We’re not exactly sure when our parents starting making these delightful little cheese pies, but we are pretty sure we know their inspiration. We are blessed to have close, long time friends who are originally from the island of Crete. So throughout the years, we have frequently been privileged guests in Cretan homes, enjoying not only our friends’ wonderful company, but also their delicious food.
Every region of Greece has its own unique culture, music, dances, and of course cuisine. Crete, in particular, has a flavor all its own, and different from Messinia, which is where our parents are from. So, being the foodies that they are, our parents have tried to re-create some of their favourite Cretan foods, introduced to them by their friends. And so here you have it, their version of kalitsounia.
Our parents are a little vague as to the origins of this particular recipe. They are not quite sure if, or how, it was passed on to them, or if they managed through trial and error, to create these lovely little fried cheese pies all on their own. In any case, they are delicious. Keep in mind however that these may not be exactly the same as the kalitsounia made in a Cretan kitchen; speaking of which, we look forward to sharing with you some traditional and authentic Cretan recipes in More Kouppes early this year. Yeah!
The key to great kalitsounia is using great cheese. In our parents’ version they often use a combination of fresh mizithra, a cheese made from raw whole ewe’s or goat’s milk that is very popular in Crete, and Greek feta. If you are unable to find fresh mizithra, then you can substitute equal amounts of ricotta cheese; the textures are very similar.
The dough made for these kalitsounia is very simple to prepare, but works best when you allow the dough to rest at room temperature for about an hour before rolling it out. Our parents like to roll out their dough using a manual pasta machine, which allows them to produce long, thin rows of dough rather easily. This is easiest when done with a partner, as one person can turn the machine while the other person takes hold of the somewhat delicate dough that is produced. We don’t have such a machine (but are seriously thinking of investing in one) and so our parents also showed us that it is very possible to roll out the dough using a rolling pin. Because the dough is somewhat sticky, be sure to roll your dough out on a lightly floured surface. We find that flouring your rolling pin is also helpful.
When you roll out your dough try to make it as thin as possible without tearing it. Remember that you will be adding cheese and folding it over itself to make a half-moon shape, so the dough should be able to withstand this type of manipulation. Experiment, and after a bit of trial and error, you will get the hang of it!
Like most other cheese pies, kalitsounia freeze very well, and are excellent to have stocked away. If you are going to freeze them after preparing them, lay them on a baking sheet. Once frozen, you can store them in a freezer bag. Then, when you are ready to fry some up, allow them to defrost for about 30 minutes at room temperature and then continue with the frying instructions described in the actual recipe.
You may find that in making kalitsounia you end up with some leftover cheese, or leftover dough. If cheese is leftover you can either freeze it for future uses, or mix it with some additional eggs and make a yummy cheese omelet. If you have some dough leftover you can make little strips that you simply fry until golden brown. When they are still very hot sprinkle them with some granulated sugar and enjoy a tasty treat!
When one of us was vacationing in Crete several years ago, we walked into a village coffee shop and were served warm kalitsounia generously drizzled with the most delicious Cretan honey. These warm cheese pies were elevated to another level! Since then, if we are having kalitsounia as a snack or a light lunch or breakfast (as opposed to part of a buffet – which they often are) we like to add some honey to them. The saltiness of the cheese combined with the sweetness of the honey is incredible.
Mia Kouppa: Kalitsounia
- 2 2/3 cups (660 ml) all-purpose flour, sifted
- 1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) salt
- 1/4 cup (60 ml) olive oil
- 1 large egg
- 1/4 (60 ml) cup milk
- 1 cup water (250 ml), room temperature For the filling:
- 1 cup (250 ml) fresh Greek mizithra or ricotta
- 1/2 cup (125 ml) crumbled Greek feta
- 1 large egg
- 1/2 tablespoon (7 ml) flour
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Honey, for drizzling (optional, but highly recommended 🙂 )
- In a small bowl, whisk one large egg. Add the milk and mix well.
- In a larger bowl, combine the sifted flour, salt, olive oil. Pour in the milk and egg mixture, and then slowly add in the water. Mix well and knead the dough for about 5 minutes. The dough will be slightly sticky, but will come together nicely when kneaded. Add additional flour or water if required, in order to have a dough which comes together, is not too wet, nor too dry. The dough should feel soft, and it should be easy to knead (not too stiff). Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rest for approximately 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling by combining the fresh mizithra (or ricotta), the feta cheese, flour and the other large egg. Mix well. Set aside.
- After your dough has rested, roll it out either by using a pasta machine set to the sheet (lasagna) setting, or a rolling pin. If using a rolling pin, be sure to flour your surface first, as well as your rolling pin. In fact, if using a pasta machine, you can drop a bit of flour into the mechanism as well, to help prevent sticking. Regardless of whether you use a pasta maker or a rolling pin, take a portion of your dough and roll it out until it is quite thin, almost transparent (about 1/8 of an inch thick). The thinner your dough, the lighter your kalitsounia will be, and the more individual cheese pies you will be able to make.
- If you have used a pasta machine you will end up with a long strip of dough. If this is the case, then begin to drop a tablespoon of filling every inch, or inch and a half, along the entire length of the dough, along one of the long edges. Then, carefully, fold the other half over the filling. Finally, using a glass or knife, cut around the filling to end up with half moon shaped cheese pies. Press down along the edges to seal them properly. Be sure to roll out the scraps so that no dough goes to waste. Continue until you use up all the dough and filling.
- If you have used a rolling pin, your dough is likely not going to be in a long strip. In this case, it is easier to cut out circles of dough, either by using a glass, or a round cookie cutter. Then, drop a tablespoon of dough into the center of your glass and fold it over. Press along the edges to be sure that they are sealed properly. Be sure to roll out the scraps so that no dough goes to waste. Continue until you use up all the dough and filling.
- Once your kalitsounia are prepared you can either freeze them to be enjoyed later, or get to cooking them. If you do freeze them, allow them to defrost for 30 minutes prior to cooking them.
- In a large frying pan heat about an inch of vegetable oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot enough (sizzles when a kalitsounaki is dropped in), add as many kalitsounia as the pan will accommodate, being careful not to overcrowd them. Cook, until golden brown, about 2 – 3 minutes per side.
- Remove from oil carefully and allow to cool slightly on a paper towel.
- Serve when they are still warm. If you like, you can drizzle them with some honey. Enjoy!