"Spinach and cheese pie"
At this time of year spinach is king. The markets are full of the stuff – the large-leafed Romanian variety tied together in bundles you can barely get your arms around and all for less than a Euro. The bundle I bought was probably enough for about 6 servings of spinach once wilted down, although I used two-thirds of it for this pie. The rest I kept to go with some ‘caras’ in the evening. Compare that to the flaccid bag of baby spinach from who-knows-where you get in the supermarkets which costs about 2 Euro and wilts down to a spoonful.
A placinta is a pie, usually pastry-based and served in portions. The word comes from the Latin for a kind of flat bread pie or cake and a spinach-based pastry pie is a common thing in neighbouring cuisines in the region, such as Turkish and Greek, so it wouldn’t surprise me if the habit was picked up from them. Many of the patiserie sell spinach-based pastries and some form of white cheese is a natural companion as Romania abounds both in good spinach (in season) and excellent white cheeses (telemea).
Servings: 6-8 slices
Time: 45 minutes
Time: 45 minutes
1 packets of phyllo pastry (foi de placinta)
Enough fresh spinach, trimmed and destalked, to fill a mixing bowl twice
2-300g of telemea (a feta-style white cheese)
1 medium onion finely chopped
100g of melted butter
1. Make sure any hard stalks have been trimmed off the spinach and any dodgy-looking leaves discarded. Wash and rinse them to remove any grit or soil, and then plunge into boiling water for a minute or two until it has wilted down. Remove with a slotted spoon into a colander and leave to drain. You’ll probably have to do this in two batches.
2. Once the spinach has had a chance to drain, roughly chop it up and return to the mixing bowl. Add the finely-chopped onion and the crumbled white cheese and mix well. Taste the mixture at this point – depending how salty the cheese is you may or may not need to season it. You can also add dill if you like as it goes quite well with this mixture. Once you’re satisfied with the level of seasoning, break in the egg and mix that into the mixture.
3. Take a large baking tray, line it with baking paper, and start layering the pastry sheets, brushing each one with the melted butter. Lay about 5-6 sheets down as the base, then add the spinach and cheese mixture, levelling it over the whole tray, and then another 5-6 sheets of pastry, again brushing each with butter, giving the top coat a really good drenching.
4. Put the tray into an oven preheated to about 200C and bake until the top is golden brown, probably about 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven, allow to cool, remove from the tray, and cut into slices.