In the lead up to Greek Easter, on Palm Sunday in fact, Mr K and I enjoyed lunch along with the rest of our extended family at my sister in law's parents house. Our host Mrs A, who is originally from Crete, is an incredible cook. The Palm Sunday table was absolutely heaving with what seemed like one hundred beautiful vegetarian and seafood dishes - including the traditional bakaliaros, skordalia, chargrilled octopus, stuffed mussels and more including some Cretan specialties that I had not tried before, such as calamari slow cooked with green olives, tomatoes and fennel.
One of the absolute highlights on the table was, however, Mrs A divine Kalitsounia (καλιτσούνια). A small hand folded pie filled with wild greens and herbs - they were deceptively easy to eat!! Taking inspiration from Mrs A's kitchen, I recently tried my hand at making some cheese filled kalitsounia.
On our last visit to Crete, we tried some very savoury kalitsounia, stuffed with the local fresh mizithra and various herbs. A sweet variation was also made with mizithra and cinnamon. Having some homemade mizithra to hand (see the recipe here), I decided to make the Easter style traditional savoury kalitsounia - where mizithra cheese is mixed with both fresh and dried mint. I love using a mix of fresh and dried mint in many greek dishes, as I feel it adds to the body and fragrance of the dish. In this recipe I have used Daphnis and Chloe's "The Sweetest Peppermint", as the leaves of the peppermint are carefully packed whole and by rubbing them with your fingers into the cheese mixture, they release the most incredible aroma.
Baked kalitsounia (καλιτσούνια) with mizithra and mint
For the dough:
3 & 1/2 cups plain flour
250ml warm water
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoons of raki or ouzo
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
For the filling:
400g well drained fresh mizithra
250g feta, crumbled
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of dried mint (Daphnis and Chloe "The Sweetest Peppermint" from Homer St)
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl and mix to form a soft dough. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes, then wrap in cling film and place in fridge to rest for around an hour.
1. Preheat oven to 180C. Combine all of the filling ingredients and mix until smooth.
2. Remove the dough from the fridge and lightly flour it. Portion the dough into smaller pieces and work with one piece at a time, keeping the remaining pieces well wrapped.
3. Either use a rolling pin or roll the dough through a pasta machine, first on the widest setting and then a narrower setting (several times) to form a long strip.
4. Place the dough on a lightly floured surface. Cut the strip into small rounds. Place 1 small spoon of the cheese mixture on each round of dough, moisten edges with a little water, fold over and seal well, pressing the edges together with a fork. Place in a single layer on a lined baking tray and keep covered with a clean tea towel until you have finished preparing the kalitsounia and are ready to bake them.
5. When ready to bake, brush lightly with the egg glaze and place in the oven for around 20 minutes or until golden.