Spinach and Cheese open pita

Spinach and Cheese open pita

Spinach and cheese open pita

The spinach and cheese open pita (spanakopita in Greek) is easy to put together and it has a wow factor about it. Typically when making any Greek pita (pie) the filling is either placed between the phyllo layers or it is rolled inside and then shaped as a snail. In this case for the spinach and cheese open pita, the filling is fanned inside the phyllo and ends up exposed.

The spinach used

I’ve tried different types of spinach to add to the filling and in the end I just chose what was most convenient. Spinach is grown in the ground and as a leafy green it gets a lot of soil within the fresh bunch. Hence I use frozen spinach or baby spinach leaves, which are not as hard to wash out the soil for this spinach and cheese open pita recipe.

The cheeses used

Typically when I make spanakopita I use a variety of cheeses to get a depth of flavours as well as try to balance the saltiness of others. Feta is quite a salty cheese (traditionally made from goat’s milk) so I add ricotta to balance it out and add a bit of creaminess to the filling. Another Greek cheese I use is graviera, but it can be substituted for parmesan if you can’t find it. Both are salty but they give this spinach and cheese open pita an intense and nutty kind of flavour. The best way to get all of them is an international deli, where they will weigh them up and give you the exact quantities you need.

The phyllo pastry used

For the phyllo I used a premade pack, Antoniou phyllo, as it is a lot more convenient and quicker than rolling your own phyllo. If you have never worked with phyllo before please take note of the following:

1. Phyllo needs a minimum of 2 hours to thaw in its own pack before you can use it. That way it will be easier to work with.

2. Phyllo dries up quite quickly, so as you are assembling the pita you need to have the stack you are not using covered with a damp cloth. And then work through the phyllo as quickly as you can.

3. Each time a sheet of phyllo comes into contact with another you need to ensure it is brushed with oil/butter so it doesn’t dry out and so that it cooks properly.

Assembly process – RECTANGULAR OR SPIRAL

I have made this spinach and cheese open pita using a large round baking dish or a rectangular dish. So I have written two different recipe cards based on the baking dishes you might have at home too and you can adjust the amount of phyllo/filling you use accordingly. The process of forming the filled phyllo fan is the same in both it is only the way you position them in the dish that differs.

The egg/milk wash that is poured over, in the end, is done so to add moisture and ensure the spinach doesn’t burn as much. If you do not add that then the spinach and cheese open pita will turn out dry.

Spinach and cheese open pita – rectangular baking dish

Prep Time

40 mins

Cook Time

35 mins

Thawing time

2 hrs

Servings: 10 people

Ingredients

Filling

• 250 g frozen spinach, thawed, 1 cup or use fresh spinach see notes1

• 150 g goat feta, 3/4 cup loosely packed when crumbled

• 100 g ricotta, ½ cup

• 50 g parmesan cheese shredded or graviera, ½ cup

• 120 g greek yoghurt, ½ cup

• 1 spring/green onion, chopped

• 1 tsp dry mint

• 1 egg

• ¼ tsp black pepper

• ½ tsp salt

Assembly

• 12 phyllo sheets, thawed

• 50 g salted butter

• 2 tbs olive oil

• ¼ cup milk

• 1 egg

Instructions

1. Thaw the phyllo by taking it out of the fridge and letting it come to room temperature in its pack for at least 2 hours and if you are using frozen spinach then thaw that as well (see note 2). Otherwise please read note 1 on how to prepare fresh spinach. When you are ready to assemble the pita preheat the oven to 170°C.

2. To prepare the filling simply smash the feta and ricotta in a bowl. Squeeze out the liquid from the spinach with your hands, use kitchen scissors or a knife to roughly cut it into smaller chunks and then add it to the bowl. Continue by adding the rest of the filling ingredients and mix everything with a spoon until well combined and set aside.

3. Melt the butter and then stir in the olive oil. Place the phyllo sheets you need under a damp cloth and return the rest of the phyllo wrapped well in the plastic and then its container, back in the fridge.

4. Line the baking dish with baking paper or brush it with butter well around all the sides. I used a large rectangular-shaped dish with a 26cm width and 33cm length. I chose that size baking dish as the phyllo was able to fit perfectly along its width and I didn’t need to add any more on the sides.

5. Get one phyllo sheet and place it in front of you along its length (see photos above for clarity). Then brush all the edges well with the oil/butter mixture and then the inside. Add another phyllo on top and repeat the brushing.

6. The filling will be split six times to create 6 separate spinach and cheese filled fans. So get 1/6 of the filling and place it randomly on the phyllo sheets. Use the back of the spoon to smear the filling on the phyllo so it can spread a bit more. Then use your two thumbs to push the phyllo upwards hence creating a fan shape. Place the fan along the width of the rectangular dish and repeat the process until all the filling and phyllo pastry are finished. In the end you should have 6 filled fans joined next to each other in the baking dish.

