And finally – I would like to share with you two recipes from the Balkan cuisine, don’t ask me how long I’ve been meaning to do that!
Back in December 2013 I was planning a Bulgarian party (which never happened) and before I knew no one was coming I made an imitation of Banitsa with spinach, sort of Spanakopita (Greek Spinach pie). Banitsa is a traditional Bulgarian pie with fresh cheese which also exists in spinach ‘edition’. In my version of the pie I used two recipes – the phyllo pastry recipe from a blog on Mediterranean diet and the filling from some ski resort website : ) I should have posted this recipe a long ago cause it might be used for the New Year’s meal, when you make wishes for the upcoming year… For the lack of guests to eat the pie and read the wishes hidden inside each bite of the pie, I took my Banitsa to work and here’s the only surviving photo of it:
Two years ago: Two Rrrrrye Breads (Raisin and Riga)
A year ago – Polenta, Sempre Polenta and Broccoli
So let’s reconstruct the Spinach Banitsa as I did it:
Spanachena Banitsa (Bulgarian Spinach Cheese Pie) with pastry adapted from www.hestiaskitchen.com and filling + preparation from www.villastresov.com will make a truly savoury pie with a wish hidden in every bite!
The phyllo pastry recipe is one of those times when I have this recipe copied long ago into my to-do-bi-do-bi-do collection and since then the website has moved or changed names. Sometimes I fail to find those recipes online…
Follow the links above to see the recipes, to which I made these changes:
Pastry: I followed the recipe but did not add sourdough because mine is from rye flour. But without any sourdough culture the pastry turned out just fine! I rolled out two very thin layers for the bottom and 2 layers for the top, thus imitating the phyllo pastry which usually has several layers of very thin pastry sheets.
Filling: I defrosted 400 g of finely chopped spinach (the only sort I could find here), drained it and mixed with crumbled Adygea cheese (you can substitute with some fresh cottage cheese) + added some really salted Bulgarian white cheese (drained from brine and soaked in cold water for some time). I did not add any salt as this Bulgarian brynza is very salted. I just chopped in some fresh basil. Mixed everything well.
Optional: Traditionally this pie is eaten for Easter and there are these tiny bits of paper with wishes written on them. I made 6 wishes, folded and wrapped them in aluminum foil but sure enough the juices from the cheese got inside, however you could read the wishes OK. Just try not to forget to warn your guests to chew carefully on this pie =)
Assembling the pie: So, 2 layers on the bottom then the filling then two top layers (although a more authentic way will be to make more layers with filling), pinched the edges, decorated the top with check board pattern (without actually cutting through) and made some holes in the top (I would suggest to make even more because the pastry puffs up a lot!). I used baking paper which helped lift the pie later. I did not brush oil in between the layers, just forgot about that.
Baking: Just about 40 minutes at 180 ‘C, be careful the pie gets really brown quickly.
For a plain Banitsa pie with just cheese and eggs, see the link above.
Result: This was my first time trying to create a Bulgarian dish + the first time baking with spinach! We do not eat it almost at all here, you can find it frozen not in every supermarket and I just used to skip recipes with spinach before. The pie is nice, haha, interactive with these little wishes that even you forget where you placed them and that you actually did place them there ; ) A very much like a big Spanakopita, well, Greece and Bulgaria are neighbors!
BTW, let’s visit the neighbors and see what they make of their Greek spinach:
Hortopita me Spanaki (Greek Spinach Pie) adapted from and translated from Greek with the kind permission of www.toarkoudi.gr – will make pretty spinach snails =) The dough ingredients can be cut in half and yet you will get 6 pies, although the filling is definitely not enough even for this half. My remarks are in italics.
To make the pastry:
- 1 kg flour – I cut the ingredients in half and still got a lot of dough!
- 0.5 l water
- vinegar – I skipped it
To make the filling:
- 2 eggs
- 0.5 kg spinach – I defrosted 400 g of finely chopped spinach
- 0.5 bunch of fennel, chopped – I had no fennel… also one of those things we hardly eat here in Russia
- 2 onions, chopped – I chopped one red and one yellow + some spring onions
- salt & pepper + I added some herbs
- 0.5 cup milk – skipped that
- 250 g grated feta cheese – for the lack of which I used a mixture of Bulgarian brynza + Adygea cheese, and considerably more
- 1 cup sunflower oil – I just brushed pies with olive oil
1. To make the pastry: put all of the ingredients in a bowl and knead until you get soft dough. You might need to adjust the amount of flour or water. Leave the dough to rest.
2. To make the filling: Really easy, just mix all the ingredients in a bowl, but make sure that you have drained the greens really well so that the filling is thick enough and does not contain too much water. My filling got a bit velvetish because of the red onion:
3. To assemble the pie and bake: The original – not halved – dough recipe will make 10 sheets of pastry. Roll out each of the dough parts, put some filling on the edge and roll up into a cigar, then create a snail-like shape. Place the ‘snails’ on a greased baking sheet (I used baking paper, really helps to avoid all the cleaning!) and bake for 40 minutes at 180 ‘C. The pies will get brown (mine did not).
Result: Crunchy snails with soft filling=) Well, I’m vegetarian but the similarity is not just in the appearance! I froze a part of the pies once they cooled down and my parents reheated them afterwards.
IDEA: You can use leftover spinach / spinach water left from draining spinach to make a lighter version of spanakorizo (σπανακόριζο, literary spinach rice), one of the dishes Greeks serve during Lent and, well, anytime. I just cooked a mixture of wild + regular rice in this spinach water as I would do with any rice, and as a result it gets all green and… well, green : ) The real σπανακόριζο is a rather soup-like dish with equal amounts of spinach & rice, so it’s even greener .)
Fouf, I did it! ; )
Enjoy the pies and let us all hope for the spring to come!
P.S. Going to Novosibirsk in a month! Finally will get that far in my own country… Siberia, I’m coming!