Spinach and leek Spanakopita
Gathering to eat is one of life’s greatest joys, be it simple food or resplendent feasts. This spinach and leek spanakoita facilitates communal eating and demands to be shared. The recipe is from West Coast Wander, authored and photographed by the talented Georgia East, creator of the beautiful East After Noon blog. It’s epically good, every buttery morsel worth it’s flaked deliciousness. The book pays homage to the food, places and people of South Africa’s West Coast. With its unblemished chalky beaches and turquoise-painted waters, it offers tranquil respite and a reassuring calm that manages to still the noise. Georgia does a stellar job of merging the food from this area with Mediterranean classics. As you meander along with our heavily invested host, I think you’ll agree that the towns dotted along this unspoilt coastline holds a unique charm. There are many recipes I want to cook. Spanakopita is the first.
When I make something special, there’s a compulsion to share. It happened here too. On the day of baking the spanakopita, we were invited to supper at the neighbours, a couple of doors up. As with most people who cook, arriving anywhere empty handed is unnatural, so I take food. Always. Often it’s dessert, sometimes an interesting bread, or something savoury to nibble on with drinks. On this particular evening, we decided to walk, Darren balancing a weighty black rice salad in one hand, a bottle of chilled Chenin in the other. I trailed behind with the spanakopita, accompanying tzatziki and a coriander dressing for said salad. The spectacle attracted curious looks from home-bound commuters, some hollering out the window for a sample of the gloriously golden Greek affair.
Needless to say, the spanakopita was everyone’s favourite at dinner. It’s not hard to see why. Who can resist a splintery sesame-specked filo? It helps that the spinach and potato filling is salted with creamy feta. The recipe calls for 800g spinach, but as it turned out, I’d only bought half the amount. Determined to make it immediately, I made up the lacking weight with leeks. Not out of rebellion, just necessity. It mimics the flavours of leek and potato soup which can’t be anything but fabulous. I’ve tweaked Georgia’s original Spanakopita with sorrel and potato recipe slightly to suit what was on hand. It still delivered.
Spanakopita is very accommodating, yielding easily to both parcel-folding or rolling. Georgia’s triangular pastries make for easy eating. I felt like scrolling but do as you think best. If you have a potato lover in your family – I have three – this recipe is going to buckle their knees!
Spinach and leek spanakopita
- 4 medium potatoes, peeled
- olive oil, for frying
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 4 medium leeks, well rinsed and sliced into penny rounds
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 400g young spinach, rinsed
- 5ml (1 teaspoon) nutmeg
- 6 stalks fresh sorrel (or zest of 1 lemon, as I did)
- 150g Danish feta, crumbled
- 9 sheets filo pastry
- 125g butter, melted
- salt and freshly ground black pepper
- black and white sesame seeds, for finishing
- Tzatziki, to serve
- Preheat the oven to 200º C.
- Place the potatoes in a deep saucepan. Cover with cold water and cook until fork tender. Drain, then set aside to cool. Dice relatively small.
- Heat 20ml olive oil in a wide saucepan and sauté the onion and leeks on a medium heat until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the spinach allow to wilt down. Ensure all the water is evaporated. Add the nutmeg and lemon zest, then season lightly with salt and black pepper.
- Scrape the spinach mixture into a sieve or fine colander to drain off any excess liquid. Add the potatoes and feta and mix through gently.
- Lay 3 sheets of filo on a counter, lengthways, overlapping 3cm at each join. The total length of your pastry should measure 1.3 m or there-about. Brush with melted butter, then lay another 3 sheets on top in the same fashion. Repeat once more so that you have three layers.
- Heap the spinach filling along the bottom edge of the pastry leaving a border of 3cm. Fold over the 3cm edge, then roll up firmly to the opposite, top edge. Starting on the left, roll the pasty into a scroll. Tuck the loose end underneath. Transfer the scroll to a lined baking sheet. Brush the top and sides with butter and scatter over the sesame seeds. Bake for 50-55 minutes until golden and crisp.
- Cool slightly before slicing. Serve with Tzatziki or a minted herb chutney.
You can find the recipe for my Zucchini Tzatziki here.
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