Daring Cooks: Spanakopita

I’ve been wanting to make spanakopita for a long long time.   I love the flavours and even though I’ve already made a spinach and feta pie this year, I was quite happy to try another recipe with similarities.

Although I have wanted to make this for a long time, it was only when I saw that this month the Daring Cooks challenge was to make Spanakopita that I was given the kick I needed to actually go out and get some phyllo pastry to make it with, because that’s basically the only ingredient I don’t regularly cook with.    In fact, I think it was only the second time I’d used phyllo but from what I remember, it was much easier this time.   You do need to melt some butter and brush each of the layers, which I had always though of as being a bit of a faff, when in fact it is very quick to do. But wait a minute, who am I trying to convince? Maybe that’s never bothered you.   Maybe it’s more the amount of butter you need if you brush each layer, and maybe you are on a diet?  Well, it actually took much less than I thought, and don’t forget, the filling contains one whole kilo of spinach.   How can anything with that much spinach be unhealthy?   Not to mention the leek, onions and garlic too.

The recipe we were given was from Mrs Maria, a family friend of Audax Artifex who set the challenge.   It is apparently an old traditional recipe in which the ingredients are not cooked before being baked in the pie but are massaged and squeezed instead.   I’d always looked at recipes before which involved cooking the onions so I was a little surprised and worried that they might taste a bit raw.   I found there was definitely still a bit of bite to them after the pie was cooked, but they were very tasty.   I like raw onions anyway but I think if you like them to be well cooked you might prefer to follow a method where you cook the filling first.  The recipe was also supposed to contain dill but I wasn’t able to get any so I just missed it out.

To me, a pie is the ultimate in comfort food and I grew up eating pastry in some form or another almost every day when I was a child, although admittedly not phyllo.  I am therefore going to link this to Comfort Bites’ Comfort Food Challenge, which this month has a vegetarian theme.

spanakopita slice1 (500x407)

Ingredients – Serves 6-8

About 10 sheets of phyllo pastry

Butter to brush on the pastry (about 50g but you might need more)

1 leek, finely sliced

1kg frozen spinach, defrosted and excess water drained off

5 spring onions, finely sliced

1 red onion, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

200g feta cheese, crumbled or cubed

1/4 tsp ground nutmeg

1 egg (or maybe 2 if your mixture is very dry)

4 tbsp olive oil

Breadcrumbs/ couscous – I used a mixture of rice and couscous

How to Make Spanakopita

1. Put the spinach, leek, onions, garlic and nutmeg in a bowl.   Mix together and squeeze with your hands to combine everything and then take handfuls of the mixture and squeeze the excess moisture out into another bowl.

2. Add the breadcrumbs or couscous to the bowl of liquid.  How much you need will depend on how much water you have squeezed out so try to estimate it.   I only had a little couscous left in a pack and so had to use rice as well.  I then left it to soak for a long time so the rice would absorb the liquid.   If you use couscous or breadcrumbs this stage will be very quick.   It’s important there isn’t too much extra liquid in the spanakopita as the pastry will then go soggy.

3. Then add the breadcrumb/couscous mixture back to the onion/spinach mixture.   Add the egg, olive oil and feta. Mix together.   If you think the mixture is too dry you can add another egg but mine seemed fine.

4. Melt the butter in a bowl in the microwave or a small saucepan.   Brush some butter around the inside of the tin you are using.  I used a round 20cm wide cake tin. Start Layering the sheets of phyllo pastry in the tin.   Brush each sheet with butter before placing in the tin.  Rotate each sheet slightly so the corners stick out separately. The sheets should be much larger than the tin so will cover the sides too.  I used about 6 sheets for this stage.

5. Fill the tin with the spinach mixture and press down.  Fold the extra phyllo over the top of the pie.   There will probably be a gap in the middle which the phyllo doesn’t reach.   Take the extra sheets, brush with butter, and place them on top of the spanakopita, tucking the extra down the sides or just folding back on top.

6. If you want you can slice the spanakopita now to make it easier to cut after it is cooked as the phyllo pastry will become very brittle in the oven.   I preferred to cut mine afterwards though.

6. Bake in the oven at 190C for at least 30 minutes but up to an hour.   The length of time will depend on the size of the pan and its depth.   Mine took 50 minutes.  Stick a thin skewer or knife into the centre to check if it is done.  It should feel set and will be hot when you take it out.  Let it cool a little before serving.

Blog-checking lines: The February Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Audax of Audax Artifex. The challenge brought us to Greece with a delicious, flaky spanakopita – a spinach pie in a phyllo pastry shell.

I have also linked this to Staying Close to Home for Pie for Pi Day.

comfort food bites

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7 thoughts on “Daring Cooks: Spanakopita

  1. OH well done on the challenge. I found it was much easier than I thought it would be too. The list of instructions seemed long and complex, but it really wasn’t. I also forgot to pre-cut mine, but found that slicing it right out of the oven did ok and I didn’t wind up with too much shattered pastry! :)

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