Spinach, Cheese & Walnut Strudel

I have often made apple strudel which is always a popular and delicious dessert. For the Great British Bake Off, however, I decided to do something savoury instead. Trawling through recipe books I came across some interesting ideas in my well-thumbed copy of the classic ‘Greens Cookbook’ by Deborah Madison.

The filling I came up with altered and added to the ingredients in a recipe I found there. Three different cheeses may seem excessive but each has its own purpose: the goats cheese adds creaminess, the feta gives flavour and the ricotta helps to keep things a little lighter and is a good binding agent. Served with a salad full of flavoursome tomatoes this strudel would make a great vegetarian lunch for friends. It would also be excellent as part of a buffet.  If you don’t feel up to making your own pastry, try to find a good one in a Greek deli.


Strudel pastry (or use shop bought – in which case you will probably need to make two shorter strudels):

  • 480g strong bread flour + extra for flouring pastry, dusting pin, to work with etc.
  • 6g salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tbls sunflower oil or other flavourless oil
  • 1 tbls cider vinegar
  • 310 – 320ml lukewarm water


  • 400g Leeks – white part only – say 3 medium
  • 400g courgette – 2 large or 3 small/medium – 2cm diced
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 325g fresh spinach
  • 140g Ricotta cheese
  • 300g soft Goat’s cheese
  • 100g Feta cheese
  • Salt & pepper
  • Fresh mint – small packet
  • Rosemary x 3 stems– de-stalked and chopped finely
  • Flat-leaved parsley – ½ a bunch– chopped roughly
  • 125g butter
  • 60 ml oil
  • 2 eggs – large – plus 1 for egg wash
  • 3 tbls cornflour
  • 100g walnuts – roasted and ground in a Magimix.
  • ½ small packet of ready-made breadcrumbs, or make fresh and toast in oven for 5 minutes till crispy.

Method - Strudel Pastry

Sift flour and salt into a medium bowl. Add egg, vinegar and oil to lukewarm water, whisk and add to flour. Mix with a wooden spoon until it comes together. The dough will be warm and somewhat sticky. Knead for 10 minutes, using extra flour as necessary. When it is shiny and elastic, put on an oiled plate, cover with a bowl or tinfoil and put in a warm place – 90ᵒ – 100ᵒF for a minimum of 30 minutes and up to 1 hour. You can prepare the filling while waiting (see below).

Put a cloth onto work surface, say 4’ x 3’. Dust with flour generously, and especially so in the centre. When dough has rested place dough in centre of cloth and start to roll it out into a wide circle. When it is about 1cm thick, stop rolling. Remove any jewellery or watch so that hands and forearms are free of anything that might tear the pastry. Oil hands and forearms and put one arm, with hand facing downwards, under the pastry up to the centre and let the other arm join it. Then let pastry roll off your forearms as you move them in opposite directions.

Continue in this way while moving round the pastry to avoid concentrating on any one part. You can also place your forearm gently on pastry and pull parts of it away from you with the free hand, but slowly and gently. The important points is lots of small movements rather than over-stretching and tearing, and keep moving round the pastry so that you are stretching in different parts of it. The pastry should become paper thin and you should be able to see the outline of the pattern that might be on the cloth underneath through it. Cut the pastry to the required size with either a scissors or a pizza cutting wheel.

Then brush it all over with melted butter carefully so as not to tear the pastry. Sprinkle pounded walnuts and bread crumbs over it leaving a 1 ½ “border free all around. Now pile up the filling close to one long end nearest to you and press filling together to make it compact. The filling should be about 3” wide and domed. Using the cloth, bring the pastry end nearest to you up onto the filling. Brush off any excess flour as you go before continuing with another roll forward.

Continue until roll is complete. Have a greased baking tray ready to roll the strudel onto and ensure that the ‘underneath’ is on bottom of tray to make a good seal to avoid leakage. Tuck in both ends fully underneath to ensure that both ends are also sealed, but be careful not to make any tears. Brush with melted butter. Dust with remaining ground walnuts. Use scraps of pastry to create pattern if liked. In this case, am going to create a lattice design with a lattice-roller to provide contrast of surface textures.

Transfer to pre-heated oven and bake for 4 5 – 55 minutes on middle shelf. Allow it to go really brown but not burnt. Even if the top is very brown and over crisp, the inner layers will be fine.

The filling

Pre-heat oven to 180ᵒC

Slice leaks fairly finely and cook in some oil and butter until soft. Add the chopped garlic halfway through. Remove from pan into a bowl. Next fry the diced courgettes together but stop at al dente stage. Mix and cream the ricotta, the soft goat’s cheese, and the egg together, and add the cornflour. Whisk to mix thoroughly.

Cook the spinach in a large saucepan with 2 tablespoons of water for about 4 minutes. Drain thoroughly. When it is cool, turn the spinach onto at least 5 sheets of kitchen towel to absorb as much moisture as possible. Also pat the top with some kitchen towel. Note that it is important throughout the vegetable preparation, to mop up as much moisture as possible due to the high moisture content in the vegetables. The creamed cheeses/egg/cornflour mix will bind the lot together beautifully, but don’t include more moisture than is necessary.

Now add the prepared herbs. When the mixture is cool, stir in the cheese/egg cornflour mixture. Transfer to a bowl until pastry is ready.

Notes: I used a lattice roller to make the covering lattice. You could do this by hand cutting strips with a pizza cutter, but it is tricky and time consuming, and it can be omitted altogether. Just glaze and sprinkle with finely chopped walnuts, or pulse them finely in a nut-grinder, but not to a paste.


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