no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

Dacha: From Summer to Autumn

Dacha

Our dacha in St Petersburg region (aka Leningrad region) is one of those places for me, a city dweller, where I can get closer to the nature or at least follow the seasons that are much more distinct here than in St Petersburg. It’s a pity our dacha is a classical summer cottage type and we perform our dacha activities from somewhere in late April until early November, so I have never actually seen it in winter. But the transformation that the nature undergoes moving from summer to autumn for me always starts at our dacha – you can feel it in the air, in the light and even in the soil. In this post I would like to share with you just a glance of this transformation. Let’s start with…

Dacha

Early July – this year it resembled early June as the nature was one month behind the ‘schedule’ (now it seems to have gone one month ahead). I was burning old leaves leftover from last year, cleaning our plot from the many useless things that normally constitute the ‘wealth’ of most old-school dachas.

Dacha

Everything was very June-like green and very slow. Apart from the grass (read: moss) and the puddles – both grew pretty fast this summer.

Dacha

Late July – the beginning of the end of summer, supposed to be the best days in terms of weather with the peak warmth. This July as I said was rather like June which means we were not that spoiled with sun but rather overloaded with rain.

Dacha

I just adore that evening light…

Dacha

In late July we finally reached that point where you get used to the summer and lose track of days (although this summer it was much easier to count sunny days than the rainy ones). This is the period that is hard to be defined as you just live through it, day by day.

Dacha

Long days are nice when there’s sun – and in St Petersburg and its region we have the famous white nights – but with the interminable rain from dusk to dawn you don’t know what to do being stuck inside. One of the possible pastimes is baking potatoes šŸ™‚

Dacha

September – warm colours of early autumn, cozy time in jeans & sweater, a short Indian summer with a bit more sun that we did not get enough of during the actual summer.

Dacha

The setting sun is the most magical:

Dacha

I started this summer wearing this old 90s sweater and I finished our dacha period in it as well.

Dacha

Some warm yellow after the rain:

Dacha

Dacha

The soil was so wet this summer that we harvested some LactariusĀ mushrooms that popped up here and there. I will also make a separate post on our mushroom and berry picking in the forests of the St Petersburg region.

Dacha

This beard looks and feels pretty weird šŸ™‚ The mushroom grows its beard when it gets old.

Dacha

The fluffy Astilbe:

Dacha

Astilbe in the backlight:

Dacha

Our apple trees follow their own schedule – they give fruit every second year. And with every new second year they do it more and more assiduously, giving us more apples that we can possibly process ourselves. This year only the most broken tree with almost no roots (it fell down under the weight of 200 kilos of apples once) miraculously gave a couple of sweet apples (the much-suffering trunk of the tree is pictured in the 1st photo of this post).

Dacha

October – gathering fallen leaves and getting warm through that; everything gets transparent and you can suddenly see much farther; cold graphics of autumn; nature becomes distant as if hiding from you and slipping through your fingers.

Dacha in Autumn

I think I’ve broken every record in gathering fallen leaves this autumn. My back says I’ve been a bit too zealous…

Dacha in Autumn

And yet I have my favourite leaves in autumn – the super-multi-coloured leaves of chockeberry tree (haha, what a name in English – but in fact pretty exact!). My Granddad used to make a sort of extra-tart wine from these berries – it leaves such an aftertaste in your mouth you can hardly get rid of.

Dacha in Autumn

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

A Snapshot of Golden Autumn in St Petersburg

St Petersburg in Autumn

With the first snow 2 days ago and the general turn to a rather winter-like weather, I’m gradually fallen into a sort of seasonal snooze. Before I get all sleepy and lazy, here’s a snapshot of what St Petersburg is like these days, these golden autumn and post-golden autumn days of September and October.

Golden Autumn in St Pete

I will not bombard you with those lusciously coloured trees in the parks of the city (you can easily google that) but rather try to render that delicate (sophisticated? aristocratic? cold – for sure!) look and feel that St Petersburg adopts somewhere in late September.

