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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 16 May 2015
20 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 16 MAY 2015 Pie galore The ancient Greeks’ cooking trick to keep their food from getting burnt has become one of the world’s favourite delicacies NELLY SKOUFATOGLOU The pie isn't a modern invention. Its roots in fact go back to ancient Greece and Rome, thousands of years ago. When men used fire and stone ovens to cook their meat, much of the time it would get burnt as it was directly exposed to the flames, or it ended up being dry and tough. The 'cooks' of the time knew they had to be more resourceful. In order to keep the juices in the meat, the ancient Greeks began to wrap the meat with leaves and mud. A servant came up with the idea to cover the leaves with a mixture of wheat and water (a rustic crust), which he thought looked like mud and would save him time from cleaning the meat afterwards. This is how the first meat pie was born and was adopted by the Egyptians. Meanwhile, the Greeks started to use another technique. They placed a thinner, sweeter and more flavoursome dough within the original rustic crust, actually creating the first pies - quite similar to the ones we recognise today. The Romans loved sweet meat pies, which they baked in wine or honey as a dessert, calling the dish 'secundae mensea'. The initial idea moved from Egypt to Europe and became a traditional cooking technique which remained until medieval years, known as 'bake-mete'. The crust of the 'pie' was used as some form of baking dish, with the tradition going on for hundreds of years. Pretty much everything was baked in a pie. However, no one had considered eating the crust as it mostly served as a storage container and helped preserve the meat and food for a longer period of time. It was then renamed a 'coffin' and became several inches thick to withstand many hours of cooking. These were very hard and inedible. Households would throw out the 'coffins' outside their gates and the hungry beggars would eat them. During the winter, the sick and poor would reuse the crusts to thicken boiled stew as a roux or flavour additive to boiling water. During Medieval times, the beggars began to call the crusts 'pyes'. Rich Britons had already started to cook in pans made of clay and metal, gradually using thinner layers of dough, mostly filled with meat like beef, lamb, wild duck, currants and dates. Meanwhile, in the rural villages of Greece during the Byzantine Empire, women had the bulk of the domestic duties, and would take care of the children, clean the house, milk the cows and harvest the crops, whilst cultivating their own vegetables. Cooking was time-consuming and Leek pie (prasopita) This recipe does not require filo pastry making. It is not at all time-consuming and it is based on a quiche-like crust with a rich yet not custardy filling, with eggs as the main binder. For the crust: Ingredients: 2 cups all-purpose flour 1 tsp salt 1/2 cup softened butter 1/4 cup shortening 1/2 cup warm water Method: 1. Mix the flour, salt and butter and start mixing. 2. Drop the shortening in by teaspoons, using the tips of your fingers to pinch and squeeze each piece of butter lightly in order to mix it finely with the flour. 3. Slowly pour in the water, stopping after the first half cup, and draw the dough together into a ball. You do not necessarily need to use all the water. 4. Roll the ball into a disc and let it rest. 5. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. For the filling: Ingredients: 1 leek (white and light green part only), finely chopped 4 aspara gus spears 6 eggs 1 1/2 cups heavy cream 1/2 cup feta, crumbled 100g grated Parmigiano-Reggiano 1 tbsp olive oil pinch ground nutmeg salt and freshly ground pep per to taste Method: 1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. 2. Take the pie crust from the fridge. 3. Prick the bottom and sides with a fork and bake on the centre rack until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. 4. Turn the oven down to 160°C and when the pas try is ready, remove from the oven and let it cool for 5 min utes. 5. Bring the butter to boil. 6. Add the leeks and season with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until very soft, about 15 minutes. 7. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the olive oil and leeks to the pan and cook while stirring. 8. Reduce the heat to low again and stir until limp for 5-7 minutes. 9. Trim the ends from the asparagus spears, slice and add to the pot. 10. Cover and cook, stirring once or twice, just until the aspara gus is bright green and limp, for about 2 minutes. 11. Remove from the heat to taste and adjust seasoning. 12. In a medium bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, eggs, thyme, nutmeg, cheese, salt and pepper. 13. Spread the cooked leeks and asparagus over the pie crust, taking care not to puncture the crust, and pour the egg mixture over top. 14. Bake at 170°C for 45-55 minutes, or until the filling is set but still moist. consisted of many members. b intensive, mainly because families it d f As there were no refrigerators, the women of the house had to find ways to preserve foods and produce year round. Especially during the Ottoman occupation of Greece, food was extremely hard to find. A 'pita' (pie) was an easy-to-make meal that would fill people up. Pies also saved the Greek population from starvation during the Albanian and the two World Wars. Since then, the basic recipes have come a long way, holding a long tradition in western, central and northern Greece. Epirus is also famous for its corn-based and dairy recipes, while Rhodes and Pontus are the masters of sweet and spicy pies respectively. Cheese pies are common in Crete, central Greece, western Macedonia, while spinach, leek and horta pies are island specialties. The Ionian islands love sour cabbage pies and ones made more like a crustless quiche, while the Cyclades specialise in puffy filo pastry and fried wrapped appetisers. The humble pie has risen to a gourmet standar and chefs from all over the world add the traditional Greek savoury pites to their elaborate menus. Pies are meant to be comfort food, but for those wanting to adopt a healthier diet it makes sense to make your own crust, filo and puff pastry, storing large quantities in the freezer for future use. It is time-saving and perfect for a household on a budget. No matter what ingredients you choose to experiment with, a pita will almost always be a crowd-pleaser. Sources: TIME, The Telegraph, Foodtimeline. org, Piecouncil.org, whatscookingameric Spinach pie with cheese (spanakopita me tyri) This is actually a combination of Greece's most traditional cheese pies, tyropita and spanakopita, that will titillate your tastebuds with the aromas of haloumi and garlic. Ingredients: 450g spinach, thawed and chopped 1 sheet of shortcrust or puff pastry 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped 150g haloumi cheese grated 120g feta, crumbled 1 tablespoon fresh oregano 2 eggs 1/4 cup thickened cream Enjoy the silkiness of the egg filling, on top of a homely, crispy crust. Method: 1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. 2. Squeeze the excess liquid from the spinach. 3. Place the pastry sheet on a baking tray and spread the spinach in the middle, leaving a 3cm border. 4. Sprinkle the garlic over the spinach and pile the haloumi and feta on top. 5. Sprinkle with oregano and season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. 6. Cut a short slit into each corner of the pastry sheet, then tuck each side of the pastry over to form a border around the filling. 7. Lightly beat the eggs with the cream and carefully pour the egg mixture over the spinach filling. 8. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until the pastry is golden and the filling is set and non-watery. DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM A very easy to make and healthy recipe that can become the perfect starter or even be served as a dinner main, with lemon wedges on the side.
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