Pies are a significant part of the global gastronomy. Generally pie is defined as a mixture of pastry and filling. It can be closed, open, sweet or savory. Its origins are found in the Mediterranean region. We can say that all today’s pastry creations (open tarts, flans etc.) are pies’ “descendants”. Pies even existed in the ancient world. During that times, pies were made with a simple mixture of flour with eggs and cheese. Later on, meat and other ingredients were added to the recipes.
Regarding Ancient Greece, we have evidence of a clay figurine from 5th century BC that shows a woman holding in her hands a kind of pan filled with small pies. As we read in historical texts, pies was a very common dish, and people were fond of them and would eat them in regular basis. There was “Plakous” which was a pie from flour and water that was baked on a stone (“plaka”) near the fire and therefore got its name. The most typical pie of ancient Greece was made with flour and cheese, honey and olive oil. Nowadays we have a resembling recipe from Crete, called “Kaltsounia”. Another famous ancient pie was “Mitotos” that was made with cheese, garlic and honey. The fat that was originally used in the making of Greek pies was olive oil. Later, more kinds of fat were added to the recipes like butter, lard etc. Still, there are a lot of pies that are solely made with olive oil.
Pies later on spread in all Greek regions. It was considered the food of the poor. During the past decades, women that were hard working farmers etc., used to prepare a pie in the morning before they went to the field, so the rest of the family would have a ready meal to enjoy when they returned home. Later, they started to experiment with its ingredients, accordingly to what grew in each land. Vegetables, cheese, meat and herbs were added and pies started to become a rich dish full of taste. Then they started to use different kinds of flours, wheat, corn or semolina. Using honey or sugar they even turned them into desserts.
As a tribute to this delicious legacy of Greece, we would like to present you 5 unique pies, from 5 different regions of Greece, indicative of the imagination and the taste habits of each region.
- Chaniotiko mpoureki (Chania, Crete)
This is a Cretan traditional recipe made mainly during the summer months, when zucchinis are freshly grown. It contains zucchinis and potatoes in thin slices and dairy ingredients like anthotiro, mizithra, milk and yogurt. It is light and rich in aromas of the Cretan land. There is an alternative of this pie, where handmade phyllo is being used both in the bottom and the top of the vegetables.
1 1/2 kg zucchini
4 medium sized potatoes
½ kg grated ricotta
1 ½ cups. Grated gruyere
1 cup. Strained yogurt
1 cup. Milk
2 medium tomatoes, grated
1 cup. Fresh mint, chopped
2 cups. Plain flour
1 ½ tbsp. Sesame seeds
salt and pepper
3 tbsp. Olive oil for the Pyrex
Peel the potatoes and rinse the well. Wash zucchinis and remove their tips. Cut the zucchini and potatoes into very
thin slices, almost transparent. Put the sliced zucchini in a colander and add salt to remove their moist. Boil the potato slices in a pan with plenty of salted water for 2-3 ‘. Remove them with a slotted spoon to a colander. Leave to drain and then pour them into a large bowl.Preheat the oven to180 °C. Pour the cheese in a bowl, break with a fork, add the yogurt and milk and mix well. Add the grated tomatoes to the bowl with zucchini and potatoes and mint, half the quantity of the mixture of cheese, milk, olive oil, pepper and 1 1/2 cups flour. Stir to mix all the ingredients well.Oil a Pyrex 35×24 cm and spread the mixture with a spatula. Lay over the cheese mixture, sprinkle with flour that you have left over and sesame.Bake for 30 minutes on the middle rack of the oven at 180 ° C in air. Then cover the baking dish with foil and bake for another 40’ at 150 ° C. Remove it from the oven and allow to cool. Cut into portions and serve.
- Ladenia Kimolou (Kimolos, Cyclades)
It’s said to be the ancestor of the Italian pizza. Ladenia is a traditional pie recipe from Kimolos, a small island of Cyclades. It is one of the easiest and simplest pie recipes of Greece, and is truly admired for its taste. They key to success is the quality of the ingredients, the sweet mature tomatoes, the authentic Greek onions and the herbs of the Greek land. For the recipe to succeed, you also need Greek extra virgin olive oil, in order to highlight the flavors.
400 g plain flour
8 gr dried yeast
1/2 tsp. sugar
1, 5 tsp. salt
1 tsp baking powder
125 ml olive oil
225 ml slightly warm water
2 large, ripe tomatoes
2 large onions
150ml extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp. oregano
1 tbsp. coarse salt
In a bowl place the flour, yeast, sugar, baking powder and salt and stir softly. In the middle make a gap, big enough to see the bottom of the bowl. Mix the warm water with the oil and pour in the gap. Using your palm try to slowly incorporate the liquid mixture in the flour mixture. Knead until you have a soft dough that does not stick to your fingers. Leave the dough covered with a towel in a warm place for 1 hour to rise.Grease a medium baking pan. Cut the tomatoes and onions into rings. Open the dough on a floured surface in 2 cm height. Transfer it to the pan and try to cover the bottom of the pan, by using your palms.Place the tomato and onion slices on top. Season with salt, pepper and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with oregano. Bake in preheated oven at 180C, for 45-50 minutes. Can be enjoyed hot and at room temperature.
