Cooking with Yiayia : Kotopita

Greek pitas, or pies, come in various shapes and tastes. From a quick snack that fits in your hands, to an oven dish that feeds the whole family. As a sweet dessert or a savory lunch. The most famous Greek pitas are Spanakopita, spinach pie, and Tiropita, cheese pie. But the tastiest is Kotopita.

What is Kotopita?

Kota in Greek means chicken. Kotopita is nothing more than a Greek pie, stuffed with chicken. The pie is made with a phyllo dough that gives this pita a crunchy outside. While the chicken filling is creamy, due to the milk, cheese, and eggs that are added. Onions, olive oil, cumin, pepper, and salt give this pie the perfect taste.

Why is Kotopita not well-known?

Entering a traditional Greek bakery in search of a savory snack, you will always find Tiropita and Spanakopita. But where is the chicken pie?

The process of making Kotopita is more complicated and time-consuming compared to the famous pitas. Besides, the ingredients are more expensive and more difficult to store. But what I learned from Yiayia, is to never be afraid of spending time on good food. The result is worth it.

Yiayia’s secrets

  • The first secret to grandma’s Kotopita is, of course, her homemade traditional phyllo dough, Check out her recipe and prepare the dough before starting the Kotopita
  • Yiayia’s Kotopita is simple. The main ingredient is chicken, and everything else is there to add flavor and texture to it. Many other recipes add bechamel and vegetables to create a more complex taste. But for a good chicken pie, all you need is a good chicken.
  • Although Yiayia uses more butter and oil in her phyllo dough, she does the opposite in the kotopita’s filling. The chicken in this pita is dry but tasteful. Perfect with her crispy and buttery phyllo.

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Ingredients

For a large pie of 40 centimeters in diameter.
If you own a smaller oven dish, I would recommend still using a whole chicken because the bones really add to the taste of the pie. If you have too much, you can store part of the chicken meat in the freezer. Continue the recipe with the amount of chicken you need for one pie.

  • Phyllo dough
  • Chicken filling
    Olive oil
    1 whole chicken, about 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds)
    3 big red onions
    300 grams of salted hard cheese
    1 glass of milk
    1 tablespoon of pepper
    1 teaspoon of cumin
    Salt for taste (around 1 – 2 tablespoons, depending on the cheese and your preference)
    3 eggs
    Sunflower oil (to sprinkle on top of the pie)

Tools

  • pan
  • oven dish
  • bowl
  • baking paper

Preparation

Before you can start with the Kotopita, you have to prepare your phyllo and the chicken. You can do this the night before, or just before preparing the pita. Just know that both these things are time-consuming and with long hours of waiting in between.

You will have to put the whole chicken in a large pan and cover it with water. Add about a tablespoon of salt and put to a boil. The chicken needs to boil for 30 to 40 minutes (60 if it is frozen). When the chicken is ready, take it out of the water and let it cool down. Don’t throw away the chicken broth, you can use this to make a tasty homemade chicken soup.

When the chicken has cooled down, you will first have to remove the skin. Then it is time to take it apart and collect the meat in small pieces. Cut bigger parts with scissors or a knife. You don’t want big pieces in your chicken pie.

Yiayia’s Kotopita

Time needed: 1 hour and 45 minutes.

45 minutes cooking time and 1 hour in the oven

  1. Fry the onions

    Cut the red onions into big pieces. Add a generous amount of olive oil to a heated pan on a high fire. Cook the onions till they are soft.

  2. Add the chicken

    When the onions are soft, it is time to add the chicken. Stir regularly but don’t be afraid to overcook it. The pieces should get brown. In the meantime, you can grind the cheese for the next step.

  3. Add cheese and milk

    When the chicken is brown, it is time to add the cheese and a glass of milk. Add slowly and keep stirring regularly. Leave to cook until the chicken mixture is dry.

  4. Add the spices

    Start with a rich amount of pepper and cumin. Mix everything together and taste the filling. You’re looking for a taste that seems slightly too salty. Add salt till you feel like you have reached this. Don’t be afraid of making it too salty, the taste of salt will disappear in the complete pie. If you don’t taste the salt, you have to add a bit more

  5. Let it cool down

    When the mixture has the proper taste, it is time to turn off the stove and let the mixture cool down for 10 to 15 minutes. The reason for this is that you are about to add eggs, and you don’t want them to solidify immediately. The eggs should remain uncooked until you put the pie in the oven.
    Use the waiting time to put the bottom layer of phyllo dough in your oven dish. Use baking paper to prevent it from sticking to the bottom.

  6. Finish the chicken filling

    Break the eggs in a bowl and hit them with a fork. Mix them into the cooled-down chicken filling. Add the chicken filling on top of the bottom layer of phyllo. Add the top layer of dough and tuck it in on the bottom.