7. Brush the phyllo on top with the remaining oil/butter, whisk the egg and milk together and pour it all over the phyllo. Place it in the oven for 35min or until golden brown.

Recipe Notes

1. To use fresh spinach wash and sauté 300g of baby spinach leaves with a little olive oil, cook until they just slightly wilted. Then once it cools down squeeze the excess liquid and continue as per instructions above.

2. The spinach I typically use was from the frozen aisle of Aldi and it is less than $1 for a 250g pack. I also used a separate brand from Woolworths (Bell farms brand) but it was prepared very fine, almost blended. There were heaps more liquid released and actually 2 packs (500g) of the Woolworths (Bell farms brand) ended up being a bit less than a cup. Unlike the Aldi brand which I got 1 cup worth of spinach from just 1 pack 250g.

Spinach and cheese open pita – round baking dish

Prep Time

50 mins

Cook Time

40 mins

Thawing time

2 hrs

Ingredients

Filling

• 500 g frozen spinach, thawed, 2 cups

• 300 g goat feta, 1 ½ cups loosely packed when crumbled

• 200 g ricotta, 1 cup

• 100 g parmesan cheese, shredded, 1 cup

• 240 g Greek yoghurt, 1 cup

• 2 spring onions, chopped

• 2 tsp dry mint

• 2 eggs

• ½ tsp black pepper

• 1 tsp salt

Assembly

• 1 whole pack of pre-made phyllo sheets, 20 phyllo sheets, 375g

• 100 g salted butter

• 4 tbs olive oil

• ½ cup milk

• 2 eggs

Instructions

1. Thaw the phyllo by taking it out of the fridge and letting it come to room temperature in its pack for at least 2 hours and if you are using frozen spinach then thaw that as well (see note 2). Otherwise please read note 1 on how to prepare fresh spinach. When you are ready to assemble the pita preheat the oven to 170°C.

2. To prepare the filling simply smash the feta and ricotta in a bowl. Squeeze out the liquid from the spinach with your hands, use kitchen scissors or a knife to roughly cut it into smaller chunks and then add it to the bowl. Continue by adding the rest of the filling ingredients and mix everything with a spoon until well combined and set aside.

3. Melt the butter and then stir in the olive oil. Place the phyllo sheets you need under a damp cloth and return the rest of the phyllo wrapped well in the plastic and then its container, back in the fridge.

4. Line the baking dish with baking paper or brush it with butter well around all the sides. I used a large round-shaped dish with a 38cm diameter.

5. Get one phyllo sheet and place it in front of you along its length (see photos above for clarity). Then brush all the edges well with the oil/butter mixture and then the inside. Add another phyllo on top and repeat the brushing.

6. The filling will be split 10 times to create 10 separate spinach and cheese filled fans. So get 1/10 of the filling (just over ½ a cup and place it randomly on the phyllo sheets. Use the back of the spoon to smear the filling on the phyllo so it can spread a bit more. Then use your two thumbs to push the phyllo upwards hence creating a fan shape (see photos above for clarity).

7. Curl the first fan into a circle in the middle of the dish and then continue the process above until all phyllo and filling are used up. As you finish making each fan you will need to keep working from the middle to the edges, placing each fan curled against the one made previously. In the end you should have 10 fans in the baking dish. If a single phyllo sheet is left on its own, then just add 3 phyllo sheets to make the last fan instead of two.

8. Brush the phyllo on top with the remaining oil/butter, whisk the egg and milk together and pour it all over the phyllo. Place it in the oven for 40min or until golden brown.

9. Please note that for this recipe card the filling is doubled but there are a few less phyllo sheets used in comparison to the one using a rectangular dish above. So this will end up fuller.

Recipe Notes

1. To use fresh spinach wash and sauté 600g of baby spinach leaves with a little with of olive oil. Cook until they just slightly wilted. Then once it cools down squeeze the excess liquid and continue as per instructions above.

2. The spinach I typically use was from the frozen aisle of Aldi and it is less than $1 for a 250g pack. I also used a separate brand from Woolworths (Bell farms brand) but it was prepared very fine, almost blended. There were heaps more liquid released and actually 2 packs (500g) of the Woolworths (Bell farms brand) ended up being a bit less than a cup. Unlike the Aldi brand which I got 1 cup worth of spinach from just 1 pack 250g.

3. I used a smaller round springform pan of 26cm once and I only managed to get 4 filled spinach and cheese fans (8 phyllo sheets in total). So you may want to adjust the measurements above to suit a smaller pan, if you don’t have a larger one.

 

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