Already the second week of February and the year seems to be picking up speed. Suddenly there is so much to be done, plans being made, deadlines to meet and the calendar is filling up. I’m always excited for new adventures and am really looking forward to sharing them here. Sometimes though, I need a little grounding and when that’s the case I always turn to the kitchen where I can potter quietly, making comfort food, playing with pastry, surrounded by familiar and comforting tastes and smells. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know I really enjoy baking and the recipe I have for you today is an all time favourite.
Spinach and Ricotta Quiche, an Antipodean variation of the Greek dish Spanakopita is a true cafe classic here in Australia and for very good reason. It is rich and filling, while remaining light, vegetarian friendly and suitable for lunch or a lighter dinner. A quiche like this is a great recipe to have in your collection as, once you have a grip of the basic elements, you can swap out ingredients depending on your tastes and what you have in the store cupboard or fridge.
I think people have a tendency to avoid using filo pastry at home in the mistaken idea that it is overly fiddly or complicated – funnily enough, I think it is one of the most forgiving pastries to work with and the many folded layers always look spectacular and taste crunchily fantastic. Filo is available now in most decently stocked supermarkets, as well as Greek or Turkish grocers – in Turkish shops you’ll find it called Yufka pastry. It keeps well in the fridge as long as it is well sealed and is really useful for all sorts of meals – I’m going to be working with it a bit in future so watch this space for more recipes. I find it easiest to work with fresh filo, but if frozen is all you can get ahold of, you just need to defrost it fully in the fridge before using, then continue with the recipe as stated.
Just a quick note, this recipe may look a bit involved, but it’s really very simple – I know this will be the first time using filo for many of you so I’m hand holding a bit – you’ll be an expert in no time, I promise x J
Let me know if you try this recipe in the comments below, or using the hashtag #daysofjay on Instagram. Happy cooking!
Spinach & Ricotta Quiche
for the filling:
- 200 g baby spinach leaves
- 4 spring onions
- 4 sprigs of fresh dill
- 400 g ricotta cheese
- 200 g sour cream
- 100 g feta cheese
- 4 large eggs
- zest of 1 lemon
- ½ tsp nutmeg
- ½-1 tsp sea salt
- freshly ground black pepper
- 6 sheets filo pastry
- 50 g butter
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 tsp sesame seeds
- Heat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Grease the sides and line the base of a 24cm round springform cake tin with baking paper and set aside. Remove the filo from the fridge and allow to warm on the bench top (still in the package) while you prepare the filling.
- Rinse the spinach leaves and place in a large heatproof bowl. Boil a full kettle of water, then pour the hot water over the leaves. Stir and allow to sit for one minutes, then drain and cool under running water. When the leaves are cool enough to handle, use your hands to tightly squeeze all of the liquid out - you’ll end up with a small, bright green lump of tightly packed spinach. Use a large, sharp knife to cut the spinach finely.
- Finely slice the spring onions and the dill, then put the spinach, spring onions, and dill into a large mixing bowl (the one you used before, dried, will be fine) with the ricotta, sour cream and the crumbled feta. In a small bowl, lightly whisk the eggs with the lemon zest, nutmeg, salt and pepper, then add to the larger bowl, using a wooden spoon to mix until well combined.
- In a small saucepan, melt together the butter and olive oil, then turn off the heat and set aside. Remove 6 large sheets of filo from the packet, sealing the packet carefully and returning any remainder to the fridge. Lay the pile of filo flat on a work surface, drizzle the top sheet with 1 tablespoon of the melted butter, then brush it evenly over the whole layer - it doesn’t have to be perfect and I often just use my hands to gently spread the butter across. Carefully lift the sheet into the prepared tin, lifting it so that it is sitting flush into the corners - try not to push and tear the filo but don’t panic if it has a little rip. Leave the edges of the filo overhanging the sides of the tin.
- Repeat with the remaining 5 sheets, buttering each in turn, and rotating the tin a little clockwise as you lay each sheet in to make sure the rectangular sheets evenly cover the edges of the round tin. When all of the filo has been layered into the tin, give the spinach and ricotta mixture a stir, then pour it carefully on top. Bring the edges of the filo into the sides of the tin, scrunching them up to make a border (see photos).
- Drizzle the scrunched filo with any remaining butter, sprinkle over the sesame seeds, then bake in the preheated oven for 45 to 55 minutes or until the filling is puffed and golden, and the filo is a lovely light brown. Ovens do vary, so compare how it looks to the cooked picture below - if you give the pan a little shake it should have a slight jiggle, but not be at all sloppy.
- Allow to cool in the tin for 10-15 minutes before carefully loosening the spring form. The quiche can be eaten hot straight away, but will be much easier to slice and serve if you allow it to cool for another 15 minutes or so. As this is a Greek inspired dish, serve with a nice, crunchy Greek salad. If you have any leftovers, this is lovely reheated in a low oven, covered gently with some tin foil.
TIPS & TRICKS:
I use baby spinach leaves in this recipe but it can be swapped out for similar leafy greens, silverbeet or chard makes an excellent substitute. There is no need to cook it separately, blanching with boiling water plus the cooking time in the oven is more than enough to cook it through.
After you have used filo pastry a few times you’ll find it quick and easy to work with. While you are unsure, it is a good idea to keep the pile of filo sheets under a damp tea towel while you are fitting the buttered one into the pan, this stops it from drying out.