One of the ingredients that I always make sure my freezer is stocked with is frozen spinach; I even prefer it to fresh spinach as the fresh stuff cooks down so much that you have to buy a vast quantity of it to end up with barely any once cooked. I use it for a variety of things, my favourites being spinach pesto and various variations of spanakopita – Greek spinach cheese pie. Spanakopita is traditionally made with homemade filo (phyllo) pastry, though shop bought can absolutely be used as well; but I was in the mood for something different so tweaked my usual recipe to turn it into a quiche instead.
I made a crisp parmesan shortcrust pastry for the tart case, you can omit the parmesan if you prefer but I love cheesy pastry! The filling contains both ricotta and feta cheeses – the feta for flavour and the ricotta for creaminess, replacing most of the cream traditionally used in quiche. The spinach needs to be defrosted then very thoroughly squeezed to wring out all the excess water, otherwise you risk ending up with the dreaded soggy bottom! Spring onions provide a touch of warmth and dill and parsley give a fresh, herby flavour, balancing the creamy and salty cheeses. The quiche is delicious both hot or cold, though I do recommend allowing it to sit for at least half an hour after baking before turning it out and serving so it is easier to slice; it also keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days so can be made the day beforehand and reheated in the oven if needed. It makes a lovely dish for a picnic or buffet or can be served as a vegetarian main meal alongside a crisp salad. (If making this for vegetarians make sure that you use a vegetarian alternative to the parmesan).
Spinach, Ricotta & Feta Quiche (Spanakopita Tart)
- 250 g (2 cups) plain flour
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 140 g (1/3 + 1/4 cups) cold, unsalted butter cubed
- 40 g (1.4oz) finely grated parmesan or grana padano cheese
- 1 egg separated
- about 2tbsp ice water
- 450 g (16oz) frozen spinach
- 250 g (9oz) ricotta cheese
- 4 large eggs beaten
- 100 ml (1/3 cup + 1 tbsp) double (heavy) cream
- 4 spring onions (scallions)
- small bunch finely chopped parsley about 1/2 a 25g packet
- small bunch finely chopped dill about 1/2 a 25g packet
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and crushed
- salt and pepper
- 200 g (7oz) feta cheese
Place the flour, salt and butter in a bowl, rub in the butter until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, stir in the cheese, followed by the egg yolk (save the white to use later). Add enough ice water to bring the mixture together into a ball, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for an hour.
Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface to about the thickness of a pound coin and transfer it to a 25cm round tart tin. Press the pastry into the corners and leave the excess overhanging. Prick the base all over with a fork then place in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5.
Line the pastry case with baking parchment or tin foil, making sure there is some overhanging. Fill with baking beans, making sure that the sides are propped up then bake for 20 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment and brush the pastry all over with the reserved egg white. Return to the oven for a further 10 mins, until golden. Remove from the oven and use a very sharp serrated knife to trim off the excess pastry; set aside.
To make the filling, defrost the spinach, place it in a sieve and press on it firmly to extract as much excess liquid as possible; finely chop it then tip into a large bowl. Mix in the ricotta, eggs and cream.
Finely chop the spring onions and add to the bowl along with the parsley, dill and garlic. Season well with salt and pepper and crumble in two thirds of the feta. Pour the mixture into the prepared pastry case and spread it level. Crumble over the remaining feta.
Bake for 35-45 minutes, until set in the middle. Cover loosely with foil partway through baking if the top starts to colour too much.
Allow to cool for about half an hour before serving.