Golden Autumn in St Pete

(by the way, see above the Palace bridge from which I took my recent photos of the Neva river view)

St Petersburg’s been pretty generous on various sunsets and sky views this autumn:

Golden Autumn in St Pete

(pictured is the golden dome of the St Isaac’s Cathedral from where you can get a very fine view of the city)

The sun makes such a difference – even when it just lights up the spire of the Peter and Paul’s Cathedral against the ominously dark cloud (the contrast was much more impressive than what you get on this photo – and the colour of Neva waters was almost identical to that of the clouds):

Golden Autumn in St Pete

Steel-coloured sky of St Petersburg (Moika river next to the Palace Square)

Golden Autumn in St Pete

My first alma mater and ex-building of 12 ministries of Peter the Great with a long-long corridor:

Golden Autumn in St Pete

Find 10 differences in the light between this photo (taken at 9.55 am)…

Golden Autumn in St Pete

and 9.56 am:

Golden Autumn in St Pete

A general view of the place I pass by almost every morning (on Vasilyevsky island):

Golden Autumn in St Pete

In the park near the Admiralty (the very center of the city), a (three) boys’ picture:

Golden Autumn in St Pete

And a girl’s picture:

Golden Autumn in St Pete

Will try to deal with the heavy backlog of all the posts I’ve been meaning to share with you since July or so.

This post goes to that very very prolific St Petersburg series.

G.

architecture · on USSR / Russia · travel

Crimea in May: Simferopol and the End of Journey

Simferopol

The Crimean saga is coming to its end with this post. After spending the morning in the Demerdji valley and then most of the day in the touristy Alushta, I suddenly found myself in a big city and that was a bit disorienting at first. Where’s the beautiful nature, where’s the sea and the mountains, I was asking myself? Simferopol, the capital city of Crimea, was gradually preparing me for my coming back to St Petersburg.

Sudak

Simferopol did not leave almost any impression, I’m afraid. The time I spent there apart from using it as a transport hub (airport, trolleys, buses) was too short – in fact, just an overnight stay in a central hostel. However, I did manage to sample some local food there. You see, on my way from the trolley stop to the hostel, I was passing through a market where I couldn’t resist buying veggies and fruit, and was also given some fresh Crimean strawberries (omg, in May! we had them in July-August this year) for free. When I finally arrived at the hostel, I was loaded with a bit too much food for a dinner for one, not mentioning the rest of the things I accumulated throughout my journey. Here’s what I saw from the hostel’s entrance, from the second floor of a small building hidden in between a noisy square and a pedestrian district:

Simferopol

And inside the courtyard there was an old Zhiguli (aka Lada) car with famous musicians painted on its sides (see Vladimir Vysotsky on the right):

Simferopol

Find two cats:

Simferopol

Fancy entering?

Simferopol

Some sort of a constructivist building right in the courtyard of my hostel:

Simferopol

My hostel was behind this bank. I noticed that its corner balcony is now touching the ground – the building either sank over the years or they put too much asphalt layers on this street:

Simferopol

On my last morning in Crimea I took a short stroll around my hostel to get at least some more glances of the city. I woke up quite early so I had a few hours before getting on yet another trolley to the airport. Oh the trolleys of Crimea, you deserve to be praised! If you are super patient and are on a lazy trip, you might want to try to experience the entire trolley bus from Yalta to Simferopol, some 84 km (the longest trolley route in the world!) and 3.5 hours of sea and land to be enjoyed from your window. (I suppose though these cords in the picture below used to power trams)

Simferopol

Walking the narrow streets of the old center in the sunny morning, I though that Simferopol reminded me of Samara for some reason. Probably because it’s a warm place with low-rise houses (in the center). But then it can apply to many other cities I’ve visited…

Simferopol

The pedestrian Pushkina street and the district around it look like an oasis in the noisy and rather faceless (mid to late Soviet) Simferopol. Spotted some nice details on my way:

Simferopol

Traces of neoclassicism, as we know it in St Petersburg:

Simferopol

As far as I remember, one of the state theater buildings, under renovation:

Simferopol

Sorry, but no matter how hard you try, you just can’t fit an AC into the balcony of a neoclassical building:

Simferopol

Found several replicas of this facade with flat pillars all over the place:

Simferopol

Some local cat-art and irises in full blossom like in Nikitsky Botanical Garden:

Simferopol

Where do all these wires run?

Simferopol

Couldn’t resist the aroma of freshly baked bread and buns from one of the local bakeries – and came out with this all-Russia favourite, Moskovskaya plushka (Moscow bun), a rich dough bun twisted in a shape of a heart and generously sprinkled with sugar. It can be found all across the country – and thus I can survive almost everywhere šŸ™‚

Simferopol

Some Soviet mosaic apparently depicting the history of Crimea as an all-USSR zdravnitsa, or a health resort:

Simferopol

And to compliment the picture – a Stalinist cinema hall, now in disuse:

Simferopol
To the unknown guy who stayed at the same hostel with me and all of a sudden gave me this rose:

Simferopol

Goodbye Crimea – dosvidaniya!