  7. Finish the pita

    Carefully slice the top layer of the pie into smaller pieces. You want some part of the dough to be open, so the oven can cook the individual layers, while at the same time you do not want a pie that falls apart. This requires some practice.

  8. Cook in the oven and enjoy!

    Sprinkle sunflower oil over the pita and place it in the oven. The pie should be cooked at 180 degrees (350 F) for an hour. Keep checking in between if the phyllo does not get too dark or stays too light and adjust the temperature according to what you see.pie of traditional greek phyllo dough before it enters the oven

Tips:

  • When working with baking paper to prevent a pie from sticking to your oven dish, Yiayia has a tip. If you wrinkle the paper before use, it is much easier to shape into your dish. Before use, make a ball of the paper in your hand and squeeze. When you open it, it is much more user friendly!
  • You might feel like it is much easier to use chicken breasts for this recipe. Although this will save you time and dirty hands, it also reduces the taste of the pie. If you really don’t use a whole chicken, it is better to choose legs instead of breasts. But best is to follow the recipe.
  • I usually use the ingredients for the 40 cm pies, but make two smaller ones out of them. When making the phyllo, I create 4 packages, of which I store two in the freezer, and use two immediately for the pie. I boil the chicken and use half of the meat to make the filling and again store the other half in the freezer. This way, I save a lot of time making the second pie.

Cooking with Yiayia : Traditional Greek Phyllo

Phyllo, or filo, is a dough, used in the Greek kitchen to create the most delicious sweet and savory pitas, the Greek pies. There is nothing more tasty than a pie with traditional Greek phyllo. However, the dough is not easy to make. It requires both time and skill, but the taste in the end is totally worth the effort!

What is phyllo?

Phyllo, in Greek, means leaf. And this is what makes phyllo complicated to make. The dough is made up from multiple thin leafs or layers, each individually opened by hand. Luckily, not all phyllo needs to be as perfectly thin as the phyllo that is famous all over the world. There are many different types of phyllo dough. And the classic, traditional Greek phyllo is actually much thicker than you would expect.

What makes this thick traditional Greek phyllo more tasty compared to, for example, pre-made dough, is what happens between the layers. A mix of butter and oil between every layer makes the phyllo both crunchy and creamy.

Yiayia’s secrets

There are a variety of phyllo dough recipes out there, but not many of them meet the taste of Yiayia’s traditional Greek phyllo. So what are her secrets for the perfect dough?

  • Although Greeks use mostly olive oil, Yiayia uses a mix of sunflower oil and butter for her dough. Since the pie is baked in the oven at a temperature between 180 – 200 degrees Celsius (350 – 400 degrees Fahrenheit), the sunflower oil is better at frying the dough. This is because the smoking point of olive oil is around 160 degrees.
  • Yiayia always says, the secret is in the amount of layers! This counts for traditional Greek moussaka, pastitsio, but also phyllo. According to her, a good dough contains at least 10 layers of leafs.
  • Don’t let the dough get dry! Many recipes tell you to make dry phyllo leafs. They say this will result in the most crunchy dough. Yiayia, however, works with a slightly wet dough for her traditional Greek phyllo. Her dough gets crunchy by the use of oil and butter to fry the leafs. Trust me, this really improves the taste.
  • Yiayia doesn’t make the independent phyllo leafs as big as the pie she is going to use them for. Instead, she makes a package of smaller leafs, which she cools down and stretches out at once. I am not sure if this adds to the taste, but it does make the process slightly easier.

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Ingredients

For a large pie of 40 centimeters in diameter.
If you own a smaller over dish, I recommend still using the ingredients below, but divide the dough for 2 pies. You can keep it in the freezer for months before using it.

  • For the dough
    1.75 glasses of water
    2 tablespoons of sunflower oil
    1 tablespoon of white vinigar
    1 big tablespoon of salt, yiayia takes a whole handfull
    around 21 tablespoons (500 grams) of flower
  • For making the phyllo
    350 grams of butter
    3 tablespoons of sunflower oil
    extra flour to open the dough

Tools

large bowl
rolling pin
dishcloth
pastry brush
cling film
an extra bowl and plate
oven

How to make traditional Greek phyllo

Time needed: 3 hours.

  1. Add wet ingredients and salt to the bowl

  2. Slowly add the flour

    Add the flower, tablespoon by tablespoon while mixing it in with your other hand.

  3. Start kneading the dough

    When the dough is still wet but starts to unstick, it is time to start kneading. The goal is to make a dough that just not sticks to your hands. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes to reach this point. If you notice after five minutes that the dough too wet, add an extra tablespoon of flower. If it is too dry, add a tablespoon of water. Your dough should look like this after 10 minutestraditional greek phyllo dough in bowl

  4. Cover and let it rise

    When the dough is ready, cover it with a tablecloth and leave it to rise. The minimal time is 30 minutes, and maximum 3 hours. This is the time you can use to prepare a filling, or just relax.

