Did you know there are hundreds of different types of pies in traditional Greek cooking? Spanakopita is the most famous, but there are so many more. Each area of the country has its own variations and many of these feature some form of pastry, which is called phyllo. There are however other pies that use a simple batter instead. This usually consists of flour or cornmeal (or both), some oil and water. Sometimes dairy products like milk and yogurt are also added. These pies are much easier to make and so they are sometimes referred to as “lazy”.
This is one such type of pie. It’s based on a variation called “Plastos” originating from Central Greece, but I have interfered with the classic recipe and added a twist. It is often made with feta, which makes it delicious, but here I wanted to keep it plant-based so I used some unusual ingredients that would provide a bit more depth of flavour. These are nutritional yeast and marmite. It’s a very simple pie to throw together and can be enjoyed any time of day as a snack or meal, including breakfast!
Heat one teaspoon of oil in a frying pan over medium or medium/low heat and sauté the onion and leeks until softened and slightly translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Set aside.
Chop or tear the spinach, beetroot leaves and stalks, lettuce and dill into large pieces (this retains more flavour) and combine them all in a very large bowl. Add the spring onion and spearmint. Sprinkle with the salt, add the cooked onions and leeks, and then toss and massage the greens with your hands until they just start to wilt. Add the lemon juice, marmite (it’s sticky!), zest, sugar and pepper. Continue to toss and massage the mixture until it reduces further in volume and the ingredients become incorporated. It will be wet and juicy but don’t squeeze out the moisture.
Preheat the oven to 180C degrees (conventional).
Pour the soy milk, water and 90 ml of olive oil into the spinach mixture. Add the cornmeal, spelt flour and nutritional yeast. Mix with your hands until all the dry ingredients become moist and everything is evenly distributed.
Generously grease a 40 cm round baking dish or tin with olive oil and press the mixture over the bottom. It should be very thin. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds if desired, and drizzle with the 30 ml olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes until the mixture is set.
Let the pie rest for 5 minutes, cut into squares and serve warm from the oven with a tomato salad for dinner or lunch. It can also be eaten cold as a snack.
Tips from the author
- The greens are weighed before washing or after they have dried.
- If you prefer you can omit the sautéing of the onion and leeks and use them raw, but cooking them does add to their flavour.
- You can use whatever greens you have on hand! Chard, endives and kale are also good options.
- If you can’t find a baking dish large enough, use your oven’s baking tray, as long as it has a depth of at least a centimeter. It’s important that the pie is very thin otherwise it will be like a savoury cake.
- The pie may look big for 6 people but the pieces will be very thin.
- The pie in the photograph was made with cornmeal only. You can also do this if you prefer. - Adding spelt flour means the colour will be slightly darker but in my opinion it’s tastier and the texture is a bit better too.
- The recipe can be halved; just use a round 30 cm baking dish so the pie is thin.