Simferopol

When I got back home I spread the map of Crimea on my table and places some memorabilia on the places I visited. Many many more places yet to be seen – and I hope to see you soon, Crimea.

Simferopol

Here are some of the memorabilia recordings from my trip:

Vorontsov Park
Black Sea
Demerdji cows
Demerdji morning

Sevastopol

It all started in Sevastopol with some Crimean ice-cream (stakanchik or vanilla ice cream in a waffle cup) with Lastochkino gnezdo picture and a guide book which I carried along but did not really use. And see where it took me? Crimea in May series:

Crimea in May: Vorontsov Palace andĀ Park

Crimea in May: Ghost SovietĀ Sanatorium

Crimea in May: Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest,Ā Livadia

Crimea in May: Nikitsky Botanical Garden andĀ Massandra

Crimea in May: Sevastopol (and theĀ Poppies)

Crimea in May: Chufut-Kale, Bakhchisarai andĀ Inkerman

Crimea in May: Fiolent, Balaklava andĀ Chersonesus

Crimea in May: Simeiz and Yalta, or a Study inĀ Blue

Crimea in May: Demerdji and Valley ofĀ Ghosts

Crimea in May: SudakĀ Fortress

Crimea in May: Funa Fortress andĀ Alushta

This post goes to the Travel collection.

G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

From Vasilyevsky to Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin Islands

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

I’m St Petersburg native, it’s my umpteenth year in St Petersburg and yet there are places in the city that I have never ever walked in my life. Among these was one of the many islands that the city stands upon – the Petrovsky island. An idea to ‘go see what’s up there’ ended up in making about 12 km, crossing 6 bridges linking Vasilyevsky, Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin islands (not counting the island I came from crossing the Palace Bridge) in a bit over 2 hours. That’s what I call walking.

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Crossing Tuchkov bridge from Vasilyevsky island you first see this engineering marvel, Petrovsky stadium aka Lenina Stadium (whose else?), first audaciously built in 1924 then reconstructed in 1955-1961 and 1980. I have never been inside (not a football fan) but would like to see the city from within (if that’s possible).

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

After crossing yet another bridge that leads to Petrovsky island, I found myself first in a park and then on a heavily non-pedestrian street that rather resembled an interminable construction site – Petrovsky prospekt. Someone didn’t make it to the other side:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Petrovsky island may really disgust you once you leave the park – I did continue walking just because I came all the way there and was determined to get to the other end of it. However, reading about it now I realize it’s not only about construction sites and dying factories and research institutes. But – they are too hard to distinguish most of the times. It’s only later when I got back home that I found out I took a photo of an Art Nouveau building – in the midst of the garages and what not – and that once belonging to a factory which built the first garages in St Petersburg in the beginning of the 20th century:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

The only wide street of the island, Petrovsky prospekt, comes to Petrovskaya square and then continues up to the other end of the island as Petrovskaya kosa (before Lenin they called everything by Peter’s name here :), which is an even less welcoming road with hardly any space for pedestrians. My aim was the yacht club and the haven from where you can see the newly finished highspeed road called ZSD (Zapadny skorostnoy diameter or Western Rapid Diameter). On my way there:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Doesn’t this thingy remind you of a certain character from a certain cartoon?

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

And then I saw this:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Or this, with less geometry:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

The yacht club is there since the 1930s:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

After some bathing in the warm sun and trying to avoid being run over by expensive cars (you have to pay to drive on the territory of the club), I went back to the square and turned left to the Bolshoy Petrovsky bridge (they say Rasputin’s corpse was hidden under the ice somewhere over there). There was yet another view towards the sun and the highspeed road – with a sort of a grass island in the middle.

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

I found myself on Krestovsky island, the place to go for fun (there’s a huge amusement park) and sports (arena, stadiums, nice tracks for skating, a rowing club etc). It’s also the most expensive real estate location in St Petersburg.

