Here in Toronto, we have Greeks from all over Greece, much like other cities in the Greek diaspora. The origins of where those Greeks came from can (and will) vary depending on immigration patterns of that region in Greece. If a certain relative or villager went to say, Australia then more folks from that part of Greece would follow suit. For some reason there are alot of Greeks from Kefallonia that settled in Montreal.
Here in Toronto, I’ve been told about 40 % of the Greeks are from northern Greece and the rest mostly from Crete, Peloponnese and from the islands. You can see this diversity in our churches, at Greek festivals, the Greek parade and in the announcements of “syllogi” (Greek associations) and their annual dances.
Our family has made friends from all over Greece and through church, we’ve become close friends with these Greeks from all corners including those from the South, Laconia in particular. A new friendship was made last year through this blog when I was contacted by an avid reader of this blog, John Danakas who’s family emigrated to Winnipeg (parents from Laconia).
We met, enjoyed dinner at Malena then watched the hockey playoffs in the patio of a pub that had set-up an outdoor TV screen. We talked about food, prior visits to Greece, the current situation in the homeland, life in Winnipeg, how Toronto has changed and conversation came full-circle and we talked more about food!
I vividly recall John relating his memories of his mom making Tsaitia when he was young (well she still makes them for the extended family) and I was intrigued by this food memory. Mama Danakas would knead some dough and roll it out into a type of phyllo and make this pockets of goodness filled with spinach and Feta cheese and fried on the stove-top and served. Having shared some photos of Tsaitia evoked fond memories for other friends with roots in Laconia.
With the swell of emotions and positive feedback I received, I knew I nailed the recipe and I’m delighted to share this Spartan recipe for my Laconian friends and to the rest who adore Greek cookery and all her regional dishes. Enjoy!
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp white vinegar
approx. one cup tepid water
2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 cup blanched spinach, chopped (thawed from frozen is perfectly fine)
1 cup crumbled Feta cheese
2 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1 tsp. chopped fresh mint ( 1/2 if dried)
1 large egg
salt and pepper to taste
- In a medium bowl, add the flour, salt and mix with a fork then make a whole in the middle of the flour and add the water, vinegar and oil and begin bringing the flour into the middle and begin kneading the dough untilall the flour has been absorbed. Add flour and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and no longer tacky (not sticky). Roll into a ball and sprinkle some flour on the bowl and place inside and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rest for an hour.
- In the meantime, add a Tbsp, of olive oil into a small pan and sweat your scallions for 2-3 minutes and remove from the heat and allow to cool. Take your thawed from frozen spinach and use your hands to squeeze the excess water and then chop the spinach and place in another bowl with the scallions, crumbled Feta, dill, mint and egg. Mix with a spoon then have a little taste, add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and keep cool.
- Take your ball of dough out of the fridge and sprinkle some flour on your work surface then flatten the dough with a rolling pin and roll it out into a flat that resembles a pita bread. Brush both sides with olive oil and place on a plate and allow to rest for another 30 minutes.
- Sprinkle some flour on your work surface and place the flat of dough on your work surface and from the middle – roll out the dough until you have a large (preferably rectangular) thin sheet of dough.
- Cut into approx. 6 squares, divide and spoon the spinach filling into the middle of each square and fold-up the corners like an envelope and gently press with your fingers to seal.
- Add some olive oil into a large non-stick pan over medium heat and place as many Tsaitia in the pan and fry each side until crisp and golden-brown (about 3 minutes a side) and reserve on a paper-lined platter.
- Serve the Tsaitia immediately as a lunch with a salad, a snack or offering as part of a meze table.
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