This is one of my favorite dishes in Greek Cuisine!
What I especially love about living on the island of Crete is the use of wild herbs in the daily nutrition. Not only to spice the dish but also to eat as a side dish or salad. There are still a lot of women, old and young, going to the mountains, collecting wild herbs others would consider to be weed to be thrown out of our gardens. Here they boil them or serve them as a salad.
The recipe for Chortopitarakia (Χορτοπιταράκια) I learned from my lovely mother-in-law, Mama Marika, who is famous for her herbs pies. I never tasted any one better then hers. Some use only spinach as a filling but the way Mama Marika is making the pies is the very best.
The secret lies in the choice of the greens you use for the filling. On the daily markets here in Greece you can buy the so called “Jiachnera” (Γιαχνερά). But even here most will sell you a bunch with spinach, chervil, fennel (not the root but the green leaves which look like dill) and some leek. This combination is good, if you do not get any other greens. But even here on the markets you have
to look for the one selling “Jiachnera” greens of wild herbs. The one I found last time contained spinach, leek, wild fennel, wild chervil, dandelion, wild chicory (the green leaves) and sorrel. Which ever wild greens you can find on your local markets will be best to give a better taste to your pies. Just try it out!
You can deep freeze the pies by first setting them on a floured baking tin. When the pies are frozen you can store them in a plastic box or sac in your freezer. To serve the pies fry unfrozen in a pan . If you have some leftover dough simply wrap it in foil and store it in the freezer.
What you need (makes about 40 pies):
For the filling:
1.5-2kg Jiachnera as described above
1 medium dry onion
100ml olive oil
1-1.5 tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
For the dough:
250gr all purpose flour
1tsp vinegar, lemon juice, Tsikoudia (Cretan destilled brandy) or Ouzo
1Tbsp olive oil
some hand-warm water
Some olive oil to deep fry
How to prepare:
Clean the greens carefully and chop medium coarse to fine (I do not recommend to use a blender). Cut the leek into medium to fine rolls. Clean the onion and chop finely. In a large casserole heat the olive oil on high. Sauté the onion and leek until glassy and add the greens. Add ½ spoon of salt, pepper and some cumin and let sauté covered on low to medium heat for at least 30 minutes until all liquids evaporate. If necessary remove the lid and let cook uncovered to speed up the process of evaporation. Add some more salt to your taste. Let cool.
In a bowl combine flour, salt, vinegar and oil. Mix with as much water as needed to make a smooth dough. It should not stick on your fingers or on the surface. It should not be dry but also not too moist.
On a clean surface sprinkle some flower and role out some of the dough until appr. ½mm thick (my mother-in-law is making it as thin as to see the surface below!). Cut out circles of 10cm∅. Fill with 1 Tbsp. of the cooled filling, add some water on the edges of the dough and fold over the filling into half, pushing the edges down with a fork to seal well.
Set aside on a floured surface to not stick together until all filling finished .
If you want to serve the pies immediately heat some olive oil in a pan on high and fry on medium heat until golden brown. Let drain on a paper towel and serve lukewarm or cold.