M’hencha, Arabic for "coiled like a snake," are traditional Moroccan pastries that can be made sweet or savory. These hand pies are stuffed with a Greek-inspired filling of spinach and almond feta and baked until light and flaky on the outside. They're incredibly easy to make — just be sure to soak the almonds ahead of time — and can be served hot or cold with whatever sides you like.

M’hencha: Moroccan Spinach and Almond Feta Hand Pies [Vegan]

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Serves

3

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Ingredients

For the Pastry:

  • 6 sheets of vegan filo pastry

For the Feta:

  • 1 1/3 cups blanched almonds, soaked in water and refrigerate for 24 hours prior to making the feta
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • Scant 1/4 cup water
  • 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 4 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground sea salt

For the Spinach Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 white or brown onions, finely sliced
  • 16 ounces spinach, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup cashew cream or any vegan cream
  • 2 handfuls of fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 2 handfuls of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • A few grates of fresh nutmeg, to taste
  • Ground sea salt and cracked black pepper
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Preparation

To Make the Feta:

  1. Preheat the oven to 390°F. Line a small 5-inch springform tin or oven dish with greaseproof paper.
  2. Drain the soaked almonds, then add to a food processor with all the other ingredients. Process everything together until smooth, scraping the sides periodically, if necessary.
  3. Transfer the mixture to the lined tin and bake in the oven for around 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Leave to cool completely before using.

To Make the Spinach Filling:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan. Add to this the garlic and the onion and fry until golden-brown, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the spinach to the pan and continue cooking until the leaves are well-wilted.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir through the fresh herbs, the vegan cream, the nutmeg, and half of the almond feta. Season to taste, combine well, then set aside to cool before filling the pies.

To Assemble:

  1. Preheat the oven to 390°F.
  2. Lay out two sheets of the filo pastry, one on top of the other, with the longer edge facing you. Cover the other filo sheets with a damp tea towel to prevent them from drying out while you make the first pie.
  3. Spoon a third of the filling onto the pastry; make an even strip of about 3 or 4 centimetres at around the same distance from the edges of the pastry. Dot a few dollops of the remaining feta on top.
  4. Carefully lift the edge of the pastry over the filling and roll under into a sausage shape. If you find it’s thicker in parts, you can squeeze it gently to distribute the filling more evenly. When you’ve got a nice, even shape, start rolling it in on itself to form a coil. Tuck the end underneath the coil and place onto a baking sheet lined with greaseproof paper (or a non-stick one). Repeat the same process for each of the pies, using 2 sheets of filo and a third of the filling with each one.
  5. Once all the coils are on the baking sheet, brush them with a little olive oil and place in the preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, or until the pastry is golden-brown and crisp throughout.
  6. Serve hot or leave to cool.
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