. Add spring onion, spinach, herbs and nutmeg and cook, stirring, until spinach is soft and there is no liquid in the pan. Tip into a colander resting over a plate to cool. Beat eggs in a large bowl, then add cheeses and cooled spinach mixture. Adjust seasoning with pepper.

Select a rectangular metal baking dish (Steph says, 28cm x 18cm x 8cm, but I'm not such a pedant). It should be a bit smaller than half a sheet of filo. Brush with a little melted butter. Cut pastry sheets in half and, brushing each sheet with melted butter. Settle 10 pastry layers in the dish, pressing pastry up sides. Spoon in spinach mixture and settle a further 10 buttered sheets over spinach, tucking any overlap down the sides. Score top of pie into squares, being careful not to cut through the bottom. Bake for 1 hour until golden and serve warm or cold.

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