Sunday, May 27, 2012

Zucchini Pie with Feta Cheese and Fresh Mint Leaves

I just love pies!  It’s one thing you can really experiment on and be creative, feeling safe that the outcome will be good! You can do any vegetable, herb, cheese, meat or even fish combination you like. You can add rice, nuts, seeds or leftovers you find in
your fridge! 

And if you don’t have the time to make the pastry or “phyllo” as we call it, there are plenty of choices for ready-made pastries in the market, so you can choose whichever you like. Bellow you’ll find a traditional recipe for village-style phyllo pastry. I usually make it with wholemeal flour, or a mixture of wholemeal and rye or barley, but you can use whatever kind of flour you like. 
Making any kind of dough (for phyllo, bread etc) is really one of the best forms of meditation for me! 

Here is the recipe:

Village-Style Phyllo Pastry Recipe 

Approximately 4 cups flour (but it might take a bit more when kneading it) plus extra for rolling out the dough 
1 small espresso cup olive oil 
3 tablespoons vinegar 
1 ½ glass of warm water (might take a bit more) 
One teaspoon salt

Sieve the flour. Put it in a basin and mix it with the salt. Form a well in the centre and, in there, add the water, oil and vinegar. Using a fork, start mixing gently until you start forming a dough. Now, using your hands, start kneading (for about 10 minutes), that’s the moment you’ll have to see whether you’ll need to add more flour or water, in order to achieve the right consistency and texture. Your dough should become soft, smooth, kind of elastic and it should not stick on your hands. Cover it with a towel and let it rest for about half an hour in room temperature. If it’s winter, cover it with a blanket instead. Repeat the same procedure (start kneading it again, cover it and let it stand for another half hour). 

Your dough is now ready. Shape small balls with it (approximately 10 cm diameter) and put them on the side. You can also store it in the fridge or freezer and remove each time only the quantity that you need.  
Put some flour on your work surface, press the ball flat with your hand and using a (preferably narrow) rolling pin start rolling it out as thin as you can (You keep doing that with the rest of the balls, according to how many phyllo layers you want to use for your pie. I usually use 6 or 4, depending on the filling; 2 or 3 on the bottom and another 2 or 3 on top.).

Zucchini Filling Recipe 

8-9 large zucchinis, grated
7 spring onions, chopped 
1 cup of chopped fresh mint leaves (can be replaced with dill) 
250 gr. feta cheese, crumbled 
100 gr. grated mozzarella 
1 egg 
1tablespoon olive oil plus extra for the oven tray and for coating each phyllo layer 
Salt and pepper

Warm the olive oil in a pan and add the spring onions. When starting to soften, add the grated zucchinis and using a wooden spoon, mix gently. Turn the heat down to low, and let it slowly cook (you basically want to allow it to absorb all the juices, otherwise your pie with become soaky). 

Once the juices have been absorbed, add the mint, salt and pepper and mix well (don’t add too much salt, because the feta cheese is quite salty anyway). Remove from heat, add the egg, feta cheese and mozzarella and mix well.


Putting together the pie 

Preheat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4. Apply olive oil on the surface of a baking tray. Carefully place the first layer of pastry. Using a brush apply a small quantity of olive oil on it (I use very little). Then the next layer on top. Evenly spread the zucchini filling and fold the edges of the bottom phyllo layers on top of it (see photo). Now place the first top phyllo layer, folding it around to seal it well. Brush some olive oil and repeat with the second phyllo layer. Brush with olive oil and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Gently cut it with a knife (see photo) and spray it with cold water, that will make it crispy. If the pastry dries out too much while it’s being baked, spray some additional water on it. Bake it for about 30-40 minutes, at 180°C/350°F/Gas mark 4, until crisp and golden brown. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool down a bit before you cut it.



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