Spanokopita (Spinach and Cheese filo slice)

Growing up, I was often treated to Spanokopita in various forms, as I am lucky enough to have a Greek father. It is often made into individual pastries by talented Aunts who also make their own pastry. Luckily, I find that the flavour is not lessened by using boxed filo pastry! The recipe I am using here today is actually from the Greek chapter in Food Safari (by Maeve O’Meara) and tastes just like the recipe my mother uses – perfect for a taste of home.

Ingredients:

  • 1 bunch of spinach or silverbeet, finely chopped
  • 300g Fetta
  • 100g Ricotta
  • 40g (about 1/2 cup) grated hard cheese – parmesan or pecorino
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 dill sprigs (these are essential!)
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 375g fresh filo pastry (leave this in the fridge until ready to assemble)
  • 125g butter, melted

Firstly, mash the fetta in a large mixing bowl with a fork. Now add the ricotta, hard cheese, eggs, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, pepper, oil, dill and spring onions and mix well.

Put the chopped spinach or silverbeet in the mix and stir together.

Now lay the filo pastry out on the bench to assemble the Spanokopita. Filo pastry can be tricky to work with but I have used it a few times and found this to be the best method, though it may look a little strange. Filo pastry left in the open will soon dry out and fall apart. Basically, take 4 clean tea towels, wet two briefly under the tap and wring them out. Lay one damp towel on the bench and then cover with one dry tea towel. Now lay out the filo pastry on the dry towel, top with another dry tea towel and finally cover with the last damp tea towel. For this recipe, the filo pastry isn’t out of the fridge for very long but other, more labour intensive recipes, will require the pastry to sit on the bench for a long while, so this is a good method to know.

OK, so first brush your tray with the melted butter and then lay in 2 sheet of filo pastry, brush with butter, add another 2 sheets and repeat until you have used about half your filo sheets.

Then pour in the cheese and spinach mix.

Top with the remaining layers of pastry, brushing every second sheet with butter. With a sharp knife, score the pastry in rectangles or diamonds, as you please.

Put it in the oven to bake for 45 – 60 minutes, until golden brown. The Spanokopita will be loose in the pan and often shrink away from the edges when finished, as you can see above.
I have eaten this all week for lunch; a 20x30x5cm tray makes about 6 meal-sized pieces with a salad. However this is usually served as an appetiser or finger food so you’ll get about 24 small pieces out of it. One last note; if you reserve about 5 pieces of filo pastry from your 375g box (it won’t be missed from this recipe) you can make a delicious cherry and almond strudel for dessert – which I will post this weekend.

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