Spinach and feta filo pie

Travelling always has an influence on what I’m cooking. It’s inevitable really – you go on holiday, have fabulous meals in fabulous sunny places and want to recreate some of those good memories back home. After visiting Tresco, I craved fresh crab – a tricky thing to source in London. When my Mum came home from two weeks in Italy we were treated to lemony pasta dishes and affogato. My biggest influence this summer was going to the Greek island of Symi and eating daily spanakopita (spinach and feta filo pie) on the beach for lunch. Picked up from the harbour bakery before hopping on the boat in the morning, my sister and I carefully guarded it until lunchtime – even fending off goats sniffing around our sun loungers on one beach! It made the perfect lunch in the sunshine once you were ravenous from a morning of swimming. Once home, I knew this was a dish I wanted to continue having.

Spinach and feta filo pie

Spanakopita is a very simple filo pie stuffed with spinach, feta and a sprinkling of nutmeg. The ones I ate in Symi were individually coiled into swirls like a pain au chocolat, giving a delicious contrast between crispy outsides and buttery soft centres. I kept it simple when recreating this at home and made one big pie. Of course, eating it in London in October doesn’t have quite the same charm as on a beach in August. However, even though my tan has faded and my summer clothes are folded away, this can transport me temporarily back to Symi beaches.

Spinach and feta filo pie

  • 150g butter
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 200g spinach leaves
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100g feta
  • pack of filo pastry

Preheat the oven to 180’C.

Melt 50g of the butter in a medium saucepan. Finely dice the onion and add to the pan. Cook over a medium pan for 10 minutes until golden and completely soft. Crush the garlic into the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Add the spinach, stir into the onion and cover with a lid. Cook for five minutes until the spinach is wilted down. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Grate in the nutmeg and crumble in the feta. Add the beaten eggs and stir so everything is fully combined.

Melt the remaining 100g butter in a small saucepan. Take a sheet of the filo and brush liberally with butter. Lay butter side down into a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and up the sides. Repeat with 3-4 sheets of filo, buttering each one, until the tin is fully covered and there is an even layer. Scrape in the spinach filling. Butter more filo sheets and lay over the top, encasing the filling. Brush the top with butter.

Bake in the oven for 30minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Giant veggie samosas

Being a Cambridge student leads to a lot of questions when I get home. ‘Is everyone incredibly posh? Do you know anybody related to a Lord or Earl? Did everyone go to Eton?’ My answer to all these is, perhaps disappointingly, no. I found myself getting slightly swept up in the Cambridge bubble though when I exclaimed in Cambridge, ‘Oh, this Sainsbury’s doesn’t have any filo!’ Happily, my very #firstworldproblem must have been heard by the Sainsbury’s gods as a few weeks later there it was alongside the puff and shortcrust.

Giant veggie samosas

My initial plan had been for a spinach and filo pie, but that had long been made at home and gone by the time this filo was found. Samosas were the main result of a brief ‘filo recipe’ Google, but I was sceptical that with my highly limited store cupboard ingredients they would turn out bland. Luckily, I gave them a go anyway and I was so pleasantly surprised! It turns out a generous hand with the curry powder can bypass the myriad range of spices and herbs that would normally provide some complexity of flavour. These proved highly therapeutic to make due to the repetitive buttering and folding of pastry, and highly addictive to eat!

Giant veggie samosas

Makes 6

  • 1 onion
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 100g butternut squash, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 large handfuls of spinach
  • 2 handfuls of peas
  • 1 heaped tbsp. of medium curry powder
  • 75g butter
  • 1 packet filo pastry
  • nigella seeds, for sprinkling

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a drizzle of oil until soft. Add the sweet potato and butternut squash and cook until cooked through, adding a splash of water to stop them sticking and stirring regularly, around 10-15min. Add the remaining veg and curry powder and cook until the peas are cooked through and the spinach wilted. Leave to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Melt the butter in a mug in the microwave. Unroll the filo, keeping the pastry you are not working with covered to prevent it drying out. Take one sheet of filo, lay it flat and brush with melted butter. Fold in one third of the pastry lengthways towards the middle. Brush again with the butter and fold in the other side to make a long triple-layered strip.

Place one tablespoon of the filling mixture at one end of the strip, leaving a 2cm/1in border. Take the right corner and fold diagonally to the left, enclosing the filling and forming a triangle. Next, fold again along the upper crease of the triangle. Keep folding in this way until you reach the end of the strip. Finally, brush the samosa with more butter, sprinkle with nigella seeds and place onto a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the pastry and filling. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the samosas are golden and crisp,