Greek mini meat pies
Think of all of the choices you make, every single day. Do you set your alarm 30 minutes early so that you can get in a morning run, or do you snooze for extra slumber? Do you splurge and purchase an impractical but gorgeous pair of heels, or put your hard earned money towards running shoes – in case you do choose cardio over sleep. It’s clear that all the choices we make have consequences, some small and unimportant (should I use a pink or yellow highlighter to mark up my grocery list) and others more meaningful and significant.
Decisions around how we eat and feed our families certainly fall into the second category of choice impact. We firmly believe that food is love, but more than that it is health, healing, connections to our cultures and history, to the earth and the world around us. It is also a way to make proclamations about what is important to us, and what we value. Because of this, a visit to the grocery store or market can be more than just a necessary chore that we try to complete as quickly and efficiently as possible; it can be an opportunity to reflect, to learn, to teach our children. Yes, all this while also picking up pasta and eggs. It is possible!
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We are blessed that we were raised in home that understood the value of food. Not only the significance of holding on to old family recipes, but also the importance of learning where your food comes from, how it grows, how to grow it yourself, how to buy seasonally and preserve for the remainder of the year. Our parents did this knowing that food choices had to be smart, but also economical.
One of our parents’ favourite sayings is “λίγα αλλά καλά” (liga alla kala) which translates to a few, but good. They would say this when we worried that we didn’t have enough friends, when we complained that our closets were practically empty, when we wished we had more of anything. This mantra was one that they also used when it came to food choices.
Meat was never an everyday affair in our family, in part due to the vast array of vegetarian and vegan dishes that make up Greek cuisine, particularly important during fasting days, and also because of the expense; in most parts of the world, meat is more costly than beans, grains and veggies. Still, when our parents cooked and served meat, fish or poultry, it was always the best possible product they could find and afford. This meant visits to a farm where they would purchase truly free-range chickens, or selecting an entire lamb or pig and then having it butchered and frozen. It also meant buying choice cuts of meat and grinding them at home, so that there was no question where the ground meat came from. And it also meant stocking up on sales, and loading their chest freezer with good food bought at an affordable price. In all of this, relationships were important; our parents have always made it a point to get to know their local butcher, fishmonger, farmer and even baker. Knowing and trusting the people involved in your food purchases has always been important to them, and they’ve taught us to value the same.
You can imagine then how thrilled we were to receive ground beef from Beretta Farms and to use it to create a recipe that we knew would be exceptional, given the exceptional product. A Canadian family run business that has grown to now include over 40 ranches, Beretta Farms prides itself on humanely raising animals organically without antibiotics, hormones or steroids. Because the animals are fed with no GMO Certified Organic feed and are raised on grass and finished with organic grain, this 100% Canadian Angus beef epitomizes the notion that you are what you eat, even when referring to animals!
We decided to use this gift to make a version of the traditional Greek meat pie called kreatopita. We used store-bought filo, the kind we have used to make spanakopitakia, bougatsa and mini apple pies to wrap up a gently spiced and full of flavour meat mixture. These mini meat pies are the perfect way to highlight the amazing texture and flavour of quality ground beef and would make an amazing appetizer or meze. Served alongside a green salad like maroulosalata and some rice or potatoes they would also make a perfect lunch or light supper.
I can’t afford organic meat. What can I use instead?
We certainly understand that the higher cost of organic meat can be prohibitive. At the same time, we wouldn’t want you to not enjoy this recipe (or other recipes which include meat) because of that. Here are a few things to consider:
- Although organic meat can be more expensive than non-organic meat you can often find items on sale. If you live in Canada and choose to check out Beretta Farms, they often have sale items and they will deliver to your door (quality and convenience)! You can also use the Promo Code beretta15 for 15% off of your first purchase.
- Consider buying better quality meat (which will likely cost more) but buying less of it. Incorporating vegetarian or vegan meals into your diet is always a good thing, and we have a slew of choices available on our Recipe List to help get you inspired and started.
- If buying organic is still out of your budget range, or not something that you want to invest in, purchase your meat at a store or market that has a high turnaround and get to know your butcher. Even if you don’t have a meat grinder at home, you can usually ask your butcher to grind your meat for you – that way you select the cut of meat you want and have that ground up freshly.
I have heard that working with filo is difficult. Is that true?
Filo (also referred to as phyllo) can be finicky. It is paper thin, delicate and dries out quite quickly. As a result many people think that it is too difficult to work with. This is really a shame because once you get the hang of it, the opportunities for using filo are endless. Filo can be used to make desserts like the classic Greek galaktoboureko, and savoury recipes like our mushroom and chestnut filo triangles.
You can usually find filo either fresh or frozen; we much prefer the fresh filo. If you can only find frozen be sure to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight, and give it time to thaw completely.
Whether you use fresh or frozen filo, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Always handle filo with dry hands; any moisture will cause your filo sheets to get soggy and mushy and may make them easier to tear.
- Any filo you are not working with should be covered with a towel or in the packaging it was purchased in; this will keep it from drying out, becoming brittle, and tearing.
- If your filo does tear…don’t worry about it. The way that it is used in this recipe, and many others, is in layers. So, if you have a tear in one layer, the other layer(s) will cover it up.
How do I make the mini triangles?
Making the mini triangles is easier than you might think; it just takes a bit of practice. We’ve included photos and a small video to help you along. A few things to keep in mind:
- Do not use more than 1 tablespoon of filling for every mini meat pie; too much filling will not allow you to shape your triangles properly.
- Do not fold your mini meat pies too tightly; if you do as the steam builds up on the inside of your triangle, the filo will break open.
Can I freeze the mini meat pies?
Yes, and that’s a great idea! Prepare your mini meat pies as described in the recipe but do not brush the tops with oil. Then, place on a cookie sheet and freeze. Once frozen, store them in a freezer bag. When you are ready to bake them place them on a baking tray and allow to thaw at room temperature for 20 – 30 minutes, and then brush the tops with olive oil. Bake as directed but keep in mind that you may need to adjust your baking time somewhat as your kreatopitakia will still be a bit frozen.
Do I have to include the alcohol in the recipe?
The flavour of the Metaxa or red wine in the meat filling is subtle, but lovely. However, if you prefer not to use alcohol, go right ahead. Your mini meat pies will still be amazing!
Looking for other great recipe that use ground beef? How about these:
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