Today, I am sharing with you the kind of Greek comfort food that makes the eyes water as well as the mouth! Pastourmadopitta is a delicious pastry made with pastirma, tomato sauce, cheese and peppers. Think of pizza, then double the yumminess! It’s all down to the pastirma, a unique delicacy that you’re likely to find surprisingly easily if you ask at your local delicatessen. In Greece, this heavily spiced cured meat is available with beef or with camel meat (I prefer the latter). It has nothing to do with pastrami, in case you’re wondering. For images and more info on pastirma or bastirma (the Greeks call it ‘pastourma’, see this on Wikipedia.
Note: To make the pie, you need to prepare the pastirma slices a couple hours in advance. Details below!
2 sheets of puff pastry
12 slices of pastirma (medium to thin)
300 gr of Edam or Gouda or Cheddar cheese (grated)
1 large bell green pepper (or use a smaller one and add some red pepper for extra color)
1/2 packet of tomato puree (pasatta)
Some milk, extra virgin olive oil, oregano, red wine vinegar
Vegetable oil, sesame seeds (optional)
At least a couple of hours before making this recipe, put some milk in a flat container (I use a glass one). Taking one slice of pastirma into your hands at a time, use your fingers to remove the brown spicy paste all around it. Have tissue handy to dry your hands as you do this as it’s quite sticky. Place the spice-free slices in the container. Add milk as required so the slices are covered well. Use your fingers to move them around gently so they lay flat loosely from each other.
Cover the container (preferably with an airtight lid) and put it in the fridge for at least 2 hours (you can leave it overnight to make the pastry the next day). This preparation serves to soften the pastirma (and to sweeten the taste). Do not miss this step. It is absolutely necessary.
About 2 hours before you start making the pie, you need to take the puff pastry out of the freezer to thaw in room temperature. Allow more time in case more thawing time is necessary but don’t leave too long out. If the pastry gets too soft, it will be difficult to handle. In my experience, 2 hours is the time I need to allow for this when the weather conditions are not extreme (neither too cold nor too hot).
Take the pastirma out of the fridge. Drain out the milk and set aside.
Put about 6-8 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil in a small saucepan (what you’d use for a pasta meal for 4-5 people). Add half a passata packet, a small pinch of oregano, a splash of red wine vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, some salt, pepper and a little hot water from the kettle.
Stir and bring to boil, then cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. Make sure any extra water is absorbed. Cook uncovered towards the end, if necessary. Take off the heat and leave to cool uncovered for a while.
In the meantime, wash the pepper(s), remove the seeds, and cut into small strips.
Grate the cheese.
Spread out one sheet of puff pastry at the bottom of an oblong baking dish (or pyrex). Leave the edges hanging out equally on all four sides.
Sprinkle half the cheese on top.
Spread the pastirma slices on top to cover the whole surface.
Spread the tomato sauce over the slices.
Continue with the peppers, then the remaining cheese.
Note: I recommend yellow cheeses in my recipe because I love their creaminess. My favorite is Cheddar cheese, but you can try any other of your preference. My sister uses Mozzarella for a lighter taste, for example.
Cover with the other sheet of pastry and, starting from one corner and going all around, tuck the upper sheet’s edge under the bottom sheet so that you trap the filling inside the pasty.
Using your fingertips, spread some vegetable oil on the pastry. Use a teaspoon to sprinkle sesame seeds generously over the pastry.
Note: Instead of using vegetable oil and sesame seeds, you can simply brush some milk or beaten egg over the pastry.
Bake in a preheated oven at 200 degrees C for about 40 minutes until the pastry turns golden to brown.
I use only air in my oven and place the baking dish on the second shelf from the bottom.
Leave to cool for a bit, then cut and serve with french fries (or chips, as they’re called in the UK!) and a green salad with olives.