This month, The Cook Book Guru is featuring Claudia Roden’s A New Book of Middle Eastern Food. I have already posted two recipes from this cookbook, Moroccan Tagine with Prunes and Muhallabia (one of my all-time favourite desserts). As I have previously mentioned, Claudia’s book is the classic English language cookbook on Middle Eastern cooking. It was first published as A Book of Middle Eastern Food in 1968.
Spanakopitta, Greek spinach and cheese pie, is a world wide favourite vegetarian dish… and for good reason. It is yummy. Claudia offers two versions in her book, neither of which totally appealed to me. The first recipe was made with filo pastry but the filling was, literally, spinach (cooked in butter and a little salt) and cheese which sounded a bit too basic. The second recipe’s filling was very similar to a recipe I use for spinach triangles but was made with puff pastry rather than filo. I decided to combine the two. I used the filling from the second recipe with filo pastry. I also halved the filling.
Another modification was the amount of cheese used. When halved, Claudia’s recipe called for 125g of feta or 125g of cottage cheese. I put in 125g of feta in my bowl and it didn’t look enough so I checked my usual recipe and noted it calls for 125g of feta and 125g of ricotta. As I had 125g of ricotta in the fridge, I used that.
These quantities make a 22cm square pie which will serve 4 people. The pie was perfect for a light luncheon.
- 500g spinach (I used 500g frozen silverbeet)
- ½ large onion, finely chopped
- 3 spring onions, finely chopped
- olive oil
- 1 tbs* dill, finely chopped
- 125g feta, crumbled
- 125g ricotta or cottage cheese
- 2 eggs, lightly beaten
- salt and pepper
- a grating of nutmeg
- 10 sheets of filo pastry
- butter for brushing pastry
*This is a 15mil tablespoon.
- Fry the onion and spring onions gently in a little oil until soft and transparent – about 10 minutes. Do not brown. If need be, add a little water to stop them sticking.
- If using frozen spinach: defrost the spinach then put it in a sieve and squeeze out the excess fluid. Add the drained spinach and dill to the pan and cook until the mixture is quite dry.
- If using fresh spinach: Add the spinach and dill to the pan. Cook until the spinach is completely wilted. Drain off excess moisture.
- Set the spinach mixture aside to cool.
- When cool, add the cheese and the eggs.
- Season with black pepper, salt (if necessary) and nutmeg.
- Butter a 22cm square baking pan.
- Lay five sheets of pastry in dish, alternating the long and short sides so that the sides of the pan are also covered. Brush each sheet with melted butter as you place it in the pan. Leave the overhang.
- Spread the spinach and cheese mixture into the pan.
- Cover mixture with the remaining five sheets of pastry, brushing each layer with melted butter. Again, alternate the long and short sides and leave the overhang. If you wish, you can crunch up the final layer of pastry to get the effect I have in the photo.
- Cut overhanging pastry to leave about 5cm.
- Roll up overhang to form edge of pie. Butter final pie.
- Preheat oven to 150°C and bake for about 45 minutes.
- Increase the temperature to 200°C and cook for 5-10 minutes until the top is golden brown.