- Skopelitiki Strifti Tyropita (Skopelos, Sporades)
1 Kg Skopelos feta cheese
1 Kg flour
1 tbsp olive oil
water slightly warm
half cup of corn flour
Olive oil for frying
Put the plain flour in a bowl and create in the center a small puddle to pour the oil and salt. Begin to knead the mixture throwing gradually lukewarm water (as needed) until the dough is not soft but not too hard. Cut the dough into three balls and let them rest for 20 minutes. Put the cheese in a bowl, crush with a fork and add pepper. Sprinkle the counter with corn flour and roll one sheet. Brush the surface of each sheet with a little olive oil and spread cheese on it. Roll the sheet roll and then shape it like a snail. Fry each piece in plenty of hot olive oil on both sides until golden brown. Remove and drain on paper towels. Eaten warm.
- Mpougatsa/ Bougatsa Thessalonikis (Thessaloniki, northern Greece)
This is a really old Greek recipe, firstly made from Greeks of Istanbul. When they came back to Greece as refugees, they also brought the traditional recipe and their experience on how to prepare an authentic bougatsa. Preparing a bougatsa is relatively easy. Preparing an authentic bougatsa needs experience, traditional recipe and accuracy. It has a so-called air dough (it is lifted in the air) and it is the most important part of the recipe. Classic Bougatsa is sweet, and is made with handmade cream filling. During the years the bougatsa dough has been used with many ingredients and now we have an enormous variety of bougatsa pies with cheese, spinach, meat and many others.
(for the dough)
300 g. flour
40 g. fresh butter
150 g. water
1 pinch salt
+ extra butter for dough sheets
6 glasses of milk
12 tablespoons corn flour
18 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
Powdered cinnamon for serving
Heat 5 glasses of milk in the pot until warm enough and then remove from heat.In another glass of cold milk dissolve the corn flour. Add the cold milk with the corn flour, sugar and cinnamon into the hot milk and stir well. Pour butter and stir until melted. Beat the eggs and slowly add them to the mixture, stirring slowly. Continue stirring over very low heat until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool.
Pour all of our materials in your mixing bowl and mix (preferably with special hook for yeast) for 10 minutes at moderate speed. Divide the dough in two and make two dough balls. Place them in two basins with a little bit of butter, cover with cling film and leave for 1-2 hours to rise.With a rolling pin press the first ball of dough until it reaches the size of a pizza base. Using your fingers start to toss them high and place it back on the counter in order to stretch it enough to form a large sheet. Butter your dough sheet and fold it in half. Cut in 2 pieces. Repeat the process for the second dough ball. You should have 4 ready dough sheets by now. Put the cold cream on the first sheet and fold the sheet as a folder. (Size of the “folder” should be like an A4 paper) Bake in a preheated oven at 170-180 degrees for approximately 50 minutes, until golden brown. Before serving, sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon.
- Kefallonitiki Kreatopita (Kefallonia, Ionian Sea)
1 package puff pastry
1/2 kg lamb cut into small pieces
1/2 kg pork cut into small pieces
1/2 cup. Olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
4 tbsp. mint, finely chopped
4 tbsp. parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp. tomato paste
1/2 cup. Robola (Kefallonia dry white wine)
1/2 cup. water
1/2 cup. rice
freshly ground pepper
1 cup. Kefalotiri cheese from Kefallonia
This recipe is for a rectangular pan of about 40 cm length.
In a wide frying pan sauté the chopped meat in olive oil for 6-7 ‘. Add the onions and let them become translucent. Add garlic and after a few minutes add the tomato paste and wine and mix well. Add the water. Lower heat, cover and let simmer for about 1 hour, until the meat pieces become tender and soft. Add salt and pepper and the rice. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Add the spices, the chopped herbs and the egg. Mix well. Brush the baking pan with a little bit of butter. Gently stretch the pastry to cover the sides of the pan. Spread a medium layer of cold filling. Sprinkle with Kefalotiri cheese. Cover with second pastry. Tweak with fingers the edges to seal the pie. With a sharp knife, carve the pastry in medium pieces. Bake in a well preheated oven at 220oC or at 200oC in air, in the middle rack. After the first 10 minutes lower the temperature to 180oC or at 160oC, respectively, without opening the oven. Bake for about an hour and until the surface of the pastry is golden brown.
Pie was and is a famous dish because of 4 main characteristics. Easy to make, can be eaten every hour of the day, taste delicious and are full of nutrients. Moreover it can be kept in the fridge for some days, and is easy to transfer in pieces. That makes it the perfect lunch for work or school, the perfect breakfast, and a snack to be eaten at any time.
Do you have a traditional pie recipe to share ?
We’re waiting for your comments and ideas!
- We would like to thank our friends and partners who kindly shared with us the above recipes. They are part of the traditional Gastronomy of Greece, and we are happy to share them with you.
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