Thursday, 9 February 2012

spiral spinach pie (strifti hortopita)

you know when you make an iconic recipe on and off over the years and it turns out ok but it never really quite hits the spot..and you're not sure why at the time but you don't really think about it much after you've made just moves on and it's not til the next time you make it that that lingering dissatisfaction creeps back into your mind..well..that's how it's been for me with spinach pies..

it's many decades since i made my first spinach pie in the small town of edessa..i made my own phyllo for that pie using a recipe given to me by the mother of my dear friend katie..i met her through my husband's friendship with her father..he was the carpenter for the army unit where my husband was based while he was doing his mandatory national service..katie and i became firm friends and we shared a love of many things including cooking..

i can't imagine making that phyllo again though because it was made with rendered pork may sound really strange but we're talking here about the type of frugality that came with a financially impoverished village life back then..

that pie took me ages to make because first of all i had to gather the ingredients..and it wasn't a case of drive to the supermarket, buy the goodies, drive home and start to cook.. i had to walk the four kilometre round trip to the weekly market held out of town for the greens, eggs and cheese..the pork fat i was able to get through the butcher son of our landlady and the remaining ingredients were purchased from a shop in the town..then of course i had to render the fat and wash the greens and make the phyllo dough and roll the phyllo and assemble the pie..then i had to walk to the local baker to have the pie baked..and then of course i had to go back later to pick it up..and all that was done before midday..

my husband and i took that pie with us on a picnic that we went on with a group of friends..after our long walk to the picnic site we set everything up at our usual spot on the side of a hill where we sat on the cushiony soft needles that had fallen from the canopy of pine trees above us..and we ate that pie with relish as we gazed across the fertile agricultural valley in front of us..

although i've continued to make spinach pastries i only ever made my own phyllo once more..since then i've used store bought phyllo but as i said earlier no matter what style of spinach pie i've made i have never been that happy with the outcome..for instance with the triangular style there's too much pastry to filling and with the large dish pies the ratio of filling to pastry is often too much..and in the latter case the slices tend to be hard to manage, especially if it's picnic food, and also the pastry has a habit of going soft pretty quickly..but until this week i'd never made a spiral style spinach pie..yeah..i'd seen them in greece but i don't remember trying this style of pie..certainly no one i knew ever made it..and even if there was ever a very faint flickering of the idea that i could make it i had quickly doused that little flame with notions of too difficult..

well people listen up..i am here to tell you that this pie is not only easy to make but it's delicious, it cuts and serves well, the ratios of pastry and filling are right as is the ratio of soft to crispy i think i've found the holy grail of spinach pies..

spiral spinach pie (strifti hortopita)
adapted from here


1 large bunch of spinach
250 gms feta cheese crumbled
250 gms ricotta
1/3 cup grated pecorina
2 eggs beaten
1/4 cup finely chopped dill
6 spring onions finely cut (including green part)
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp oregano
2 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

1 packet of phyllo pastry (thawed if frozen)
melted butter


pre heat oven to 180 deg c

wash spinach well in several changes of water removing any thick stalks and/or damaged leaves..drain the spinach and place it in a large saucepan and cook over moderate heat turning the leaves often until they are softened..drain the spinach then cut it up into small it in a colander and press the spinach with a spoon to remove as much moisture as possible..

place the spinach in a large bowl and add the remaining ingredients (except for phyllo and butter)..mix well..

place phyllo covered with a dampened tea towel on work surface..layer six buttered phyllo sheets and then spoon some of the spinach mixture along one long side of the phyllo..roll the phyllo and then making a coil place it into the middle of a round dish (tapsi)..continue in this fashion buttering the ends of the phyllo so that the next coil adheres to the last..

butter the top of the pie and spray with water

bake for 45-50 minutes or until the top is well browned..

may be eaten warm or cold

as you can see i served the pie with a lentil soup..because i don't like waste i used the tomato juice by product of my tomato puree bottling from the day before as the base of the soup..and i added some thin strips of zucchini as a garnish..and a drizzle of oil..

the only thing i'd like to try now is to make and use my own phyllo again which would amp it up to the utter sublime..but......


  1. Jane that looks utterly divine. Surely there wasn't anything left over.
    I love the imagery of you in Greece, going to such an effort for your delicious dish.
    As for making your phyllo? Braver woman than I!

    1. thanks brydie..a friend came over the next day for a day of sewing and there there was enough left to have for lunch with a fresh pot of soup..

      i am glad i took wholehearted advantage of my time in was hard but very rewarding..and as for me making phyllo again..well maybe it's only in my dreams..

  2. Jane, seriously, you've worked hard for your pie if you had to walk 4km to buy the ingredients! :) Your updated version looks wonderful..

    1. thanks celia..the first pie i made was hard work but really satisfying as well..

  3. Food and fun, what more could you want?!

    1. thanks for visiting abigail..the evening was a lot of fun..

  4. I should go to bed but I can't stop reading your posts, (you may have noticed I am going in reverse order following the list on the side). I am terribly excited by this one! What an elegant solution to the problem of filling vs pastry. I have a problem usually with how many layers and how much butter to brush onto the sheets of phyllo and often my pastries end up very crunchy and very buttery, or sometimes I don't have enough filling and my pies end up big and thin and a bit, well silly looking. I feel all inspired by you tonight. Thank you !

  5. thanks jo..the good thing with this recipe too is that there is just enough filling and pastry to make the pie so that i wasn't left with a couple of phyllo sheets or a bit of filling that i didn't know what to do with..

    i used about 125 gms of butter for the whole pie..i don't brush the entire sheet with butter..i just do a bit of a rough paint job so it's not too buttery and unhealthy..