fIlo pastry



Cooking is my way to be creative. I am no good at drawing, my piano playing days are a distant childhood memory and when I sing my kids cover their ears. When it comes to food there are so many ways to get my creative juices going, I get inspired by ingredients or world cuisines to create new dishes. I love to “veganise” my old favorites or sometimes I have a go at recreating dishes I enjoyed in a restaurant.

My vegan spanakopita came to life as a mixture of the above processes. My husband and I had a rare opportunity to enjoy an evening meal out together (minus kids). We chose a Lebanese restaurant that featured many vegan mezze dishes on the menu. One of the mezze’s we had were delicious filo pastry tringles filled with lemony spinach. Few days later I came across Jamie Cooks Morocco while flicking through the TV channels. Jamie Oliver was making a sweet almond filo pastry “snail”. This is when the cogs in my brain started to turn. I love the way the “snail” looked and with my Lebanese spinach triangles still on my mind I thought of the traditional Greek recipe spanakopita, a filo spinach and feta cheese pie. I could see the spinach, the filo, tofu instead of feta, some pine nuts and lemon juice coming together. Surely I was onto a winner.

Trust me, this recipe is not as complicated as it looks, just be careful not to let your filo pastry dry out. Do not answer the phone or the door. Work fast and you will end up with a dinner party masterpiece. Spare pair of hands is a bonus, I had my daughter on hand. Serve with some homemade tomato sauce, salad and maybe some Greek olives for a super Mediterranean meal.



Serves 6

1 kg (2.2lb) frozen spinach
2 large young onions with stems (or 6 spring onions, scallions), finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried dill
1 tsp dried oregano
250g (9oz) extra firm tofu, grated
100g (4oz) pine nuts, reserve 2 Tbs
juice of a lemon
salt and pepper to taste

270g (10oz) filo pastry, 6 large sheets (if frozen defrost first)
2-3 tbs olive oil


  1. First let your spinach defrost. I take it out of the freezer several hours before cooking, set a large colander over a bowl, place the spinach into the colander and leave in a warm place. If I am impatient I just pour some boiling water over it.
  2. When the spinach is fully defrosted squeeze out as much water as you can. The most efficient way is to put it into a clean tea towel and twist and squeeze until most water runs out.
  3. In a large bowl combine the spinach, onion, garlic, dill, oregano, grated tofu, pine nuts (minus the 2 tbs) and juice of a lemon. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Prepare a large baking tray, you can oil it or line it with some baking paper.
  5. This is the fun bit. On a large clean surface ( I use my dining table), prepare the pastry. Lay the first sheet on the table, brush lightly with olive oil. Lay the next sheet in a way that it creates a long rectangle, make sure you overlap the shorter edges by about 5cm (2inches). Brush with oil. Repeat with the third sheet. Lay next three sheets on top of the first layer, brush with oil. You should be left with a very long double layered rectangle.
  6. Next place the filling evenly into the middle, creating a long line, see picture. Wrap the pastry around tightly but carefully, creating a long tube, like a strudel. Don’t worry about small tears. Make sure the seam is down. Next secure the edges by folding them over. The filling is not runny so don’t worry it won’t run out.
  7. Shape your your strudel into a coil creating a “snail shell”shape. Slide onto a baking tray. Brush with some olive oil (or non-dairy milk), sprinkle with pine nuts and carefully transfer onto a tray. (Extra pair of hands to hold the tray is very helpful at this point)
  8. Bake at 180C for 35-40 min, or until the pastry is golden brown.
  9. Transfer onto a serving platter and cut into wedges.