Tuesday, July 16, 2013

My Family Feast cookbook: recipe review for spanakopita

I looked at this book again with a more critical eye. First came the index review, then I looked at the recipes and then to test my hunch that publishers don't always test their recipes; I put one of the Greek recipes to test on the weekend. A visit to a country produce market yielded the freshest bunch of silverbeet so spanakopita was the logical choice. I don't usually follow recipes religiously as I tend to alter ingredients to suit what I have available. My Family Feast's spanakopita gives the recipe for its filo pastry. I had never made filo pastry before so I thought I'd give it a go. It was also the only pastry recipe in the book that had exact measurements for its dough.

The pastry recipe calls for:

525g (3½ C) plain flour
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp warm water
100g butter melted and mixed with 1 extra tablespoon olive oil

(spanakopita recipe from My Family Feast)

Those of you who are well acquainted with making pastry and breads will know that these liquid-to-dry ingredients ratio don't add up. In fact, if you do follow this recipe to a tee you'll notice that the dough consistency is that of dry sand. The butter/oil mixture is for brushing between layers, by the way. There is no chance that this dough was forming a soft dough. I kneaded and kneaded and nothing happened so I added more oil, more water – so much more than I thought I'd better check another recipe to see if I was going down the right track.

I had an old copy of an SBS Feast magazine lying about – I happened to remember seeing a spanakopita recipe. I found it in the June 2013 edition. Its recipe for spanakopita pastry called for:

1kg plain flour
500ml lukewarm water
250ml vegetable oil
¼ tsp salt

Notice the difference in dry ingredients-to-liquid ratio? No wonder I had trouble forming a soft dough! By this time I had lost count of how much oil and warm water I had added. I ended up with what I thought should be a fairly pliable dough and crossed my fingers.

(SBS Feast magazine's spanakopita recipe, June 2013)

Here is the end result. The pastry was a tad too thick but the filling was delicious, the end result was nice thankfully.

Picking a successful recipe out of a cookbook shouldn't be a matter of a lucky draw. Needless to say I will think twice about making anything from this particular cookbook in the future. How many more incorrect recipes are there I wonder?

Whilst I was researching more spanakopita recipes for this post, I ended up finding this recipe on the SBS food website. The pastry is identical to the My Family Feast's except that it uses ¼ C warm water – not 3 tablespoons. Wish I had seen this when I was frantically looking for alternate backup when it really mattered.

Anybody have any similar experiences with recipes that just didn't work?


  1. So. You finally made. I am happy for you. I wish I had the courage to break free of the corporate shackles.