Spanakopita

Whether you call it spanakopita or spinach pie, there’s no doubt you love its flakey filo crust and cream-cheese and spinach filling.

A little lighter on oil and butter than more traditional recipes, and using low-fat, high-protein cottage cheese to combine the spinach filling rather than an alternative higher in saturated fats, my take on Greece’s pie-of-pies is a little healthier than most.

I’m no traditionalist, and while I know I should make the filo from scratch, it’s just so easy to buy it ready to go, and that’s what I’ve done for this recipe. If you’d rather make it from scratch, there are plenty of recipes online – and I salute you!

With the filo taken care of (thank you Pampas) the filling is incredibly straight forward. Sautée what looks like far too much spinach until it shrinks in size, releases its water and evaporates. Crumble in feta, add some lemon zest, eggs, herbs and spices, and stir through a little cottage cheese.

It’s not rocket science but it is delicious, and a crowd pleaser every time.

INGREDIENTS

14 sheets of filo pastry, thawed and ready to go

700grams baby spinach, chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

3 stalks French onions sliced (or 1/4 of a red onion chopped finely)

150 grams feta, crumbled (about half a block)

2 heaped tablespoons cottage cheese

1 egg

Zest of 1 lemon

1/4 of a nutmeg

Bunch of dill, chopped

2 tablespoons dried oregano

1 tablespoon thyme

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

*Makes 8 slices.

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180° fan-forced.

In a large frying pan, sauté garlic and spinach in a few tablespoons of olive oil until completely wilted and the released liquid has completely evaporated. I find it easiest to add about a handful of spinach at a time to avoid overcrowding the pan.

While the spinach cools down, grease your pie tin with some olive oil and lay two sheets of pastry at a time over the pan, pressing it into the corners and brushing with some olive oil. Repeat four times, rotating a quarter each time.

In a mixing bowl, add cooled spinach, feta, cottage cheese, French onions, lemon zest, herbs and spices and mix well. Be careful not to overdo the salt as feta is quite salty! Taste and adjust seasoning if needed before adding the egg and mixing again.

Spoon spinach mix into the pastry and ensure it has filled into the corners. Add four more sheets of filo on top, two at a time crossed over each other, to close the pie. I like to roll the overflowing edges into each other to close the pie, but you can fold them under the mixture if you prefer.

Lightly brush the filo with olive oil, before taking the remaining sheets of filo, tearing them and crunching them over the top of the pie. Sprinkle with remaining oil. This is how you get the filo perfectly flaked.

Cut the filo into desired slices before baking for 40 minutes or until golden brown (it’s much easier to serve up once cooked if you cut it first).

Enjoy hot or cold, straight away or for lunch the next day!

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