Batzina is a traditional ‘pie’ from Thessaly in Greece which was originally made with just four ingredients: flour, cheese, milk and eggs; it’s name is derived from the word batzos which is a hard white goat and sheep’s cheese originating in Western Macedonia. This version, which also features grated courgettes, is inspired by my friend Zoi – owner of Raphael’s Mediterranean Deli products – who, when visiting her parents at her childhood home on the Greek island of Skiathos last month, sent me an adorable photo of her baby self sitting amongst courgette plants on her parents’ smallholding. Batzina is one of her favourite dishes which she lovingly remembers making with her Mum and sister to enjoy under the shade of pine trees overlooking Koukounaries beach. This is my version which, true to form, also features stacks of herbs and lemon elevating what is quite a rich dish into something altogether more vibrant. I was trying to describe it to some friends over brunch this morning and I found myself floundering a bit. It’s like a quiche but it’s not. A frittata maybe? No. A pie? Definitely not as it contains neither pastry nor filo. It has a firm texture that is perfect for transporting to the beach, the forest or the field yet, fresh out of the oven, it’s yieldingly soft with vibrant summer flavours; it’s fragrant, piquant, salty and sour yet wonderfully savoury. Basically, it’s a uniquely different one-off that I will re-create again and again.
Coarse sea salt crystals
25g fresh mint, leaves picked and chopped
2-3 tsp dried dill tops
4 large free-range eggs
400g barrel-aged feta PDO, crumbled
1-2 lemons, zested
100ml Raphael’s Cretan extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
200g full fat Greek yoghurt
300g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Sea salt flakes and freshly ground mixed peppercorns
How I make it
Line a flan dish with baking parchment and heat an oven to 180C.
Top and tail the courgettes and coarsely grate them. Transfer to a large bowl, add about two tablespoons of coarse sea salt crystals and mix with your hands for a couple of minutes. Transfer to a large sieve and place over the bowl for around an hour to allow the excess water to drain off. Place onto a clean tea towel, wrap tightly and squeeze until all the remaining liquid has drained off.
In a large bowl, mix the courgettes and herbs. Beat the eggs with a fork and add to the courgette mixture along with half the feta, the lemon zest, olive oil and yoghurt. Mix together and season generously.
Mix the flour and baking powder. Add to the bowl and stir to combine making sure to incorporate it all (it will become quite thick, don’t worry it will work out alright).
Turn out onto the flan dish and push out to the edges making sure that the mixture is evenly distributed. Crumble over the remaining feta and drizzle generously with olive oil.
Place in the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes until set and golden brown.
Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly before serving with a classic Greek salad and some Greek island tzatziki on the side.
For more information about Raphael’s Mediterranean Deli products, please click this link.