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Margaret Brooker's spanakopita and chocolate truffles recipes - 13 July


Chocolate truffles


Serves 4

You don't have to like spinach to enjoy this Greek dish - the cheeses make it really delicious.

1 onion
About 4 tablespoons olive oil
About 400g (1 bag) fresh spinach or 350g frozen spinach
250g (1 tub) plain cottage cheese
200g (1 packet) feta cheese
Fresh parsley, 1 1/2 teaspoons when chopped (optional)
Black pepper
Few pinches of ground nutmeg
4-5 sheets filo pastry

1 sharp knife
1 chopping board
1 frying pan
1 large saucepan with lid
1 sieve
1 wooden spoon
1 large bowl
1 ovenproof dish, 1 litre capacity
1 small dish
1 pastry brush

1. Heat the oven to 180degC.
2. Chop the onion.* Gently heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan, and cook the onion until soft, but not brown.
3. Meanwhile prepare the spinach. For fresh spinach, fill the sink with about 5cm of cold water, add the spinach and swish it around to wash. Remove the spinach from the sink, empty the sink, and repeat the process. Pull the spinach leaves off the stems. Place the leaves into a large saucepan (discard the stems), cover with the lid and cook until the spinach is just wilted (soft and limp). For frozen spinach, cook according to the instructions on the packet. When the spinach is cooked, drain very well in a sieve, pressing the water out with a wooden spoon. Chop the drained spinach on a board with a knife.
4. Place the spinach in a large bowl. Add the cooked onion, and the cottage cheese.
5. Drain the water from the feta, chop into pieces about 1cm square, and add to the spinach mixture.
6. Chop the parsley and add to the mixture, if using. Add the black pepper and nutmeg, then stir until mixed.
7. Place the mixture in the ovenproof dish.
8. Remove the filo sheets from their packet and place them flat in a pile on top of each other. (Immediately wrap up the rest of the filo pastry so that it won't dry out.) Pour a little olive oil into a small dish and brush a sheet of pastry on one side with oil. Scrunch up the pastry as if you were loosely screwing up paper and place it, oily side up, on top of the spinach mixture. Repeat this process 3-4 times. The mixture should be completely covered with scrunched-up pastry.
9. Place the dish in the oven and bake for about 15-20 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.
10. Serve warm.

Chocolate Truffles

Makes about 35

Alexandra and Charlotte make these absolutely scrumptious chocolate truffles to give to their teachers at Christmas. Dust them in icing sugar if you don't like powdered cocoa.

250g dark chocolate
100ml cream
3 drops vanilla essence
15g/1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
cocoa powder/icing sugar

1 medium-sized bowl
Measuring jug
1 small saucepan
1 tablespoon
2 small bowls
1 wooden spoon
Plastic food wrap
1 teaspoon
1 sieve

1. Break or chop the chocolate into small even-sized pieces, then place in the medium-sized bowl and melt.* When the chocolate is melted, set it aside to cool.
2. Place the cream in the saucepan over a low heat until almost boiling - bubbles will just begin to appear around the edge of the cream. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla essence.
3. In one of the small bowls, beat the butter with the wooden spoon until it is very soft.
4. Stir the butter into the cooled chocolate, then stir in the cream mixture. Stir until all the ingredients are combined well. Cover with plastic food wrap and refrigerate for a couple of hours until the mixture is firm enough to roll but not too hard.
5. After making sure your hands are clean, scoop out a teaspoon of the firm chocolate mixture, and roll the mixture between the palms of both hands until it is a round shape. Repeat until you have about 10 balls (it is easier to do in batches).
6. Sift some cocoa powder or icing sugar into the second small bowl. One at a time, roll each ball of chocolate mixture in the cocoa powder or icing sugar to coat the outside evenly.
7. Repeat the rolling and coating process until all of the mixture is used.
8. Carefully place the truffles in a container and cover. Store in the fridge until you are ready to serve them.