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

The sun was already pretty low when I got to the fountain in the middle of Krestovsky:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

It was such a wonderful evening, a real Indian summer one (we call it Babye leto, Summer of Women). St Petersburg knows how to be good to us, and not just women šŸ™‚ This is a view from a bridge leading towards the green(er) and calm(er) Yelagin island, with this where-do-you-put-that Lahta center being constructed in the background. This controversial skyscraper now gets in the view from about everywhere in the city. No, not a fan either! Gosh, people, you won’t get to the stars and scrape the sky with that šŸ™‚

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Let’s add a kayak, a bird and a grate here:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

Take them away and put a fisherman instead:

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

By the time I got to the end of Yelagin island, the crimson sun already sank. There was a bunch of people listening to an excursion and some others taking selfies with the lion. Then I walked a bit more along the island and got to the Vyborgskaya side to take the metro back home.

Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin

And here’s my 12km route across the city – well, approximately, the flags appear there rather frequently for no particular reason (just because I was not sure the service I was using would build a correct route). That highspeed road is on the left.

route for Petrovsky, Krestovsky and Yelagin
This post goes to the St Petersburg series.
G.

architecture · no recipe · on USSR / Russia · St Petersburg

7 Days, 7 Views from Palace Bridge in St Petersburg

From Dvortsovy

I cross Dvortsovy aka Palace Bridge each day at least once to get to my new job. It’s like coming 12 years back in time, when I was studying at the State University. In fact, the university where I work now is just some meters away from the main building of my first alma mater. I didn’t take these photos 7 days in a row but each day I was crossing the bridge from the Bezymyanny, Unnamed, and I-have-never-thought-of-it-as-an-island island to Vasilyevsky island, I could enjoy a very different view – as well as different weather conditions. Just wanted to share with you this daily experience. What’s your favourite?

Wednesday September 13, 9.54 am

From Dvortsovy

Thursday September 14, 12.34 pm

From Dvortsovy

Friday September 15, 10.07 am

From Dvortsovy

Tuesday September 19, 5.15 pm

From Dvortsovy

Wednesday September 20, 10.04 am

From Dvortsovy

Thursday, September 21, 17.03 pm

From Dvortsovy

Friday, September 22, 1.10 pm

From Dvortsovy

Starring: Kunstkamera, arguably Russian first museum, the Neva river, arguably one of the most important factors in the foundation of the city, the Academy of Science,Ā  arguably the first of its kind in Russia, and – sometimes – the St Petersburg sun, arguably the most rarely seen star in the sky šŸ™‚

This short post goes to the interminable St Petersburg series.

G.

architecture · on USSR / Russia · travel

Crimea in May: Funa Fortress and Alushta

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Next morning was my last one in Demerdji so I decided to take a less adrenalin-packed walk in the valley, towards the Funa Fortress. First thing I saw in the fields was a white horse with its baby lying flat on the grass.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Meanwhile to the right:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Although I arrived pretty early at Funa, the guarding lady (and her son who must be a super lucky one to have a fortress all to his own!) took notice of me approaching and, well, sold me a ticket šŸ™‚

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Many many years ago the Demerdji mountains were called Founa, from the Greek ‘smoky’. What is now called Funa is a ruined medieval fortress which was built to counterpose a Genoese fortress down in Alushta. Here’s a 15th century stone with some inscriptions – a sort of a commemoration plaque:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

The day was really sunny and regardless of the wind you could almost imagine it was summer- well, at least the best St Petersburg summer days this year were pretty much the same.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

With the weather we are having now in St Petersburg it is even more difficult to believe I was there in this sunny place – and that there are these sunny places in the world šŸ™‚

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Can I just stay there?

Funa Fortress, Alushta

A tiny bit of decadence amidst the ruins:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Those Funa people did choose quite a place indeed.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

A nice place!

Funa Fortress, Alushta

How many more views did I take?

Funa Fortress, Alushta

On my way back I revisited the Valley of Ghosts to see the supposed oak tree featured in Kavkazskaya Plennitsa movie. Well, who knows. There’s also a stone that they say featured in the film but others say it did not. A fine candidate to be that-very-stone from the movie was found some meters away from the official entrance to the valley:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

The trees in blossom reminded me we were still in May:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Such a combination of delicate flowers and rough rocks!

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Although this tree looked almost autumn-like:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Can I join you?

Funa Fortress, Alushta

The ghosts:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

The Head of Catherine and the eeeh that thing of Peter the Great in one shot:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

I was so reluctant to leave!

