After eating this dish while visiting the Greek Islands earlier this year I couldn't wait to make my own version at home.

This very Greek dish hits exactly the right note with its spinach and feta combination encased in crisp pastry. And filo pastry is a great choice because it’s available everywhere and is easy to work with.

My one departure from tradition is to add toasted pine nuts because I love them and think they go wonderfully with the spinach and feta. I used baby spinach because it was all I could get hold of at the time but when using normal spinach you want to give it a good chop once it’s been washed and dried.

One quick note about filo pastry – make sure you have your filling ready to go because once you unwrap the pastry it dries out quickly so you need to work efficiently – it’s a lot of fun though.

 

Spanakopita

Makes 18

 

500g spinach

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small red onion, finely diced

3 spring onions, finely chopped

125g feta cheese

Small handful of mint leaves, chopped finely

2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts

Freshly grated nutmeg

1 egg

Freshly ground sea salt and pepper, to taste

6 sheets filo pastry

Extra virgin olive oil

 

The first job is to wash the spinach and then dry it. I fill a large bowl about three quarters with water and submerge the spinach in the water. Leave it for a few minutes to get a good soaking and then fish it out, piling it onto large sheets of kitchen towel. I then cover it with more kitchen towel, pressing down to absorb most of the moisture. Now leave it to dry further. If you’re using baby spinach you don’t really need to chop it but if there are any large stalks I’ll remove them. If using normal spinach leaves, make sure you give them a good chop once dried.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion. Sauté the onion until it’s soft and translucent, but don’t allow it to catch. Now add the spinach, handful by handful and sauté with the onion until it’s wilted but still a vibrant green.

Tip the mixture into a colander to drain away the water that has come from the spinach. Press down with a spoon to make sure you remove as much moisture as possible.

Now add the mixture back to the pan with the spring onions and sauté for another couple of minutes. Transfer to a bowl and leave it to cool.

In a separate bowl crumble in the feta (make sure there are no large pieces) with the chopped mint and pine nuts, stirring them together. Grate over some fresh nutmeg and then season to your taste. Go easy with the salt; remember feta is quite salty. Give the egg a quick whisk and then stir it through the feta mixture.

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

Once the spinach has cooled add the feta mixture and stir together well.

Get an oven tray ready – line it with baking paper and lightly brush the paper with olive oil.

Now that your mixture is ready to go remove your sheets of filo pastry and place them on a large rectangular chopping board. Cut the sheets lengthways into three so that you have evenly sized strips (18 strips in total).

Pour some extra-virgin olive oil into a bowl and using a pastry brush quickly brush the first layer of sheets with the olive oil.

Take a heaped teaspoon of mixture from the bowl and place it at the top centre of your first strip of filo. Take the right hand corner and fold it over the filling on the diagonal so that if forms a triangle. Now fold it up and over on itself. Then fold it to the opposite side to form another triangle. Keep doing this until you get to the end of the strip. Place it on the prepared oven tray.

Repeat until all the pastry strips have been used – six sheets of pastry will make 18 triangles.

Once the filo parcels have been arranged on the tray lightly brush them with the extra-virgin olive oil and place in the heated oven. Bake for approximately 25 minutes by which time the pastry will be crisp and have turned a lovely golden brown.

Eat them while they’re hot and crispy. They make a delicious lunch served with a Greek salad or as part of Meze. They’re also great as a snack served with some spicy tomato relish – that’s what I went for and hoovered up half a dozen of them.

Published by Tracey O'Brien