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Thursday, 22 May 2008

Green onion spiral pie (Στριφτόπιτα με φρέσκα κρεμμύδια)


"Welcome ladies and gentlemen," announced Delilah Rawson to the cameramen, "to the DDG's Cook Your Own," all smiles as she spoke, even though just a few minutes earlier she had been screaming down the telephone at her partner - whom she preferred to call husband, but was worried that her lesbian producer would find out and regard her as old-fashioned - about not flushing the toilet after he does his business.

She picked up a zucchini flower. "We all love flowers, don't we?" Rhetorical questions were the norm in her regurgitated dialogues. "But which one of you would consider eating them?" She didn't intend to do this, either; the spiral pie that she was about to concoct was to be dished out amongst the camera crew, most of whom were flatting and willing to eat foliage of any sort. Ten years ago, Delilah had been experimenting with foliage rolled up in cigarette paper. This was still somewhat in vogue amongst her colleagues, but vegetarianism had caught on to the point that it was overtaking the former fad. Besides, if she ate whatever she cooked, she'd do more damage than good to her reputation as a dietary expert, and then she'd be out of a job; she couldn't think of any celebrity cook who weighed more than 65 kilos tops. She had brought along a packet of low-salt low-fat cream crackers for when she felt peckish. She never cooked at home either - her mother lived next door and always had a freshly cooked pot of food ready for her husband and daughter. No one complained.

"Isn't it lovely?" she held the flower up to the camera for the cameraman to zoom in on it. "We're going to add it to a pot ..." - her mind flashed back to the days when she grew her own pot - "... full of fresh steaming garden greens which are going to be turned into a pie filling ..." When she first started out as a TV cook, she embraced her job with all the energy needed to become a successful celebrity. Ten years on, staying a celebrity was hard work. For a start, she was getting old, and her body was starting to show it: sagging tits, grey hair, laugh lines. Ten years of fine dining and experimental kitchens had also taken their toll on her waistline; it ws getting harder not to gain weight. She had hardly had enough time to apply her TV makeup this morning, what with the maid doing a runner on her (the Polish girl she employed had decided to elope with the neighbour's gardener), having to drive her daughter to school because the taxi she ordered broke down on the way, and jogging five rounds of the stadium before she came into work. After her run, she came back home to change into her TV clothes; upon entering the bathroom, her olfactory senses confronted the mess created by her artist husband and that was enough to bring her to tears.

She had been intending to cook Greek dolmadakia with the zucchini flowers on this week's show - which was always pre-recorded, as it was feared her surprise tantrums would upset some members in a live audience - but somehow the rice she had ordered in the food box for this week's show - she never shopped herself for any ingredients, although this was kept secret from the public lest her image as a successful wife, mother and cook become tarnished - never turned up. Instead there was a carton of eggs. She had arrived late for this morning's recording, and the studio was miles aways from humanity.

The show must go on, no matter what; she had promised her viewers from the previous week that she would be using zucchini flowers in this week's show, and she had to think up of something fast. She had checked out the contents of the box and was surprised to find a huge amount of the leafy green tops of onion plants - but no onions. Somebody thinks they're being very funny, she thought. She wondered whether she was being sabotaged by one of her rivals, maybe Oliver James, a past boyfriend who she had smoked that pot with. Lately he had criticised her for her overuse of garden greens in her recipes, saying she was only doing it for sensationalism, a pretentious aspiration to be in with the latest fashion which was now eco-awareness and environmental friendliness. He had wanted to co-host the show with Delilah, but had been rejected for the position, as DDG relegated him to hosting a culinary roadshow, which meant travelling for six months of the year, causing his relationship to break up.

So what was she going to do with fresh onion tops and zucchini flowers for today's show? She checked the contents of the fridge: some filo pastry from the last recording session, and a pot of unopened cottage cheese. It will have to do.

"... onion pie with fresh garden herbs," she continued, "just another way to cook your own."

*** *** ***

To make onion bulbs grow larger, the fresh leafy green tops can be cut away form the bulbs and used instead of regular onions. The only problem with them is that they are tougher to chew than regular onions, and for this reason they need to be stewed in some oil before being made into a pie. Most greens go well with some herbs. Use one or two of whatever you have handy: I prefer mint and parsley. Fennel is similar to dill, and there is an abundant supply of this growing all over Hania at the moment. Courgette flowers are a way to add colour to an otherwise very emerald mixture; they add their own taste to any meal.

Onion pies (I googled the first 20 sites I came across) contain about 75% onion (or leek, or spring onion, or a mixture of all), some herbs (one wacky cook even dared to use dorito chips in his!!!) some kind of soft mizithra-like cheese, eggs (most likely to bind the ingredients) and for those who can't do without a dose of meat in their diet, some streaky bacon. Onion pies are usually open-faced, so they should really be called onion tarts. My favorite kind of pie is the Greek-inspired spiral type, which is what I've decided to make today. Here's a most original mixture for a very alternative onion pie, the kind that Delilah had to create to save her public face.

You need:
1/4 cup olive oil
the green tops of fresh onions (the more tender, the better)
a small bunch of fennel (or dill, or mint, or a small amount of your favorite herbs)
a clove of garlic (optional; I used about 15 of the tiniest cloves that had come away from the heads of the garlic I had just dug up from the garden and tired into bunches)
a few courgette flowers (optional: I added these to make the pie more colourful)
2 eggs
200g soft white curd cheese (I used the famous Cretan mizithra of course)
salt and pepper
fresh paper-thin pastry (5-6 sheets for a round 8" tin)

Stew the chopped onion tops with the salt and pepper for about 20-30 minutes (depending on how tender they are) in the oil, adding the finely chopped herbs, minced garlic and chopped courgette flowers half-way during cooking time. Let the mixture cool, and then add the eggs and cheese. Mix thoroughly.

Lay a sheet of pastry on your worktop and place some filling on one side, leaving a small margin at the ends of the pastry sheet. Roll it up, and place it in a round baking tin. Repeat the process until all the mixture is used up and the baking tin is filled. If there is not enough mixture, fill up some pastry sheets in the same way with soft curd cheese. This way, the pie will be compact, and everyone can have whichever flavour pleases them. Brush the top of the pie with copious amounts of olive oil. Cook it in a moderate oven, until it is golden brown on top (about 30-40 minutes). Don't cut it until it has slightly cooled, otherwise it may lose its shape.

This is my entry to Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted this week by Sweetnicks.

MORE PIES:
Kalitsounia fried
Kalitsounia in the oven
Marathopites
Hortopita (spanakopita)
Tiropitakia
Filo-pastry making
Sfakianes pites
Summer kalitsounia
Easter kalitsounia