Vegan spanakopita spiral – this impressive vegan spinach and cheese filo pie consists of a soft, cheesy, salty, herby spinach filling encased in crisp phyllo pastry. It’s a real crowd pleaser that is much easier to make than it looks!
Ideally you should make the almond cheese the day before assembling the spanakopita, though it is not strictly necessary if you are in a rush.
Place the flaked almonds in a large bowl and cover with plenty of boiling water. Set aside for at least half an hour to soak then drain them well.
Place the drained almonds in a blender or food processor along with the lemon juice, olive oil, water, salt, garlic and nutritional yeast.
Blend at a high speed until very smooth and creamy. Scrape down the sides as needed to make sure that there are no lumps of almond left. If you need to you can add a drop more water but try not to add too much. If your blender has a tamper tool then I recommend using it!
Scrape the cheese into a bowl and cover. It is ready to eat right away but will firm up in the fridge and the flavours will mellow so I recommend refrigerating it overnight before eating. Store in an airtight container in the fridge for up to a week.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4. Grease a 26-28cm rounc cake tin OR line a baking sheet with baking parchment.
To make the filling, heat the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat, add the sliced leek and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often, until it is soft and translucent. Add the crushed garlic and finely chopped spring onions (scallions) and cook for another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, defrost the frozen spinach (I do this in the microwave) and squeeze out as much water from it as you can. I do this by squeezing handfuls of it firmly over the sink. You really want to make sure that you get rid of as much water as possible to prevent the pie from being soggy.
Once you have squeezed the water out of the spinach, finely chop it and add it to the leek mixture.
Add the grated lemon zest, chopped fresh dill, mint and parsley, nutmeg, nutritional yeast, a good grinding of black pepper and some salt (not too much as the cheese is salty) and stir everything together.
Next, stir in the almond cheese, taste the mixture and add more salt and pepper as you like. (At this point the filling can be stored covered in the fridge overnight if you like.).
To assemble the pie, lay a sheet of filo pastry on a work surface with the long side facing you (keep the rest of the pastry covered with a damp tea towel to prevent it from drying out). Brush one of the short edges with a little olive oil and lay another sheet of pastry on the work surface, overlapping the oil coated short edge of the first one by about 5cm.
Brush the pastry all over with a little olive oil then add another two sheets on top, brush with oil again and add another two sheets if you have enough pastry; brush with oil again.
(I used a total of 18 sheets of pastry (plus one extra for patching) – three two sheet wide sections, three sheets deep. If you have fewer than 18 sheets then you can just double, rather than triple layer the pastry.)
Take 1/3 of the spinach cheese mixture and form it into a long snake along the long edge of the pastry, leaving a 5cm gap at the bottom. Try and make sure that the filling is evenly spread.
Roll the pastry up from the bottom into a long sausage. Coil the sausage, seam side down and place it into a 26-28cm greased cake tin. If you don’t have a cake tin big enough then you can just use a parchment lined baking sheet; the pie holds it’s shape by itself.
Repeat the steps above two more times, tucking the beginning of each coil into the end of the previous one to form one long spiral. *see post above for step by step photos*
When you are shaping the coil, don’t panic if you get a couple of tears in the pastry. Simple tear off a scrap of unused phyllo, brush it with olive oil and use it to cover the tear; repeat with another layer if needed. No one will be able to tell!
Brush the pastry all over with olive oil and sprinkle over some sesame seeds to garnish. Bake the pie for around 45 minutes until it is golden brown and crisp. Allow to cool a little before serving.