Three traditional pies and cup of beer.
Ossetian Pies Recipe
For those who never made them
We will need some ankhizhan, which is a mix you can make. Also flour, oil, milk, salt, and water.
To prepare a cup of ankhizhan, mix one teaspoon flour, one teaspoon yeast, one teaspoon sugar, and 3/4 cup warm water. Use it in about ten minutes.
Ossetian cheese (see the article "Ossetian feta cheese").
We will need an aryng if you do not have a counter on which to mix and roll. This one was bought in an IKEA department store.
About six cups of all purpose white flour, enough to make three balls about the size of a medium grapefruit.
Add some salt.
Pour the ankhizhan into the large bowl of flour.
Adding warm water or 1/2 cup milk, start mixing it from the centre. Important: mix by hand. When it stops sticking to your hands, you have added enough liquid. Optionally, add an egg for richness.
It will taste better if you add 50-100 g of milk.
Dough is ready. If you add 30 g of vegetable oil it will be not that sticky.
Now cover the dough with plastic wrap and let it rise for a few hours.
It is time to prepare the filling. Let's make tsakharadzhyn this time - pies with beet tops and cheese.
We can also use dill, parsley and onions, though some Ossetians make tsakharadzhyn without them.
Cut leaves into very small pieces.
Same with other ingredients.
The dough has risen!
It is time to form the pies.
Put the dough on the aryng with some flour.
The dough balls for three pies.
Now we can salt the filling. It is not recommended to do this earlier.
Add 0.5 - 0.7 kg of fresh Ossetian cheese.
If the filling is too wet, some flour can be added.
Filling is ready.
Pre-heat the oven.
Roll out dough with your hands.
Put some filling on centre.
Pull the edges over the filling and stretch to the centre.
Connect them and cut the top off.
Now you roll it out again, from the centre toward the edges. The trick on thickness is that you should just be able to see the texture and color of the filling through the dough.
Flip it over and keep rolling out.
Put it on a metal cookie sheet or pizza pan.
Gently press it out to the rim of the pan. Pinch out a hole in the centre to prevent an explosion!
Time to bake.
Put the pan on the lower level and keep it there until the bottom of the pie does not stick to the surface of the pan. Then move it to the upper level and put the second pan below, unless your oven is very even.
Bake the pie until the top gets some browning, but do not overbake. After you take the pie out, use a stick of butter to make the top and sides soft.
Done. Just put them on your table and help yourself.
I am giving you the detailed illustrations and recipe because there are many people around the world who want to try Ossetian pies but do not know how to make them. So, now everybody can try. If you have any questions, please feel free to email me.
I will also appreciate your comments in our guestbook.
SOME ADDITIONAL INFORMATION
The names of the pies vary by their filling:
Walibah, chirri, habizhdjin (singular) – are pies made with Ossetian feta cheese.
Kartofdjin- are pies made with mashed potatoes and cheese
Tsaharadjin (see instructions above) - are pies made with chopped beet leaves/ Swiss chard and cheese
Kabushkadjin- are pies made with chopped cabbage and cheese
Fidjin- are pies made with ground beef.
Davondjin- are made with chopped ramson (a wild garlic) leaves and feta cheese
Nashdjin- are made with fine cut pumpkin and feta cheese
Ossetians also bake pies with other types of filling all over Ossetia. However, the ones mentioned above are most popular.
The process of baking pies is not difficult, but still requires some skills and experience. Women normally cook the pies, as «sticking hands into a dough» for Ossetian men was considered something humiliating their honor. Thin and juicy pies with a filling that doesn't spill out are considered to be best. Thick pies are a sign of a cook being inexperienced.
In general the technology of the preparation is the same across Ossetia. But each cook brings uniqueness to the process, making the end product different from anyone else's. So the recipe may also slightly differ.
Here is one version of the recipe:
Preparation of the dough:
To prepare the ankh, take one teaspoon of dry yeast, one teaspoon of white flour, one teaspoon of sugar and mix everything in a glass of warm water (not previously boiled). The glass should be 3/4 full. It should rise close to the rim in 10-15 minutes.
During this time, prepare a large bowl, a flat tray large enough to hold the pies in (a radius of 12-15 cm).
Having placed the flour in the bowl, we can start making the dough. Mix the flour and the ankh. Add warm water, milk, salt, and in the end when the dough is almost ready - vegetable oil to all sides so that the dough does not stick to the walls and the bottom of the bowl. You may also want to cover it with a plastic film or cling wrap so that the air doesn't get to the dough. Wait a couple of hours.
Some cooks prepare the dough for the future, storing it in the fridge for a couple of days. This way the process of baking pies is much faster as it eliminates the long preparation time of the dough. Furthermore, the same dough can be used to make homemade bread using the same baking tray as for the pies.
Preparing various fillings.
Filling for a walibakh (with cheese)
Since the olden days Ossetians prepared walibakh with cheese from cow, sheep and goat milk, which is still popular till this day in the former USSR territories for its exceptional taste. Nowadays, the cheese is primarily prepared from cow milk in rural households as well as in dairy factories in the urban areas of North Ossetia. The recipe to prepare Ossetian cheese is given in a separate article. Meanwhile, we advise you to purchase your Ossetian cheese in grocery stores in Russia. For those living outside of Russia, we recommend using variations of Feta cheese: Bulgarian, Macedonian, Greek, Portuguese, Italian, Israeli. Ideally the cheese should not be too salty and should contain a good amount of milk fat. If the cheese is salty, it can be cut into pieces and left in water for a couple of hours.
Fresh cheese is easily crushed by hands. However, a fine grater also does the job. Add some salt if needed, mix in a bowl and create three circles with a diameter 12-15 cm. Lay them out on a flat plate.
Preparing filling for fidjin (with ground meat)
Ground meat was previously prepared manually with a small axe, chopping off the fat on wooden board and cutting into small pieces. Now, it can be either bought, or passed through a meat grinder, although it was considered among the elder generations that fidjin was tastier if the meat filling was ground manually.
The meat should not be fattening or worse - extra lean. Unlike special holidays and weddings, fidjin is not placed on the table at the start of the meal, and it is not mandatory to have them placed in threes. Therefore, the quantity of fidjin pies depends on the number of guests attending at approximately 0.5 kg of meat for one fidjin.
After adding salt (with a fidjin it is better if you put too much salt rather than too little) and pepper, add thinly grated or minced onions and garlic and mix by hand. Let it stand for 30 minutes for the flavor to spread and you are ready to bake when your dough rises.
There are two ways of shaping a fidjin. The first is the way other Ossetian pies are made (pulling the edges together to form circle and then flatten). The second is by having two layers of the dough and placing the filling on top of the first layer and covering it with a second layer. This way, the ends of the pie are pinched together and a hole is made in the center for the air to escape. Sometimes, to have a juicier filling, some people add water or beef broth through the hole towards the end of the baking.
Fidjin is placed on the lower level of the oven at first just as other Ossetian pies are. After the bottom of the fidjin stops sticking to the baking tray, it can be placed at a higher level in the oven. When the fidjin is ready, it should be placed on a flat plate and the leftover flour should be swept off the top and the top of the fidjin should be glazed with butter.
Enjoy your Fidjin!
Written by Ruslan Kuchity.
Edited by Chris May