Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Good things come in small (filo) packages?

I was still thinking about green stuff when I read somewhere about spinach with tea-soaked raisins and pine nuts. As ideas sometimes do, it wedged itself in my head and at the next available opportunity I set to exploring this combination which I think is pretty well-known, though I have never heretofore either eaten or made it.

I decided on filo pastry - I suppose I was thinking of spanakopita and how happily spinach and filo get on in that. I made my filling with spinach, tea-soaked raisins (do you really need to soak them?), walnuts (which are more economical than pine nuts), ricotta and egg. I baked them and I sat as they took on a golden crispiness, hopefully anticipating the finished product.

And... well, as I bit into layers of flaky, then chewy pastry, and got a mouthful of slightly bitter spinach, I must admit to feeling a little deflated. What makes spinach go bitter? How do I get it less so?

However, I'd made a batch so I took one to work as part of my current drive to take packed lunches as often as possible. And, happily, it surprised me by being much better cold. Easy to eat, filing, and not at all bitter on the second day, I enjoyed the moist spinach filling, the juicy raisins and crunchy nuts.

Not perhaps the most succesful of ventures, but a pretty decent addition to my lunchbox repertoire. This is the recipe - adapt it as you see fit. I think blue cheese might fit in nicely instead of the raisins, or parmesan and dried tomatoes...

Spinach, raisin and walnut parcels

  • Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan and drop a large bag of fresh spinach leaves in it, turning it over until all just wilted - leave to cool for a few minutes whilst you:
  • Mix together a tablespoon ricotta, one beaten egg, salt, pepper and a touch of nutmeg
  • Add a handful of chopped walnuts and a handful of raisins that have soaked in tea for half an hour or so
    Squeeze as much juice out of the spinach as you can, chop fairly finely and add to the mixture
  • Arrange 5 filo sheets in a cross shape by layering them in alternate directions, brushing each one with melted butter as you go
  • Put a large dollop of spinach mixture in the middle and fold in the sides one at a time, pressing down to get a tight fit
  • Coat in melted butter and put on an oven tray in a 190C preheated oven
  • Cook for about 20 minutes until golden-brown and crisp

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