Despite being born in Sydney, and there being over 15,000 kilometres between Athens and Sydney, Nicolette Peters can’t help but feel a strong pull to Greece. The birthplace of her beloved yiayia Chrisoula Tambosis, she has visited on a number of occasions, and each time she returns home, feels as though she has left a piece of herself behind; a sentiment many Greek Australians understand all too well.
A second generation Greek Cypriot Australian, while Nicolette’s life is very much in Sydney, the 24-year-old tries to find ways to stay connected to Greece, one of which is through food and especially dishes prepared by her yiayia over the years.
“I feel like spanakopita is my yiayia‘s speciality,” Nicolette told Neos Kosmos.
“Regardless of whether it’s a family gathering or a visit to her house, my yiayia always has fresh spanakopita made and ready to go. Growing up, I have very fond memories of my yiayia in the kitchen rolling out fresh dough ready to make a tray. I think it’s for this reason that I hold this recipe dear to my heart.”
While we can all be guilty of being a little biased when it comes to our yiayia‘s or theia‘s pita, it’s not surprising yiayia Chrisoula’s pita has been a hit over the years. Born in Eleftherohori, Trikala, the region of Thessaly boasts a reputation for their delicious pites, using a traditional technique to roll out separate layers of filo.
It was only a few years ago that Nicolette decided that she wanted to learn the secrets to making the family staple herself.
“I had returned from Greece and was feeling a little lost,” she admits.
“On the one hand I was happy to be back in Australia, but on the other I was missing everything about life over there. I took this period as an opportunity to incorporate everything I loved about Greece into my life in Sydney, and food was a big part of that.”
As most who have grown up with Greek influence in the household can attest, Nicolette acknowledges that food throughout the years has often taken centre stage, with many memorable moments shared around the table. But beyond being a way to stay connected to her roots, it is also a way to continue to build on the bond she shares with her yiayia.
“Growing up with two full-time working parents, my grandmother played a huge role in my upbringing; to this day, she still plays a huge role in my life,” she says fondly.
“My greatest life lessons have come from her, and I’m forever grateful for all the wisdom she has and continues to impart on me.
“We share a very close bond, and I couldn’t be prouder to be her granddaughter. So it was also a way for me to show my grandmother that I had been watching her make spanakopita all these years, and wanted to keep the recipe alive.”
“This recipe takes me back to my childhood. I used to sit on a chair watching my yiayia while she effortlessly moved through the kitchen happily making a tray,” Nicolette recalls fondly.
She has generously shared that very recipe for you all to try your hand at, at home. Kali orexi!
Dough (makes 7-10 sheets of filo)
750g all-purpose flour
2 cups water
1 cup olive oil
2 tbs vinegar
A pinch of salt
Flour for use when opening your filo
1 kg spinach
1 bunch spring onions
2 leeks, the white section
1 bunch parsley
1 bunch dill
300 g feta cheese
1 cup oil
2 tbs trahana/semolina
1. In a deep tub/large mixing bowl add your flour and salt and combine.
2. Slowly add the water while kneading the dough. In the beginning the mixture will stick to your hand, but as you continue, the flour will absorb the water and become a beautiful dough.
3. Add the oil and vinegar, and continue to knead until you have a soft dough.
4. Separate the dough into seven to 10 balls, and cover in flour.
5. With a rolling pin, roll out each ball of dough into a thin piece of filo and leave aside.
1. Put all of your greens into a large bowl and add salt and pepper. Combine with your hands, squeezing the mix in your palms as you do so.
2. Add the egg, oil, feta, and trahana/semolina.
1. Oil your baking tray.
2. Lay the first piece of your filo pastry dough into the tray and brush with oil. Add another three sheets on top of the first, following the same method.
3. Add half of the filling to the tray.
4. Cover your pita with a sheet of filo pastry and brush with oil, followed by another sheet of filo.
5. Add the remainder of the filling, and top with the rest of the filo sheets, brushing each one with oil.
6. Preheat oven to 220°C and cook until golden brown.
* If you would like to share a cherished recipe that has been passed down to you from your grandmother, or another special person in your life, email firstname.lastname@example.org