This is a magnificent spinach and feta affair, with an intense aroma of dill and the delicate crunch of buttery filo. Using part cottage cheese and part feta makes it lighter and not too salty, and though the raw rice might seem a little peculiar, it is a clever trick—it absorbs excess liquid and keeps the pastry crisp. The pie can also be made in a springform cake pan for a slightly more elegant presentation— perfect for the vegetarian centrepiece of a formal dinner. Serve with boiled potatoes and a tomato and olive salad.
For the filling:
3 spring onions, white and green parts, cleaned and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
350g fresh spinach, washed and trimmed, or frozen leaf spinach
175g cottage cheese, drained of any excess whey
250g feta cheese, crumbled
2 tbsp chopped dill
2 tbsp. chopped parsley
2 tsp uncooked long grain rice
Salt and freshly ground pepper
For the pastry:
7 large leaves of filo pastry, cut in half, or 7 medium leaves
3 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp butter, melted
Casserole or gratin dish, measuring 20.5cm x 30.5 cm / 8”x 12” approx.
1. To make the filling, heat the oil in a large saucepan over a low to moderate flame. Cook the onions until soft. Stir in the spinach and cook until just wilted. (If using frozen spinach, cook until heated through.) Drain in a colander and press out as much moisture as possible. Allow to cool, then place on a clean cloth, gather up the sides and squeeze the excess moisture out of the spinach. Chop coarsely.
2. In a bowl, combine spinach with the remaining filling ingredients and mix very thoroughly. Taste for seasoning—you may only need to add pepper, as the feta is salty enough.
3. Unwrap the filo pastry, and if necessary, cut to fit the bottom of your baking tin. Cover the pastry with a barely damp cloth to prevent it drying out and becoming brittle. Combine olive oil and melted butter. Brush butter mixture all over the baking tin or casserole dish. Place one layer of filo on the bottom, brush with butter, top with another layer, brush with butter, and so on, forming 7 layers. Spoon all of the filling on top, spreading out evenly.
4. Continue layering filo on top of the filling, again forming 7 layers. Brush the top with butter and then, using a very sharp knife, cut the pastry before baking--cut into serving-size diamond shapes or squares.
5. Bake the pie at 180˚C for 45 minutes to an hour, until sizzling, deep golden and crisp right through each of the filo layers. Cut again along the original slits before serving.