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Luchistoye said its good-bye to me with some deliciously decadent view:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Some local creations were waiting for me down at the bus stop where I managed to buy bags of herbal tea collected right there up in the Demerdji mountains. Still drinking the Crimean spring šŸ™‚

Funa Fortress, Alushta

First thing I did once I arrived in Alushta (at first I even wanted to take a path that arguably goes through some park and a zoo down to Alushta) was visiting the local market. Finally. Saw many types of honey – from coriander, mountain linden and with an array of nuts. There I bought some mixed spices and more tea. And these Yalta onion bulbs were huuuuge (see potatoes in the background for comparison)! The seller said he used to send them to some restaurant in Moscow. Can imagine the prices should have at least doubled after reaching the capital.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Alushta reminded me of Yalta indeed. Although it’s a much smaller city and much less famous. Its name is of course of a Greek origin, though there are at least two versions as to what it might mean – either ‘unwashed’ or ‘chain’.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

I did quite a lot of things in Alushta that I did not do during the rest of my journey like buying souvenirs (which I normally do not do) – sugarless sweet treats, natural oils, lavender sachets etc. Another thing was posting all the cards and letters from this old-school post office right at the seaside. Most Russian post offices in St Petersburg are now upgraded and do not have all these old signs.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Alushta is a resort town since the very beginning of the 20th century. As I normally try to avoid tourist traps (and still tend to at least pass them by in the end), I decided to walk straight to the Professorsky ugolok (Professors’ Corner), a quasi suburb of the town where there are some dachas left.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

On my way there I was soaking in the blue colours:

Funa Fortress, Alushta
No Smoking at the beach!

Funa Fortress, Alushta

One of the local seaside mansions:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

I knew there was a house somewhere over there, where the Russian emigre writer Ivan Shmelyov lived, so I walked and walked along the shore, coming across this Kyiv sanatorium on my way:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

When I climbed up there to the museum (which actually was just a house he only visited but not lived in – the real one is owned by someone unwilling to cede it to the museum), little did I wait for a concert, public reading, a free excursion and… tea with cookies under a gorgeous tree! If you know Russian, I strongly advise you to read his Leto Gospodne, it’s such a nostalgic book he wrote in emigration, and there are quite a few references to the long gone food they used to have back in the per-revolutionary Russia.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Turns out that was a Museum Day, a sort of Heritage Days they have in France. And it has made my day.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

And here is the gorgeous tree:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Down at the seaside I fed sunflower seeds to local pigeons and enjoyed some more of the Black sea and the sun.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

I didn’t go swimming though as it was pretty windy.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

There was a certain feeling of my journey coming to its end.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Alushta is not only tourists. There are some locals at the seaside too:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

More locals:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

And the cat lady:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Walking back to Alushta bus station I spotted some decadence:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Crimea is still a mine of relics of the past that are there just because no one ever thought they shouldn’t be. But these signs are gradually going away.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

That was my third trip with the Crimean long-distance trolleys – I was going to Simferopol for my last night of this trip. And here’s a fine specimen to my collection of Crimean bus / trolley stops:

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Should have been pretty(ier) when it was just made – with this sort of lace in the background.

Funa Fortress, Alushta

Somewhere in between Alushta and Luchistoye I could see the rocks and the mountains, saying good-bye to them. I really did enjoy this part of my trip – the mountains have mesmerized me probably even more so than the sea.

How to get there:

Alushta can be reached from the major cities by bus or by trolley from Yalta or Simferopol. Funa fortress is best reached from Luchistoye.

Crimea in May series:

Crimea in May: SudakĀ Fortress

Crimea in May: Demerdji and Valley ofĀ Ghosts

Crimea in May: Simeiz and Yalta, or a Study inĀ Blue

Crimea in May: Fiolent, Balaklava andĀ Chersonesus

Crimea in May: Chufut-Kale, Bakhchisarai andĀ Inkerman

Crimea in May: Vorontsov Palace andĀ Park

Crimea in May: Ghost SovietĀ Sanatorium

Crimea in May: Ai-Petri, Swallows Nest,Ā Livadia

Crimea in May: Nikitsky Botanical Garden andĀ Massandra

Crimea in May: Sevastopol (and theĀ Poppies)

This post goes to the Travel collection.

G.

Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Cheese Pie with Homemade Phyllo Pastry

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

Cheese. Crunchy pastry. Worth some effort that the traditional Greek phyllo pastry requires – as well as worth a short walk to get some Georgian cheese šŸ™‚ It’s a coincidence that I found some flat suluguni cheese in our local ‘farmers” store (they say it is a blini type of suluguni and sell it in disks) – which looks just like the pastry before it’s rolled out into sheets.

