We were spoilt for choice when it came to picking a dessert to cook for our Greek week, but it was photos of tightly crimped little mελιτίνια pies that drew me in. The name implies that they contain honey which would have been a nice way to use up some of the 2 litre bottle of the stuff that Cosmin’s parents sent us, however after translating several different recipes it turned out that there was zero honey in the honey pies, and even more confusing each recipe included mastic. I thought it was a typo or a fault with Google translate at first, I work in construction, on my planet mastic is a sealant used in building works.
So I did a bit of research and was relieved to find out that I wouldn’t be piping sealant into the pies. Mastic is the sun dried sap of the mastic tree.
I have started to accept that if we’re going to cook the world then there are going to be times where I have to venture further than Sainsbury’s Sydenham. Thankfully I didn’t have to go too far, I found a Persian shop five minutes from my office called Persepolis; an amazing place and much larger than it looks from the outside. I found my mastic and also picked up a packet of dried roses and a Syrian cookbook because why not.
You really can’t substitute the mastic with anything else in this recipe, it sort of but not quite tastes of lemon and pine and you only need a tiny amount for your dish to pack an incredible punch. You should be able to find it at any Middle Eastern or Greek shop, failing that it’s the internet. Persepolis stock it online here.
To use mastic in your cooking, simply grind the ‘tears’ with a mortar and pestle until you have a fine dust.
Traditionally mελιτίνια are cooked freeform, I made one batch with no support and the second by cooking the pies in a muffin tray. Unsupported they are perfectly tasty just slightly less uniform.
- 250g ricotta
- 200g caster sugar
- 1 egg
- ½ tsp ground mastic
- 50g self-raising flour
- 225g strong white flour
- 50g chilled butter chopped into little pieces
- ½ tsp baking powder
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 3 mastic tears crushed
- 2 tbsp sugar
- Pinch of salt
NUTRITIONAL CONTENT PER PORTION
- Calories | 87
- Fat | 2.2g
Serves | 30 portions
Prep Time | 1 hour 20 minutes (includes chilling time)
Cooking Time | 15 minutes
- To make the dough mix together the baking soda and lemon juice.
- In a large bowl, stir together the flour, mastic, sugar butter and salt. Crumble with your fingers until you have fine breadcrumbs
- Pour in the soda/lemon juice mix and 2 tablespoons of ice cold water. Stir add water a tablespoon at a time until a dough begins to form. Bring together with your hands to form a dough, don’t handle too much! Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
- To make the filling beat together the ricotta and sugar, then add the egg and finally the mastic and flour. Mix well.
- Roll out the pastry as thin as you can get it and cut into rounds with a cutter
- Spoon in a tablespoon of filling into each round and crimple the edges in towards the centre.
- Bake at 180˚c for 15 minutes.
Based on a recipe found at www.protothema.gr