Haloumi spanakopita

No soggy bottom: Spanakopita with puff pastry and haloumi.
No soggy bottom: Spanakopita with puff pastry and haloumi. Photo: Katrina Meynink
Dietary
Vegetarian

Purists may be appalled because I used grated haloumi but I can't tell you how happy it makes my spanakopita-loving heart. Its salty, chewy goodness adds a brilliant contrast to the soft filling and crisp pastry top. I also swapped the usual filo for puff pastry (a tip from a good friend) and there are no regrets here either. I urge you to try it and see how you feel.

Ingredients

2 tbsp olive oil

1 leek, white part only, sliced

4 garlic cloves

350g haloumi, grated

100g parmesan

150g Persian-style feta

2 large bunches of dill, leaves picked and roughly chopped

200g baby spinach

2 large bunches (about 600g) English Spinach, destemmed and blanched (about 600g that once blanched will be about 350g once blanched)

4 large eggs

375g sheet all-butter puff pastry (I used Careme brand)

1 egg plus 1 tbsp milk, whisked together in a small bowl

Method

1. Preheat oven to 170C fan-forced (190C conventional).

2. Place a frypan over medium heat. Add the olive oil and once hot, add the leek and garlic. Reduce heat to low and cook slowly, about 10 minutes, until the leek is completely soft.

3. Season with salt and pepper then add to a bowl with the haloumi, parmesan, feta, dill, fresh baby spinach and blanched spinach. Gently stir together until the cheeses are evenly distributed through the mixture. Add the eggs, and gently but thoroughly incorporate.

4. Grease the base of a 17.5cm x 28cm Pyrex baking dish (or similar) with olive oil. Trim the pastry sheet so it will fit the base of your baking dish, and reserve the remainder for the top.

5. Scoop the filling mixture evenly across the pastry then gently fold the remaining pastry over the top, as though you are tucking the filling in for bed (I used the offcuts to plait a trimming around the edge, but this is entirely optional).

6. Prick the top in a few places with a fork to allow steam to release (no one wants a soggy spanakopita). Brush the top of the pie with the egg and milk wash then bake in the oven for 40 minutes or until crisp and golden on top, and the mixture has cooked through.

7. This step is important: turn the oven off and leave the pie in the residual heat for another 20 minutes. Similar to baking a meringue, this step does something wondrous, allowing the pie to remain crisp and eliminating the risk of a soggy bottom.

8. Cut the pie directly in the baking dish or gently run your knife around the edge and carefully transfer to a plate or board for slicing. Cool to a warm temperature first to ensure your filling doesn't spill forth like an erupting volcano.