Chef Andrea Maunder's Delicious Spanakopita Recipe Will Impress Your Dinner Guests
Small Plates for Entertaining
By Andrea Maunder 2017-01-10
Andrea Maunder is the chef at Bacalao restaurant in St. John's, N.L.
Spanakopita is a delicious, layered, golden combination of phyllo pastry and a filling made from sautéed greens mixed with cheese.
There are a few tricks to working with phyllo. It tends to dry out, so it helps to cover it with a barely-dampened tea towel while you are working with it. Pre-cutting it to fit the pan you are using makes assembly quick and painless. Once the dish is assembled, it works best to pre-cut the portions in the casserole dish before baking, as the crisp, baked pastry tends to flake and break when cut. You will need a small, sharp knife to cut down through the pastry and filling layers. You will also need a pastry brush for this recipe.
This recipe makes a 9”x13” pan of spanakopita, which makes 36 hors d’oeuvre-sized portions.
I like to use kale, chard or turnip greens as well as a little spinach in my spanakopita, as I like the heartier greens and the nutrition they provide (especially wonderful in the times of year when we can get local greens!). Mix and match to your taste and preference. I also enjoy mixing up the cheese; feta is delicious, but I have used a combination of other cheeses I have had on hand. Again, mix and match to your preference.
- 1 package of phyllo pastry, thawed
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Pinch of chili flakes
- 1/2 tsp each ground cumin and coriander
- 1/4 tsp ground allspice
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried mint
- 2 lbs fresh greens – such as kale, spinach, turnip tops or chard – cleaned, chopped finely, hard stems discarded
- Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
- 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
- 8 ozs feta cheese
- 1-2 tbsp lemon juice, or to taste
- 1/2 cup butter melted with 1/4 cup olive oil – for brushing pastry
First make the filling: Sauté the onion in 2 tbsp oil in a large fry pan (nonstick is great) over medium-high heat for a few minutes. Add garlic and other herbs and spices. Fry a few minutes more. Add greens, season with pepper and lightly salt. Remember that you are adding feta cheese, which is salty, so go sparingly with salt first and adjust later. Stir occasionally and cook the greens until tender, allowing the extra moisture to evaporate. This will take 8-10 minutes.
Remove from heat and transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add breadcrumbs, feta and lemon juice. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside to cool. It doesn’t need to be cold, just not too hot to melt the pastry as you assemble the spanakopita.
Melt butter and olive oil together in a microwave safe container.
Preparing the phyllo pastry
Unwrap the phyllo and spread it out on a clean counter. Cover with a tea towel as you work.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
You will need 20 sheets of pastry. Using the pan as a guide, cut the phyllo to fit with a sharp knife. Dip a pastry brush into the melted butter-oil mixture. Brush the bottom and sides of the pan and lay in the first sheet. Brush this lightly with butter-oil and lay another pastry sheet on top. Repeat until you have 8 sheets layered.
Put it all together
Add in half of the filling mixture. Lay down another sheet, brush and repeat until you have 5 sheets. Then add in the remaining filling. Lay down another sheet, brush and continue until you have 7 sheets on top. Brush top liberally with butter-oil.
With a small sharp knife, cut through the spanakopita. Cut 6 columns across and 3 down, making 18 squares, then slice each square
diagonally into 2 triangles, making 36 triangles.
Bake at 350°F for 20-30 minutes until golden. Let cool and set a couple of minutes, then re-cut to loosen portions with a sharp knife before lifting out with a spatula. They’re delicious with a little tzatziki.
You can also make individual appetizer-sized spanakopitas in cigar shapes. Lay out a sheet of phyllo on a cutting board in landscape presentation. (Long sides top and bottom, short sides on right and left sides. You will have a rectangular shape in front of you measuring about 18 inches wide by 14 inches high. Don’t worry if your phyllo is slightly larger or smaller.) With a sharp knife, cut phyllo sheet in half down the middle, from top to bottom (vertically). You will now have two halves about 9” wide by 14” high. Cut each half vertically again to create four even columns, about 4½” x14” each.
Brush the pastry with butter-oil as above and place a tablespoon of filling towards the bottom edge of the phyllo (closest to you), leaving about a half inch from the bottom edge and 3/4 inches on each side. From the bottom edge closest to you, begin rolling the pastry over the filling from centre and tuck the side edges as you roll. Because of the butter, the pastry will sort of stick to itself.
Continue rolling until you have a cylinder shape. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, seam-side down and re-brush with butter-oil. Repeat with remaining sheets and filling. Leave a little space between spanakopitas for even browning. Prepared as cigars, the same amount of filling will yield about 48 portions. Bake 12-15 minutes until golden.
NOTE: You can freeze the unbaked spanakopitas, either in the casserole dish or the individual cigar-shapes to bake from frozen when you need them. Perfect for entertaining! Add 10 minutes baking time to the casserole and a couple of minutes to the cigars.
My Favourite Tzatziki
- 1/2 cucumber, seeds removed, grated
- 1 cup Greek yogurt
- Zest and juice of one lemon
- 2 cloves garlic, minced finely
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped (or dill, or combination)
- Tiny pinch sugar
- Salt to taste
After grating the cucumber, gently squeeze it in your hands to discard the extra liquid. Mix all ingredients together. Taste and adjust seasonings. If you have time, place in the fridge and let flavours combine for an hour or so. Also delicious with grilled pork, lamb, chicken or fish – or toasted pita bread.