THE GREEK ISLAND OF SIFNOS IS A SPECIAL PLACE FOR ME – MY HAPPY PLACE so when my dear friend, and fellow foodie, Belinda Jeffery lent me this fabulous book, European Festival Food , I was not surprised to see a couple of recipes in it from the Cycladic Island of Sifnos because it is famous for their food and for having produced more international chefs than any other place in Greece. It’s just that few people have ever heard of it – and, for that, I am grateful!
I thought I would also pop Ionna, my sedum planter, into the picture – bought for me by my family because they know that Corfu, in the Ionian Islands, is another happy place for me.
(Mela – honey, pita – pastry/bread/cake in Greek.) Even if this awful pandemic means no overseas travel – I can guarantee that one mouthful of this succulent pie will transport you to a sun-kissed Greek Island. Just close your eyes – can you hear the bouzouki playing?
WHAT IS THE ORIGIN OF THIS PIE? Here, I think it best just to quote Elisabeth Luard.
HONEY SWEETENED CURD CAKES ARE THE MOST ANCIENT AND PRIMITIVE OF FESTIVAL FOODS. Sweetmeats are always offered to the ladies, so it was perfectly appropriate that they should also be offered at the shrines of Europe’s many goddesses of fertility in pre-Christian days. Greece, and Sifnos in particular, is famed for its honey and the island of Sifnos is also famed throughout Greece for its skill with this pie, a speciality of feast days – of which the Orthodox church has a considerable number. This mainly arose from the fact that the drinking of milk is not allowed during Lent so there is always a surplus for making cheese for pies like this.
SIFNOS IS ALSO FAMOUS FOR ITS MIZITHRA CHEESE – like ricotta only made from the whey of goats cheese instead of cows – but substituting it for fresh ricotta makes very little difference to the overall flavour of this recipe.
It is typical on Sifnos to have the soft, delicious mizithra cheese topping a Greek salad instead of the common feta – along with golden fried capers and braised fennel. I have discovered that every village, every island and every family has a slightly different way of making this ubiquitous salad – you just have to get off the beaten track. Now, where was I? Of yes, ricotta and honey pie.
THIS IS A VERY EASY RECIPE WITH A SELF-CRUSTING PIE CASE – YOU DON’T HAVE TO MAKE PASTRY!!
- 1 kg fresh ricotta
- 6 fresh eggs
- 1/2 cup good local honey
- 1 tbs rice flour OR cornflour
- Zest of one large orange
- Juice of half a large lemon
- Seeds of one vanilla pod
FOR THE CRUST
- 20 g butter
- 20 g fine semolina (gluten free could substitute fine polenta)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 1 cinnamon quill
- Juice of half a large lemon (the other half!)
- 1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- Turn on oven to 140oC
- Put all of the ricotta ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth.
- Pour into a 25 cm springform pan that has been lined with baking paper, buttered over every inside surface and shaken over with semolina – this forms the crust.
- Bake in a moderate oven on 140oC for one hour then turn up to 180oC for ten minutes to get the top golden.
- Turn off the oven and let the pie cool in the oven
- You can make the honey topping when the pie is just warm – don’t do it beforehand because the topping will turn to toffee when cool.
- Simmer the honey topping mixture in a saucepan until it foams and starts to turn golden. TURN IT OFF IMMEDIATELY and pour over the warm pie. THE TASTE IS SENSATIONAL and I hope you get to eat it somewhere like this – one day.
FOR A QUICK GUIDED TOUR OF SIFNOS – why don’t you come for a walk with me?https://growfoodslowfood.com/2019/10/16/walking-in-greece-sifnos/