Thursday, October 25, 2007

A savoury dish

My friend Alison recently commented that my blog seems full of sweet recipes. I do love a good cake, biscuit or pudding, but I'm equally keen on savoury dishes, so why am I not inspired to write about them as much as about sweet dishes? I'm not alone in this. As I've written before, my grandmother's cookbook is full of recipes for cakes, slices and desserts. Yet sweets would have been much more of a treat in her day than a regular occurrence, so it seems surprising that she would have so many sweet recipes in her cookbook.

It got me thinking about the nature of baking, as opposed to cooking. My theory is that, in general, baking is much more precise than cooking, and therefore more detailed recipes are needed. For example, for pesto I throw together a big bunch of basil and add garlic, olive oil, pinenuts and parmesan to taste. The idea of precisely measuring these ingredients seems ridiculous. Yet, by the same token, I would never make a cake by throwing together estimated ratios of flour, butter and sugar. Even as fine a chef as Stephanie Alexander agrees: "My [recipe] boxes labelled vegetables, meat and poultry, and fish are not nearly as full [as the sweet recipe boxes]. Is it because baking really does need more precision? I can always put together a savoury dish without instruction but would never dare start a cake without a formula." (Epicure, The Age, 15 May 2007).

Although I cook a lot of savoury dishes, they seem to easy or ordinary to write about. When I was a child, we had a roast for lunch every Sunday (my favourite is roast beef with Yorkshire pudding) and I've continued this tradition (although we have it for dinner, rather than lunch). But I've never thought about writing about it because it doesn't seem exotic enough and also because there's no set recipe to share.

But in the interests of balance, I've decided to feature a savoury dish. My backyard vegetable garden is full of spinach, which I love, so spanakopita seemed like a great dish to use up plenty of spinach. This version comes from The Cook's Companion by Stephanie Alexander.


1 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 spring onions, very finely chopped
1 large bunch spinach, steamed, washed, dried and finely chopped
2 tablespoons freshly chopped mint
2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
finely grated nutmeg
2 eggs
125g fetta, crumbled
125g ricotta
60g grated parmesan
black pepper
120g melted butter
10 sheets filo pastry

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

Choose a rectangular metal baking dish (28cm x 18cm x 8cm - I used a slice tray). It should be a bit smaller than half a sheet of filo. Brush the dish with a little melted butter. Cut the filo sheets in half. Brush each sheet with melted butter and settled 10 sheets in the dish, pressing up the sides. Spoon in spinach mix. Settle a further 10 buttered sheets over the top and tuck in any overlap down the sides. Score the top of the pie but do not cut through to the bottom. Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown. Serve warm or cold.


Ti said...

I was looking for this recipe because my mothers in law is Greek,and i want to surprise her! thanks for the recipe

Kim said...

hah. I made this last night, except I didn't have a recipe so just sort of winged it and then made them as individual triangles. My 'recipe' was essentially the same as yours but I wished I'd thought to add some fresh mint. I used more ricotta and feta and indeed felt the feta was a bit overpowering - so will follow your amounts next time around. The other thing I add is poppy seeds - in the mix and scattered over the top.