Spinach, Nettles or Both?


Delicious, nutritious and versatile spinach is such a fabulous leaf. It’s easy to grow at home and not outrageously expensive to buy from the shops either. Baby leaves are fantastic raw and the larger leaves are great lightly steamed or wilted, as a vegetable on the side or stirred through pasta, risottos, pie fillings and curries.

The Greek favourite spinach and cheese pie has got to be one of the most fabulous ways of cooking spinach ever.

It’s lovely for lunch, supper, picnics or parties. In fact it’s so lovely I may have eaten leftover spanakopita for breakfast too. May have, just saying . . . .

Spanokopita is fabulous with nettles too: just do a straight swap or use a mixture of both nettles and spinach.


Nettles are pretty good value and tasty too. Free, and still within their edible season until the end of May, they are easily interchangeable for spinach in cooked recipes: see also Nettle Pie and Nettle Soup.

Although a notoriously troublesome weed, the fresh young tops are full of nutrients, surprisingly tasty and versatile. Take advantage of these delicious free greens and cook as you would spinach: heat destroys the sting.

Available to harvest from March, and at their peak in April and May, pick them before they run up to seed. Always wear gloves when harvesting and handling nettles before cooking. Harvest them well away from toxic traffic fumes and livestock.

Spanokopita Recipe

Makes 9 squares

  • Either 200g (4 handfuls) spinach leaves, washed and dried: ideally in a salad spinner
  • Or 200g (4 handfuls) nettle leaves stripped from stalk washed and dried as above: or a mix of nettles and spinach
  • Small handful parsley
  • 1 medium-large onion, diced
  • 3-4 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely diced
  • 3 medium eggs, beaten
  • 300g feta cheese, crumbled finely
  • 50g grated mozzarella
  • Freshly-ground black pepper and grated nutmeg to taste
  • Pack of filo pastry sheets (weighing around 270g) defrosted if frozen
  • 50-60g melted butter for brushing

Preheat oven to 180C (fan oven) or equivalent

You will need a buttered 20cm square baking dish

Chop the spinach and/or nettles and parsley finely. Set aside.

Fry the onions slowly in oil until soft. Add the garlic towards the end of cooking time. Stir in the spinach/nettles and parsley. Cool slightly.

Combine the eggs, cheeses, pepper and nutmeg. Stir into the leaves.

Unroll the filo and, working quickly, lay approximately two thirds in single layers in the prepared dish: brushing each layer with butter and draping the excess over the sides of the dish as you go.

Pour in the filling and fold any overhanging filo over the top. Brush with butter as before.

Top with the remaining filo layers, again, brushing each layer with butter. This time, tuck any excess down the sides.

Pinch and rumple the final layer and brush with butter. Score the top into squares: be careful to avoid cutting through to the filling. 

Bake for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and crispy.

Cool slightly and serve cut into squares: fabulous warm, leftovers are good cold.