Kreatopita Kefalonitiki

Meat Pie from Cephalonia

Preparation info

  • Difficulty

    Medium

  • makes

    10 to 12

    small pies

Appears in

THIS FAMOUS pie, whose spices bring to mind the meat pies of Arab and Sephardic traditions, is unique to Cephalonia and very different from the pies baked in other parts of Greece. Marinated finely chopped lamb and pork, tomato, rice and cheese are mixed together, seasoned with cinnamon, allspice, orange zest and all sorts of fresh and dried herbs and cooked slowly in the oven between two layers of rich phyllo pastry. My version is loosely based on a recipe I got from Gerasimos Konstantatos, a friend from Cephalonia. It was passed down from his mother, and he assures me it is the best he has ever tasted on the island or in the homes of his relatives in Athens.

This is an ideal party dish, since it can be made ahead and it serves a large group. It can easily be halved, but since the preparation involves quite a bit of time, I suggest you bake a large pie anyway, then freeze half of it as soon as it cools.

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Ingredients

Filling

  • 1 pound boneless lamb, finely chopped or coarsely ground
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 4 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound lean pork, finely chopped or coarsely ground
  • 2 cups coarsely chopped onions
  • 1 cup dry red wine
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, diced or grated, or cups canned diced tomatoes with their juice
  • cup medium-grain rice, such as Arborio
  • cups grated hard myzithra or pecorino Romano cheese
  • 1 cup beef or Chicken Stock
  • 1 cup packed coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • ½ cup chopped fresh dill
  • 1 tablespoon orange zest
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • Salt
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 17¼-ounce packages (3 sheets) frozen puff pastry, thawed according to the package instructions
  • About 3 tablespoons milk

Method

Make the Filling

In a medium bowl, combine the lamb, 2 tablespoons of the oil, half the garlic, ½ teaspoon each of the rosemary, thyme and allspice and ½ teaspoon of the pepper or ¼ teaspoon of the pepper flakes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours, or overnight. In a separate bowl, combine the pork, the remaining garlic, the remaining ½ teaspoon each rosemary, thyme and allspice and the remaining ½ teaspoon pepper or ¼ teaspoon pepper flakes. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 to 3 hours, or overnight.

Preheat the oven to 450°F.

In a large, deep skillet with a lid, heat the remaining 6 tablespoons oil and sauté the onions over high heat until soft, 4 to 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer to a large bowl. Add the lamb to the pan and sauté, stirring often, until no longer pink, 4 to 5 minutes. With the slotted spoon, transfer to the bowl. Add the pork to the pan and sauté for about 4 minutes until it is no longer pink. Add the wine and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute more. Reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and rice and add to the onions and lamb.

Add the cheese, stock, parsley, dill, orange zest, cinnamon and salt to taste to the lamb mixture. Add the eggs and mix well.

Briefly knead 2 sheets of the puff pastry together, then roll out on a lightly floured surface. Line a 12-x-18-inch baking dish with the pastry, trimming it to a 1-inch overhang. Add the filling and smooth with a spatula. Stretch the remaining sheet of puff pastry to cover the filling.

Fold the overhanging bottom pastry up over the top crust and pinch the edges together to seal, crimping them to make a neat cord around the edge of the pan (see illustrations). Flatten the cord with the tines of a fork to prevent it from sticking up, or it will burn during baking. Brush the top generously with the milk.

Bake for 15 minutes, sprinkling the top of the pie with water 8 to 10 times. Bake for 10 minutes more, then reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 1 hour more, or until golden brown. Check often, and if the pastry puffs up, prick it in several places with a knife. If the top browns too soon, cover it loosely with aluminum foil. Bake for 20 minutes more. Turn off the oven, but leave the pie in the oven for 15 minutes. Let cool at room temperature for at least 30 minutes before cutting and serving.

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