My grandmother passed when I was twelve. She was the kindest person I’ve ever known. And she was one hell of a cook! She used to make the best “kioftedes” (Cypriot Meatballs) I have ever tasted. Whenever she cooked, all the neighbourhood kids appeared on our doorstep to taste her delicious food. The memory of her making “eliopites” is still very much alive in my mind. She used to stretch the dough so thin on a large table, then brush it liberally with olive oil, before rolling the whole thing into a massive coil and baking it in an equally massive, round pan.
This is my grandmother’s recipe as I remember it. I love these olive pies. The dough is flakey and flavourful with a slight sweetness from the oranges. The filling is rich with herbs like fresh coriander, spring onions and fresh mint. I divide my dough in 4 pieces but you can make smaller pies if you prefer. I somehow find that the bigger they are the better they taste. It’s the best ratio of filling and pastry.
If you are a Cypriot reading this, then you know why I love “eliopittes” so much. If you are not, this is one of my country’s traditional pies. It’s with great pride and joy that I share it with you.
For the dough:
- 4 cups (640 grams) bread flour (also known as “village flour” or “strong flour”)
- 3 tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp salt
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
For the filling:
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 Tbs olive oil
- 1 ½ cups black olives, pitted and sliced (see note)
- 2 spring onions, sliced
- ¼ cup fresh coriander, chopped
- ¼ cup fresh mint, chopped
Note: Traditionally, olive pies are made with black Cyprus olives which are soaked in water to remove the excess salt. If you can’t find any, Kalamata olives work very well. You will need to rinse them with plenty of fresh, cold water to get rid of excess salt or brine.
Start by caramelising the onions for the filling. Put onions and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil, in a small frying pan, over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft and golden. This may take 15-20 minutes. Let onions cool.
Make the filling by combining all ingredients in a bowl. Make sure your onions are cool or lukewarm. If they are hot they will darken the herbs.
Preheat oven 160C. Make the dough. In food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the flour with the baking powder and the salt. With the motor running pour in the oil. Using a spatula scrape down the sides of the bowl to make sure all flour is moistened.
Put the lid back on. With the motor running pour in the orange juice. Keep mixing until dough starts to form a ball.
Tip dough on your kitchen counter and knead very briefly, until all bits and pieces are gathered and you have a soft dough.
Divide dough into 4 equal pieces.
On a floured surface roll each piece into a rectangle, measuring about 20 x 30 cm.
Spread each rectangle with ¼ of the filling.
Roll like a Swiss roll and pinch the edges.
Transfer pies on 2 “silpat” or parchment lined baking trays. With a sharp knife make slits on each roll, about 8mm deep.
Bake pies in the preheated oven for 40-45 minutes.