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Monday, 22 November 2010

Leek and onion pie (Πρασοκρεμμυδόπιτα)

I love all allium plants (onions, garlic and leeks). Onions and garlic are never missing from my kitchen. When the leek season begins in early autumn, they are never missing from my kitchen, either. I also once question the use of half an onion (or half a clove of garlic, or half a leek) in a recipe. Why half? What would happen if a whole one was used? Would the recipe be ruined?! There is no such thing as half an allium in my cooking style.

leeks from zakinthos and white eggplants
Supermarkets in Crete sell anything and everything these days: Zakinthian onions and Santorini eggplants.

When I go shopping, if I find a novel fruit or vegetable (ie a plant that is not grown in Crete) at the supermarket, I always buy one item to take home and show my keen gardener husband. On my most recent visit, I saw some giant onions (seriously, they were huge), which I thought were made just for me in the size I prefer for a meal! The label accompanying them named them Zakinthian onions. Through my Zakinthian friend Kiki, I discovered that these onions are called belousiotika (Μπελουσιώτικα) onions, because they are grown in a village called Μπελουσι (Belousi) in Zakinthos. Not only are they huge, they are also sweet. You won't cry when chopping these onions - they seem to lack the stinging-eye effect that we often feel when we are peeling onions. They also have thick flesh, unlike their regular counterparts.

leek and onion pie
My best food is my creative food: just by looking at what I have available, I can whip something up that I have never cooked before. When the ingredients are good quality, the dish usually comes out very tasty.

Apparently these Belousiotika onions are often used in salads, but I thought their sweet taste would go well in a spectacular vegetable-based pie. Just by looking into my fridge and pantry, I decided to use them together with some leeks; the combination turned out into a perfect πίτα. 

You need:
1 belousiotiko onion (or 3 regular onions, to make up the bulk)
3 thick leeks (or 5-6 skinny ones, which are locally grown in Crete during the autumn)
a few tablespoons of olive oil
salt and pepper
200g single low-fat cream (even though I hardly ever use this much in my cooking, I always store some long-life cream in the fridge, for those 'just-in-case' days; it was perfect for today's recipe)
2 eggs
100g grated parmesan cheese
some pastry of your choice (I made my own, using the classic Cretan recipe: some water, a little bit of olive oil, a dash of salt and some all-purpose flour; you could also use frozen pastry)

leek and onion pie filling
For an idea of size, the Belousiotiko onion covers more than the elemnet below it, while it seems to be as tall as a half a leek!

Chop the onion(s) into thin slivers. Clear the leeks of debris (they often contain soil among their layers) and chop them into small chunks (I always use the green tops in whatever I cook with leeks). Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil (I use a bit more than that, being Cretan!) and saute the onions and leeks until they become wilted, transparent and soft. Add salt and pepper to season. Beat the eggs and cream together, and pour in the leek and onion mixture.

Roll out your pastry and fit it into an 8-inch round flan tin (or ceramic pie dish). The pastry (whichever type you choose to use) must be baked blind, because the pie filling is very liquidy and will not help the pastry set quickly enough. Cook the pastry for 15 minutes in a hot oven. Then take the tin out of the oven and pour in the filling. Sprinkle the top of the pie with the grated cheese. Place the pie back in the oven, and let it cook in a moderate oven (180C) until the pie turns a golden brown colour on the top. To check if the pie is done, shake the tin a little: if it is set, the top will be firm like a custard. When you cut into it (I always do with pies like this), the pastry at the bottom of the pie will feel firm and the knife won't come out looking 'wet' but 'oily' instead.

leek and onion pie

This makes a very filling pie. It goes well on its own, with a glass of white wine.

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