My Greek shepherds pie
If you are a Greek cuisine aficionado you probably already know that flaky pies with scrumptious fillings is one of our strong points. Pies are such a simple preparation, once you get into the habit they almost get addictive. I made a simple, two ingredients pie: mince meat and onion pie, kimadopita that I prefer to call it Greek shepherds pie.
This shepherds pie has nothing to do with the classic British dish that gathers the best of the allotment, layers them ‘moussaka style’ and is served in all its baked wholesomeness. My shepherds pie has to do with simplicity, the simplicity of cooking that takes ingredients found at hand and transforms them to a delicious and filling dish. It’s also about a lifestyle long gone but certainly not forgotten. Rural Greece, traditionally involved in agriculture and farming would make pie the main meal of the day. Pie was lunch and pie was dinner. An easy solution to sustain a large family: mix up some flour with olive oil, water and vinegar, gently fold it into a supple dough, let it rest and open in thin, almost transparent sheets, throw a couple of seasonal vegetables in and bake until golden. Easy to carry for lunch in the fields and ready, on the table to receive you after a hard days toil.
Of course the majority of the population nowadays is locked into office jobs. We are still in love with pies though. They are ubiquitous in our Greek bakeries and serve as late breakfast or eleventies. Traditionally a pie would be made up of what a household had: eggs, cheese and flour, wild greens, perhaps a bit of meat or just using up left overs. No set rules to break, improvisation is key in pie making. This mince meat pie, kimadopita, is normally a winter favourite and it often features on large gatherings.
I went really simple on this one and I believe it allows you to savour the best of two very simple ingredients: onions, lots of them, in all their sweetness and some beef mince. Slow cooking of the onions is key to get out their sweetness. Mince meat is just browned, all ingredients are mixed and bound with a little bit of cheese. Read on for the details
- 500 gr of fillo pastry
- 800 gr red onions
- 750 gr beef mince
- 150 gr hard yellow cheese like kefalotiri
- salt and pepper to taste
- a bit of olive oil for brushing the fillo pastry
How to make it
- Peel the onions and cut in quarters.
- Place in a pot and cover with water, bring them to a simmer and let them cook through until the onions are soft and most water evaporates (approx 40 min)
- On a different pan, brown the beef mince, no olive oil needed
- Once the mince meat is done, keep the pan on low heat and integrate the cooked onions. Stir of a couple of minutes.
- Remove from fire, add salt and pepper to taste and your kefalotiri or hard yellow cheese of choice.
- The filling is ready
- Lightly oil your baking tray and layer your first fillo pastry sheet. Brush some more olive oil and repeat with 3-4 fillo pastry sheets for the bottom.
- Evenly layer your mince meat and onion filling.
- Layer another 3-4 pastry sheets on top, remembering to brush with a bit of olive oil.
- Depending on your fillo pastry, if it’s crusty you can trim or roll the excess and tuck it on the side.
- Bake on a preheated oven at 180 C for 35-40 minutes.
I hope you get to enjoy when hungry and in good company.
From Athens with love,