Today is tsiknopempth! It is the Thursday very close to the beginning of Lent for the Greek Orthodox Easter, where traditionally we consume meat. And if you’ve ever been to Greece you will know that one of the few things that go perfectly with meat are pies!

Traditionally, pies were peasant dishes, in which people would use literally whatever they had available. Greens from the garden (spanakopita!), cheese from their animals (like in this bulgur wheat pie), you get the idea. But of course, they are quite sophisticated dishes, as they can be elaborate in their making, this is why they are usually made in large trays. But fear not, this is a simple recipe, open to all! It will require some time, so consider this a Sunday affair. Or you know, make it any other day of the week, days seems to have blended into one now that we are in lockdown.

For this one we’ve used the last pumpkins of the season, a very appropriate goodbye to one of our favourite autumn/winter vegetables -yes we are now ready for wild garlic, bring it on, spring!

Serves 12

1.5 kg pumpkin (around 1.350gr flesh)
1 large onion
4 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper (to taste)
85g Carolina rice
250g feta cheese, grated or crumbled
1tsp dried spearmint
2 eggs
8 sheets filo pastry
150g olive oil

Using a sharp knife, cut your pumpkin into smaller pieces. Peel the outer layer. Using a spoon, scoop out the seeds. Coarsely grate the flesh.

Peel and finely chop the onion.

In a medium-sized pot, place the olive oil and onion over medium heat. Cook until caramelised, about 5-10 minutes.

Add the pumpkin and stir well. Season with salt and pepper (but do not add too much salt, as you’ll be adding the salty feta cheese afterwards). Once the pumpkin starts cooking, lower the heat and slowly cook, stirring often for 15 minutes, until soft and tender. Add the rice, stir, and cook for another 20-25 minutes, stirring often.
-Yes, this is a recipe that requires care. But it’s also very relaxing as a process.

You will know that your filling is ready, once the pumpkin is soft and the rice is al dente but not fully cooked. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Preheat the oven at 180C.

In the meantime, prepare your filo. Brush your baking tray with olive oil and place one sheet of the filo. Brush with olive oil again. Cross over a second sheet of filo, ensuring that the entire surface of your tray is covered. Brush with olive oil. Continue crossing over with olive oil and filo, using four sheets in total.

Return to the filling. In the cool pumpkin mixture, add the spearmint, feta cheese and eggs and mix everything together. Check for seasoning and adjust. Place the filling in your tray, careful not to break the filo.

Cover with one sheet of filo and brush it with olive oil. Repeat until the top is covered with four sheets of filo. Tuck in the edges. Brush the top with the remaining olive oil.

Score the pie and bake at 180C at the lower rack of your oven for about one hour.

Enjoy!


It’s this time of the year again -around Thanksgiving- that the web seems to be exploding with pumpkin pie recipes. This year the food world went crazy over a clear pumpkin pie prepared by the Alinea wizards. Some found this version of the classic American dessert “creative”, others “nonsense”. Let’s be honest, we would love to try it -would you?

The following recipe is one of our favourite ways of preparing this pie: Baking the pumpkin first, lightly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg (sometimes we also use ginger and cloves) and mashing it up. The filling is quite delicious as it includes grape molasses for depth of flavour, walnuts for crunch, Corinth raisins for texture, and orange peel for the citrusy effect. Feel free to modify if you prefer it sweeter or add more grape molasses in case you follow a sugar-free diet. We choose to use phyllo pastry as we love its versatility –have you checked Despina’s recipes with it during our cooking workshops?

Ingredients
1 kg yellow pumpkin
2 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground nutmeg
½ cup ground walnuts
2 tsp fine semolina
2 tbsp grape molasses
5 tbsp cognac
½ cup sugar
½ cup butter at room temperature
½ cup of Corinth raisins
Peel from an orange
1 egg for glazing
½ kg phyllo pastry
Olive oil
A pinch of sea salt

Method

Preheat the oven to 170°C. Cut the pumpkin in big pieces, peel, deseed it and cut in small cubes. Coat the bottom of a tray with olive oil and lay the squash. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon. Cover the tray tightly with a double layer of tinfoil and bake to 170°C until soft (approximately for 45 minutes).

Remove from the oven and allow the pieces of squash to cool. Put the pumpkin in a food processor and whiz until smooth or mash it with a spoon. Transfer to a big bowl.

Combine the walnuts, semolina, orange peel, half portion of the sugar, sea salt and grape molasses to that mix, as well. Drizzle the raisins with cognac and let them sit for 10 minutes. Drain them and place them to the mix.

Coat the baking pan with butter and place 5 sheets of phyllo-each coated with butter and sprinkled with sugar. Turn the ends inwards and glaze the pie with an egg and water mix. Carve the pieces and bake in a preheated oven to 170°C for 45 minutes.

