Saturday, 4 January 2014

Spinach-Cheese Triangles

animation thanks for Google+
This ia another one of those family favourites that I didn't really miss until I moved out. Then I had to learn how to make them on my own. I'll describe the ingredients first, then the process -- as seen in the animation  -- which seems daunting until you do it for the first time.

First you need to buy some phyllo/filo pastry, and thaw it if its frozen. Although some supermarkets carry it, I'd buy it from a Middle Eastern shop.  In Edinburgh, we usually go to Maqbouls near the central mosque. It never tastes quite as good as I remember, but most of the brands are okay.  Lately we've been buying 'Theos' which is made in the UK, or some Turkish made versions. Then you need a good sized block of butter - most recipes call for unsalted.  Make sure you also have a good pastry brush - not one that will lose bristles, or that's been used for bbq sauce. And a sharp knife. And a ramekin or glass measuring cup that can go in the microwave oven. Melt a good chunk of the better, and keep it ready. And make sure you have a clean baking tray ready. 

My mother usually makes the filling with a combination of feta cheese and cottage cheese, but I now usually use the cartons of white cheese that are sold in halaal shops for the Middle Eastern market - mostly made in Denmark or Germany.  The other main ingredient is spinach  -- I use frozen spinach that has been thawed and drained.  You can also steam or microwave fresh spinach, or saute it with onions. If it is whole spinach (fresh or frozen), make saure you chop it roughly. Either way make sure you squeeze all the excess liquid out.  To the cheese, I add a small grated onion (or half), and an egg and some pepper.  Some recipes call for nutmeg, but I don't think that's very authentic.   Mix all these together with a fork. Proportions really don't matter too much, as long as its not too liquidy (pour off any excess). 

So, now to the assembling.  Take the filo out of the cardboard packaging and cut one section off - about 2.5 inches wide. Leave the rest in the plastic for now.  Then carefully separate one strip of the pastry and lay it out at full length (as in the picture below).  Make sure your hands and worksurface are dry. Immediately brush the strip of pastry with butter, then put a small spoonful of filling in the very bottom corner.  The fold it into triangles.  This is the bit that looks hard, but really is easy (see the video below).

After you've folded one strip up, brush its top with butter and pop it onto the baking tray. Then move quickly back to the pastry and repeat until you have a full tray to bake.  They should bake in an oven around 200C, in about 10-12 minutes.  They're done when they're golden brown. Let cool a little and eat. They freeze beautifully if you have any leftover.  The one crucial thing to remember is to never let the pastry dry out - it will just crack into little bits. So you have to work quickly.  But once you've done it, you'll see how easy it really is. And, after that, you can experiment with fillings. My mother used to make an amazing version with various sorts of grated cheese, but we usually go for spinach, since the kids love them and it gets them an extra vegetable portion!

Update: had a request for a pic of the final product, but can't find one (we ate them).  But, I did find this handy video, which I've uploaded to youtube.