Spanakopita is a Greek pastry made with spinach, feta cheese, herbs, eggs, green onions along with other ingredients. This is commonly served as an appetizer or snack. The filling is enclosed in flaky phyllo pastry sheets and oven baked until golden brown, the colour enhanced by brushing the pastry with egg whites. There are few ways to make this pastry. It can be either made as a pie by enclosing the filling within layers of phyllo dough and later cut into triangles or the filling itself is divided into equal portions and each portion is placed on top of stacked phyllo sheets, each sheet greased with olive oil to enable it to stick to the other sheet stacked on top of it and rolled to form triangles.
If you are new to phyllo pastry then there are few important points to be noted while handling phyllo dough. Phyllo dough can be stored in the refrigerator for weeks. When working with phyllo dough make sure that everything else is ready as you need to work really fast once you have opened the phyllo sheets. The phyllo sheets when exposed to air become dry and brittle and then it would be difficult to work with them. So only work with the dough at the end of preparation.The top surface of each sheet is brushed with olive oil or butter before placing another sheet on top to enable the sheets to stick to each other. Also phyllo sheets are not similar to puff pastry the difference being in the method of preparation, though they may look similar when baked.
I adopted this recipe from the book 'The Complete Cookbook-Vegetarian' by Helen Aitken. With more than 200 recipes this is an indispensable one for any vegan cook with each recipe accompanied by eye catching shots of the final dish along with step by step photographs. I have modified the recipe to suit my taste and here is my version.
Spinach- 250 g chopped
1/2 White Onion minced
Green onions(spring onions)- 3 chopped
Fresh Parsley chopped - 3 tbsp
Fresh Dill chopped - 2 tbsp
Powdered Nutmeg - 1/2 tsp
Italian seasoning - 1 tbsp
Fresh Chives chopped - 1 tbsp
Fresh Oregano chopped - 1 tbsp
Freshly grated Parmesan- 1 tbsp
Crumbled feta cheese - 1/2 cup
Ricotta cheese - 1/3 cup
Egg -1 beaten
Salt & Pepper to taste
Olive oil for cooking
Melted butter for greasing sheets
Egg white for brushing
- Cook chopped spinach over low medium heat until leaves have wilted. Cool and drain well. Squeeze tightly to remove excess water. This step is very important because moisture in spinach turns phyllo dough soggy. Keep aside.
- Heat some olive oil in a pan over medium heat and saute onions until it turns transparent.
- Add green onions and saute for 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and allow it to cool.
- Add drained spinach to the above mixture and mix well.
- Add parsley, dill, nutmeg, Italian seasoning, chives, oregano, Parmesan, feta, ricotta and mix well.
- Add beaten egg followed by salt and pepper. Do not add too much salt as feta cheese is salty. Mix thoroughly.
- Preheat oven to 350 F(180 C).
- Grease baking tray.
- Work with three sheets of pastry at a time covering the rest with a damp tea towel.
- Brush each sheet with melted butter and lay them on top of each other. Continue this process until a stack of 3 sheets are formed.
- Cut into half length ways.
- Spoon a portion of the filling at an angle at the right end of each strip and fold the right end towards the left enclosing the filling to form a triangle.
- Continue folding the triangle until the end of pastry is reached.
- Brush the outer surface of the pastry with egg white.
- Place the triangles on a greased baking tray and bake for about 25-30 minutes or until golden brown.
- Serve warm.
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