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Bring Back the Picnic: Greek Spanakopita with Salad and Lemonade

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picnic

Picnics: cheap as chips and easy to assemble. I’m 28 now, but when I was a kid, a clear sky on a summer’s morning meant one thing. Picnic on Silver Strand. My folks would make some rashers, sausages, and coleslaw, squeeze some orange juice, and grab a few baps, packets of Tayto, and my two (then) stupid pointless older sisters. Pack it all in a coolbox and head to the beach in Wicklow. Then we’d slather the baps full of ketchup and sand, cut our feet on the splintered steps, and freeze to death in the sea.

But picnics seemed to fade away, and the boom years  were full of barbeques. As smokin’ as they are, you can’t beat packing up some food, going for a walk, and stopping to eat it by a river, at the sea, in the forest, on the mountain…

You can go to a lot of trouble or none at all, they’re generally much cheaper to prepare than a barbeque, and they’re the best way of capturing a bit of the summer. Bring back the picnic. Here’s some Greek love.

2009_050309snowday0034Spanakopita

Because I’m as awkward and messy as a baby’s drawing of a dodo, I was pretty sure that the Jus-Rol filo pastry, precious and delicate, would fall to shards when I touched it. But even though it did break up a little, and I failed to fold the mixture into perfect filo triangles, they worked out beautifully. Follow the instructions on the side of the packet, defeeze the pastry in a fridge, handle delicately, and only open the packet until you’re ready to fill the pastry as it gets brittle and dry when it’s exposed to air. Make sure your work surface is dry by dusting it with flour.

This isn’t a quick and easy recipe to make – it will probably take about 40-50 minutes to prepare – but it’s well worth the time.

Ingredients

  • 2 onions, finely chopped (Lidl: 59c per bag)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (Lidl: 59c per three heads)
  • 400g spinach or baby spinach, washed (Lidl: €1.39 per packet)
  • About 100g butter (Lidl: €1.39)
  • A bunch of spring onions (Lidl: 39c per bunch)
  • 3 eggs (Mrs. Byrne down the road: €1.75 for 6)
  • A handful of mint (From garden)
  • 6 sheets of filo pastry (Superquinn: €3.35)
  • 200g feta cheese, chopped into cubes (I think this cost me about €4)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon (From the storecupboard: about 5c a teaspoon)
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds (From the storecupboard: about 5c a teaspoon)
  • A pinch of nutmeg (From the storecupboard: about 1c a pinch!)
  • Olive oil (From the storecupboard: about 10c worth)
  • Salt and pepper (Figure that out yourself!)

Total: €12.34

Instructions

  • Cover the base of a pot with olive oil, and heat it. Add the onions and garlic, stir, and reduce the heat.
  • Now add the cinnamon and cumin seeds, stir, and cover with a lid, stirring occasionally. The onions should be soft and clear.
  • Meanwhile, cook the spinach by plunging it into boiling water for 1 minute, then drain in a colander, squeezing out as much water as you can.
  • Chop the spinach roughly (no need if it’s baby spinach) and add to the onion mixture.
  • Here, you have to give the mix some time to cool before adding the chopped feta and mint, otherwise will feta will melt. It could take up to 20 minutes.
  • Add a little salt and some more black pepper, then whisk the eggs and add them in.
  • Here’s where it gets a wee bit messy. I followed the packet instructions on how to fold the mixture pastry properly, but the four shapes I made were more oval-square than triangular. It didn’t matter at all.
  • Cook in an oven for about half an hour.

Salad and Lemonade

Also in the picnic basket, a really simple salad of 3 chopped tomatoes (75c), a cucumber (around 70c if I recall correctly) chopped into cubes, and some fresh rocket (from the garden). Drizzled with some olive oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. And M&S delicious Still Lemonade – €2.99 per 1litre carton or €4.50 for 2 cartons.

Total Cost: Around €16.78, feeds four

3 Comments

  1. For the truly penniless among us — would (gasp!) frozen spinach cut the mustard?

  2. Yes, absolutely, don’t see why not! Frozen spinach would be fine for this, and it’s one of those vegetables that can sometimes be even better frozen…

  3. My Greek Yiayia ALWAYS made her spanikopita with frozen spinach – the trick is (as Peter mentions in his recipe) is to make sure you squeeze as much water out of the spinach as possible because otherwise you’ll have far too much liquid – this seems especially true with frozen spinach. In recent years, using a salad spinner is a great way to do this. Then again…I am a bit obsessed with my salad spinner….hmmm.

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