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slice and serve hot or room temperature

It’s taken me years to get around to writing this post, not because this is a particularly difficult or complicated recipe, or something I never make, but because, as I’m sure you all find with dishes you’ve been making for years, it’s never made the same twice! Particularly because I love to use up various greens that I might have lying around, I’m always varying both the ingredients and proportions.

wash greens thoroughly in a sinkful of water

toss greens in a large pan until wilted

My parents used to make some sort of spinach pie when I was a child, but not very often, so I have only vague memories – I think it was made with silverbeet and ricotta, or perhaps cottage cheese? My aunt used to often make a huge tray of spanakopita made (I think) with the traditional spinach, but with cottage cheese, and puff pastry rather than filo.

mix greens and ricotta

mix eggs and parmesan into greens and ricotta

The version pictured here was made largely with beetroot greens, with a few carrot tops chucked in, the greens were steamed rather than sautéed, and the cheese was mostly feta. Other times I make with silverbeet and mostly ricotta, with the silverbeet stalks cooked until caramelised with some onion, and occasionally add turnip or radish leaves. Actually this probably makes it more of a hortopita (wild greens pie) that spanakopita (spinach pie), but delicious either way.

layer fill pastry, brushing oil between each layer

baked spanakopita

Whatever you call it, this is a really flexible recipe – and on that basis it’s worth recording one version at least. The things to remember are to: cook the greens first – they’re too bulky if you try to use raw; you don’t need as much oil on the pastry as a lot of recipes suggest, but do brush at least every second layer; the type of cheese is flexible, but do add a reasonable amount (for this recipe aim for 4-500g total); and while you can get away without them if you have enough cheese, eggs do help to hold everything together, though the number is also flexible.

my favourite spanakopita

My Spanakopita

  • 1 extra large bunch silverbeet/swiss chard (about 750g), or other greens
  • 3 large or 6 small spring onions/shallots, or a medium onion
  • 1 Tbs olive oil (if sautéing)
  • 350g feta or similar
  • 150g ricotta or cottage cheese
  • 50g parmesan (optional)
  • 3-4 eggs
  • 1 bunch dill, and/or fennel or carrot tops
  • 1/2 bunch mint or parsley
  • 1/2 tsp each of salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 packet filo/phyllo pastry
  • extra olive oil for pastry – up to 120ml

Remove the filo from the fridge to come to room temperature, and preheat the oven to 180C.

Wash the greens well, and separate the stalks and leaves. You can steam by putting in a big pot with the water still on the leaves, stalks first then leaves on top and cooking with a lid on until wilted, then drain and cool. Chop the steamed leaves and slice the stalks after cooling.

If sautéing, slice the stalks thinly, and cook gently in the oil with the sliced onion if using. Add the roughly chopped leaves, cover, and cook until wilted. 

Either way, pop the greens in a large bowl with the spring onions (if using), cheeses, eggs, chopped herbs, and salt and pepper. Mix together thoroughly.

Brush a large, approximately 33cm x 23cm, baking dish with oil. Lay eight sheets of filo in the dish, allowing the edges to hang over. Fold in half all but one of the sheets, then brush the exposed half of the bottom sheet with olive oil. Unfold the next half sheet and also brush with oil. Repeat for remaining sheets as pictured above. Once half the dish is all brushed, repeat for the other side. If you prefer you can simply lay one sheet at a time and brush all over, but I find this is quicker and the pastry doesn’t dry out as much.

Tip in the filling, and spread evenly. Fold in the edges of the pastry, and top with another 6-8 layers. I usually find I only need half sheets to cover the top, so only use 3-4 sheets, and fold them in half, brushing the bottom half with oil before folding the top over – similar to doing the bottom layers. Make sure any edges are tucked in and filling is all covered, then bake for about 45 minutes until light golden brown, and a knife in the centre comes out without any milky liquid.

Allow to cool for 20 minutes or so before serving – I actually like this best at close to room temperature – but enjoy however you like. Cold the next day is also good 🙂

Serves 4-6 as a main, but probably 8 for lunches or as part of a larger meal