Who else is feeling the full brunt of winter? We’ve been playing Pass the Parcel with various colds and ailments in our family, which is why it’s taken me over a week to get around to posting about this Cheats’ Spanakopita. I love all things green as I’ve mentioned once or twice (or maybe 100 times), so Spanakopita is one of my all-time favourite dishes. However, filo pastry is most definitely NOT one of my favourite things to deal with – fiddly and temperamental, two characteristics that are guaranteed to have me run for the hills.
So I did a bit of research, and found a couple of recipes suggesting ‘scrunching’ the pastry rather than doing the whole layer-butter-layer thing. Simply scrunch up each sheet of (defrosted) filo and cover the top of the pie, then drizzle or spray with a little olive oil and voila – a crispy and flaky topping without the hassle. Changed. My. Life.
You still need to be careful with the filo as it does dry out really quickly, which can make the defrosting process a bit tricky. The best technique I’ve come across is to keep your pastry wrapped in a damp (clean) tea towel, as once it dries out it gets really crumbly and falls apart easily. That said, when you’re not messing around with lots of messy layers, it doesn’t matter hugely if your sheets are a little broken here and there – but for ease of assembly, it’s better if they retain their basic shape.
This recipe also utilises one of my other midweek go-to ingredients, frozen spinach. I left it to defrost in a colander, so all the excess moisture dripped off before cooking (no one likes a soggy pie). It’s cheap and easy, so perfect for bulking out the filling, to which I then added a heap of fresh kale and baby spinach. In the middle of winter you can be forgiven for feeling a bit uninspired by the range of veg on offer, so using a mix of fresh and whatever’s-available is sometimes the best way around it. This approach also gave a nice variety of textures, so you’re not stuck with a pie filling that resembles baby food.
A good feta is obviously key with this one, a proper Greek one with a bit of piquancy is worth its weight in gold rather than the more tasteless, ‘mild’ varieties. But the real secret ingredient? Fresh dill! And lots of it. It really lifts the whole dish from what could be stodgy winter fare to something that’s both tasty and nourishing.
- 1 packet frozen chopped spinach, defrosted (see above)
- 1/2 bunch of kale
- 2 cups of baby spinach
- 1/2 brown onion, diced
- 1/2 cup of fresh dill, leaves picked
- 200g Greek feta
- 1 egg
- 6 sheets of frozen filo pastry, defrosted
- Cracked black pepper, to taste
- Olive oil
- Pre-heat oven to 180C and grease a deep baking dish or spray with olive oil spray.
- Remove ribs from kale and chop leaves finely, along with baby spinach.
- Heat a splash of olive oil in a fry pan and lightly sauté onions – don’t let them colour.
- When translucent, add the chopped spinach, kale and baby spinach and wilt, stirring frequently.
- Allow mixture to cool, then transfer to a big bowl and crumble in the feta. Add the dill, egg and cracked black pepper to taste, and mix well.
- Spoon out mixture into baking dish and flatten out the top.
- Take each sheet of filo and scrunch up slightly and place on top of the spinach mixture. Continue until the pie filling is covered.
- If you have an olive oil spray, coat the pastry lightly with that. If you prefer, you could melt a little butter and use a pastry brush to apply.
- Cover and bake for 30 minutes, then remove foil and bake for a further 15 minutes until top is browned.