An easy, fun, iron rich parcel that is really versatile and these are great for a festive party or boxing day buffet. My mum used to make these gems for us as children and I remember devouring them. There were 5 of us though so it was a bit like a stampede at dinner time, if you didn't neck your food, you might miss out! Ha not the best advice for healthy digestion but you get my point - they were loved! I make mine in two sizes, larger ones for a main course and smaller ones for a lunch time treat and my son loves getting his own special sized parcels! We love them served warm, with a hearty salad and thick cut, sweet potato wedges ( a yogurt, garlic dip, or hummus is a bit of a must too in our house).
The good stuff (Sorry what can I say, I'm a total geek!)
- Spinach is such a super food, I am always looking for ways to get it into Leo's diet and get him to also really enjoy it! These parcels have been a definite hit. So spinach is rich in chlorophyll (and there is lots of it in this dish!). Chlorophyll is the green pigment responsible for photosynthesis in plants, and has a number of health benefits. It is found in any leafy green vegetable such as kale, wheatgrass and parsley and I often include a mix of spinach and kale or add some parsley to spice up my parcels. So here's the low down on chlorophyll:- it protects the body from pollution, helps with oxygen assimilation, healing and detoxification. Spinach boosts eye health and is rich in Vit A, K and C. It contains magnesium which is important for our overall health, is thought to be a preventative for high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. It is also a natural muscle relaxant and helps to calm the central nervous system. Healthy magnesium and iron levels actually aid deeper, undisturbed sleep (bonus's all round here - although i am not claiming If you have kids, that it will result in a full, undisturbed nights sleep but it's worth a try!). Iron is also vital for the transportation of oxygen throughout the body and therefore key to maintaining energy levels, cell function and growth.
- Filo pastry is unleavened dough that is very thin and light and becomes crisp when cooked. It is made from Water and flour and therefore does not contain any fat. Therefore you can decided what fat You use to bind the layers of dough and seal it. I have used olive oil and coconut oil for this recipe and found both work well.
- The cheese. I have made this recipe with feta, ricotta and goats cheese. They all bring a slightly different quality and I would suggest either using your favourite or trying different options to find what suits you. There are a number of advantages of using sheep or goats cheese as it has been found to help with digestive and metabolic absorption of minerals iron, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium. The composition of goats milk is similar to breastmilk and contains the same antibodies (it is a hit with my toddler, he prefers goats based milk and cheese). The fat content present in goats milk is more easily digested (around 20 mins) than that of cows milk (around 3hrs) and is non mucus forming. Goats cheese also has a high protein content yet contains more saturated fat. Ricotta has a lower fat content (around 5g of saturated fat per 100grams). Feta cheese contains 'friendly' bacteria which is known to kill a harmful bacteria called listeria, yet has higher cholesterol, sodium and carbohydrates. Experiment with what works for you!
Makes 8 large parcels or 16 bite size
Preheat oven 200c / 180 fan / Gas mark 6
2 cloves garlic
125g cheese (feta, ricotta, goats)
500g spinach leaves
1/2tsp fresh grated nutmeg
50g dill/parsley (optional)
1tbsp sesame seeds
2tbsp oil (coconut, olive)
50g coconut oil or butter melted
8 sheets filo pastry
First chop your onion into small chunks and chopped or crush your garlic. In a large non stick frying pan, heat your 2tbsp of oil and add the onions and garlic for 2 minutes or until softened, stirring regularly.
Wash and drain your spinach and add to the onions, stirring until the spinach has wilted. Cook for a few minutes and then turn off the heat. Once slightly cooled, drain of any liquid from the pan (this will turn your parcels soggy if left).
Now stir in your cheese, nutmeg and herbs if using and season with salt and pepper (I tend not to add seasoning if I'm making it for my toddler, the cheese gives a salty taste so you might want to experiment with this yourself).
Melt your oil or butter in pan. Take your first filo sheet and Cut it down the middle. Brush one piece with oil and lay other piece on top.
Place a spoonful of filling on the end of the strip. Take one corner of the pastry and fold over to meet the other edge - this will make a triangle. Continue to fold side to side until you reach the end. Seal The triangular parcel with a little oil and brush the top, before sprinkling with sesame seeds.
Once all the parcels are made, place them on a baking sheet (Either non stick or brush a normal tray with a little oil), and bake for 15 mins or until golden brown on top.
I also make up a big batch of these in advance, to freeze and use when I need a quick dinner or warm lunch option. Just take them out of the freezer and bake as above.
I love these most served hot out of the oven. They are great as a tasty lunch, as party food (I make small bite size ones), and super delicious as a main meal with big sweet potato wedges, yogurt garlic dip and salad - YUM.