There’s a bit of a campaign going on at the moment trying to highlight the benefits of frozen food. Whenever most of us think of frozen products the first thing that comes to mind is fish fingers but there’s a hell of a lot more to the freezer section than that! There’s a huge variety of produce on offer and it often is a lot cheaper – and doesn’t go off as readily as the the fresh equivalent.
I always have the following in my freezer…
• Frozen fish: did you know you can cook directly from frozen for a very quick and very healthy meal? I have been taking advantage of this while on a diet. Also perfect for fish pie and for homemade fish fingers.
• Raw peeled giant prawns: I always make sure to buy a few packs – I very rarely buy fresh prawns any more. Occasionally you can also find langoustines and even lobster…
• A selection of frozen fruit: ideal for smoothies so I always have a couple of bags of blueberries, mixed berries and mango. Also perfect for baking – and a lot cheaper than fresh.
• Chopped spinach: not just perfect in pies – I add it to soups and even smoothies.
• Frozen herbs: you can find some exotic herbs that are not available fresh (like kaffir lime leaves) but also chopped ginger and garlic… A lot less wastage as you only use as much as you need.
• Phyllo pastry and puff pastry. Although I prefer to make both myself it is very convenient to have frozen packets on standby. Pre-rolled shortcrust pastry is great for children cooking parties!
• Peas, soya beans and edamame (I was so excited when I found frozen edamame).
• Fish fingers. Yes, I know, but they are inescapable when you have young kids!
The recipe I make most often using frozen spinach and phyllo pastry is, you guessed, spanakopita (spinach pie). It is a staple of my Greek childhood and an absolutely fantastic snack or main meal. Although my mum’s traditional spiral spanakopita with homemade phyllo is superior, it involves a huge amount of work and so only gets made on special occasions (or whenever she visits). This version is so much quicker and easier.
Easy spanakopita (spinach pie)
- 800 g | 28oz chopped frozen spinach
- 400 g | 14oz feta cheese crumbled
- 2 large eggs lightly beaten
- 2 cubes frozen chopped dill or 1 large bunch fresh chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 2 cubes frozen chopped flat leaf parsley or small bunch fresh chopped about 1/2 cup
- 8 spring onions scallions finely chopped
- 2 large leeks white part only finely chopped
- 1 pack frozen phyllo pastry thawed overnight in the fridge
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 125 g | 1/2 cup melted butter or use Lurpak Cooking Liquid as I did
- splash of olive oil to fry
- salt and pepper
- Preheat the oven to 180C (350F) and place a tray on the middle shelf.
- Put the frozen spinach cubes in a large pot, cover with water and bring to the boil. Simmer until spinach has defrosted and then drain very thoroughly. Press down on the sieve to get rid of most of the water or squeeze the spinach in a cheesecloth.
- Sauté the green onions and leeks in a pan with a splash of olive oil until soft. Add the spinach and herbs and cook for a bit longer. Transfer to a large bowl and set aside to cool slightly.
- Add the crumbled feta and eggs to the spinach. Season generously with salt and pepper and mix together.
- Brush your pie dish with the melted butter then start layering the phyllo pastry, brushing each leaf with butter, in the dish letting the ends hang over the edge. Layer 5-6 phyllo squares over the bottom of the dish then add the filling in an even layer. Fold the edges over the top and brush with butter.
- Brush 4 or four phyllo squares with the melted butter then scrunch together and cover the entire surface of the pie.
- Bake for 45 minutes, covering with foil after 15-20 minutes to avoid the pie colouring too quickly. Cool before slicing (otherwise you won't be able to slice neatly).