This rustic, old-fashioned Lamb Pie is a traditional recipe deriving from Greek mountainside towns. Where the temperature is a bit cooler and old grannies are true masters of pie-making.
If you were to travel to the Northern parts of Greece, and were able to visit small local villages, you would be able to taste any pie you can imagine. The ones that really stand out and are really popular all around Greece, are meat pies like this Lamb Pie and also greens pie like Spanakopita.
And of course, most of them made with homemade phyllo. But let me tell you a bit more about our pie here.
It’s a healthy and filling pie, cooked along with rice and spring greens. The flavor is similar to that of Easter lamb. Because for one, it is made with lamb (obviously) and for two it is flavored with Chervil which has an almost identical flavor to that of fennel greens that we use to stuff the belly of the Easter lamb.
In Greece, we use the fennel fronds mostly, which look exactly like fresh dill, instead of the fennel bulb itself. They’re strong-flavored, very aromatic, and easy to use, inside soups and stews, or like in this case inside pies, just like you use any other aromatic herb.
So if you can’t find fresh Chervil in your area, use fennel greens instead. And if you can’t find fennel greens, just use some very finely chopped fennel. Or simply use dill if you don’t want that strong fennel flavor inside your pie.
Other greens inside this pie are collard greens, spring onions, and leek.
As for the phyllo, in this recipe it’s homemade, using semolina flour. This makes the pie a really rustic and ultra crunchy one. It’s the original flour used in making phyllo for savory pies. Semolina flour or Durum wheat flour is what we call in Greece ‘Horiatiko alevri’ which translates to village flour. And it’s the one that is used to make traditional Greek bread.
So I highly recommend trying it out. And don’t worry about the phyllo-making. All you have to do is make two large phyllo’s, place them in the pan, add the filling, and then overlap the edges over the pie. So you don’t have to make a number of phyllo’s or many layers.
Quick Tips For This Lamb Pie
- You have to cook both the lamb and the rice to completely soft and tender, on the stovetop, before you add them to the pie. They won’t be able to get tender inside the oven while the pie gets baked, so make sure they’re both cooked well when added to the pie.
- To keep the phyllo nice and crunchy, there shouldn’t be too much moisture in the pie filling. So let the rice absorb all of the liquid it gets cooked in.
- Use plenty of all-purpose flour to roll open the phyllo, both on the working surface and the top of the dough, in order to prevent it from sticking. Phyllo opens up and gets bigger by absorbing the flour you dust while rolling.
- Use a classic wooden rolling pin for making phyllo.
Greek Lamb Pie With Rice And Spring Greens
For The Phyllo Dough:
- 250 grams / 8.8 oz durum flour (semolina flour) like this one
- ½ tablespoon salt
- 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 125 grams / 4.4 oz tepid water
- + some all-purpose flour for rolling the phyllo open
- + some extra olive oil to grease the phyllo
For The Lamb Pie Filling:
- 1400 grams / 3 lb lamb shanks or leg cut into portions with bone-in
- 1 small red onion finely chopped
- 1 large stick of leek (mainly the white part) finely chopped
- 280 grams / 10 oz short-grain rice
- 250 grams / 8.8 oz collard greens (only the leaves) chopped
- 3 small spring onions finely chopped
- a handful fresh chervil (or fennel, or dill) finely chopped
- 1 large egg
- olive oil
Cook The Lamb:
- Add the lamb to a cooking pot and add enough water to cover the meat. Bring to a boil over high heat. Season with salt and pepper. Skimm of any foam and dirt that rises on the surface. Then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer covered for about 2 to 2.5 hours. Or until the meat is soft to the point it falls off the bone.
- Remove the meat from the cooking pot using a slotted spoon. Set it aside to cool. Pass the meat stock through a sieve to remove any bones. Weigh the stock. It should weigh 1 liter. If not add some water to it and keep it aside.
- Once the meat has cooled down, remove the bones and finely shred the meat into pieces with your hands. Place in a bowl and keep aside.
Make The Phyllo Dough:
- In a bowl mix together the flour and salt. Add the olive oil and vinegar. Add the water in slowly, while kneading the dough. Knead the dough for 5 minutes. It should come out soft and a bit sticky, but without leaving fragments on your hands. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and set aside.
Make The Lamb Pie Filling:
- Heat a good splash of olive oil in a cooking pot over medium-high heat.
- Add the red onion and leek and cook until softened. Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes stirring with a wooden spoon.
- Pour in the meat stock, and once it starts to boil, reduce heat to low, put the lid on, and simmer covered until the rice cooks and absorbs all the liquid. This takes about 20-25 minutes. If by any chance the rice hasn't cooked completely add a splash of water to it and continue simmering.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the collard greens, chervil, and spring onions. Stir in the meat as well. Taste to check for any additional salt seasoning. Then beat the egg in a bowl with a fork and then stir it into the filling as well.
Make The Pie:
- Preheat oven at 220°C / 428°F.
- Take a round 30-32 cm pan (12-inch), grease its bottom with plenty of olive oil and place it on a large working surface.
- Add some flour in a bowl and keep it next to you, to use for dusting the phyllo while you roll it open with a rolling pin.
- Divide the dough in half. Take one part and shape it into a round ball. Dust your working surface with plenty of all-purpose flour and place the dough ball.
- Dust the dough ball with flour on top as well. Then start rolling upwards and downwards until it opens a little. Then dust the surface with flour, flip the dough, dust the dough again, rubbing the flour that you dust on the dough gently with your hands to spread all over its surface so it won't stick on your rolling pin. Roll upwards and downwards again. Repeat this process until you have large round phyllo about 45-48 cm in diameter. Make sure you flip the dough on all sides to give it a round shape. And also, dust enough flour both on your surface and on the dough to prevent it from sticking. Once the phyllo starts to get bigger in size, wrap it around your rolling pin in order to flip it.NOTE: The phyllo should be big enough to fit in your pan and to overlap on top, to cover the pie filling.
- Wrap the phyllo around your rolling pin and unroll over the pan. Press gently to fit inside the pan. There should be plenty of phyllo hanging out of the pan on all sides. Grease the phyllo with olive oil. Then make one phyllo the same way and place it on top. Grease with olive oil as well.
- Add the filling and spread it evenly with a spoon. Overlap the phyllo that hangs out of the pan over the filling. Grease with olive oil and cut the pie into 8 large pieces (not all the way to the bottom just the top phyllo layers).
- Bake for about 40-45 minutes. Or until nice and golden on top and the pie moves in the pan when you shake it. Cut all the way through and serve. Goes nice with a green salad, or some Tzatziki.
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