Milos Island, Greece
The Ladies are all together in Milos and we have concocted a very special joint post to celebrate the first anniversary of Culinary Correspondence and our first submission to Fiesta Friday hosted by the Novice Gardener!
A few days ago we were lucky enough to be invited into the home and kitchen of Georgia, a neighbour of ours with a million-watt smile and some of the best pitarakia (Greek local cheese pies) on the island.
Although Georgia doesn’t speak any English (…and our Greek is more than limited…) we somehow managed to communicate and spend a wonderful morning cooking together.
Pitarakia are traditional little savoury turnovers filled with local salty goat/sheep cheese and fried to golden perfection. We love these tasty devils and order them all over the island. Everyone seems to have their own spin on the recipe that gets passed down for generations. Pitarakia are generally served with salads, spreads and other pies as a first course. We also like them served as part of an aperitif.
This is what Georgia taught us in her kitchen filled with lively grandchildren and friends!
For the pastry:
- 500 grams of plain white flour
- 5 turns (or “glugs”) of olive oil
- 3 turns (or “glugs”) of vinegar
- ½ tsp salt (2 big pinches)
- ½ tsp. bicarbonate of soda (2 big pinches)
For the filling:
- 3 cups grated hard goat’s cheese (we used the cheese produced at the dairy down the road – yum). It needs to be hard enough to grate.
- 2/3 cup chopped onion-medium to finely chopped
- 2 or 3 good pinches of dried spearmint
For the pastry:
Mix ingredients together and add water a bit at a time to make a soft dough. Mix with your hands as you add the water and punch down. Don’t worry if the dough gets a bit too wet-just add more flour. Knead dough until smooth and silky. Form into a ball. Cover with a tea towel and let sit for one hour. Maybe go for a swim!
For the filling:
Mix together ingredients. There should be enough spearmint so the mixture has a speckled appearance. Taste mixture for salt. Saltiness of goat cheese varies greatly so be sure to taste or you’ll end up with a salt lick!
Now for the fun part:
Pinch off about 1/5th of the dough that is now rested and ready to go. This next bit is tricky: rolling out the dough. Emi did a great job and was really getting the hang of it. Georgia told us you can also use a pasta machine to make the dough very thin. To note: Georgia uses a rolling pin that looks like a two foot piece of broom handle.
Flour your surface and start rolling out the dough being sure to give it a half turn after each two or three rolls. Sprinkle the dough with flour to keep the dough from sticking to the rolling pin and to extend the dough.
When you have rolled the dough into a thin circle, take the rolling pin down near the bottom of the circle. Fold the dough over the rolling pin and roll the dough up over it. This takes a light touch.
Keep your hands on top of the dough and gently spread to each side as you roll.
Unroll, turn, sprinkle with flour and start again. Repeat. You should have a very thin, even dough. We were able to see the colour of the table tiles through the dough. If you have any folds, smooth them out and if you have holes repair them with a little flour. If you have a giant hole you may have to re-roll.
Using a glass or a small bowl (about 4 inches diameter), cut circles of dough.
Put a heaping teaspoon of your cheese mixture on one half of each circle. Fold over to close.
Use a fork to seal the edges together.
At this point you can freeze some of your pitarakia. Be sure to freeze them in a single layer. When frozen, you can put them in a freezer bag. They do not need defrosting before frying.
Put about ¼ inch of light olive oil in a small, heavy based frying pan. Heat the oil on medium high heat until very hot. Fry your cheese pies three or four at a time in the oil.
Using two forks, turn the cheese pies so they are golden brown on each side. Be careful not to pierce with the fork. Add more oil as necessary. When done, place each finished pie on paper towel to absorb excess oil.
Serve. Watch out they are HOT when they come out of the frying pan (just ask Beth she burned the roof of her mouth!).
This recipes makes approx a ton of pitarakia. Seriously. Call some people over and have a party!
A big thanks to Georgia and her beautiful family for such an amazing experience (and for letting us keep all the pitarakia we made together!).