Easter cheese pies

The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook
Alan Benson

These pleasant cheese pies are prepared in enormous quantities to be eaten on Easter Sunday morning. The recipe given to me by a good Cypriot cook began with 6 pounds cheddam, 3 pounds haloumi cheese and 3 or 4 dozen eggs. You can imagine the proportions of the rest of the recipe! She has a large family, and would certainly need some helpers to prepare the pies. I have scaled the recipe down considerably.

Cypriot cooks abroad find that ‘cheddam’ cheese — a combination of cheddar and edam cheeses — is a good substitute for the cheese used in Cyprus. Should this not be available, try the Greek kasseri cheese, or use a mild-flavoured cheddar combined with edam.

The flavouring of the cheese mixture also varies. Some cooks use the easily available dried mint, others insist on fresh mint, and others still substitute sultanas for the mint. I prefer the mint flavour.


Quantity Ingredient
900g plain flour
2 teaspoons active dried yeast
250ml milk
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons sugar
60ml corn oil
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1 egg, beaten
sesame seeds, for sprinkling

Cheese filling

Quantity Ingredient
250g cheddam cheese
125g haloumi cheese
1 tablespoon fine semolina
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 tablespoon dried mint, crushed
or 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped


  1. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl and warm it in a low oven.
  2. Dissolve the yeast in 60 ml warm water, then add another 185 ml warm water, the milk, salt and sugar. Stir well.
  3. Remove and reserve about 300 g of flour from the bowl. Pour the yeast mixture into the centre of the bowl and stir in a little flour from the side to thicken the liquid. Cover and leave for about 10 minutes, or until frothy.
  4. Gradually stir in the rest of the flour in the bowl. Combine the oil and melted butter, then slowly add to the flour. Beat by hand, or using the dough hook of an electric mixer, for 10 minutes, gradually adding half the reserved flour.
  5. Sprinkle a work surface with more of the remaining flour and turn out the dough. Knead for 5–10 minutes, using as much flour as the dough will take. When smooth and satiny, shape into a ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place for 1–1½ hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 220°C.
  7. To make the filling, coarsely grate the cheeses into a bowl. Sift the semolina with the baking powder and work in with a wooden spoon to soften the cheese and mix the ingredients to a thick paste. Gradually stir in the eggs and mint, and mix to a fairly stiff paste; it may be necessary to hold back a little egg, as cheeses vary in moistness and the mixture must hold its shape.
  8. Punch down the dough and turn out onto a lightly floured work surface. Divide into two and shape into balls. Roll out each ball of dough until 5 mm thick, then cut into 10 cm rounds. Place the rounds on a cloth and keep covered until all the dough is shaped.
  9. Place a generous tablespoon of filling in the centre of a round of dough, spreading it slightly. Pull the dough up at three points to make a triangle, or four points to make a square. About 2 cm of dough should overlap the filling all around. Press the points of the triangles or squares to seal the edges, using your fingers or the tines of a fork. Brush the dough overlap with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  10. Bake on greased baking trays for 12–15 minutes, until the filling is puffed and the flaounes are golden. Serve warm or cold.
The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook
Middle Eastern
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