Pitas or “pies” are a speciality of Epirus, northern Greece. This applies particularly to the Zagori area of the Pindos mountains north of the city of Ioannina. Tembelopita (τεμπελόπιτα) is a typical pita from the Zagori region of Epirus. It literally translates as “lazy pie”, based on the simplicity of how it is made. It goes by other names: alevropita (“flour pie”), or simply by the generic term of tyropita (“cheese pie”). I’ve seen other recipes for tembelopita, but they are quite thick and use yoghurt instead of milk. This does not seem to be the Zagori method which produces a pancake-like batter pita. There are a lot of cows in this part of Greece, so milk that is essential to the batter is not a problem to source, nor is butter.
Tembelopita or alevropita is commonly served as a breakfast food, but is a good snack at any time of the day. Also, things like olive slices are sometimes added to the topping. We had this for breakfast most of the days we spent in Zagoria and often had a packetto (i.e. leftovers wrapped in a foil packet) made up for our lunch while we toured around the area. Very welcome it was after trekking around on cobbled tracks!
Zagouri Tembelopita or Lazy Pie
Instead of the usual feta, I used a grated goat cheese studded with black pepper which we brought back from Metsovo for the topping and a soft and crumbly goat cheese for mixing into the batter. My baking pan was also a slight bit smaller than the one I saw being used, but I adjusted the baking time and it worked very well even if the pie itself was a bit thicker.
- approx. 250g flour
- 3 eggs (2 for batter, 1 for topping)
- approx. 250g milk
- 100ml olive oil (divided 40ml for bottom, 40ml for batter, 20ml for topping)
- 30g butter
- 175g feta cheese (95g for batter, 80g for topping)
Preheat your oven to 250ºC
Prepare your baking pan (ideally a 36X39cm rectangular baking tray, but mine was 21×39) by lining the bottom with greaseproof paper. Drizzle on about 40ml olive oil and put it in the oven to get hot while you prepare the rest of the ingredients, but do not let it burn. This is a similar process to preparing your pan to make Yorkshire puddings.
Crumble the cheese into small pieces and divide into 80g (for the top) and 95g (for incorporating into the batter).
In a large bowl, beat the flour with 2 eggs and all of the milk. Stir well to make a batter. Crumple and add the 95g of cheese and add 40ml of oil. The mixture will be similar in consistency as slightly thick pancake batter. Adjust by adding flour or milk to get the right thickness.
Pour the batter into the hot baking pan and spread it everywhere. Quickly, add the remaining 80g of crumbled feta on top and drizzle on the remaining 20ml olive oil. Dot with the butter. Finally, beat the remaining egg and pour it evenly over the pie.
Put the baking pan back into the hot oven and lower the temperature to 200ºC. Bake for about 30-35 minutes. The edges will puff up a little and the top turn golden when it is done. It should be thin – about 1 to 1.5 cm thick, but since I used a slightly narrower pan, it was thicker (about 2 cm).
Peel the pita off the bottom of the pan once it has cooled a little and cut it into serving pieces. Great warm, but can be eaten cold. We had leftovers the next day, drizzled with a little Greek thyme honey – delicious.