I came upon this recipe in Rick Stein’s frankly excellent Mediterranean Escapes book and decided to give it a go. I was looking for something a bit lighter for supper this week, and had an excellent beer in mind to accompany. Spanokopita are basically Greek cheese and spinach pastries, and super-tasty ones at that. I’ve been meaning to make some at home since trying them in thier place of birth, Skopelos, a couple of years ago. I’m an avid carnivore, so something with no meat in it has to be seriously special to get a look in at The Good Stuff Kitchen. The recipe is essentially the same, although I have included a dipping sauce that livens up things a little, and also taken a little inspiration from Elizabeth David’s version from her nigh-on essential Book of Mediterranean Cookery.
Spanokopita (makes about 6)
You will need:
Spinach, washed and shredded, a good panful.
A tbspn of Olive Oil
One Small Onion, finely chopped
100g Feta Cheese
50g Gruyere Cheese
10g Parmesan Cheese
Black Pepper & Mint for seasoning
About 2 Sheets of Filo Pastry (I bought the frozen stuff – works perfectly fine)
100g Melted Butter
1. Heat your Oven to about 180c.
2. Wash and slice your Spinach into strips.
3. Gently colour the onion in the olive oil, then add the spinach. Let the Spinach wilt, then take off the heat to cool. You may need to press out any excess water the spinach may produce at this stage.
4. While the veg are cooling, make the filling. Into a large Bowl, crumble the Feta, grate the Gruyere and add the Parmesan, along with the pepper and mint. Add the egg to and stir to bind.
5. Add the Spinach and onion once cooled.
6. Now you can make the parcels however you like; I used the triangle patty method, although the choice is yours. Use melted butter to seal the corners/edges, and make as many as you need. Place on a greased baking tray, and wash the tops of the patties liberally with the melted butter.
7. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes before turning over, butter-washing and then baking the underside. You may need to turn them a few times, washing with butter each time, until they are golden brown.
I think that the ones I had in Skopelos were actually deep fried, so the butter-washing kind of substitutes that. Just make sure they don’t burn.
Tomato and Chilli Dipping Sauce
Into a blender place 4 chopped, large tomatoes, 3 gloves of garlic, and one whole chilli pepper (seeded if you like). Blend into a smooth paste. In a pan, heat a good tbspn of Olive Oil, and add the sauce. Stir in a good helping of tomato puree. Stir. Season with black pepper and plenty of Oregano. Simmer for as long as you like; I reduced for about half an hour and the results were great; a thick, fiery sauce that lifts the creamy, salty cheese filling of the Spanokopita.
…And To Drink….?
In Skopelos I washed these down with local white wine, as there wasnt any beer available apart from the usual fizz. But here I wanted something crisp to cut through the intense dipping sauce and creamy cheese, but also provide a complexity of its own. I opted for Weihenstephaner Kristallweissbier; a wiessbier in name but a really light, clear one at that. Chilled down it is really refreshing, but gives you all that good, yeasty taste you would expect from a Weizen without overpowering your snack.