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

I have been meaning to use this recipe for the Greek phyllo pastry since I saw the video on the Food Wishes blog (the videos are always enjoyable – even from the language side of it – fellow linguists will understand:) some time ago. And finally I did dare to make a cheese pie with it – a sort of tiropita.

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

I have to admit this recipe is not a very quick one but you’ll see the difference and you’ll like the result for sure. And moreover there’s the video so you just have no excuses not to make this phyllo pastry and use it for savoury or sweet pies like bougatsa or baklava (there’s another video on how to make baklava). Careful though – baklava is super nutritious and addictive!

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

Don’t get intimidated with the seemingly complicated recipe procedure – Chef John’s instructions will guide you through it and after several it-will-never-work-out-well moments you will master this pastry that they use in so many pies in Greece. Oh, Greece is the heaven for pie fans!

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

1 year ago – Official St Petersburg or Along BolshayaĀ Morskaya

2 years ago – Pear Croustade and Pane TipoĀ Altamura

3 years ago – From Sunny Greece to Autumn Leaves in StĀ Pete

4Ā years ago – Plum Cakes from Italy andĀ Austria

5 years ago –Ā Shangi, Pies from the North andĀ Urals

6 years ago – Ode to MyĀ Baboushka

Cheese Pie with Homemade Phyllo Pastry adapted from the hilarious foodwishes.blogspot.com will make an almost authentic Greek pie… well, at least you can imagine it is! Go to the link above to watch video instructions for the pastry (attention: requires some time and effort!). See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil ā€“ for some reason I thought it was 5 TABLEspoons šŸ™‚
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar ā€“ our 10-year old vinegar from France gave too much of flavour
  • 3/4 cups warm water

filling:

  • about 300 g rubbery cheese, ideally – suluguni, if not – haloumi, grated / mashed
  • about 300 soft fresh cheese in light brine, ideally Feta, Imeretian or Adygea cheese, grated / mashed
  • salt with dried herbs, pepper

starch mixture:

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch – I had only potato starch
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Procedure:

Make the pastry: Place the flour in a bowl, make a well in the center and pour in the oil, vinegar and the warm water plus the salt. Mix these ingredients with your fingers (not with someone’s else of course) in the bowl, then place on the surface and kneed into a smooth and soft ball, about 5 min. Roll the ball into a log and then back into a ball for several times. Wrap and leave to rest for at least 1 h at room temp.

Divide the dough into balls of 20 g (mine were about walnut size), cover the ones you are not using. Take 5 balls and roll each of these balls into a small disc, dust each of them really well (!) with the starch mixture and stack all 5 together. Then roll the stack out to about double the size, separate the discs (this will come with practice…), dust each disc again, re-stack them together in any order you like and roll out again into a sheet of pastry – the thinner the better.

Place one sheet of pastry between 2 sheets of parchment (reuse them in baking later), roll into a log (do not press), wrap in plastic (I placed them in a plastic bag) and leave in fridge / freezer if not using straight away.

When assembling your pie, use several sheets for the bottom layer and some more for the top layer (or even in-between layers, as in baklava). Drip olive oil over each 2nd sheet of pastry and do not forget to pre-cut the pie (do not cut through). Bake at 350’C for about 1 h (I did not have that much time so I switched the fan on at 180’C and reduced baking time to 30 min).

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

Remarks: Chef John says the recipe will make enough for about twenty sheets of pastry but I got 3 sheets with 5 layers + 1 sheet with 3 layers which was enough for a rather large though flat pie. I didn’t roll my pastry out too thin though. And yes, re-separating the discs of pastry is the most challenging part of the process, I only got the trick after rolling out and re-separating two stacks.Ā  After all, phyllo means a leaf (or a sheet in this case)… Another remark, the cornstarch mixture makes a bit too much for this amount of pastry – I used the leftovers in a cake. Also, I used quite a small baking sheet so had to make rather thick borders – better avoid it, the pastry get too tough at the edges.

Result: Crusty-crunchy flat cheese pie. Do you need any more comments to persuade you to make it here and now? That’s what you are striving for – the crunchy outer layers of the pastry:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

…and these layers that separate from each other on their own once baked:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

…which are not that easy to separate before baking šŸ™‚ Here is one of the stacks before rolling out:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough

and before re-separating the discs:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough

I was a bit late to photograph the entire pie – this is what was left next morning:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

And yes, my blog has just turned 6!

This post goes to the Lunch / Dinner and Greek recipe collections where you will find many more Greek – and not only – pies.

G.