  5. Make the butter mixture

    Before you start making the leafs for the phyllo, you need to prepare the mixture that you will use in between the leafs. Melt the butter in a bowl and mix in the sunflower oil. Leave the pastry brush in this mixture.

  6. Divide the dough

    This is the time to use your math skills, and before you start, sprinkle a lot of flower on your countertop.
    For one pie, you need two phyllo doughs, both consisting of at least 10 leafs. If you make one large pie, first divide the dough in two, and if you make two smaller pies, divide the dough in four. Important is that the dough does not dry out, so take the one part that you are going to use and leave the rest in the bowl covered with a tablecloth.

  7. Make the leafs

    Divide the part of the dough in, at least, 10 small balls. They should have an even size, except for two slightly larger ones. These balls will become the bottom and top leafs.
    Make sure there is enough flour on your counter as well as your rolling pin. Take one ball of dough and put it in the middle of the counter. Start opening it with the rolling pin, while flipping it after you roll 2 to 3 times. The dough should be about the size of a small plate when you finish.making traditional greek phyllo opening a leaf of dough with a rolling pin and a lot of flower

  8. Combine the leafs

    Take the opened dough and shake it a bit to remove excess flower. Put it on the plate and sprinkle with a rich amount of the butter mixture. Use the pastry brush to spread it evenly. According to yiayia, you can not put too much of the mixture.

  9. Tuck in and wrap in foil

    Continue the step above for all the balls. With the last one, you do not put the butter mixture on top. Make this leaf slightly bigger than the previous ones, and tuck it in, underneath the bottom leaf to create one package of dough. This is a phyllo.
    Pick it up from the plate and put it upside down on a piece of cling film. Check if the dough is properly tucked in, wrap the foil around and store in the fridge.traditional greek phyllo dough package before using it in a pie

  10. Repeat this for each dough

    Repeat step 7 to 9 for each part of the dough. Until you have two (1 pie), or four (2 pies) packages of dough in foil.

  11. Let the dough cool down

    In order to use the dough in a pie, it needs to cool down. If you are in a hurry to make a pita, leave the dough in the fridge for at least half an hour. But better is to put them in the freezer until frozen, and move them to the fridge 12 hours before use. If you made dough for two pitas, it is advisable to store the packages two by two in the freezer.

  12. Ready to use

    When the dough is either cold or unfrozen, it is ready to be used. The phyllo should now be smaller than the dish you use to make your pie in. Take it in your hands, and slowly let it stretch to the proper size, grabbing a different corner of the dough every few seconds.
    When working with phyllo, the bottom part should only cover the bottom of your dish. You use the top part to close the pie, tucking it in underneath the bottom.opening traditional greek phyllo dough with hands

  13. Cut the top, and sprinkle oil

    The phyllo can be used with any sweet as well as savory filling of your taste. Just make sure the filling is never too wet, this will decrease the crunchiness of the phyllo.
    The top layer of pita should be slightly cut is smaller pieces for the best result. Don’t cut through the whole dough but instead just through the top leafs of the phyllo.
    After cutting, sprinkle some sunflower oil on top of the pie.pie of traditional greek phyllo dough before it enters the oven

  14. Cook in the oven

    The pie should be cooked on 180 degrees for an hour. But keep checking in between if the phyllo does not get too dark or stays too light. After thirty minutes you might have to change the temperature to 200 degrees if it seems like the phyllo does not get golden.traditional greek phyllo dough golden brown pie from the oven

Tips:

  • Try to enjoy this recipe.
    It takes a lot of time to prepare a tasty phyllo. The taste, however, is really worth the effort. Make this recipe with friends, children, or your partner and enjoy the traditional process of making Greek phyllo!
  • Never redo a leaf
    When the dough brakes while opening, don’t start over. Instead, use these parts in the middle of the phyllo. Starting over will make the dough too dry, due to the flour you use to open it. You can always use the butter mixture to glue some parts together.
  • Don’t be a perfectionist
    You will be making 20 to 40 leafs of dough here! They don’t all have to be perfectly round, thin, and big. Use your hands to shape them, or fold bigger leafs with some butter in between.
  • Don’t use a mixer
    Of course it would be much easier to make a machine knead the dough for you. However, doing this by hand makes for a much better result.You’re looking for a non-sticky but still very elastic and wet dough. Only your hands can tell you when you meet these conditions.

Use the phyllo in the following recipes:

Cooking with Yiayia : Kotopita

Greek pitas, or pies, come in various shapes and tastes. From a quick snack that fits in your hands, to an oven dish that feeds the whole family. As a sweet dessert or a savory lunch. The most famous Greek…