Epirus

Hortopita with herbs (greens pie)

A gluten-free version of the traditional Epirotic greens pie with filo pastry.
Ηπειρώτικο Πρωινό-Hortopita with herbs (greens pie)
Before cooking...

In the Epirus highlands of old, wild greens were the equivalent of an invaluable treasure, abundant even under the most challenging conditions. Plants like bitter dock, which grew in heaps during both winter and spring, were a staple in any greens-based local recipe. These humble gifts of nature that kept coming ended up feeding multiple generations of Epirotes, providing them with the necessary nutrition in the toughest of times.

Hortopita with herbs (greens pie)

Ingredients

Traditional Greek greens pies require adding an extra ingredient to absorb the excess liquids and bolster the filling. This recipe includes a combination of such ingredients, trahanas and corn flour.

For the traditional filo:

  • 500 gr gluten-free all-purpose flour
  • 200 gr water, lukewarm
  • 100 ml olive oil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2-3 drops of vinegar

For the filling:

  • ½ kg spinach
  • 1 handful of chervil and Mediterranean hartwort
  • 1 handful of bitter dock
  • 1 bunch of scallions
  • 1 bunch of parsley
  • 1 bunch of dill
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 50 gr gluten-free trahanas
  • 500 gr feta cheese, crumbled
  • Salt (to preference)
  • Pepper (to preference)
  • 1 egg
  • 100 gr gluten-free corn flour (or gluten-free fine semolina)
  • 50 ml olive oil

Note: For a more authentic traditional filo dough, you can use hard flour, albeit you might have to sift it first. Alternatively, you can use ready-made traditional Greek filo sheets.

Execution

  1. In a large bowl, add the flour and make a small pit in the middle. In the pit, add the rest of the ingredients for the filo dough (salt, sugar, vinegar, olive oil, and water). Mix with your hands and knead until the dough is smooth and non-sticky. Divide the dough into 6 even balls, cover them with a towel, and let them rest for 30 minutes.
  2. When ready, roll the dough balls into 6 thin sheets with the rolling pin.
  3. Wash the greens thoroughly. Soak them in water for a few minutes, change the water, and repeat 3-4 times until it’s clear. Rinse the greens well, dry them in a colander, and finely chop them.
  4. In a large bowl, mix the greens, the finely chopped onion, the egg, the crumbled feta, the olive oil, the trahanas, the corn flour, salt, and pepper.
  5. Set the oven to “upper and lower heat” and preheat it to 180 °C.
  6. Brush a baking pan with olive oil. Lay a filo sheet and brush it with olive oil. Repeat for 2 more filo sheets. Spread the filling evenly and lay the 3 remaining filo sheets brushing with olive oil in between. Score the pie surface into pieces with a knife and drizzle with a little water.
  7. Place the pan on the lower rack and bake for 1 hour (approximately) until the top is golden brown.
  8. Let the hortopita cool for a bit and serve.

This gluten-free hortopita can double as a snack or light meal throughout the day. It’s also an excellent companion to traditional Epirotic lamb or goat meat dishes.

After cooking…

One of the most riveting hiking trails across the mountains of Epirus is the one reaching Flegga, the highest peak of the Mavrovouni mountain. After a thrilling hike through the virgin natural landscape and shortly before you touch the peak, you will find yourself amidst a glacial valley adorned with two beautiful alpine lakes. These “drakolimnes” (dragon-lakes), as the locals call them, turn an already sublime scenery into something out of a fairy tale!

Ηπειρώτικο Πρωινό-After cooking…