For me, as a young university student and very new to being vegetarian, spanakopita was love at first bite. It has been a long relationship and lasted throughout the years, altered for when I was vegan for 8 years and enhanced when I started growing my own herbs.
I’m still very much head over heels for this dish, but nothing quite matches my first experience at a Greek dinner in Columbia, South Carolina. Here are instructions for both individual triangles and one big pie.
For a vegan version omit the egg and substitute the feta for firm tofu, adding 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a bit more lemon juice, and use olive oil for brushing the filo sheets instead of butter.
Makes 16 medium parcels or 8 large
3 tbsp pine nuts or cashews
Olive oil, for frying onions and brushing filo
2 medium onions, finely chopped
750g frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess water
30g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
20g fresh dill, finely chopped or 1 tbsp dried
Juice of 1 lemon
¼ tsp fresh grated nutmeg, more to taste
200g feta cheese
1 free-range egg, beaten
75g melted butter for brushing
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ready made filo pastry sheets
Preheat the oven to 200°C / Gas Mark 6.
Toast the pine nuts or cashews in a dry frying pan until golden, being careful not to burn. Set aside. Using the same pan, gently sauté the onion in olive oil until golden.
Meanwhile, for the filling, in a large bowl, combine the nuts with the spinach, parsley, dill, lemon, and nutmeg. Add the cooked onion to the spinach mix. Now add the feta and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, taste and adjust the seasoning. When happy with the seasoning, mix in the beaten egg.
Lay the stack of filo sheets on a work surface. Remove one sheet and place it lengthways in front of you. Keep the remaining sheets covered with a damp towel. Brush the sheet with melted butter and olive oil. Place a second sheet of filo on top, brush it with the melted butter. Add 1 more sheet in the same manner.
Cut the stack of filo sheets lengthwise into 4 for smaller parcels or 2 for larger parcels. Starting at the bottom right corner, place a heaped dessert spoonful of filling, leaving a triangle of filo on the left side. Use two spoonfuls for larger parcels. Fold the end of the filo diagonally over the filling, enclosing the filling completely and creating a 10cm (4 inch) triangle; the bottom edge of the strip should now be even with the left side of the strip.
Next, fold the bottom of the triangle up, so that it meets the straight edge evenly. Now fold again on the diagonal, so that the left edge is even with the right side. Repeat this folding pattern, alternating the direction with each fold, until you reach the end of the strip. Repeat with the remaining strip, to make another triangle. Place the triangles on the prepared baking sheet. Continue until filo or filling runs out!
When all the triangles are assembled, brush with olive oil and sprinkle with mixed herbs. Place in a hot oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until puffy and golden brown. If you are freezing or reheating another time, only par bake until there is a bit of colour just starting to show, about 10-15 minutes.
To make one large dish of spanakopita:
Grease a shallow baking dish with oil and line with six of the filo sheets, placing one on top of the other and brushing each sheet separately. Put the filling over the pastry and spread evenly. Cover with the remaining filo, brushing each sheet with oil as you go. Brush the top with oil and, with the point of a sharp knife, cut the crust into square pieces which will make it easier to cut once cooked. Bake for 40 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and leave to let sit for 10 minutes before serving.
Have you made this dish? I love seeing my delicious recipes come to life, so share a picture with me on Instagram by tagging @naturalcookeryschool and I’ll re-share your post!