I think I mentioned a little while ago that the Budget Bounty household now has a plot at the local Community Garden.
This has been an adventure over the last few months as we have managed to grow things quite well, without actually growing anything to harvest, viz our Brussels Sprouts were overwhelmingly Brussels with nary a sprout in sight. *sigh*
We have, however, cracked the Silverbeet growing thing. You might call it Chard, or Spinach or some such, but I grew up calling this particular leaf Silverbeet. It’s thick, it’s squeaky (!) and we have oodles of it – although I think it may be about to go to seed.
I also don’t like it very much. Don’t tell The Boy, please.
He does like it. Very much. So, having returned from our last visit to our patch with several armfuls of the stuff, I had to find something to do with it all! There was no way it was all going to fit into the refrigerator and the weather we are currently experiencing would see it wilt to inedible in no time. So I cooked it.
I washed it, shook it dry, tore the leaves off the stems and crammed them all into my largest pot, with the lid on and over the lowest heat – and just let it all wilt. I ended up with this.Looks attractive, dunnit?
I now had a large glass container full of spinach to contend with, but there was no rush to do it. A breather had been orchestrated. Yay.
I wanted to make a Spanakopita that I had made before from www.Food.com (way back when it was still Recipezaar) but I just don’t have the energy right now to give it the attention it deserves. So I searched the Interwebz and my recipe books for things-that-look-like-a-thing-but-aren’t-quite and got overwhelmed by it all.
I bought Feta cheese, I bought Ricotta cheese, I thought about buying Filo/Phyllo pastry and then mentally backhanded myself for even considering it, so I bought puff pastry instead… and I still didn’t know what I was going to do.
This is Not. Like. Me.
So I took bits from everywhere and basically made something up. The something I made up was a hit with The Boy, who took one mouthful and exclaimed, “You have to post this!”
This is me, doing as I was told.
Let me start by saying you could use Filo pastry for this if you wished. I just don’t have the co-ordination to deal with it at the moment. I used a 1 kg packet of puff pastry sheets that I had thawed in the refrigerator, and they did the trick beautifully. If you want to make your own, then all power to you.Then I got out my food processor, because knives and I are not a good combination right now.
Into the processor bowl went various things, starting with 100 g of the cooked spinach – weighed after I had squeezed most of the water out of it.Then I added a drained can of chickpeas. These were some I had canned myself with the addition of a touch of Cashew Za’atar, but a normal store-bought tin will do just fine. I put these in because I wanted to add a depth of flavour and texture. I was worried that, if I just made it with cheese, spinach and puff pastry, it would be a little insipid and watery. This would make it more filling and ground it a little (I hoped). Then I added 100 g each of Feta and drained Ricotta. And whizzed it all up to a nice puree. Then I decided that I didn’t want it to be all bland mushiness inside and toasted up a spoonful or so of pine nuts to stir through. About this time, I turned the oven on and retrieved the pastry from the fridge. Which is when I had to figure out how to attack this. The pastry sheets look kind of uninspiring. But I got one out, keeping it on the dividing sheet of plastic – which later came in quite handy. I figured that one sheet would make two good sized pastries or hand pies. So I got out a sharp knife and scored it down the centre.
Let’s just skip over the fact that I then dropped the knife and it plunged, tip-first, a good centimetre into the hardwood floor right beside my foot… Ahem.I meditated for a bit, then filled a coffee mug with some cold tap water. I dipped two fingers into this and ran them around the outermost edges of the pastry sheet and on either side of the score line, rewetting as necessary.
Then I very precisely dolloped some of the puree into the middle of the top of the pastry strips. Like so.For those who want to know the precise volume of the dollops – I dunno. Try about ¼ – ½ a cup’s worth.
