Spinach & Cheese Filo-like Pastries

Boyos de pazi y keso

About the Recipe

In the East Mediterranean there are many varieties of spinach and cheese pastries. Boyos de pazi y keso are the traditional hand pies the Sephardim made for centuries in the Dodecanese island of Rhodes. The Sephardic Jews, who settled in the Ottoman Empire inspired by their empanada pies from medieval Spain, adapted the recipe to other versions. One of the most loved pastries of the Rhodeslis are the flaky filo-like boyos made with a light yeast dough.

Our family recipe combines the earthy spinach with the salty, crumbly Greek feta, tangy kefalotiri, generous handfuls of zesty fresh herbs and scallions encased in a paper thin, crisp homemade pastry. Boyos make a scrumptious snack or appetizer, delicious for breakfast or as a vegetarian meal with a salad.

You can save yourself the effort and use store-bought filo pastry and fold the filling into triangles for an easy and quick alternative to making them. But, I assure you that once you have mastered this ancient art of pie-making you will be truly won over and will want to make these pastries packed with flavour again!

Ingredients

Prepare ahead the spinach and cheese filling: 1kg (about 2lb) spinach, stalks removed, washed, drained and finely shredded. (I prefer to use Swiss chard and they are interchangeable) 11⁄2 cups grated kefalotiri or Parmesan cheese 3⁄4 cup grated feta cheese 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley 1⁄2 cup chopped fresh dill 1 cup chopped scallions (spring onions) 3 tbsp dried breadcrumbs salt and finely ground white pepper to taste


For the starter: 1⁄4 tsp active dry yeast (rapid-rise) 1 cup warm water (about 55°C/110°F)

1 tsp sugar

For the dough: 31⁄2 cups plain (all-purpose) flour, or as needed a pinch of salt 2 tsp unsalted butter 1⁄2 cup warm water

For brushing: mix 1⁄2 cup melted butter with 1⁄2 cup vegetable oil in a small bowl

For sprinkling: mix 1⁄2 cup of flour with 1 tbsp grated kefalotiri or Parmesan cheese

For the topping: 1⁄2 cup grated kefalotiri or Parmesan

You will need: 1 rectangular dish, 30x24cm (12x91⁄2in) with enough vegetable oil to cover 30 balls of dough

Preparation

Dry the shredded spinach in a salad spinner and then spread out on paper towels to dry thoroughly. When completely dry, place on a tray and lightly mix in the cheeses, fresh herbs, scallions (spring onions) and breadcrumbs. Season with salt and pepper. Turn the mixture over thoroughly with your hands as the cheese tends to sink to the bottom. Once the cheese has been added use immediately to avoid the spinach (or Swiss chard) becoming soggy.


Prepare the starter: Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar. Stir, cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 5-10 minutes, until frothy.


Prepare the dough: Put 21⁄2 cups flour with the salt in a large bowl. Work the butter into the flour with your fingertips. Make a well in the centre of the flour and add the proved yeast. Add the warm water and mix well until a sticky dough mass begins to form. Transfer the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic, adding a little flour if still sticky.

Divide the dough into 30 golf ball size pieces, about 30g (1oz). Roll each piece into smooth balls between your palms and immerse in the prepared dish of oil. Turn balls over once to coat well and let sit in the oil for 20 minutes.

Take one ball at a time, starting with the ones first placed in the oil and press between your palms to flatten. Place on a work surface and with the fingertips of both hands press the dough outwards as much as possible. Then working around the flattened dough gently lift and stretch the edges outwards with your fingertips until paper thin and about 30cm (12in) in diameter. Brush lightly with the melted butter and oil mixture over the stretched dough and cut off any thick edges with a sharp knife and discard. Sprinkle with a little of the prepared flour and cheese mixture.

Shape and fill the dough: Fold a third of one side over to the centre of the stretched dough. Fold the remaining third to overlap, making three layers into a narrow rectangle. With the narrow side facing you place a generously heaped tablespoon of the spinach and cheese filling on the narrow edge of the rectangle and fold the dough parcel into triangles.

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper.

Transfer the filled pastries onto the baking trays, leaving a little space between them. Brush the tops lightly with the remaining melted butter and oil mixture and sprinkle with grated cheese. Bake for about 30-40 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Place on a wire rack. Serve immediately or at room temperature, traditionally with hard-boiled eggs and olives. Makes about 30 boyos.