It’s December, and up until a few weeks ago I was still contemplating which bikini to wear on the beach – and that’s not because I’m Canadian! But this week brought some rains, and it feels like it is a good time to make some home-made tiropittes. In Cyprus, I don’t think you can ever be very far away from a tiropita, virtually every bakery and corner store sells them. However, it is nice to be able to make them in your own kitchen too. When you wake up in the morning, or even for a lazy lunch, these little treats are so handy to have around, fresh or frozen. They are also a good go-to recipe if you are having friends over and want to make some savoury snacks. This recipe is fairly simple, although working with phyllo pastry can be a bit tricky if you haven’t done it before. I’ll take you through the recipe step by step and point out the tricky parts and tips to make the tiropittes come out as nice as possible.
250 grams grated goat or sheep feta cheese (preferable if you can find 100% goat or sheep feta cheese as it is more flavourful. Ask before you buy!)
50 grams grated kefalotyri cheese
1.5 teaspoons dry mint
1/2 cup of melted butter for brushing
14 sheets of phyllo pastry (thawed if frozen), final dimension about 36-40 cm wide, 30 cm length
1. To make the filling, get a bowl and mix the grated feta, kefalotyri, egg and mint. You can use just feta cheese if you prefer. The kefalotyri makes these a little heavier in taste. I love a good piece of kefalotyri, but my preference is to use all feta as this recipe makes a pretty delicate tiropita. The mixture should turn out to be a sort of gooey mix.
2. Preheat the oven to 205 degrees Celsius and lightly butter a large-ish, flat pan.
3. Unfold the phyllo pastry carefully, and cover with a slightly dampened kitchen towel to prevent it from drying out. Note that it is important to work quickly when making the triangles as the phyllo pastry, even when covered, will begin to dry out. But don’t let this worry you, it’s super simple and you will be a tiropita-making machine in no time!
4. Place one sheet of phyllo on a flat, clean surface and lightly brush it with melted butter. Take another phyllo sheet and place it exactly on top of the one already buttered. Lightly brush this sheet with butter too.
5. Cut your phyllo sheets into vertical strips so that each strip is about 6 to 7 cm wide, and about 30 centimetres long. Note that different brands of phyllo pastry vary, so you will need to work out how many phyllo sheets you need at the start. Spoon a teaspoon of filing along one of the corners of the vertical strips, about 2 cm from the bottom of the strip. I was told to make sure not to put too much filling on the corners because the filling will sort of explode out of the phyllo once put in the oven, but to be honest, I love the flavour of this filling and so I always err on the side of “generous spoonfuls”. Fold the uncovered end over the filling on the diagonal to form a triangular shape.
6. Keep folding until you form a triangular pastry. Make sure that the filling is neatly tucked away, even if you are a sucker for filling like me. Again, if you want the filling to dominate the taste of the tiropita, don’t feel the need to make the triangle fold all the way to the top, just stop when a little, but solid, triangle is formed.
7. As you create the triangles, place them into the lightly buttered baking pan. Place them seam side up so that if any filling leaks, it will leak out on top. Once you have filled a cooking pan as with triangles, lightly brush them with butter before placing them in the oven.
8. Repeat with the remaining phyllo and filling. Bake the tiropittes in a preheated oven for about 15 minutes until golden brown. Once they are golden brown they will be nice and crispy, if you take them out too early they will be white in colour and a bit chewy and soft.
9. These are best eaten warm but can also be cooled and placed into the freezer for another wintery wet day. Enjoy!