When I grow spinach, which is always, I think about the size of the harvest in terms of how much spanakopita it will make. “Ooo, terrific,” I say, “there’s two spanakopitas ready to pick on that plant alone.” The glutton’s version of a bushel.

Spinach has heralded the promise of salty feta and crunchy, buttery filo since I was little. It’s one of the first things I remember my Mum cooking. She made it often and it thrilled me every time – it seemed so exotic, which I suppose it was in the mid-80s.

Spanakopita was a dinner party favourite too – simple to make, unquestionably delicious and just unusual enough, back then, to make the cook look a little bit interesting. Though I do remember Mum, in her guests-for-dinner dangly earrings, leaping up from the sofa with a yelp and dashing to the kitchen as she remembered she had forgotten to add the egg to the filling. Scurrying behind to enjoy the commotion I watched as she whipped the incomplete pie from the oven, peeled off the filo top and cracked an egg straight into the middle. A quick mix with the end of a wooden spoon and the pie was bunged back in the oven, G&T in hand throughout. My first cookery lesson: everything is almost always salvageable.

Spanakopita spinach and filo pie - gluts and gluttony

My spinach gluts come in great waves and when they arrive you couldn’t hope to eat it all fresh. Instead I wilt it, refresh in cold water, wring it out, then freeze it for later – hence the call for frozen spinach in the recipe. If you’re buying your spinach, then bags of frozen organic leaves are a great option too and far more economical than the half dozen bags of fresh you’d need to make this pie.

Eat spanakopita warm or once it cooled. It’s great for packed lunches too. Don’t be tempted to omit the yogurt sauce – it’s essential to the whole spanakopita experience.

Spanakopita

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Total Time: 1 minute

Serves 3-4

Spanakopita

A simple vegetarian dish that makes a great centrepiece for a convivial dinner. The leftovers are great packed lunches too.

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 spring onions (or ½ onion)
  • 2 cloves garlic,
  • 500g frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 200g feta
  • 2 tbsp parmesan, grated
  • 2 tbsp dill, chopped
  • ½ tsp fresh nutmeg, grated
  • 1 egg
  • 50g butter
  • 7 sheets (1 packet) filo pastry
  • For the sauce:
  • ½ small cucumber
  • 250g plain yogurt
  • ½ clove garlic
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190C.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan whilst you finely chop the onions and crush the garlic. Sweat the onions and garlic for 3-4 minutes until soft but not coloured. Tip them into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Roughly chop the spinach and add to the bowl together with the feta, parmesan, dill, nutmeg, egg (don’t forget the egg) and a some salt and pepper. Stir everything together until evenly mixed.
  4. Melt the butter gently in a saucepan. Brush the inside of an 18cm loose-bottomed cake tin with some of the butter. Lay one of the filo sheets in the cake tin and drape the edges over the sides and top of the tin. Brush it with some more butter. Lay a second filo sheet on top at 90 degrees to the first sheet. Again brush with a little butter. Repeat until the cake tin is lined with no gaps on the bottom or sides (which will probably take 4-5 sheets).
  5. Tip the spinach mixture into the lined cake tin and lift the overhanging filo over the top of the filling. Crinkle up 2 more sheets of filo and arrange them on top of the mixture to seal the pie. Brush the top with some more butter then transfer to the oven to bake for 40 minutes.
  6. For the sauce, simply slice the cucumber and crush the garlic. Mix them into the yogurt with a pinch of salt and set aside.
  7. Once baked, leave the pie to cool for a few minutes then release it from the cake tin, slice and serve with a dollop of yogurt sauce.
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