One of my favourite things are spanakopita - those delicious Greek parcels of pastry with spinach and oozy feta cheese. I wanted to try and make a lighter, slightly Italian version of them and this is what I came up with. These parcels make a lovely and impressive looking starter for six, despite being dead easy, or a very tasty meal for two.
250g (6oz) frozen spinach, thawed (or you can use fresh cooked and well drained)
250g (1 cup) ricotta cheese (or cottage for a 'cheesier' taste)
3 large sheets of filo pastry
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 spring onions chopped finely (optional)
2 tablespoons pine nuts
Black pepper to taste
Makes 6 parcels
Drain the thawed spinach thoroughly in a sieve - squeeze out as much water as you can. Put in a bowl and stir in the cheese, garlic, onions and pine nuts. Season to taste with black pepper.
Take each sheet of pastry and cut in half. Fold each rectangle in half to make a rough square. Spray each of the six squares with the oil. Put two tablespoons of the mixture into the centre of each pastry square and then bring the sides up to make a rough parcel. Place the parcels onto a baking sheet and spray thoroughly with the oil again.
Bake at 180c for about 25 minutes or until the parcels are a light golden brown.
Arthritis diet notes
If you serve these parcels with a nice tomato salad, this makes a pretty perfect meal. The spinach is rich in vitamin K and folate (folic acid) whilst being a good source of the mineral magnesium and iron. People with inflammatory arthritis have often been shown to be deficient in iron (due to the way inflammation affects the body) and folic acid so spinach is a good way of helping top up. Ricotta and cottage cheese are excellent sources of calcium and low-fat protein to help support your bones and muscles. Finally pine nuts are rich in the antioxidant vitamin E which some studies have shown may have a pain relieving effect in rheumatoid arthritis.