June 18, 2024

Pizza, pie and spanakopita: three vegetarian Greek recipes to bake | Australian food and drink

Μπατζίνα Batzina (Zucchini pie)

This is a delicious crustless savoury pie that originated in Thessaly, near central Greece. As it’s pastry free, it’s lovely and light. It is also very versatile: substitute the zucchini for everything from grated pumpkin or sweet potato to any cheese, or just use zucchini without the eggs and cheese. Enjoy it hot or cold, as a main or as part of a meze platter.

Serves 6

4 zucchinis, grated
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp Greek‑style yoghurt
3 eggs
2 spring onions
, chopped
20g chopped mint
(1 cup)
60g chopped dill (1 cup)
30g chopped flat‑leaf parsley (1 cup)
90g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
200g Greek feta,
crumbled
4 tsp extra‑virgin olive oil
100g breadcrumbs

Place the grated zucchini in a colander, cover with salt and set aside to drain for two hours. Once drained, use your hands to squeeze out any remaining juice.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Combine drained zucchini and all the remaining ingredients (except for the oil and breadcrumbs) in a bowl, stirring gently with a wooden spoon to create a thick batter. Season with salt and pepper.

Grease a 30cm round cake tin with two teaspoons of olive oil and sprinkle two tablespoons of breadcrumbs over the base of the tin (this will help prevent sticking). Pour mixture into the tin and top with remaining breadcrumbs and olive oil. Bake for 40 minutes, or until golden.

Σπανακόπιτα Spanakopita (Spinach and feta pie)

Closeup of spanakopita in a dish
The region of Epirus in north-west Greece is where the most renowned iterations of spanakopita come from. Photograph: Hardie Grant

Spanakopita is one of the most beloved dishes in Greek cooking and its origins date back more than 400 years. You will find this dish everywhere in Greece, from cafes and restaurants to bakeries and delis, but the region of Epirus in the north-west is where the most renowned iterations of spanakopita come from.

The traditional way is to make your own phyllo pastry – this is a work of love, as it takes time and care but creates a texture and taste that store-bought phyllo just cannot replicate. However, you can definitely use store-bought pastry if you prefer.

You will need to begin this recipe two hours ahead to prove the dough and prepare the filling.

Serves 8

For the dough
1.6 kg special white flour, farina flour or 00 plain flour, plus extra for dusting
2 tbsp extra‑virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing
750ml lukewarm water (3 cups)
1 tbsp sugar
¼ tsp vinegar
½ tsp salt
50g melted butter,
for greasing

For the filling
250g spinach, roughly chopped
250g silverbeet, roughly chopped
2 tbsp salt
10g mint,
finely chopped (½ cup)
15g flat‑leaf parsley, finely chopped (½ cup)
30g dill, finely chopped (½ cup)
2 tbsp extra‑virgin olive oil
1 onion,
finely diced
1 leek, finely chopped
1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
250g Greek feta
2 eggs,
beaten

For the glaze
1 egg yolk
1 tsp cold water

To make the dough, place the flour into a large bowl and make a well. Add the olive oil, water, sugar, vinegar and salt. Mix together using your hands or a wooden spoon.

Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for about five minutes until the dough is soft and it bounces back when you press into it with your fingers.

Place dough in a large oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for two hours.

While the dough is proving, prepare your filling. Combine the spinach, silverbeet, salt and herbs in a bowl and set aside for two hours (the salt will draw out the liquid from the greens).

Front cover of A Seat at My Table: Philoxenia, Vegetarian & Vegan Greek Kitchen Recipes by Kon Karapanagiotidis
A Seat at My Table: Philoxenia, Vegetarian & Vegan Greek Kitchen Recipes by Kon Karapanagiotidis

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan over a low heat and fry the onion for two minutes. Add the leek and fry for a further five minutes. Add the spring onion and cook for a further two minutes.

After the spinach mixture has rested for two hours, squeeze the mixture well and discard the juices (do not wash). Place in a bowl, add the feta and egg and stir to combine. Add the cooked onion and leek mixture, stir to combine, season with pepper and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180C and grease a 30cm square baking tray with melted butter. Turn out the dough again on to a lightly floured surface and knead for a further one to two minutes until the dough is smooth. Divide into eight equal‑sized balls of dough.

