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How to make the perfect spanakopita

This filo pie is a Greek classic, and while you’ll often find feta inside, spinach is the real star.

Published 18 Jul 2021, 00:15 BST
Spanakopita is often eaten as a light meal or snack, but can also be part of ...

Spanakopita is often eaten as a light meal or snack, but can also be part of a larger meal or mezze. This might include a village salad, tzatziki, meat dishes and vegetables braised in tomato. Even the simplest of Greek meals tend to be accompanied by salad, olives and dips.

Photograph by Stockford Images

What is Spanakopita?

‘Spanakopita’ literally means ‘spinach pie’. While in the UK the word ‘pitta’ (or ‘pita’) is mostly associated with bread, in Greece and Cyprus its use as a suffix indicates a pie or a dish wrapped in pastry. You can find all sorts of pitta, from kolokythopita (squash pie) and hortopita (wild greens pie) to milopita (apple pie).

Which pastry should you use?

If using shop-bought filo pastry, keep the sheets wrapped in a slightly damp tea towel while assembling the spanakopita. This stops them from drying out and crisping up; they should be soft and pliable. You can also make a more rustic filo, using oil, flour and water, which is less delicate than commercial versions.

Alternative fillings to try 

Traditional spanakopita uses just spinach, leeks and dill, but cheeses such as feta or kefalotyri are also often added. To extract moisture from the spinach and avoid sogginess, salt it and leave in a colander before squeezing out by hand. It tastes fresher than if you wilt the spinach first, as it’s not being cooked twice.

How to serve and enjoy 

Resting time is important with Greek food. Meals are rarely served piping hot — perhaps due to the weather or because ovens used to be communal, so food would cool as it was carried home after cooking. In any case, pies benefit from resting. Once cooked, don’t cut the spanakopita for at least 30 minutes.

Spanakopita is often eaten as a light meal or snack, but can also be part of a larger meal or mezze. This might include village salad (tomatoes, cucumbers and olives), tzatziki, and meat dishes and vegetables braised in tomato. Even the simplest of Greek meals tend to be accompanied by salad, olives and dips.

Georgina Hayden is author of the cookbooks Stirring Slowly (£25, Square Peg) and Taverna (£25, Square Peg).

Published in Issue 12 (summer 2021) of National Geographic Traveller Food

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