Then I folded it in half, bottom to top, still leaving the plastic attached. Once the corners were matched, I pressed down quite firmly with my fingertips, going all around the outside and down both sides of the middle score line. Then I peeled the plastic back.I wanted them to brown up a bit while they cooked, so I broke an egg into a small jug and beat it a little with a fork for an egg wash. First though, I grabbed another fork and pressed quite firmly around all the edges with it. Then I lined a baking sheet with parchment paper and transferred the parcels onto it.
I don’t have photos of this, but I slid an egg flip under them and turned them bare-side down onto my other palm. This let me remove the rest of the plastic. Then I placed them with that side down onto the baking sheet.I could only fit two on to the sheet as I didn’t wish to crowd them. Using a pastry brush, I glazed them with the egg wash and popped them in the oven for 15 minutes.
It worked.Then I immediately plated one up and served it to The Boy. History was made. I baked another four to have as lunches throughout the week. The rest I flash froze after glazing. Then, when they were chilled sufficiently, transferred to a large bag for longer term storage. I’m not quite sure how long they would take to cook from the freezer, but I’m going with 30 minutes until proven wrong. Enjoy.
Cheesy Spinach Parcels
1 kg packet puff pastry sheets (you want 6), defrosted.
100 g of cooked spinach, squeezed as dry as you can (you can use frozen spinach from the supermarket, defrosted)
400 g tin chickpeas, drained
100 g feta cheese
100 g ricotta cheese, drained a little
1 tsp dried dill (optional)
¼ cup pine nuts (optional)
Cup of luke warm water for sealing
1 egg, beaten slightly
Note: Keep the packet of puff pastry in the fridge. Remove one sheet at a time and replace the rest of the packet in the fridge while you are working with that one. This will keep the pastry relatively firm and make it easier to work with.
Preheat the oven to 220ºC/450°F.
Line one or two baking sheets with baking paper.
In a food processor bowl, combine spinach, chickpeas, feta and ricotta cheeses.
Add dried dill, if liked. Other spices or herbs may be used according to your preference.
Process until the chickpeas are fully incorporated.
Remove to a small bowl.
In a small frying pan, toast the pine nuts over a low heat until lightly browned and fragrant. Approx. 3-4 minutes. Watch them carefully to avoid scorching.
Add pine nuts to contents of bowl and stir through.
Take one sheet of puff pastry. Using a sharp knife score down the middle, dividing it into two rectangular strips of equal size.
Using the cupful of warm water, dampen your index and middle fingertips and run them around the outer edges of the pastry surface as well as down both sides of the centre score line. This will help the pastry joins to seal and avoid the filling leaking out during baking.
In the middle of the top half of each strip place several large spoonfuls of spinach and cheese mixture. The exact amount will depend on the size of the pastry sheet you are using. It should be around ¼ – ½ a cup of the mixture.
Then fold the bottom of the pastry sheet (including the plastic lining) over the filling, matching the corners and pressing firmly. Using your fingertips, press each edge together including the one with the fold. You should have two nicely sealed pockets of pastry.
Peel back the plastic.
If you wish, you can now use a fork to crimp the edges you just pressed together with your fingertips. This is optional, but may give you a much better seal.
(And it looks pretty 😉 )
Transfer the pastry packets to a lined oven tray with the crimped edge upwards. You may only be able to fit two to a tray.
Take a pastry brush and paint the top of each parcel with the beaten egg. It doesn’t need to be done thickly.
This will help to get a golden finish on the pastry as it bakes.
Bake in oven for 15 minutes and eat immediately or remove to a rack to cool.
Prepare the next lot of parcels as the previous batch bakes.
To store: cool thoroughly on a rack before placing in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Eat within 3-4 days.
To freeze: prepare up to the egg wash stage. Place on a flat surface in the freezer and leave for 30 minutes. Once frozen, transfer to a sealed container or freezer bag.
To reheat from frozen: place in a 220°C/450°F oven for 30 minutes until puffed and golden brown.
To serve: May be eaten on its own as a light meal or lunch or served with a salad for a main course.