Tuesday 6 September 2011

Nona's Cephalonian Meat Pie - Kefalonitiki Kreatopita tis Nonas

Pies are a big deal in many countries of the world. Before we went travelling, I had no idea how much pride Aussies and Kiwis took in their pies. They were sold everywhere and, to be honest, that was our main sustenance for our 10 days on South Island. Similarly the British are pretty big on their pies too. Beef and ale pie served with mash, mushy peas and gravy - oh, so good!

Kefalonia is also one of those places that prides itself for its pies (and it is a Cephalonian thing, not an overall Greek thing). Yes, you can find Spanakopita (spinach pie) and Tiropita (cheese pie) throughout Greece, but things like Salt Cod Pie, Artichoke Pie and most importantly Cephalonian Meat Pie (hence the name), are unique to Kefalonia. I love these pies. But I have to prepare non-Greeks to the fact that they are nothing like a British pie. There is no gravy involved. In fact, what keeps the filling together is the rice. Rice is a very common ingredient in Greek pies.

This Cephalonian Meat Pie is my Nona's mother's recipe and it is a meal in its own right; it has rice, meat, herbs, spices and flavourings and is surrounded in pastry. You can have a side dish with it, if you like, but you will be full! It is almost a challenge to eat it really - you know you are getting full, but it is too good to stop eating... and you know how much effort whoever made it put into it too, therefore you HAVE to finish it!

This dish really is a treat. We usually only get to eat it 2-3 times a year at home. But when we do, we savour it! This summer, I can't take credit in making it myself... My mother made it for Missy's Christening dinner. Yes, it is a fiddly dish to make, but first of all it tastes delicious and secondly, it can feed an army, so at least you wont have to cook again for a while!

Serves 8 to 10 Greeks

For the filling:

500g pork (shoulder or other braising cut)
500g lamb or beef (any braising cut)
150g feta, crumbled
80g of parmesan, grated
1 onion, chopped
120g long grain rice
200ml beef or lamb stock
5 tbs olive oil
2-3 tbs lemon juice
3 eggs
3 garlic cloves
10 prunes, pitted and chopped
100ml passata
1 tbs mint
1 tbs dill
1 tbs parsley
1/4 tsp cinnamon

For the pastry:

500g plain flour
1 egg
150ml olive oil
200ml milk

To make the pastry, blend the oil evenly with the flour and a pinch of salt, then mix in the egg. Gradually add enough milk, till the pastry can be handled without being too sticky. Knead the pastry. You can use the pastry immediately or refrigerate before use.

Sweat the onions in the olive oil and set aside. Cut the meat into large chunks and brown them in the oil (brown a few pieces at a time, so as not to 'boil' the chunks if there are too many in the pan). Add the onions back in with the meat, cover with the stock and add a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Cover the pot and gently stew for 1 hour.

Remove the meat from the stock and cut into cubes. Reserve the stock.

Grease the pie dish (a dish of around 2 litres capacity and 5 cm high) and line with 2/3 of the pastry. Mix all of the ingredients together except the stock and add further seasoning to taste.  Add the mixture to the pie dish then add around 150ml of the stock on top.  Lift the filling gently to ensure that the stock is evenly distributed. The stock should just cover the filling - if there is not enough stock, top up with white wine or water. Seal the top of the pie dish with the remaining pastry and bake for 1 hour (or until the pastry is golden) at 160 degrees in a fan oven.


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  3. Made this tonight. My wife said ‘that tastes like the one we had in Cephalonia’. You can’t get a better critique than that! Great recipe, loved it. Even managed to pair it with a Cephalonia wine. Amazing!