I envy Isabelle’s cat called Gavrilis (Gabriel in Greek), he can enjoy the view over Strasbourg’s rooftops all day round : ) If you’re not new to this blog you already know that I have a special soft spot for Strasbourg where I lived as a Master’s student for almost a year. This year marks the fifth ‘anniversary’ from the day I first arrived in Strasbourg without having a slight idea what the year would bring. Now that I have this attachment to this very St Petersburg-like city (in several aspects), I was really glad to come back there and feel at home – although not having any official home there, I must say that my friend’s place welcomed me so warmly that I felt just like at home. Isabelle is a very special person for me, now almost indissociable from Strasbourg. What is this secret ingredient with which she bakes and cooks and welcomes guests? It’s agapi (αγάπη), love!
Staying at a Greek’s home most definitely entangles lots of very tasty food at any time of the day, infinite hospitality and generosity. It doesn’t really matter which country you’re in, a Greek’s home is always a Greek’s home. Over those several days I spent in Strasbourg this time I sampled (or better gobbled down!) both Greek home cooked dishes and French foods. We even tried some Chinese food while doing some shopping in the nearby tiny German city (I love Europe, haha) and finished the gourmet journey by eating Russian blini (from this recipe) with… Camembert cheese! When I was baking blini, one of them puffed up so much that it turned into a… heart!
…expressing well my own agapi (love) towards Strasbourg, Isabelle and all things food =) Well, almost all things. I would not like to eat those pigeons Gavrilis seems to be so very interested in! Don’t worry none of them got hurt, Gavrilis is a true spitogatos (stay at home cat) who has only travelled to Greece once in his life and I guess that was it.
I finally learnt the recipe for a typical home-made cheese pie Greek mothers and wives make for their families directly from a Greek person who shares my love for food and cooking for others. Really, that was quite a change, not cooking for others but having everything cooked for me with such agapi (love) and gousto (taste)! That’s why the last day I managed to bake some Russian blini for a change : )
Here’s how an authentic crusty Greek tyropita looks like (with Strasbourg roofs in the background) when baked by loving hands of a hospitable Greek. You can see that the phyllo is hard on top while inside it’s soft taking in the juices from the filling.
And when you cut a piece of the pie, here’s what’s inside:
And here’s the recipe! Ευχαριστώ πολύ, Ισαβελλάκι!
Two years ago – Ualibah, Caucasian Cheese Pie
One year ago – Greece on My Mind (this is chronic!)
Isabelle’s Tyropita or Snail-like Greek Cheese Pie, will make a savory pie with thin dough and white cheese + herbs filling. My remarks are in italics.
For the dough (phyllo):
- 0.5 kg all-purpose flour
- 1/3 tsp soda
- 3 Tbs vinegar – I used apple cider vinegar
- 2 Tbs olive oil – no problem if you use sunflower oil either
- 1 cup lukewarm water (approximately)
- sesame seeds for top – optional
- corn flour / flour for rolling the dough out
For the filling:
- feta or white brine cheese – I also added some cottage cheese
- some hard cheese
- 1 egg
- yogurt or sour cream
- pepper, salt – be careful with salt, the cheese might be already quite salty
- dried herbs of your choice: parsley, dill, mint – I also tried adding frozen leeks, fresh spring onions and parsley as well as some dried herbs
Dough: Mix the flour with salt, make a well in the center, add soda and pour over three tablespoons of vinegar. Add the oil and then bit by bit start pouring the water (its amount will depend on the flour you use). The dough should be quite thick but flexible, knead it well like plasticine, adding flour if needed. Make a ball, cover the dough and leave it while you’re making the filling.
Filling: Crush white cheese with a fork or fingers, add coarsely grated hard cheese, mix in one egg, some sour cream or yogurt (for better texture) and add salt and pepper to taste (also judge by the white cheese you’re using, it might already contain a lot of salt). Add herbs (I also added some seasoning for vegetables, fresh herbs and even frozen chopped leeks as there was not enough cheese) and mix well.
Assembling the pies and baking: Take a forth or fifth part of the dough and roll it out on a surface dusted with corn flour (Isabelle says as corn flour is finer than the regular flour, the rolling out is easier). You should attain a thin smooth sheet of phyllo but without tearing it. If you’re making snail-like pies, you should get a long sheet and place the filling in the center. In the photo above you see actually TOO much feeling, better just drop several tablespoons all along the central line of the phyllo sheet. Start rolling the dough from the top edge without making it too tight, you should leave some air inside. When you make a roll, twist it holding both ends in your hands, so that you get a nicer snail – or leave it as it is. Coil the rolled dough into a snail on a greased pan or baking sheet covered with baking paper.
Don’t forget to brush the pies with Greek olive oil : ) And don’t be afraid to leave the pie in the oven for some minutes more even if it looks done – the crunchiness of the pie is one of its tricks! You can also decorate the pies with some sesame seeds (though they will most certainly come off when baked : ) Bake in the oven preheated to 200-210 ‘C for about 30 minutes (time depends on the size of your pies). I baked my pies one by one, not all at once.
Remarks: The phyllo recipe will result in quite a lot of dough with which you will be able to make at least 4-5 medium pies. You can choose to make smaller snail-like pies (as seen above) or put several ‘snails’ together to make a larger pie (see further). You can also easily double the recipe, just bear in mind that for each 0.5 kg flour you will need about 1 cup water. I’ve tried the recipe two times already, the dough is easy and the filling is flexible, which I like. Also the phyllo contains no yeast so you can keep it as balls wrapped in plastic or as pies ready to be baked, covered in the fridge if you’re not going to bake all the pies at once. This is how my first try at the recipe looked like inside:
Result: A very easy and fun-to-make cheese pie! It’s not greasy, nor is it bland. The dough is really nice and crunchy! Would try it with more white cheese next time. In the photo which follows you can see that I took the pie a bit too early and it did not turn out crunchy enough:
And here’s a shot of the meat version I made for my Dad – my Mother prepared some minced meat with onions, egg, spices and herbs which – according to my Dad – went well with the crunchy phyllo. Just be careful not to overload your meat pie with filling as it tends to be quite runny. I decorated the meat version with some Turkish black sesame. This pie was more crunchy than the cheese version pies I made earlier.
Will soon come back with more photos and recipes from my journey and, well, just all those recipes : ) And yet another glance at the rooftops of Strasbourg, the city which welcomed me with rain and wind and bade me goodbye with sun as if hinting at that I should have stayed longer, perhaps? : )