As soon as the month of October begins, my kids ask me on repeat - “When is it Halloween?” and this year they added “Can we make pumpkin pies?”. The latter was a surprise because they usually don’t like to eat pumpkin. Although the typical halloween traditions are now known to my children, I never grew up celebrating any of this and find it all quite entertaining. I love watching the build up to halloween - the search for costumes, baking ghost themed cookies, dressing up and finally going trick or treating. The countdown to halloween is in full swing in my home.
As far as pumpkin pies are concerned, the only ones I ate as a child are these beauties, known as Kolokotes (Ko-lo-ko-tes). Cypriot pumpkin pastries are filled with diced sweet butternut, bulgar wheat, raisins and flavoured with cinnamon and fennel. The filling is stuffed into pockets of crispy dough and enjoyed warm when the weather cools or during fasting periods (the recipe is made entirely of vegan ingredients for this reason).
If you’re new to making these you might find the dough a little stiff and the filling differs from family to family. The dough has no raising agents to make it lighter, and the spelt flour I prefer to use is less pliable than all purpose flour. It takes a little effort to knead and roll it out but the outcome is worth it. The filling, which is adjustable to your taste, requires 24 hour preparation - by preparation I mean tossing the ingredients into a bowl and letting it rest until the next day. By doing this not only does it enhance the flavours but the bulgar wheat and pumpkin will soften as well. If you skip this step, you will need to simmer the filling in a pot, on low heat, until the bulgar wheat is half cooked. I highly recommend starting a day earlier.
Cypriot pumpkin pastries (Kolokotes)
Makes about 26 small pastries
For the filling
3 cups of peeled and diced butternut
3 tablespoons bulgar wheat
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 - 1 cup sultana raisins
1 tablespoon finely chopped fennel fronds
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
For the dough
4 cups white spelt flour (or all purpose flour)
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup water, as required
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
Combine all the filling ingredients into a glass bowl and toss well. Cover and refrigerate for about 24 hours.The next day, remove the filling from the fridge and leave it out while you prepare the dough.
Preheat the oven to 200C/400F and line a baking sheet with baking paper.
Place the flour into a large bowl and make a well. Pour in the remaining dough ingredients and use your fingers to mix and knead into a firm dough. You can also use a mixer with a dough hook to do this part. Add more water or flour, if you need, to make a smooth dough. I usually find that I need more water with spelt flour than with all purpose flour.
Cover the dough with a tea towel and leave it to rest for 1 hour. Knead again on a floured surface then cut into 6 balls. Roll out each ball into a large thin sheet, using a rolling pin. Use a small bowl to cut the dough into round shapes. Brush lightly with water around the edges (this will help the edges stick). Any leftover bits of dough can be kneaded into another ball and repeat until all the dough is used up.
Place about 1 1/2 tablespoons of filling in one half of a round dough, then fold over to make a half moon shape. Press the edges together with a fork to seal it. Place the pastries onto the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes or until the kolokotes are golden. Serve warm.
The number of pastries you end up with depends on the size of the bowl you use.
Once cooled, you can store kolokotes in an airtight container in the refrigerator or freeze them.