Monday, April 16, 2012

Strouthkiopitta






I have had a bed of bladder campion (known here as 'strouthkia', in Crete as 'agriopoupoula' and widely used in Italian cooking as 'stridoli') in the garden for about three years. After the first season– being a 'good' organic gardener and attempting to follow a system of crop rotation – I tried to get rid of it . I cut it and dug it and mulched over it, and it just kept coming back... So I shrugged and encouraged it and now actively enjoy it pretty much year-round.


For Easter Sunday and Monday, we generally go to Bill and Sil's house for lunch with Sil's family and various other assorted friends and relatives. Yesterday my offering was Panna Cotta which somehow failed to set (“Ok, so it's just Panna,” I told the company. “Use it as sauce on the chocolate cake!”) Nobody seemed to mind and it tasted good, particularly with the accompaniment of Irish Coffee Sauce from Darina Allen's Ballymaloe Cookery Course.

Today, bearing in mind that I had harvested a basket of campion yesterday, I decided to make a 'Strouthkiopitta', or pie with strouthkia. This is not a traditional Cypriot dish – Cypriots usually take their strouthkia fried with eggs – but it has become a favourite with Best Beloved and me, and is simple and extremely nutritious. The only tedious part is the stripping of the leaves from the fibrous stems, and I had done that yesterday.


Today all I had to do was wash the greens, blanch them quickly, and refresh them with cold water before preparing the pie. The amount of anari (soft mild cheese that roughly corresponds to Italian ricotta) is variable depending on your preference of the greens to cream ratio – I crumbled in half a kilo of commercial Keses brand, a sheep and goat mix. If I had my druthers, I'd use Auntie Maroulla's homemade, but it doesn't come my way very often, and BB generally eats it as soon as he spots it, so no luck there. To the greens and cheese, I added the grated zest of a lemon, about a quarter of a grated nutmeg, and salt and pepper, and squinched them all together with my hands until they were well mixed.


Usually I use phyllo (though I haven't got around to making my own with the recipe from blogging friend Ivy Liacopoulou's excellent Cypriot food-blog Mint, Cinnamon, and Blossom Water), but the phyllo in my fridge had been there for so long that it was brittle and out of the question. Mili came to the rescue with two sheets of defrosted puff pastry. Butter the dish, line it with pastry, add the filling, put the pastry cover on top, brush with egg, sprinkle with sesame and bake for forty minutes at 180C (350F). Hey Presto, Asproulla's Strouthkiopitta!


I took it up to Bill and Sil's, still hot, arriving just as everyone was passing along the buffet and filling their plates. Interestingly, Mili also brought something with strouthkia, but hers was more on the lines of a Spanish tortilla and included eggs, onions, and potatoes. I found it a little heavy, and because she hadn't blanched the greens, a little bitter. Cypriots like their greens bitter, though, so it had a more 'traditional' taste and probably appealed more to the local palate.


About half of mine came back, so there's plenty for dinner tonight or lunch tomorrow.

Interestingly enough, while searching for internet information on campion, I found that in Canada, it's considered an invasive species!

3 comments:

  1. Thanks for the mention Rachael. Although I've heard of this herb before unfortunately I do not remember eating it. Sounds very interesting and you think it's bitter may be next you can try adding some spinach as well.

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    1. Hi Ivy,

      Thanks for the comment -- the blanching seems to take out the bitterness. Mili doesn't blanch, from what she's said in the past, and I think that's why hers was more bitter. Spinach is mild and lovely but i find it a pain to grow except for a very short time. The climate in Cyprus is just too harsh. What also goes well is lachana -- either the Cypriot variety or any of the rainbow chards, or silverbeets. Another thing I planted last season, and like the strouthkia WILL NOT go away is Spinach Beets -- a cross between lachana and spinach that is much hardier than spinach.

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  2. STRUTH. Aussie.

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