We have a rather large amount of rainbow chard that’s suddenly had a growth spurt that needs using up, which reminded me that one of my favourite dishes is Spanakopita. That classic Greek pie, full of juicy greens with a lemony salty creamy hit of feta and ricotta that contrasts amazingly with the crunchy filo pastry crust.
I’ve made various pies with a filo crust since properly going vegan (see the Butternut squash one here.. and the Chilli filled hand pies here) which have all been super yummy, but none were quite the Spanakopita that I craved. Until I read somewhere about using soaked macadamia nuts that were then blended to make a creamy ricotta-like dish that I thought, actually, maybe I could create something similar.
So, I soaked some macadamias for around 3 hours, then blended them up in my food processor. (* NB you could probably use cashew nuts too, I happened to have a giant bag of macadamia nuts that needed to be used up)
My processor isn’t the top of the line & won’t completely pulverise nuts, so I also added a bit of strained firm tofu to create more of a creamy texture. The result was a bit nubblier than ricotta but in terms of overall mouth-feel, quite nice & did the trick for me.
I then started to think about the flavour profile of feta, there is nothing quite like it for saltiness & tang in the cheese world. I had recently bought some fat green olives stuffed with garlic from a Turkish Greengrocer that for some reason had reminded me of that salty feta tang, so I chucked a few in with the macadamia/tofu mix. This dish really does need that salty hit to balance the earthiness of the greens and the blandness of the ‘ricotta’ mix and the olives did the trick nicely, along with a bit of dried dill and some lemon zest. Result!
Assembling the pie is quite easy if you have a springform tin, simply slick olive oil over layers of filo and arrange them in the tin with the edges hanging over the sides, I used around 6 layers. Then, pile in the filling and fold the edges over the top, adding a few extra layers scrunched up a bit for a pretty ruffled effect.
This would work brilliantly as smaller hand held pies for picnics or parties, just fold into triangles like a samosa.
- 1 large or 2-3 small leeks , finely chopped
- A huge pile of Spinach or Chard- enough to generously fill a deep frying pan , chopped (NB: this would be equivelant to 2 bags of spinach, or a large bunch of chard.
- chilli (optional)
- 3 garlic cloves , finely diced
- Fresh Parsley and/or dill
- Olive oil to sautee
- Squeeze of lemon
- For the Vegan Feta/Ricotta mix
- 50 g firm tofu
- 100 g macadamia nuts , soaked for at least 3 hours
- 1 Tbs nutritional yeast (optional)
- 5-6 big green olives stuffed with garlic (the yummy deli kind)
- Juice and zest half a lemon
- 1 pack filo pastry
- Olive Oil
Make the 'ricotta' by first of all pulverising the macadamia nuts, then adding the tofu and other ingredients. Taste and add extra salt, a bit of dried dill or another olive to add more zing.
Saute the leeks, garlic and chilli until soft in a big frying pan. If you're using chard, add the chopped stems now to so they soften.
Add the greens and wilt them down to a big squishy mess.Taste and add salt & lemon juice. To avoid a soggy pie you might need to drain off a bit of excess liquid.
Remove from the heat.
Slick a springform pan with olive oil, then oil up layers of pastry, overlapping them so that all sides of the tin are covered.
Mix the vegan ricotta in with the now slightly cooler greens and spoon into the pie dish.
Fold the filo pastry over the top and add some extra scrunched up on top for a 'lid'. No need for an egg or milk wash as the olive oil gives a nice shine to the pastry.
Cook in a pre-heated oven- Gas Mark 7/ 220C for around 20mins, or until the pie is a pretty glossy brown on top.
Serve with a herby tomato salad.