Kolokotes are the old, delicious vegan pies from Cyprus: only three ingredients for the stuffing, plus an interesting spice combination. They linger between savory and sweet and are a real treat, unlike any squash or pumpkin pie we bake in Greece.
You can enjoy kolokotes as snack, complemented with yogurt, labne, or fresh cheese; drizzled with honey, date or any fruit molasses they become a lovely dessert.
Marilena Ioannides’ recipe is by far the best I have tried –and I did try lots over the years. She bakes the pies on camera –speaking Greek with no subtitles, unfortunately; but consulting my recipe below you can easily follow and understand how to make these simple, exquisite pies.
To collect the old, traditional dishes she included in her book Cyprus Food Treasures, Marilena traveled all over the island, even to the remotest villages, and managed to find some incredible dishes! Often they are the missing link between age-old foods we read about in old manuscripts and the more recent variations we still encounter in parts of Greece or in other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean.
NOTE in the video as she prepares the pies leisurely, in real time, she weighs all ingredients –even the olive oil and water– as she adds them, one by one in the bowl of the mixer, zeroing her electronic scale just before adding a new item. This is a wonderful trick that helps cooks use a minimum of bowls and other measuring utensils.
My recipe is adapted from Marilena Ioannides’ Kolokotes. I have increased the amount of raisins and doubled the pepper; also substituted fennel seeds for the fresh wild fennel she suggests.
Makes 6 large pies
For the DOUGH:
1 pound bread flour or a combination of pasta flour and all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
70 grams olive oil
250 grams very hot or boiling water —the secret to make smooth, elastic dough
For the FILLING:
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled and seeded
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
100 grams bulgur (medium not fine)
150 grams raisins
30 grams olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 -1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (I like it peppery)
1 teaspoon coarsely ground fennel seeds
Make the dough tossing the flour, salt, and olive oil in the bowl of a standing mixer. With the motor running pour in the hot water on the side, and work to obtain a soft, slightly sticky dough. Wrap in oiled plastic wrap and set aside. You can make the dough the previous day, refrigerate, wrapped, and bring to room temperature before proceeding further.
For the filling cut the squash in very thin slices, then in small cubes, matchsticks, or any kind of tiny bits. Add salt, olive oil and the raisins, then work with your hands to somewhat soften the squash.
Stir in the bulgur, cinnamon, pepper, and fennel seeds, and toss well to mix.
Divide the dough into 6 pieces. (Marilena makes 7 pies but I find it difficult to divide the dough into an even number; I only use the scale for the filling).
Preheat the oven to 150C (about 300F) in convection mode.
Roll each piece into roughly a 25 cm round, and place one sixth of the filling in the center, weighing all the filling dividing the number into 6, then portioning and weighing 1/6th for each pie. Stir the filling each time before you take a portion as the moisture tends to go to the bottom.
Fold the round of dough to cover the filling; seal and crimp the edge, making sure the pie is completely closed so that the squash, bulgur etc. bake and steam inside the crust. Place the pies carefully on baking trays lined with parchment paper, and bake in the middle of the oven for 45 min to 1 h –until lightly colored on top and bottom.
If you bake both pans at the same time, change positions after 30 minutes, turning also the pans back to front.
Let the kolokotes cool on a rack or on thick kitchen towels before cutting to eat.
The flavor is infinitely better after they are completely cold, and I find that it is even better the next day!
Keep on the counter for 2-3 days, if you manage to resist devouring them. You can also freeze and slowly reheat any leftover pies.