Updated: Nov 14, 2020
Spanakopita - that famous Greek spinach and feta pie with dill, parsley, pinenuts, nutmeg, spring onions, shallot and of course, filo. My version isn't entirely authentic but it definitely brings back (very distant) memories of pre-children Greek holidays for me. I always make this when I have a glut of spinach but it's great any time of the year, particularly for a vegetarian feast, or an outdoor summer lunch. My kids love spinach, but they’re not fans of this pie because of the dill, annoyingly! They'll come round, I'm sure!
You need: a lasagne dish, cake pan or roasting dish, about 32 x 23cm (I use this one)
500g spinach (young leaves are best, but whatever is easiest. Frozen is an excellent choice too and doesn't need to be cooked beforehand, but make sure it's thawed)
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 large onion OR 3 shallots (I use whatever needs using up. In the pictured pie, it was half a red onion and two shallots), finely chopped
4-5 spring onions, sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/3 cup pine nuts (about 70g)
a good bunch of dill, chopped
a good bunch of flat-leaf parsley, thick stalks removed and chopped
1 tsp ground nutmeg (or grated fresh nutmeg if you can)
sea salt and pepper
5 eggs, beaten
2 x 200g packs feta cheese, cut in to 1.5cm cubes
60g butter, melted (you can use olive oil for the pastry layers instead, if you prefer)
2 x packs filo pastry
1 egg, beaten, for brushing
1 Tbsp Nigella or sesame seeds to sprinkle
First, cook the spinach (you can skip this bit if you have thawed frozen spinach, which can go straight in to the colander). Steam the spinach in a steamer or a large pot with a little water over a low heat, and once cooked, transfer to a colander to cool and drain.
In a large frying pan or sauté pan, dry roast the pine nuts over a medium heat until they have a little golden hue - but make sure you move them around often! Remove them from the pan and heat the olive oil. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes until soft, then add the spring onions and garlic, and fry for another minute or so. Lastly, add the nutmeg and the pinenuts back to the pan and stir-fry for a further minute. Remove from the heat and stir in the chopped dill and parsley.
In a separate bowl, lightly beat the five eggs (if you haven't already) and add the cubes of feta. Stir to mix (it doesn't matter if the feta breaks up a bit). Season with a good sprinkling of salt and pepper to taste.
Then, drain the spinach by pressing down on it with a clean hands or a wooden spoon in the colander. Get as much liquid out as possible. Add the spinach and the feta mixture to the onion and herbs etc and mix around gently until it's pretty evenly combined.
Preheat the oven to 190°C and grease the dish very well with some butter.
Remove the first lot of filo from the packet, lay it out on a board and cover with a damp tea towel so it doesn't dry out. Cover the greased base of the dish with the filo to about 7cm up the sides. With the melted butter, use a pastry brush or a screwed up kitchen towel to cover the surface of the filo lightly (and to secure any overlapped bits). Repeat this until you have enough layers for an opaque base - about 5 full layers (about 10 sheets). Folds, creases and breakages are not a problem! You'll be covering these up anyway and filo is characteristically rustic in appearance! Trim the corners with scissors if you like.
Fill the case with the filling from the frying pan and brush the exposed edges of the pastry with beaten egg. Cover the pie with another 5 layers of filo, making sure the edges are secure. Brush the top layer with a little more melted butter, then thinly with the beaten egg and sprinkle the nigella/sesame seeds on top.
Place in the oven and bake for about 35-50 minutes until darkish golden and crisp. Serve with greens.. and a glass of something lovely.
This mixture is also FANTASTIC as a filling for making finger food like spinach and feta palmiers with puff pastry, or filo triangles.
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