A Greek god of a pie, spanakopita (σπανακόπιτα) makes a stunning centrepiece to a big summer meal. It’s delicious hot or cold, vegetarian friendly and fairly cheap to put together. My recipe is based closely upon one in a book by Claudia Roden, who in turn credits it to an Athenian cookery writer, June Marinos. You can use the spinach & feta mixture to fill filo triangles, which make lovely canapés.
1 onion, finely chopped
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil + 6 more if using it to brush the pastry
4 tbsp dill or parsley (I use both), finely chopped
300g feta cheese
2 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated
Large pinch of nutmeg
250g filo pastry
125g melted butter (optional)
You will also need an oven-proof dish or baking tin in which to assembly the pie. I use the pyrex dish measuring 22 x 22 x 6 cm, but something larger and shallower is also fine.
Wash the spinach in cold water, then transfer in handfuls to a large pan, shaking the water off as you go. Cook, covered, until all the spinach has wilted. Drain in a colander.
When the spinach has cooled a bit, squeeze out the excess water, then chop roughly.
In a large saucepan gently fry the onion and spring onions in 2 tbsp of the oil. Add the spinach, herbs, pepper and nutmeg (no need for salt because feta is very salty) and stir until the spinach liquid has evaporated. Allow to cool.
Preheat the oven to 190C / 170 fan.
Beat the eggs lightly in a bow. Add the feta cheese, mashed with a fork, the parmesan and the spinach mixture (drained of any juice). Brush your baking tin with oil or melted butter. Place half the sheets of filo at the bottom, one on top of another. Brush each sheet with oil or melted butter (I use a mixture) and let the edges come up the sides of the tin. Spread the filling evenly on top, fold over the edges of the filo dough and cover with the remaining filo, tucking the edges down the sides or folding over on top. Brush each sheet – and the top one generously – with oil or melted butter. Cut the pie into squares with a sharp knife, but do not cut through to the bottom or the filling will leak out.
Bake for about 1 hour or until the pie is crisp, golden and puffed up. Cut the squares right through to the bottom and serve.