Family recipe · Greek recipe · leftovers · no-dough · pies

Patatopita, Hortopita and… Kolokithotiropita!

Even if you’ve not been seized recently by strong symptoms of hunger for Greece (or should I say cold turkey, like that of drug addicts?) and the sea, sky, sand…. oooooh, sorry, where were I? =) ok, in any case, the two three pies I’m going to present you will suit and satisfy your kind of hunger.  With the appearance of fresh herbs at our dacha and fresh inexpensive vegetables – like courgettes / zucchini  at the supermarkets, I’ve been making quite a lot of savoury baking, be it with or without crust. So here we go on a pie marathon, don’t be intimidated with the strange names (sounding oh so like honey to me!), we’re going to de-construct them and see what’s inside and what can be altered, of course.

And now a quick excursion into the Soviet times… why not, otherwise this blog will be entirely about my Greece-obsession, haha. We’ve already discussed several ways to use leftover pasta, stale bread, rice, soured milk etc., now let’s move on to potatoes – and their true Soviet use. The photo above shows my Mom making an enormous pot of mashed potatoes: here’s our family recipe:

boil peeled potatoes till soft with some salt, drain – keeping the water for soups / bread dough, etc., and mash them adding some warmed up milk and a knob of butter.

And what to do with mashed potato leftovers? Make them into fried patties (adding an egg and salt)!

I wonder what we ate before Peter the Great introduced the potatoes to Russia in the early 18th century??!! They were so eagerly and widely accepted that they have become the only food to survive on during the long Russian winters. Potatoes seem to be used everywhere – in soups, pies, boiled pastry, salads, starters, and also there’s potato starch for kissel (jelly drink from berries usually made for sick children by their Grannies=) or to make your shirt collar stand up straight=). The laziest way to use your already boiled potatoes is to take them from the fridge, sprinkle some coarse salt and eat one by one with your fingers =) Ok, if you want a less student version, than try my Granny’s version of ‘yaichnitsa’ = fried eggs:

slice cold boiled potatoes in rounds and place them in a single layer onto a preheated skillet greased with oil, break some eggs over the slices, season with salt and cook till the eggs are ready to your liking. Meat-eaters can obviously enhance the dish with some sliced sausage.

Another option is to grate your cold boiled potatoes to use in Selyodka pod Shuboj or Herring under Fur-Coat, that is typical for a traditional Soviet festive table. Or in some other kind of salad, for sure.

So, Leftover potatoes or even mashed potatoes on hand or just σκέτο πατάτες (just potatoes)? Let’s make a Greek pie called Πατατόπιτα (Patatopita, Potato Pie), the recipe translated and published here with the consent of Betty from bettyscuisine.blogspot.com (you will find there loads of wonderful Greek recipes!). I’m giving you my αλλαγές (changes) in italics.

Ingredients

  • 7 medium potatoes – I used the leftover mashed potatoes, i.e. already with some salt, milk and butter added, this is how my Mom makes it
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 eggs – mine were large
  • 1 cup milk – I mixed 2.5% milk + 15% sour cream
  • 1 cup goat cheese or feta, crumbled – I substituted it with a half 250g pack of 5% cottage cheese
  • 1 cup Gruyère cheese, grated (originally from Crete) – I swapped it with suluguni and I’m sure you can use any hard cheese
  • 1 cup Parmigiano cheese, grated – I omitted it
  • 1 cup olive oil – I used much less, as we’re not in those parts of the world, where a bottle of extra virgin olive oil is about the price of sunflower oil here
  • 2-3 Tbs of dill – I used some chopped dill, parsley and scallions, also adding some green bell peppers and black olives
  • some dried oregano
  • salt & pepper – I didn’t add extra salt, as I was using the pre-mixed Potato seasoning 

Method

Boil the potatoes with their skins on about 30 mins until they are tender. (If you have already boiled potatoes, omit this stage.) Leave them to cool slightly, take the skins off and mash with a fork (And should you have ready mashed potatoes waiting to be used, omit also this).

In a small saucepan sauté lightly the onion (I didn’t do it) with two Tbs of the required amount of olive oil. Add the onion to the potatoes. Then add the eggs, milk, cheeses, oil, leaving some oil to drizzle the surface of your pie, dill, oregano and salt&pepper (see in the Ingredients what I added here). Mix everything well.

Preheat the oven to 180 οC.

Grease lightly a baking tray, pour in the batter so that it is well distributed, drizzle the top with the remaining olive oil (here I also sprinkled the top with sesame seeds) and bake for about 1 hour, until it’s nicely browned. Leave the pie to cool a bit and then cut it.

