greek lamb and spinach filo pie
Mon, 17 August, 2020
I’m not entirely sure a lamb, spinach and feta cheese pie in filo pastry wrap is a thing in Greece but the flavours are completely authentic. This is a meaty spanakopita, with leftover roast lamb.
I have said it many times and I’ll say it again: leftovers are better than the original meal. I’m loath to mention the ‘C’ word in the middle of summer, when I’m writing these words, but if it weren’t for a/ gravy and b/ Boxing Day sandwiches with mayo, who would bother with the turkey?
The best thing about a roast
I don’t often have many leftovers; the fewer people you cook for, the more precise the amounts. But a big roast is within the realm of our dinner fare – friends invited round for a meal notwithstanding – only on the proviso of using up leftovers.
What to do with leftover roast?
It’s a time- and worldwide-honoured custom to wrap your leftovers in shortcrust like English pies, or filo – the Greek pita or Spanish pastillas; in pizza dough like the Sicilian scaccia or simply dumping in a pan to fry up into Irish colcannon. It serves the purpose of bulking out the meal but also making it tastier than sad cold remnants – who can resist stuff wrapped in pastry?
And the Greeks have a wonderful way with pies: spanakopita is the best-known vegetarian stalwart, but lamb goes with spinach and feta cheese like a song.
How to shape a Greek lamb pie?
The shape does not matter much but I wanted to make a square pie so I could cut it in squares, like the best things in Greek life: moussaka, pastitsio and baklava. Interestingly, working out how to fold the filo sheets over the filling in a square tin is much more challenging than wrapping up a round pie: long side over short? clockwise like a cardboard box? corners in, envelope style? I packed it in the end like a shoddy parcel but I’m sure a neater way can be easily found.
How to serve a Greek lamb pie?
And it is so, so delicious! A smallish square goes a long way because it has so much going in it: meat and cheese and spinach, eggs and pastry wrapping. If a main course dish, I’d serve it just with a green salad unless very hungry diners will demand roasted potatoes, à la Greek mode. If it’s a snack or a lunchtime fare, it’s best at room temperature.
greek lamb and spinach filo pieServings: 4Time: 1 hour
Rating: (3 reviews)
- 350g (12 oz.) fresh spinach (or frozen, thawed)
- 1 tbsp. pine kernels plus more for sprinkling
- 1 tbsp. sunflower seeds plus more for sprinkling
- 1 onion
- 3 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- ½ tsp ground coriander
- ½ tsp ground cumin
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp smoked paprika
- 1 tsp brown sugar
- 200g (6 oz.) cooked lamb (leftover roast), shredded
- 200g (6 oz.) feta cheese
- 2 eggs
- 3 tbsp. grated Parmesan
- 8 sheets of filo pastry
- 50g (2 tbsp.) butter, melted
- salt and pepper
- red pepper flakes
- grated nutmeg
- 1 tbsp. almond flakes
1. If using fresh spinach, blanch it in boiling water or in the microwave. Squeeze as much moisture as possible and chop it roughly. If using frozen spinach, just squeeze it out.
2. Toast the pine nuts and sunflower seeds in a dry frying pan. Remove and keep aside.
3. Finely dice the onion, peel and chop the garlic.
4. Heat the oil in the same frying pan and add the onion. Cook for 5-7 minutes until softened. Stir in all the spices and sugar while it’s cooking, add the garlic then the shredded lamb. Cook for a couple of minutes to infuse it with flavours and take it off the heat.
5. In a large bowl mash the feta with the eggs. Add the toasted seeds and pine nuts, Parmesan, lamb and onion mixture and the chopped spinach. Mix it all very well.
6. Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas 5. Prepare a square 20 x 20cm dish or a cake tin and brush it with butter.
7. Working quickly so it doesn’t dry, prepare the filo pastry: place a sheet on a chopping board or worktop and brush liberally with the melted butter, sprinkle with salt, pepper, nutmeg and red pepper flakes. Layer the next sheet, brush, sprinkle and repeat with two more. Cover the pastry with a tea towel while it waits and prepare the other stack of four sheets in the same way.
8. Press one stack of filo into the dish with overhang on two sides. Cut the other stack in half crosswise and arrange to line the other two sides, overlapping on the bottom.
9. Spoon the filling onto the pastry evenly and cover with the pastry; shorter sides first and the longer sides on top. Brush the top with remaining butter, sprinkle with the extra sunflower seeds, pine nuts and the almond flakes.
10. Transfer to the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until golden and crispy.
11. Let the pie stand at least 15 minutes before cutting it into squares with a serrated edge. In fact it tastes the best just a little warmer than room temperature. Serve with green salad.