What’s cooking today: Kreatopita (Greek country pie)
Though not nearly as famous outside Greece as youvetsi, dolmades, spanakopita or moussaka, kreatopita – a Greek country meat pie – is a recipe worth having in your repertoire.
This is a mince (ground meat) recipe for which you can use either beef, lamb/mutton, or a mixture of either of those, with lean pork mince. The meat filling differs from many other savoury mince recipes in its inclusion of an unusual combination of aromatics – cinnamon, oregano, paprika, bay and a hint of turmeric – and the happy surprise of a good whack of grated Parmesan (or other hard cheese). The filling is finished with yoghurt and beaten egg, and baked in a snug parcel of phyllo pastry. You even get to sprinkle some sesame seeds on top. What’s not to love…
This pie feeds four hungry people.
6 to 8 sheets phyllo pastry
Olive oil, for brushing
500 g ground meat
2 garlic cloves
5 or 6 oregano sprigs, the leaves picked from their stems
2 bay leaves
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp paprika
100 g tomato paste
1 beef stock pot (or liquid beef stock)
1 large carrot, diced
1 tsp sugar
1 cup/ 250 ml grated Parmesan
5 Tbs (75 g) Greek yoghurt
1 egg, beaten
Salt and pepper
Defrost the phyllo.
Chop onion and garlic finely and sauté in a little olive oil until translucent. Stir in the tomato paste and sauté while stirring, to cook away the tart edge of the tomato concentrate.
Crumble in the minced meat with your fingers to prevent clumping, then use a wooden spoon to be sure it does not form clumps while you work it into the mixture.
Add the bay leaves, cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, sugar and oregano leaves (discard the stems). Add the carrot, and the beef stock pot (no need to dissolve it in water) or liquid stock, and stir to ensure the stock is incorporated.
Season to taste with salt and pepper, and simmer over a very low heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently. This is important, because this is a rather dry mince recipe, with little liquid, so it can catch easily…
Which is where the cheese and yoghurt come in. Add a generous cup of grated Parmesan, stir for it to melt into the mix, then add the yoghurt and stir well.
Finally, stir in one beaten egg. The filling is now ready to go into your pie.
For the pie, grease a suitable oven dish (mine is Pyrex). Unfold the phyllo on a flat surface and have a damp tea towel handy to lay on it after you’ve removed each sheet. Have a bowl of olive oil and basting brush to hand.
Layer one sheet into the dish, then brush all over with olive oil. Lay two or three more sheets on top of it, brushing with oil each time. There’s likely to be an overhang of phyllo up the sides, which you will fold inwards after you’ve added the filling.
Spoon in the filling and even it out. Fold the overhanging phyllo inwards like the following photo:
Cut three or four sheets of phyllo to just slightly bigger (on all sides) than the surface of the dish. Now layer each of these sheets of phyllo on top, brushing each time.
Be more generous than before with brushing oil on the top layer. Now use the basting brush to push the phyllo down along the edges.
Sprinkle sesame seeds all over the top.
Finally, use a sharp knife to score the top of the phyllo as in the photo below, then use your fingers to sprinkle a little cold water over the top of the pastry. This helps it crisp beautifully.
Bake in a preheated 180℃ oven for an hour. I recommend lemon potato wedges with it, but honestly, it’s a meal in itself, so you may just want to make it the whole meal. DM
Tony Jackman is Galliova Food Writer 2023, jointly with TGIFood columnist Anna Trapido.
Follow Tony Jackman on Instagram @tony_jackman_cooks.