The result was a very soft and cheesy pie, nicely crumby and perfectly paired with some sour cream (or prostokvasha and ryazhenka for less calories).

***

Another pie I would like to present is also handy for leftovers extermination =) and these leftovers are quite perishable too – the greens / herbs. Any kind of them! What we usually do in my family is to chop the herbs and freeze them (to use them later during the winter, for soups mainly as they tend to be quite soggy when they defrost) or for more immediate use we chop them for a pie filling or for some kind of a Russian pesto – with some minced garlic and salt. So if you happen to have dill growing just about everywhere across your garden or abundant scallion / spring onions or parsley, or even spinach (which is kind of exotic here in Russia), do try this Αρωματική Χορτόπιττα (Aromatiki Hortopita, Aromatic Green’s Pie) adapted – and halved – from foodjunkie.eu. The original recipe is for more than a huge pie for sure,  30 x 40 cm! I’ve made only a half of the recipe and still the pie is enough for at least three family meals!

Here are some of my changes: For the phyllo I used some spelt bran+ whole wheat flour, resulting in a quite ‘brown’ crust, which is surely nice. Look here:

As we’re in Russia, surely I used vodka for the dough=) As for the yeast, I opted for instant dry yeast (forgetting to halve the amount but everything worked out fine); I left some of the eggs for the brushing and used regular sesame for sprinkling the top.

Talking about the filling, here there were more changes:

instead of spinach I used several types of salad grown by my Granny (who never eats it though… so it usually dies as when we arrive first, the salad looks too tiny to pick it and when we come next, the salad is overgrown or already eaten by slugs, brrr);

instead of green chard I used the greens from garlic (and fresh garlic too);

instead of chervil (I have heard of it but just cannot figure out if it’s what I’m thinking it is ) – I chopped about three types of scallions;

instead of some herbs called kafkalithres (Mediterranean Hartwort) I… threw in some green olives;

to – unfortunately – substitute the Greek feta, I used Adygea cheese which is not that salty so I advice you to review your salt addition accordingly with the type of cheese you’re using;

instead of grating the onions, I simply chopped them (they are so fresh, they make you just cry and cry and cry!);

+ I added some dried basil and the thing called Italian seasoning

My pie took about 40 mins to bake. And three days to be finished =) It’s really huge and as it is also a double crust pie, it is also substantial and nutritional. The herbs diminish in size completely once they’re mashed and squeezed out, so even if you’re not a fan of all those greens, you won’t really notice them in the pie. The cheese I used was not much salty but as there were occasional salty olives, with each bite there was enough salt for me. My parents would have added more though. The pie is perfect, again, with you favourite dairy product and some more greens =) So, the result is very nice!
***
For the final pie I have no photo, as it was eaten quite fast, with no trace remaining… I took it from this youtube video here: The International Cooking Show in Paros, Greece. It’s an Australian TV show, with the host travelling all over the world and collecting recipes from the 5 star hotel / restaurant chefs. They say the most popular series are about the Greek islands, I heard it on the SBS radio (what an irony, you don’t ever get any proper Greek podcasts unless you listen to the Australian Greeks from SBS! the same thing with the Italian podcast…). So the pie is called Κολοκυθοτυρόπιτα (Kolokithotiropita, Corgette & Cheese Pie), the recipe coming from Paros, an island in the rocky, expensive and just out-of-this-world Cyclades.  The pie’s super easy, with no crust and reminded us of some soufflé or – to my Mom – even of moussaka! It’s very puffy, soft and delicious. And it can also be ranked as a leftovers exterminator – now for the courgettes / zucchini, and as the chef says it’s a basic recipe, meaning that you can add whatever you want, which I did =)
The video is in English but I’m giving you the recipe in some brief lines (with my changes, of course!):
Ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • 250 ml milk
  • 1 kg grated courgettes / zucchini
  • 250 g flour
  • 250 g crumbled cheese (e.g. feta)
Method
In a large bowl add the ingredients in the order they’re listed, perhaps also season with salt (but the real Greek feta should be enough for the saltiness). Pour the mixture into the pan, drizzle with some oil and bake in the preheated to 180 ‘C oven for 45 mins.
My version was to use about half of the courgettes, substituting the other half with grated carrots and onion, and also used less cheese (I used Adygea cheese + grated suluguni), that’s why my pie was veeeeeeeeery puffy and soufflé -like. I’m sure I also threw in some dried herbs and sprinkled the top with some sesame seeds.
The result here is equally great and this is perhaps the easiest pie of the three.
So, should you have a craving for a pie or just too much of something stored in your fridge, you know what to do.
G.
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