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In Albanian, this savory spinach pie is called Byrek Mi Spinaq and with its delicate layers of filo pastry, spinach and feta cheese, it’s a very popular and cheap dish. An added bonus is that once assembled the pie can be frozen and thawed before baking which makes it a very easy and reliable last minute accompaniment to a dinner party.
I was particularly interested in the ingredients of this local Albanian staple as it comfortably serves two adults, two portions, for under £5 and the preparation time is minimal.
In Tirana, the capital of Albania, the most common filling is a mixture of cheese, eggs and spinach, which is the combination I decided on, however, it can also include a number of different minced meats, or a sweet filling such as pumpkin or sweet potato.
Byrek is traditionally made with several layers of dough that has been thinly rolled out by hand. I’ve suffered at the hands of homemade filo pastry on too many occasions to remember and as such opted for shop bought! The finished masterpiece locally is often served either in individual triangles, especially from street vendors in Tirana and surrounding towns, or one large byrek that is cut into smaller pieces. Byrek is traditional to southern Albania but is made throughout the country with variations.
- olive oil
- 6 filo sheets
- 1 large packet of baby spinach, chopped
- 1 packet diced feta cheese
- ½ cup chopped spring onions
- 2 eggs (whisked)
- season to taste
- Preheat oven to 180°C
- Brush a baking pan with some of the oil, and start laying the pastry sheets inside. I purchased a pack of six sheets and cut each in half.
- Sprinkle or brush each sheet on top with oil, repeat the procedure until half of the sheets are laid.
- Make sure that the filo sheets cover the pan by hanging them about one inch over the edges of the pan.
- Sprinkle spinach with a pinch of salt and pepper, you can even add a few chilli flakes if your feeling a little naughty, then mix well by hand.
- Add the feta cheese, oil, onions, eggs to the spinach and spread this mixture over the already laid pastry sheets.
- Finish by covering the spinach with the rest of the pastry sheets repeating the first-half procedure and then roll the hanging edges of the bottom leaves over the pie, sprinkle top with oil and bake for about 45 minutes, or until golden brown.
- Serve hot with whatever takes your fancy: Yogurt, stewed prunes, salad or just eat by hand as a snack.