Hunting for a recipe to match the image in my head is the hardest challenge, but oh-so worth it in the end! This is one such story..
Spanakopita literally translates to spinach pie; it is a Greek dish that comes in a myriad of shapes and sizes, the most common being in pie-form or as triangular parcels. Although traditionally served encased in layers of crispy phyllo dough, this recipe is a variation using puff pastry. There is just something so satisfying about waiting for the pastry to crisp up and turn golden brown, and that for me makes even an ordinary meal feel like a real celebration!
This recipe follows the general principle that I go by, and that could only mean one thing – it can be varied in a multitude of ways by the addition/omission of ingredients. Loosely based on Sara Clevering’s take on this Greek classic, I used a combination of red onion AND a few sprigs of spring onions (I retained the tops of these and added them to the filling too), added a dash of olive oil to the butter, and used a 200 gram packet of Feta instead of the 170 grams that’s in her recipe. I liked her version of using one large pastry sheet and treating it like a calzone, but I used 2 separate sheets instead. I added 3 cloves of garlic to the onion mixture too (spinach and no garlic? no way) Also, no dill.
The store-bought puff pastry sheets that I have access to only come in one size; the small rectangular ones. That would have worked just fine for the small parcels, but what I had in mind was one big crumbly pie and that’s exactly what I set out to achieve. I rolled out four of the sheets together, slightly overlapping each other until I had one large pastry that I could use. Mission accomplished.
I made a simple Greek salad with cherry tomatoes, onions and fresh parsley tossed in an apple cider & extra virgin olive oil vinaigrette as an accompaniment. The acidity from the tomatoes cut through the richness of the dish perfectly. Spanakopita can be served as an hors d’oeuvre or as a main course; I ate the leftovers for breakfast too! Ain’t no shame.
2 bunches of fresh spinach leaves (about 500 grams total) chopped
2 large sheets of puff pastry dough (approx 10″ X 10″)
1 medium red onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
4 sprigs of spring onions, finely chopped (the green tops go in raw)
250 grams Feta cheese, crumbled
3/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 big handful of parsley, chopped
2 eggs (plus one for the egg wash)
2 tsps melted butter
2 tsps olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Pre-heat oven to moderate 180°C (350°F)
Wash,drain and chop the spinach leaves (I roll up bunches of the leaves like cigars and chop them lengthwise) Lay them out on a tea towel until all the water dries up.
In a pan, heat the butter and olive oil and sauté the onion and spring onions along with the garlic until translucent. Add the nutmeg, salt, a good dash of pepper and stir.
Add in the spinach and parsley and cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the spinach is wilted and heated through, and all the water from the spinach has evaporated. Remove from heat and set aside to cool for a few minutes.
In a bowl, combine the crumbled feta, eggs and the spring onion tops. Add in the spinach mixture and mix well until all the ingredients are well combined.
Butter your baking tray (I used a 9″ tray) and place one sheet of puff pastry at the bottom of the tray with a few centimetres of the pastry coming over the edges.
Put in the filling mixture over the bottom layer of pastry and place the other layer over it; fold over the excess dough inward, crimping it using your thumb and index finger as you go along (a tiny bit of water helps make the crimping easier)
Cut slits on the top to allow the steam to escape while cooking.
Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the top layer with the egg wash.
Bake for 30-40 minutes until the puff pastry has risen and is golden brown, and the filling is cooked through.
*Feta is a very salty cheese, so taste the filling before you add more salt.