Spanakopita Nistisimi (Lenten) is a Cypriot version of a vegan spinach pie which I remember eating when living in Cyprus but not the exact recipe.
Yesterday I went to the farmers’ market again and among other things I bought the necessary ingredients to make Spanakopita.
When I cook, I always like to improvise and add my own touch to the recipe or maybe something I saw in another recipe and I kept somewhere in the back of my mind waiting to be processed.
I was planning to make a classic type of Greek vegan spanakopita, I always make but whilst I was washing the spinach I kept thinking about other ways of making a Lenten version (without eggs and dairy products). The spinach was more than a kilo, I had bought spring onions, dill, parsley and silverbeet. (The silverbeet was intended to be cooked tomorrow with black eyed beans).
I’ve seen on Greek T.V. food shows women in the rural areas making hortopitta (a spinach pie mixed with several types of wild greens). Of course it’s rather difficult to get some wild greens in Athens but if I had planned this I could have found some at the farmers’ market. Anyway, as I had the silverbeet, that gave me the idea instead of using wild greens to experiment and add the silverbeet in the recipe. I would still make the usual one just in case it didn’t turn out good but this was a good opportunity for me to recreate a Lenten spanakopita I ate years ago in Cyprus but I did not know anything else about the recipe.
I decided to make a small one by combining a couple of other Cypriot recipes. The classic spanakopita was the base for this one, the Cypriot bulgur pilaf with the bulgur wheat and vermicelli and finally from Kolokotes (the pumpkin pies) the almonds and raisins (but I did not have almonds so I used walnuts instead).
The final result was fantastic. Usually, when eating nistisimi spanakopita it’s like eating a crust and a spinach filling which although aromatic by the herbs is still too much to each all that green inside. We do eat the usual Lenten version but it’s something we have to eat but don’t really enjoy. Here you have a filling with the bulgur wheat and vermicelli, which is by itself something tasty and you get a bite with a sweet raisin here and there and a bite of a walnut and all mixed together with the crunchy phyllo.
Spanakopita Nistisimi for Lent (Cyprus)
Preparation time: about 45 Minutes
Baking time: about 1 hour
Store bough or Hand made phyllo (see step by step instructions here)
1/2 cup olive oil
1 kilo spinach
1 bunch of silverbeet
1 medium onion, finely chopped
8 spring onions, finely chopped
½ cup of parsley, finely chopped
½ cup of dill, finely chopped
2 vermicelli nests
½ cup of bulgur wheat
½ cup of coarsely cut walnuts
1/4 cup of olive oil
2 – 3 spoonfuls of sultana raisins
- Wash the spinach and silver beet and cut the stems, leaving only the most tender ones. Place them into a big pot, without water, and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. They will become soft and their volume will be reduced. Place them in a colander to cool down and when they can be handled drain any water by squeezing them. Cut them into smaller pieces.
- Heat the olive oil in a skillet and sauté the onions until they have become soft but not caramelized. Add the vermicelli breaking them into small pieces and stir a couple of times, add bulgur wheat and also stir until becoming darker in colour. Add spinach in and stir. Finally add walnuts and sultanas. Let the mixture cool and mix in parsley and dill and stir.
- Oil a baking tin and roll out the phyllo. You can either make a big round tin or you can roll out phyllo in the pasta machine.
- For strifti (twisted) cut phyllo in two pieces and join them together. See instructions here. Place on the big side the filling and make it into a roll. Take both ends and twist a couple times into the opposite direction. Place into baking tin. When you finish with the procedure brush some oil and butter on top and sprinkle sesame seeds on top.
- If you are making homemade phyllo, don’t forget to brush each phyllo with olive oil and to sc0re the top.
- If using store bought phyllo, brush each phyllo with olive. Add half of the packet, add the filling and then the remaing sheets on top.
- Bake in a preheated oven to 180ο C for about 45 minutes – 1 hour, or until golden on top, depending on your oven.
I am submitting this recipe to Chris, of Mele Cotte, who was diagnosed with thyroid cancer seven years ago. Chris is hosting the event Cooking to Combat Cancer 2, so let’s all contribute to this wonderful event by submitting a healthy recipe. The deadline for this event is by the end of this month so there is plenty of time to prepare and submit a healthy recipe.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi!