In Argentina I met an English girl who said that Australia was the first place she ever tried Greek Yogurt. What’s more, she hadn’t had it since. She said she couldn’t wait to get back here to eat Greek yogurt every day! Frankly, I don’t blame her. It’s rich, creamy and tart with the thick lusciousness of sour cream- there’s nothing like it.

The availability of Greek food in Australia is not at all surprising when you consider the number of immigrants and their descendants living in here – Melbourne, for example, is the city with the second largest Greek population in the world. There is a large Greek population in Sydney as well, and a myriad of restaurants and ingredients available very easily if you’re interested in cooking Greek food. This is one of the major benefits of living in this country- diversity of food. You’re hard pressed to find a town where you can’t find a veggie burger or a machiatto or, in my friend’s case, Greek yogurt. This is something that we now take for granted and in many cases, never give a second thought.

It is also one of the major ways people understand multiculturalism. Food is a valuable way for different communities to promote their cultures, as everybody eats and it is considered a starting point for greater familiarity with a culture to experience their food. Of course, it is also only the tip of the iceburg- 20 kinds of cuisine in one place does not a multicultural society make. That’s what we call a food court. I love this recipe for it’s simplicity and the burst of flavour provided by the dill. It is best eaten fresh from the oven, crispy and golden but also makes a brilliant cold lunch if you have any leftovers.

Never fail Spanikopita by Dimitra Alfred, via the SBS Food Safari website
2 bunches English spinach (300g or so)
4 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
4 spring onions, chopped
300g feta cheese
100g ricotta cheese
50g (½ cup) finely grated hard cheese like kefalograviera (I used Pecorino)
5 eggs
2 tbsp dry breadcrumbs (I used matzo meal as I had no bread crumbs on hand)
¼ tsp ground nutmeg
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
60ml olive oil (4 Tablespoons)
375g packet fresh fillo pastry
Around ¾ cup melted butter
Sesame or nigella seeds, for sprinkling over the top.

Chop the spinach, dill and spring onions very finely. Rinse in a large colander and leave to drain.

Place the feta in a large bowl and mash coarsely (I use a fork). Add the ricotta, hard cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, pepper and oil. Mix with the fork to combine. Add the spinach.

Preheat oven to 180C. Lightly grease a 20cm x 30cm x 5cm deep baking dish or, as I did, two pyrex 6-cup rectangular dishes. Lay the fillo out on a bench. Cover with a damp tea towel to keep it from drying out.

Line dish with a sheet of filo and butter the filo with a pastry brush. Continue layering until about half the sheets of fillo are used (6 to 8). I cut the filo in half with scissors as I was using two dishes.

Using your hands, gently mix the spinach filling into the cheeses until thoroughly combined. Pour into the prepared pastry base and spread evenly.

Top with remaining filo, buttering each sheet, ensuring the final sheet is well buttered. Trim any overhanging pastry and tuck in.

Use a sharp knife to mark pastry top into diamonds, allowing the knife to pierce the pastry once or twice to allow air to escape during baking. Sprinkle lightly with water, sesame seeds and a few nigella seeds and bake in preheated oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour or until well browned and set.

Gently shake the pan and the spanakopita will slide easily when cooked. Cool on rack for 15 minutes before cutting to serve.

Are there any delicious treats you miss from your overseas adventures?

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5 Responses to Spanikopita and in praise of Greek yogurt

  1. Gaby says:

    I think we’re lucky in Sydney to have a vast variety of regional foods available. I’ll always complain about not being able to find fresh Peruvian produce thanks to import laws but there are heaps of other stuff that I wasn’t able to get there.
    That Spanikopita looks great, if I get around working with filo pastry (not my favourite thing due to my lack of patience) I’ll give it a shot.

    • Lau says:

      I agree, there are so many products from overseas that I would love to be available here that just aren’t.

      Recently we tracked down our favourite Portuguese beer at a wholesaler and it actually took the fun out of it, which surprised me. It was as if it was only delicious because you could only get it in Portugal, which is ridiculous! ^_^

      The fillo was surprisingly easy to work with. I’ve made this recipe twice now and I’ve gotta say making one large spanikopita it much less fiddly than making two smaller ones. If you’re hesistent about it, have a go at a strudel.

  2. Natalie says:

    I love Greek food it’ has so much flavour. I am watching a series at the moment called My Greek Kitchen, I’m loving it. She made these tomato fritters just with tomatoes herbs & flour deep fried, it’s on my list but the tomatoes aren’t great here at the moment…

  3. […] unimpressive pasta bake in four layers – a tomato-tuna-zuchini-garlic-penne layer, a spanikopita filling layer (half a portion), the pasta again and a layer of bechemal. It was fine, but it was 9:00pm by […]

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