Enjoy with a warm cup of tea or coffee!


When one asks what Greek food is, one of the first things that comes to mind is pies. Yes, pies are what most Greeks associate with home. We may not all know how to make them, but we sure know how to appreciate them.

During our first workshop in May, our guest chef Despina introduced us to the world of pies. We all made together a delicious leek pie using filo pastry. The filling was sweet leeks, feta cheese and lots of herbs. Pie making skills? Check. Pie eating? Check.

As we are waiting for our next workshop, we decided to put our skills into good use here. And hopefully to inspire you to play around and experiment with filo (or phyllo) pastry at home. In Greece, most spinach pies include eggs and feta cheese. Here, we are offering you a twist to what most Greeks might be familiar with. We wanted to bring out the flavour of spinach and herbs. So we decided to omit the eggs and include just a tiny bit of feta cheese. The feta cheese in such small quantity adds the needed tanginess and saltiness but is not visible in the pie. So spinach and herbs prevail!

What is magical about pies is that you can include whatever you have in your fridge. It’s the dish that represents no-waste. So, in the recipe we are suggesting below, do include whatever you have in your fridge. A green pepper or a few strips of bacon? Finely chop and add to the spring onions. Wilted greens or lettuce? Add them to your spinach. Of course, feel free to add an egg or more feta cheese. We usually make pies once a week, as a way to clear the fridge. Sunday is a great day to make a pie. You have the time it takes to prepare everything. And you have your lunch sorted for the week.

For a medium sized pie you will need:

1 pack of filo (phyllo) pastry at room temperature (you can find it in Greek and Turkish speciality shops)
1 kilo spinach,
5 spring onions
1 small bunch of dill
2 springs of mint
2tbs  olive oil (frying) and 3/4 cup (brushing the filo)
pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C. Wash your spinach. Finely chop the stems and roughly chop the leaves. Finely chop the spring onions, dill and mint. You can use the stalks of your herbs if you want to – we did.

In a large frying pan add the olive oil and gently fry the spring onions. Set aside in a large bowl. Add the spinach and gently fry until it releases most of its liquid. Add to your bowl. Let it cool down. Add in the herbs and crumble the feta cheese. Mix everything together.

Unwrap your filo pastry. Place it on your kitchen counter with a wet cloth on top, to prevent it from drying out.

Using a brush, cover your tray with olive oil. Here we are using our 27C extra virgin olive oil, as spinach pairs perfectly with its rich flavour and aromas. Lay 5 sheets of filo pastry, brushing with olive oil in between each layer. Add your spinach mixture and pat it so that it’s uniform around the tray. Add 5 more sheets of filo pastry, again brushing with olive oil in between each layer. If you have leftover filo pastry, you can crumble it on top of the pie to decorate it.

Bake at 180C for 30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve with a green or a tomato salad.


New grains and pulses are here! Straight from northern Greece, chickpeas, lentils, fava, bulgur and many more. There is nothing more comforting than a warm soup of nutritious grains or pulses to fight winter blues. Hm. Maybe except a pie.

Greeks are famous for their pies. Any Greek cook will know how to make a pie. Or they will know someone who makes them. They used to be the food of the poor.  Even today, you would make the filling with whatever’s in your fridge.

Today we are making a pie with bulgur and (what else) feta cheese.  This recipe is by a Greek chef Nikos Katsanis, adapted for you.

For one large baking tray

2 sheets of puff pastry
230g bulgur
30g semolina flour
650ml of whole milk plus more if needed
2 eggs plus one more for glazing
170g crumbled feta cheese
A few springs of mint (or other herb of your linking)
Olive oil for the pan
Salt, pepper to taste

In a pot warm up the milk and just before it reaches its boiling point, add the bulgur and cook until bulgur is tender, approximately 15 minutes, stirring regularly, adding some more splashes of milk if needed. Add the semolina flour and stir for another 10-15 minutes until you get a thick cream-like mixture. Turn off the heat and let it cool, stirring every so often so that no crust is formed.

Once the mixture is cooled down, add the feta cheese, eggs and mint (you need the mixture  to be cool so that you don’t cook the eggs with the heat). Season with salt and pepper.

Oil your baking tray and lay the one sheet of puff pastry. Place the bulgur-feta mixture and spread it evenly, using your fingers or the back of a spoon. Place the other sheet of puff pastry on top and pinch together the edges. If there is leftover puff pastry and you are feeling creative cut shapes of your linking and “glue” them on top using some water. Brush the pie with the beaten egg-this will give is a lovely shiny colour.

Bake at 180 degrees for approximately 40 minutes, or until the pastry is cooked at the top and bottom.

Serve with some Greek wine!