Pies… huge chapter in the Mediterranean diet…Did you know that the first pies in history originate from Greeks? They have discovered the culinary miracle of mixing water and flour in order to make the dough that will nest inside the materials they had at their disposal like cheese, eggs, milk, olive oil, animal fat, nuts (almonds, walnuts), raisins and any kind of veggies and herbs. Huge variety, right?
Wait because it is getting even better. My favorite part is when they used to pour honey over their hot sweet or salty pies. Oh!! My!! You must try them. You will be absolutely blown away by the combination of a salty pie with honey sweetness and luckily you will find a lot of Greek Mediterranean recipes celebrating this tasteful marriage.
What? A recipe of 4.000 years old sounds like exaggeration? It shouldn’t, because Mediterranean Greek cooking traditions date way back and it is not an overstatement to claim that we eat more or less the same dishes. That’s exactly what you get from this post: an ancient recipe counting thousands of years of testing and improvement. Not yet impressed? Ok, wait until you taste it!
Ancient Greeks called these pies «πλακούντας» (plakountas) and used to bake them on slabs over fire. You may see this technique (at least some variations of it) even today in some Greek villages. You won’t believe the taste of a pie baked over fire and that’s why I will show you an alternative way to bake your pie in your fireplace this winter.
Pies are not only delicious but it is a healthy and filling meal. A nice slice with a big salad in the middle of the table is suburb dinner.
In Mediterranean cooking there is no limit in baking pies and especially in Greek cuisine if something is edible, it could be a pie ingredient. In that way, nothing is wasted and leftovers are turning into delicious meals. Additionally, the main ingredients are humble, cheap and almost always present in our pantry: flour, milk, eggs, and cheese. During difficult periods in Greek history where people was facing seriously impoverished conditions, pies were at the top of menu. Products from earth and animals were enough to feed multiple family members and hardworking people on fields who used to eat these pies during their midday break.Today, there are plenty creative ways to make a pie. We follow the culinary tradition and the cooking techniques that used to feed people in dark, difficult periods and make the passage from necessity to gastronomy. Still, the old ways have a lot to teach us and the most important one is to treat with respect the ingredients we have on our table. Take nothing for granted and enjoy your meal as it is your last one.Let me tell you my absolute aversion about the industrial phyllo dough that we usually find in super markets. No, I didn’t wake up one day with that idea stuck in my mind but I have my reasons to do so. Read the ingredient labels and you will see what I mean: artificial additives, preservatives, hydrogenated oils, you know, the usual “goodies”. There are of course fresh phyllo dough that is easily to find in Greek delis but it is usually more expensive. You get what you pay for, right? Right!! But, what about making your own phyllo from scratch? Come on, guys, it is not THAT difficult providing you have the right instructor. Ok, then!! Challenge accepted!! I am going to dedicate a whole section in my blog on how to make a pie…. Not just simple, potluck pies that you can easily find on the net but original Mediterranean Greek flour pies like the one you eat during your summer holidays and the taste is haunting you forever.You see, my friends, I strongly believe that those who make pies should be highly respected by their entourage because a delicious pie with homemade phyllo dough is an indication of up level cooking skills. Working with phyllo dough is kind of culinary art and I am going to show you all my secrets in my cooking book. I won’t lie to you and take all the credits myself because I will have an assistant: my mom. Well, to tell you the truth and nothing but the truth, I will be the assistant during the whole pie tutorial project because my mom is a master pie chef and her pies are so much better than mine.
Roll up your sleeves because you are about to begin our first Greek style pie.
Flour pie or dough pie!!!
This is a traditional pie coming from Epirus, a region in northwestern Greece. That region probably counts the greatest variety of pies in Greece and that is mainly explained by its mountainous terrain and unique climate conditions: huge variety of herbs, wild greens in combination of livestock farming. Try always to find the freshest and purest ingredients for your pies as it is one of the most important conditions for success.
I choose this pie for our first tutorial because it is so simple to make that my 8 year old son makes it in 10 minutes. Seriously now, it took me more time to write the recipe than make it. Mix flour, eggs, water, cheese and in the oven for 40 minutes. End of tutorial!!!
Choose a rather large jelly roll pan, baking pan, cake pan, round, rectangular, square, it doesn’t really matter because that pie is flat (shallow pie). Let’s say the perfect thickness would be about 0.39″ (1cm), otherwise it will be undercooked and remained creamy in the center. I used a 12″ x 2″ round pan which is perfect for the quantity of this recipe.
Tips you should follow for an even better outcome.
Tip #1 While you prepare the batter, put the baking pan in the oven. We need it hot when we pour the batter in.
Tip #2 Sift the flour for a light and fluffy pie.Tip # 3 The batter’s perfect consistency should be neither too runny nor too thick. If it is watery add gradually more flour (no more than a tablespoon) until it gets thicker BUT not too thick otherwise you end up baking a very dense and difficult to even chew kind of bread.
- 2 cups (280g) of all-purpose flour
- 4 small free-range eggs
- 3 cups (330g) crumbled feta cheese
- 1 cup of water
- 3 ½ tablespoons (50g) butter in small cubes
- 1 pinch of salt
- Fresh pepper
- Put the baking pan in the oven and preheat to 180°C (350 F). We need a hot pan to welcome the batter.
- In a bowl sift the flour, add the water and mix using your hand or a kitchen whisk. Add the eggs separately and whisk until you have a smooth batter with no lumps of flour.
- Brush your hot baking pan (be very careful) with generous amount of olive oil and pour the batter into the baking pan.
- Scatter the pieces of feta cheese and finally the butter cubes all over.
- Place the baking pan in the middle oven rack and bake for about 40-50 minutes, until golden brown.