Okay: so by British standards, it’s actually a cake; but in Greece (or at least Naxos, where I discovered it), it’s known as orange pie – or ‘portokalopita’ if you fancy getting your tongue round new words as well as new flavours.
But whatever your chosen nomenclature, orange pie is utterly delicious: syrupy; citrussy; almost juicy. It also employs one of the most intriguing methods I’ve (n)ever come across: replacing flour with crisp-baked, broken filo sheets.
The result? A cake with a unique texture: pudding-like, punctuated with chewy little pieces you’d be hard-pressed to identify as pastry.
Soak the whole shebang in a rich orange syrup (which I’ve un-traditionally laced with orange liqueur for a deeper, more marmalade-y flavour), and you’ve got a crowd-pleasing dessert guaranteed to wow even the most learned foodie dinner guest…
GREEK ORANGE PIE RECIPE
Makes approximately 10 servings
For the syrup:
- 100ml Cointreau (or other orange liqueur, but this has the ‘cleanest’ orange flavour), optional
- 300ml orange juice (ideally freshly-squeezed – use the zest in the cake)
- 450ml water
- 500g granulated sugar
- 200g demerara sugar
For the cake:
- 450g filo pastry sheets (defrosted if frozen)
- 2 oranges (for boiling – bitter Sevilles if you can get ’em in season)
- 250g granulated sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 250g vegetable oil
- 250g full-fat milk
- 3 oranges, zest only (use the juice for the syrup)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
1. For the syrup, place the Cointreau, orange juice, water and sugars in a large saucepan set over medium heat and stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
2. Bring to the boil, then remove from the heat and set aside until required (if preferred, you can make the syrup a couple of days ahead and refrigerate ’til required).
3. For the cake, preheat the oven to its lowest heat, and grease and line a 30cm x 30cm baking tin.
4. Separate out your filo sheets and scrunch each one up, then pop them onto baking trays and bake in the oven for around 1 hour, until completely dry and crisp. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.
5. While the filo is in the oven, place the 2 whole oranges in a large saucepan of cold water set over medium heat.
7. Bring to the boil, and simmer for 1 hour (until the filo sheets come out of the oven). Remove from the water and set aside to cool.
8. Increase the oven temperature to 180οC (160οC fan), and place the cooled oranges (yes; the whole lot; skin’n’all) in a food processor along with the sugar.
9. Blitz the oranges and sugar together until smooth, then add all the remaining cake ingredients and blitz to a smooth batter. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and set aside.
10. Crumble the cooled, crisp filo sheets into small pieces (not dust!!!), and gradually mix it all into the cake batter, stirring until evenly combined.
11. Pour the batter into the prepared 30cm x 30cm baking tin, and bake for 45 minutes, or until a skewer inserted in the middle of the cake comes out clean.
12. Remove the cake from the oven and use a skewer to piece tiny holes all over the surface (stick it almost all the way through).
13. Pour the reserved, cooled syrup evenly over the entire surface of the hot cake in four batches, allowing it to soak in completely before adding the next batch. (if you’ve let the cake go cold before this step, heat the syrup first – hot cake=cold syrup; cold cake=hot syrup).
14. After the final batch of syrup has been added, set the syrup-soaked cake aside for at least 30 minutes.
15. Serve warm; ideally with vanilla ice-cream, although Greek yogurt works well too if you’re aiming to be slightly less sinful (or want a tangy counterpoint). Or go for a Terry’s vibe with a scoop of chocolate ice-cream, a la Paradise Taverna Kastraki…
More tasty inspiration?