Just next to the town of Kalampaka, you find Kastraki. Kastraki is a small village, nested under the rock pillars of Meteora, almost forgotten by time. I left the car behind and went on a short hike towards a lonely rock, called the spindle. The views were amasing and because a hike, albeit a virtual one gives you an appetite, there is a mushroom tart too!
Head straight to the recipe.
Kastraki might not be one of the most picturesque villages of Greece but in its simplicity it holds together old and new, in a very unique manner. There are newly built guest houses, in pristine state but at the same time you find buildings whose stones have been exposed to the elements for a long time now. I took to the back streets, many of the buildings are weathered down and seem abandoned, many are white-washed or with a joyous lick of paint.
Many are nesting with their back to the great rocks of Meteora.
As I was walking along, most homes had their window shutters shielded, perhaps from long ago, perhaps they only serve as summer homes to city dwellers. I followed the narrow footpaths and cul-de-sacs winding through the village. These tiny roads had just one thing in common, ending in lovely small vegetable gardens.
I went towards the single rock pillar,- adrachti, the spindle – as it is nicknamed by the locals. It is a short hike, about 30 minutes, with a well signed route. Water bottle at hand I started walking up, meeting more temples on my way, although shut for visitors at that time. During spring greenery is lush and wild flowers are at their best.
The tiny forest in between the massive rock pillars was extremely peaceful. Once out of the woods, the view point changes dramatically. You are not above them, you are not looking at the impressive heights from faraway, you are actually inside the rock forest.
I was surprised by how few visitors this short trail received. I only came across another couple going up and a group of rock climbers, all geared up and ready to go. And just I said that look who else I found, two adorable pups roaming the woods all by themselves.
The company was a bit too playful for a steep hill but utterly adorable. The descend was a bit tougher with these two between our feet, but it seemed they were locals and knew very well how to tread the path. Nobody rolled down the hill and we shared our water bottles with the pups along with many strokes. I am still wondering why I didn’t take them back home. In hindsight, I am sure they are much happier roaming the woods than in the flat in Athens.
This was on my last day in Kalampaka and as a souvenir I was carrying precious cargo: my dehydrated black trumpets and yellow foot mushrooms I got from the meteora museum. Now what can you do with these? A lot of things, I went for a tart as I was longing for one. But let’s see how to rehydrate them first.
How to reconstitute dried mushrooms
Many recipes call for hot or warm water. Although in hot water mushrooms plump up faster, it is often blamed to take away much of the flavour. I used just tap water, at room temperature for mine and the result was excellent, within 30 minutes my mushrooms were ready.
Before using, squeeze out any extra moisture and give them a quick rinse to make sure there is no grit left on them. Rehydrated mushrooms are as good as fresh ones.
The broth –
No matter which method you use to rehydrate the mushrooms, you can keep the broth for later.
Make sure it’s free of all grit, you might wish to pash it through a thin mesh strainer, even a coffee filter can do the trick. It keeps in the fridge for 3 days or in the freezer, for 3 months.
Keep in mind that the broth has a strong flavour and your dish will taste super-mushroomy, so make sure it is not going to overwhelm your dish.
My pastry base, tastes just like pate brisee only it’s not the original. It’s a quick adaptation of pate brise, using half olive oil, half butter, coined by a dear friend whose recipes you can find here (in Greek)
For the pastry
- 250 gr plain flour
- 10 gr baking powder
- 100 ml water
- 50 ml olive oil
- 50 gr unsalted butter
- ½ teaspoon salt
(if you are using it for a sweet tart, add only a pinch of salt and 50gr of sugar)
For the filling
- 10 gr of dehydrated yellow foot mushrooms, craterellus lutescens
- 10 gr of dehydrated black trumpets, craterellus cornucapoiader
- 1 large red onion
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
- 1 tsp of sugar
- 200 gr of cream cheese, I used the Greek katiki
- 100 gr of gruyere (or mild melting cheese)
- freshly ground pepper
What to do:
For the tart base
- Add the olive oil, water, butter in a medium pan and bring to the boil (2 min)
- In a bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt
- Once your liquid ingredients are ready, slowly add in the solids in the pan and with the aid of a spoon mix well to combine
- Prepare your baking tray, butter and flour, and transfer the dough.
- Start working on it so that it covers your surface and prepare for blind bake.
- That is pinch the bottom with a fork, cover with foil and add baking beans or just dried beans or rice if you don’t have any suitable for baking (you can re-use these).
- Place the tray in the bottom shelf of your oven and bake for 15 min at 180 C at a preheated, fan assisted oven.
- Once baked, remove the beans or weight of choice and return the tray in the oven for an extra 15 min (if you want a cold filling to go on top, bake a little longer, until golden brown)
For the filling
- Reconstitute the mushrooms, if using cold water it takes around 30 minutes
- Meanwhile chop the onions in largish stripes and get the frying pan ready to caramelise them
- Heat up the olive oil and add the onions to cook until translucent.
- Add the balsamic vinegar, sprinkle the sugar and caramelise
- Strain and rinse the rehydrated mushrooms and give them a quick pass from the pan with the caramelised onions. Your filling is ready to use.
Assembling the tart
- Get the pastry you prepared earlier and put a smooth layer of cream cheese or the Greek katiki if you have any at hand.
- Evenly distribute the filling on top, add the gruyere or melting cheese of choice, grind some fresh pepper and return the tart in the oven.
- Bake for 20 minutes at 180 ºC in a preheated oven.
Enjoy the mushroom cream cheese tart with really good company and plan your holiday to Meteora!
From Athens with love,
For more mushroom products, check out the Meteora museum e-shop.