A fancy spiral-shaped version of a Greek classic - this spanakopita spiral is easy to make, but a real showstopper!
For me, as you know, winter means comfort food - anything super satisfying that warms you up from the inside out. Soups, stews, casseroles... and pies! This time I thought I'd take one of my favourite pies of all time, and present it in a super special, 'it's Christmas so I'm going to be fancy' kind of way. The result: a spanakopita spiral! Looks impressive, but couldn't be easier to make. Oh, and it's flipping delicious.
What is spanakopita?
I suppose I should start by telling you what spanakopita is, in case you're unfamiliar. Spanakopita is a Greek pie made with filo pastry - a super thin, crispy pastry that's much lower in fat than other kinds of pastry. It's usually stuffed with spinach and feta cheese - such a wonderful combination. You get plenty of goodness from the greens, which is balanced beautifully by the salty, tangy feta cheese (feta = little blocks of heaven).
This time, I decided to use kale instead of spinach. Both are great options, but I just felt like using kale for this one - it's a bit more robust than spinach, which cooks right down to nothing. You can definitely use spinach in this recipe if you prefer, but bear in mind that you might need to use a little more than it says in the recipe.
Spanakopita is usually made in one of two ways - either in a kind of slab, which you cut into squares to serve, or in little samosa-esque triangles. But since it's Christmas time, I thought I'd be a bit fancy (I'm even wearing little snowman earrings. Snowmen! So fancy.), and made this gorgeous spiral shape instead. It makes a great centrepiece to your meal - definitely pretty impressive to look at!
Buuut, it's actually really easy to make - it's basically just a few rolls of filo arranged nicely on a baking tray. Much simpler than it looks!
Feta and kale spanakopita filling
The filling is simple to make. The main ingredients are crumbled feta cheese (one of my all-time favourites!) and kale (sautéed with garlic and onion, for plenty of flavour). I also like to add a handful of fresh parsley, some pine nuts, and plenty of black pepper. The kale just needs a few minutes in a pan, then it's ready to assemble - so easy.
This time I also made a creamy sauce to stir through the kale, which really helps to tie everything together, and makes it feel really luxurious - just the sort of creamy, comforting pie you want to eat at this time of year! My secret ingredient: Primula cheese!
What is Primula cheese?
Primula is spreadable cheese that comes in a tube. It comes in all sorts of flavours - some of them are meaty or fishy, but there are also a few vegetarian options - plain cheese, cheese with chives, and cheese with jalapeños, as well as a light version. They've all got amazing flavour - it's such a rich and creamy cheese, and it's so handy to be able to squeeze it straight out of the tube!
To make the creamy, cheesy sauce for my spanakopita spiral, I just melted a good squeeze of Primula in a pan with a dash of milk (just to help thin it out a little), and just like that, it was ready to mix through the kale and feta mixture. It melts down so beautifully, and just one big squeeze of Primula was enough to transform my kale spanakopita into a rich and creamy pie.
I used the version with chives, to add a lovely oniony flavour, but any of the veggie Primula varieties would work nicely.
How else can you use Primula cheese?
You won't need a full tube of Primula to make this spanakopita, so make sure you put the rest of the tube to good use! Here are a few of my other favourite ways to use it:
- simply spread on crackers for an easy lunch
- spread inside a sandwich to add extra flavour and cheesiness!
- melted through pasta for a quick and easy sauce
- used as a pizza sauce, especially a quick pitta pizza with lots of veggies
- melted through soup to add richness and creaminess (it's great in broccoli soup!)
- used to make a creamy sauce for a pot pie!
- squeezed over a jacket potato
It's really versatile - any time you want a tasty spread, or something to add a rich creaminess, Primula is the answer!
How to roll up a filo spiral
Once you've mixed up the simple kale and feta filling for your spanakopita spiral, it's time to get rolling! Just lay out a couple of sheets of filo, pile on the filling, roll it tightly, and start constructing the spiral from the inside out.
I used three long rolls of stuffed filo, which gives a fairly modest-sized spiral that serves about 4 people. If you want a much bigger version, to feed more people, you can pretty much just continue adding rolls of filo so the spiral gets larger and larger. As long as you've got a big enough baking tray, the world is your filo spiral!
Is filo pastry difficult to use?
In short: kind of, but not really. Filo can be a little fiddly to use, and since the sheets of pastry are so thin, they do sometimes rip or tear.
But, I actually find filo really easy to work with, because it's really forgiving. Stuck your finger through it? Doesn't matter, just patch it up with another scrap of pastry, and nobody will ever know. All three of the filo rolls that went into my spiral needed a bit of patching up - they can tear a little as they go round the bend - but the end result still looked great!
I'll be the first to admit that my filo recipes usually look decidedly rustic, so if you're looking to make something that comes out looking immaculate, perhaps filo is not the pastry for you. But as long as you like the homemade look, filo can be great to use! And personally, I think that if I'm going to go to all the effort of making something myself, I actively want it to look homemade - otherwise I'd save myself a lot of bother, and just buy it pre-made instead.
How can I serve this feta and kale spanakopita spiral?
You can either cut your filo spiral into wedges like I did, or just work your way inwards round the spiral.
It's a pretty versatile dish - obviously with its Greek origins, it would most naturally be served alongside Greek-style side dishes. This time I made an easy homemade tzatziki from finely chopped cucumber, Greek yogurt, and a pinch of dried mint. It went beautifully with the spanakopita! But my favourite is to serve a big wedge of spanakopita alongside some fries and Greek salad. Simple, but so good.
Don't forget to grab yourself a tube of Primula cheese to make this feta and kale spanakopita spiral! It's such an easy way to add a tasty bit of luxurious creaminess to your favourite comfort food this winter.
Feta and kale spanakopita spiral
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- 1 tablespoon oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 200 g (~ 8 cups) curly kale, roughly chopped (remove any tough stems)
- 4 tablespoon Primula cheese with chives
- 2 tablespoon milk
- 200 g feta cheese, roughly crumbled (~ 1 ⅓ cups when crumbled)
- 2 tablespoon pine nuts
- Few sprigs fresh parsley, roughly chopped
- Black pepper
- 6 large sheets filo pastry
- Spray oil
- 2 teaspoon sesame seeds
- Heat a dash of oil in a large frying pan, and add the chopped onion. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring regularly, until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and chopped kale, and cook for a further 5 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl, and leave to cool.
- In the same pan, gently heat the Primula cheese with the milk, until it creates a smooth sauce.
- Add the cheese sauce to the kale mixture, along with the crumbled feta, pine nuts, chopped parsley, and a good pinch of salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine.
- Heat the oven to 190°C (Gas Mark 5 / 375°F).
- Lay a large sheet of filo on a flat surface, and lightly spray all over with oil. Lay another sheet on top. Spoon about a third of the kale mixture along one of the long edges of the filo, and roll.
- Spray again with oil, and place it onto a lined, greased baking tray, curling tightly to create the centre of the spiral. Don't worry if you end up with a couple of small tears in the pastry - just use a scrap of filo to cover the gap, and tuck in any loose edges.
- Repeat with the remaining pastry and kale mixture, adding the next two rolls to the spiral working outwards.
- Spray the entire spiral with oil, and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake until the filo pastry is golden brown and crispy - mine took about 50 minutes, but check it intermittently, as the thin pastry can burn if not watched carefully.
Nutritional information is approximate, and will depend on your exact ingredients. Please calculate your own nutritional values if you require accuracy for health reasons.