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A Very, Very Good Spinach and Feta Pie: Spanakopita

by Georgina Hayden from Taverna: Recipes From a Cypriot Kitchen

Discover the secret to the perfect authentic spinach and feta filo pie, or spanakopita, with Georgie Hayden's recipe, passed down from her grandmother.

From the book

Georgina Hayden

Introduction

On a recent trip to my yiayia Martha’s house I ate what can only be described as a life-changing spanakopita. That is a big claim, I’m aware, but I’ve eaten a lot of average and insipid spinach pies. I quizzed her and she said the key is not to wilt the greens first, as most people do, but to salt them to extract the moisture. This removes the water, but keeps the flavour – and you won’t need to use kilos and kilos of spinach. I urge you to try it.

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Ingredients

800g spinach
6 spring onions
1 leek
1 tbsp flaky sea salt
2 large eggs
200g feta
250g fresh anari or ricotta
80g rocket
½ tsp ground white pepper nutmeg
1 bunch of dill
olive oil
270g filo

Essential kit

You will need: a large mixing bowl and a a 25cm×30cm roasting tray.

Method

You’ll need a very large mixing bowl for this. Wash the spinach well. If using larger leaves, my yiayia says it needs to be washed at least three times to remove the dirt. Trim away any large stalks. Trim and finely slice the spring onions and leek. Rinse them in a colander to get rid of any dirt. Toss the spinach with the sliced veg (if your colander isn’t large enough, do this in two stages). Sprinkle over the sea salt (or half of it if you are doing this in stages) and toss it in. Leave in the sink. After 15 minutes, use your hands to really scrunch the leaves, onions and leeks together, squeezing out the moisture. Be sure to really get stuck in and use your hands here, a spoon won’t achieve the same thing. Once you have scrunched all the leaves, transfer them to your large mixing bowl, and repeat with the remaining ingredients if you are doing it in batches.

Preheat your oven to 190°C/gas mark 5. When the spinach is ready, whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Crumble in the feta and fresh anari or ricotta (draining away any excess liquid from the ricotta) into the bowl. Add the rocket, ground white pepper and finely grate in a generous amount of nutmeg. Finely chop the dill, stalks and all, and mix it in.

Drizzle a little olive oil into a 25cm×30cm roasting tray and, using a pastry brush, evenly coat the tray. Lay out enough filo to cover the base and drape over the sides, then drizzle with olive oil and brush it all over. Repeat until you have used half the filo; it should be around 3–4 (this will depend on the brand you use) layers thick. Spoon the spinach filling into the tray, spreading it out evenly, then top with the remaining filo so it is also around 4 layers thick, brushing each layer with olive oil as you go. Scrunch the overhanging filo around the edge of the pie and brush with olive oil. Gently score the top of the pie into 8–12 pieces, being careful not to cut all the way through. Place the tray in the oven, and bake for around 45 minutes, until golden all over, then remove and leave to rest for at least 30 minutes before serving.

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From the book: Taverna: Recipes From a Cypriot Kitchen

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