Greece, understandably, is very proud of its heritage. For most people outside the country, this is symbolised by the shining white columns of the Parthenon on the Athenian Acropolis and the numerous other antiquites seen throughout the country. However, there is something defined as Intangible Cultural Heritage that includes music, dance, traditional agricultural and craft practices, regional festivals, etc. A very important aspect of this intangible heritage close to my own interest is culinary traditions.
The Greek Government’s Directorate of Modern Assets and Intangible Cultural Heritage has published a lovely bi-lingual booklet in Greek and English on one such culinary tradition. It is available online: Η ΠΙΤΑ – THE PIE
The booklet covers pies from Greece’s northern and easternmost territory of Thrace, the Epirote region of Zagoria, the plains of Thessaly, the Ionian island of Corfu, the western mountains south of Epirus, the central regions of Lamia and Galaxidi, the northern Peloponnese, the southwestern peninsula of Messenia, the Aegean and Cycladic Islands to the east, and last (but not least) the great island of Crete. Easy to follow recipes for each region are included. Be warned, traditional measurements include – from larger to smaller – the “glass” (a standard water glass), the “teacup” and the “demi-tasse” (the common Greek coffee cup).
Pies, or pitas as they are called in Greece, can be savoury or sweet, large or small, circular, spiral, layered, covered or uncovered. The pastry is more often than not homemade phyllo, but other bread- or cake-like pastry can be found. The fillings are seemingly unlimited, usually based on what is to hand at any given time of year. Specific pitas are also associated with specific places or specific events. Or they can just be made to use up leftovers, encased in layers of homemade phyllo – like the one above made with cooked chicken and a herbed rice pilaf. But, more on pies in future posts!