Using a rolling pin, roll out each dough ball to the size of a small pizza. Place the dough into two piles of four doughs each, stacked on top of each other like pancakes.

Roll each stack of dough out into the widest and longest rectangular shape that you can to cover the baking tray, plus some overhang. You will need to use your fingers to pull the edges of the phyllo dough gently to stretch out its size and be careful not to tear it. Place one layer of phyllo into the base of the baking tray.

Pour in the spinach mixture and spread evenly. Trim any phyllo overhanging the edges and fold any excess phyllo inwards to be covered by the next layer of phyllo.

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Now add the second layer of phyllo and trim any excess hanging over the sides of the tray. Using two fingers, gently push down the top layer of phyllo to ensure the mixture doesn’t burst through the top.

Using a sharp knife, cut the spanakopita into pieces of the desired size. It is critical to do this before baking, as it will be too difficult to cut afterwards.

In a small bowl, combine the egg yolk and water to make a glaze, then brush the all over the phyllo including at the edges. Bake for about one hour, or until golden brown.

Πεϊνιρλί Peinirli – Greek pizzas four ways

Three pieces of boat-shaped bread with three different fillings
Peinirli is boat-shaped bread that can be filled with whatever you toppings you like. Photograph: Hardie Grant

Peinirli has its roots in the refugee story of Greece. It was a dish brought by refugees who fled the Ancient Greek city of Smyrna (now known as Izmir in modern-day Turkey) in 1922 after the Great Fire of Smyrna, where an estimated 100,000 people died.

Peinirli is a boat-shaped bread that can be filled with whatever your heart desires. I love to stuff the crust of my peinirli with crumbled Greek feta cheese. Kasseri would also work beautifully as a filling.

You will need to begin this recipe two hours ahead to prove the dough.

Peinirli with a zucchini and halloumi topping.
Peinirli with a zucchini and halloumi topping. Photograph: Hardie Grant

Serves 4

For the dough

750ml lukewarm water (3 cups)
2½ tsp yeast
1 tsp white or brown sugar
2 tsp salt
1kg 00 plain flour, farina flour or special white flour, plus extra
for dusting
Extra‑virgin olive oil, for glazing and greasing

For the zucchini and halloumi topping
250g halloumi,
sliced
1 large zucchini, thinly sliced into circles
100g Greek feta, grated, to stuff the crust
25g mint, finely chopped
1 lemon
1 pomegranate

For the silverbeet and feta topping
1 x 400g tin crushed tomatoes
8 basil leaves
1 tbsp dried Greek oregano
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
350g Greek feta
250g silverbeet,
sauteed
2 red onions, sliced into rings

For the kasseri and olives topping
1 x 400g tin crushed tomatoes
8 basil leaves
1 tbsp dried Greek oregano
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
100g Greek feta,
grated, to stuff the crust
250g kasseri cheese, coarsely grated
200g sliced black olives
1 tsp dried Greek oregano

For the cherry tomatoes and feta topping
250g cherry tomatoes,
halved
250g Greek feta
1 tbsp dried Greek oregano

Preheat the oven to 200C and line a large baking tray with baking paper.

To make the dough, combine the water, yeast and sugar in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 15 minutes to ferment. Gradually add the flour and salt and, using a wooden spoon or your hands, mix to combine.

Turn out dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for five minutes until soft and springy – the dough should bounce back when you place your thumb into it.

Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap (if your house is cold, also wrap the bowl in a blanket or large towel) and set aside in a warm place for at least two hours to prove.

Turn out the dough on to a lightly floured surface and knead for a further one to two minutes. Divide into four balls.

Using a rolling pin, roll each dough ball out into the size of a little boat shape, about 30cm × 10cm wide.

Arrange your toppings lengthways through the centre of each dough, leaving a border along the edges.

Crumble Greek feta at the edges, and fold in the dough to create a feta crust.

Gently twist the corners of each dough boat to create a knot, then brush the dough with extra‑virgin olive oil.

Place on the prepared baking tray and bake for 30 to 45 minutes the crust is golden and the cheese is melted.