Well back in Greece I promised you that I would play around with a little greek something and make a recipe for all of us to enjoy regardless of geographic location. It has been an little difficult choosing what to make since all the greek food was so damn good. But on one of the last nights we found a little very local street were our fellow young Greek students hang out and worked at the restaurants, and in one of those small places we were served a very delicious pie – actually the best pie I have had in a veeery long time. If it weren’t for my dear travel buddy I would have forgotten the name of this tasty thing before setting my teeth into it (damn you redwine) but luckily one of us remembered.
This kleftiko of ours was filled with gruyere (probably the ingredient that sold the pie), lamb meat, mixed vegetables and then served with a creamy yoghurt. It looked so pretty and had the most amazing crunch when biting into it. Another lovely thing they used, and use a lot in their pies, is the green top of the fennel. It has a distinct taste that really adds a lot of flavour and lovely tang to their pies. All in all this pie was filled with flavour, different textures while still being very simple and honest greek.
In Greece most of their pies are made out of either puff pastry or filo pastry – there is no room for almond based or wholegrain pie crusts here in the wonderful kitchen, which is just fine if your ask me. Puff pastry will never be an element in my cooking, it is simply to heavy in carbohydrates paired with a generous load of fat, not the greatest combo. But filo dough can be a crispy and funny affair, and since it is so thin and elegant you actually end up using a very small amount of it (about 10 g/a sheet) and I can easily live with this, especially when you get to indulge on crispy cretan pies.
You can use all kinds of meat for this recipe besides lamb, or even go vegetarian here, just as you can add different vegetables and chose those in season or some that match your choice of meat. I tried to use some of the basic veggies from the greek kitchen as aubergine, zucchini, spinach and tomato, and these actually pairs really well with all kind of meat. So once again you can use this recipe to empty your fridge for any meat and vegetable leftovers and make lovely small pies.
Hope you’ll get a little yummy taste of Crete and get to love these pies just as much as we did – and now still do here back in Denmark.
Greek Kleftiko with Veggies & Gruyere
Makes 20 small pies
450 g spinach, frozen is fine
2 large onions, chopped
4-6 cloves of garlic, minced
10 small tomatoes
1-2 fennel tops (green part) – this is optional since the flavour is very distinct, but an unique Crete pie ingredient
200 g gruyere
400 g leftover meat, e.g. tender, lamb, beef or chicken
2 Tbsp butter/olive oil
Juice & zest from 1 organic lemon
Salt & pepper
20-40 sheets of filo pastry
Melted butter or olive oil
Start with preparing the vegetables for the filling. Cut zucchini and aubergine into small squares (1 x 1 cm). Heat a large skillet, add butter/oil and sauté the squares on medium heat until tender, this will take around 20 min. Add garlic halfway through and season with salt, pepper and lemon. Transfer to a bowl and wipe the skillet clean.
Add butter and onion to the skillet. Sauté for 5 min. Add spinach and sauté until collapsed (or defrozen), add a little water if necessary if you are using frozen spinach. Season with salt, pepper and lemon.
Chop up the tomatoes and slice the gruyere into smaller bits. Make sure the meat is in small bits as well – and hopefully well seasoned and tender.
Preheat oven to 200 °C /400 °F (with fan). On a clean surface lay out as many spring roll sheets as possible, brush the sheets with melted butter or olive oil (plenty). If you want you can add two buttered sheets to each pie, this will give your an even crispier and delicious pie, but if you are watching those carbs simply use one.
Place a little of each type of filling in the middle of each sheet. Take all the corners and gently fold the sheet around the filling making a little bag with a fluffy top (see pictures), squeeze a little to keep the shape and place each pie on a lined baking sheet. Bake the pies for 10-15 min, until golden, you should watch them carefully.
TIP:If you make extra pies that you wanna save for later you could freeze the pies now before baking. And when it is time to enjoy them once again you simply defrost them a bit and bake them on a slightly lower temperature until golden and hot inside.
Serve the crispy pies straight away with a dollop of greek yoghurt or a delicious greek salad with tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, feta, olives and a drizzle of lemon juice & olive oil – Enjoy!