The traditional pies of Epirus
An essential part of the local cultural heritage, the pies are always present during the most important moments of the family in Epirus. They can be made in various ways and with diverse components: greens-pie, meat-pie, macaroni-pie and courgette-pie are just some of the countless versions one can come across in the households of Epirus.
While touring the beautiful group of villages of Epirus with the name ‘Mastorochoria’ (villages of the crafstamen), we met Mrs Maria Noutsou in Kefalochori. She introduced us to the secrets of the pies of Epirus, preparing for us only a most delicious pie with local herbs which she baked in the nowadays nearly forgotten way of ‘gastra’.*
She used a few, simple and pure, materials, but she worked them with great patience and love: she put in a bowl three handfuls of flour, a bit of salt, some olive oil and a teaspoon of vinegar, adding slowly water. «You must put as much as it needs» she says, the dough mustn’t become too liquid. She worked the dough until it became smooth and then she formed it in the shape of a ball and covered it with a clean cloth, letting it rest for half an hour.
During this half hour, Mrs Maria prepared the filling of the pie: she chopped finely various herbs and greens, like spinach, nettle, spring onions etc. She sautéed everything in olive oil and in then she added a lot of crumbled feta cheese.
Her next move was to separate the dough in 10 smaller balls and began spreading each one of them, making sheets at the size of the circular pan that she uses. In spite of her age, her skilful hands made the rolling pin dance in her hands and it produced leaves as thin as cigarette paper! She spread four of these at the bottom of the pan, sprinkling them over with olive oil and melted cow butter. Next, she added the one third of the filling, she covered it again with dough leaves and again filling and so on. Before she put the pie in the oven, she made sure to sprinkle it all over with a bit of water.
The pie cooked for about an hour, with Mrs Maria checking every now and then the temperature of the gastra. She confided in me that the whole secret about the pies lays in the many, fine and handmade, leaves of the dough as well as the slow way of cooking. With the first bite, one feels that it was certainly worth the waiting! A crisp, fragrant and above all most delicious chortopita!
*Traditional cooking dish of domed shape that enables to cover the pan that has the food in and to put coals over it cooking the full
equally from top and bottom.
Article written by Stauroula Karanika