|Alevropita (Flour Pie)|
Following ancient tracks we walked right into the heart of the National Park where the sight of the deserted monastery or nunnery of Agia Paraskevi balances in an ‘eagle’s nest’ position over the Vikos Canyon. It's beauty as well as steep terrain caused our hearts to miss a beat! A ledge above the monastery winds round the cliff-face to the Megali Spilia, a high, shallow scoop from the cliff rendered inaccessible by a stout doorway on the path. The walk along this ledge is no more than a metre wide in places and 300 metres above the quiet forest of the bottom. The way has ravishing views out into the gorge but is thrilling and horrible at the same time for anyone prone to vertigo.
Returning to Monodendri after our hike we had read about the famous "pita" (pie with cheese), prepared with the "secret" recipe, guarded by the women of these villages for centuries. In Monodendri's central square under the plane tree, Pita Tis Kikitsas has been baking alevropita (flour pie) since 1958, the year I was born. No, this does not make it an ancient ruin!!! We stopped for a Mythos and this much anticipated local specialty. Here we devoured our reward, a plate of what I had been told were tiganopita that I had only dreamed about previously.
In truth the dish is called alevropita or "flour pie". Made with a simple egg batter, this feta-studded tart hails from the region of Epirus. Imagine my pleasure when I read the latest edition of Saveur magazine and found the recipe that I have been searching for for four years!!!!!I have tried to replicate it of course but not knowing the true name of the dish the recipe alluded me. Of course I had to make it immediately for a much needed armchair travelling experience. What better way to explore the world than through our kitchens!!!
Indrani Sen in Saveur magazine says, "The crunchy, burnished crust gave way to a popover-like center, punctuated with salty morsels of sheep's milk feta." She goes on to describe how the alevropita is made by the women of the villages. "In a dented tin pot, she whisked bright green olive oil with an egg, baking powder, salt, and a dash of tsipouro, a grappa-like liquor. She stirred in water and flour, then some crumbled feta. She poured the batter into a greased baking pan, added some more feta and a few dabs of butter, topped it all with a dusting of paprika, and slid it into the oven. Half an hour later, the alevropita was dappled with brown spots and sizzling pools of foamy butter. "
As in the photo I used one of my smaller 12-inch paella pans. From what I have read the older and more beat up the pan the better! It looked a little bit like a very thin, crispy pizza, and it was delicious. It is unlike other Greek pies in that it doesn't involve any filo. I changed the recipe a little using grappa instead of the vodka they ask for and also mixing 1/2 of the feta cheese into the batter and topping it with the remaining cheese before puitting into the oven. Now if that doesn't whisk you away to a taverna in an ancient mountain village with cobble stoned streets.....
**Alevropita (Greek Feta Tart)**
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoon tsipouro, a grappa-like liquor (or grappa)- in the magazine it calls for vodka
1 1⁄4 cups flour, sifted
1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt
1⁄8 teaspoon baking powder
10 oz. feta, crumbled
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
Heat oven to 500°. Put an 18" x 13" x 1" rimmed baking sheet into the oven for 10 minutes.(I used a 12-inch round paella or other similar pan as recommended by the women who make this specialty)
Meanwhile, whisk together 2 tbsp. oil, vodka, egg, 1/2 of the feta cheese and 1 cup water in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk flour, salt, and baking powder. Pour wet mixture over dry mixture and whisk until smooth.
Brush remaining oil over bottom of hot pan and add batter, smoothing batter with a rubber spatula to coat the bottom evenly, if necessary. Distribute remaining feta cheese evenly over batter, and dot with butter. Bake, rotating baking sheet halfway through, until golden brown and crunchy, about 20 minutes. Let cool slightly before slicing and serving.
Serves 8 – 10
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