Spinach is one of those things that every now and then I get an overwhelming craving for – usually after a spat of unhealthy eating when I can almost hear my body crying out for vitamins. There’s just something about eating it that makes me feel much better. Kind of like Popeye – kind of… without the muscles.
Thats not to say though that it needs to be purely spinach piled up in it all it’s naked green glory. A couple of weeks ago I was inspired to make something I’d eaten before but never even thought about making, mostly because I’m still not entirely sure if I’m saying it right – spanakopita.
The greek spinach and feta filo pie must take many of us back to memories of whitewashed buildings and bright pink bougainvillea in lovely Greece. Not only is this savoury pie filled with an overwhelming amount of my go to health remedy but it also has the massive comfort factor of pastry and cheese. Some might say it’s a perfect pick me up pie. (I would say that – if you’re wondering who ‘some’ are, it’s me.) I love all the fresh herbs in here as well – I’m of the frame of mind that you can’t have too many fresh herbs. And the sharp lemon with the creamy ricotta is also wonderful.
Recipe (adapted from ‘Mastering the art of baking’ by Anneka Manning)
Heat a table spoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and cook off 2 thinly sliced spring onions for a few minutes until soft, then add about 600g of washed chopped spinach and fry until cooked. Tip into a colander and let all the liquid drain out – as it cools give it a good squeeze to get as much liquid out as possible.
Mix together in a bowl a generous bunch of finely chopped dill, a bunch of finely chopped mint, finely grated zest from one lemon and a good squeeze of some of the juice, a nice free-range egg and 310g fresh ricotta. Roughly chop the cooked spinach and add this to the mixture with 200g crumbled feta and some salt and pepper to season and give it all a good stir.
Lightly grease the base and sides of your selected baking container - I used the Cottage Flower pie dish to make this recipe but you could use a 22cm spring-form cake tin. Preheat over to 180?C (350?F/Gas 4) and melt 100g of butter and keep to hand.
The next bit is slightly confusing. Lay 10 sheets of filo pastry (readymade) out on a clean work surface and cover them with a damp towel to stop them from drying out. Then one sheet at a time, carefully build a stack of five sheets using a pastry brush to lightly coat the top of each sheet before laying the next one on top of it so they stick together. Make sure to keep the pile you are not working on under the cover of the damp tea towel all the time. Repeat this with the last five sheets so you have two stacks of 5 sheets each. Now cut both stacks twice down the middle widthways so you have six stumpy rectangles. Arrange the six rectangles in the dish so that they cover the bottom but leave enough overhang so they will also be able to cover the top when the filling is in.
Spoon the spinach and feta mixture into your dish or tin then wrap the pastry over the top to cover the filling and brush the top with some more melted butter.
Bake for 1hr 20mins until golden and crispy on top. You can eat this warm or at room temperature.
This pie makes great picnic food, great snacking food, great lunch, great dinner with a nice salad… Spanakopita a great pie. You should make one, or, if you’re feeling as fed up with this rain that we’re having as I am then you should go to greece and buy some.