Tuesday, August 9, 2011

kali sas orexi!

Google translate says that's bon appetit in Greek... my Greek cooking student says that's correct and in fact it's a very polite form of the term. I like polite. I'm also impressed that she shares her name with a famous Greek philosopher and mathematician, she sadly never learnt to cook Greek food. But she does remember her mother and grandmother's cooking fondly.

Now on to the food we cooked, cause as we know "it all comes down to the dish you cook today".

Lovely, tasty and sumptuous Greek food.

To begin we cooked FAKES a GREEK LENTIL SOUP, cleansing and packed with lots of vegetables. The recipe is enough for 8 large servings so you can either make less or freeze half if you only want to feed a few people. I think this would be lovely cooked up on Sundays and served as a quick meal during the hectic work/ school week.

Then we moved on to making SPANOKOPITA, we decided to make the triangles instead of the deep dish pie so that we could make some egg free. I have such clever students, they did a wonderful job folding the triangles and keeping all the filling from oozing out on the tray. It really is worthwhile taking the time to make sure you do this step correctly.

To accompany the Spanokopita we made a GREEK SALAD, sharp with red wine vinegar, salty with kalamata olives and Greek Dodoni fetta. Top it all off with a slurp of virgin olive oil and sprinkled with lots of Greek oregani. You can find this at your local deli sold on the stalk in a plastic bag, it really does taste very different from the stuff in little glass jars. It keeps for longer too, probably because of the stalks. Use good kalamata olives, if you must have pitted ones try and find ones that are pitted after they are brined. They retain much more flavour this way.

To finish off we made a simple but delicious sweet called SOUROMENOS BAKLAVA or Bird's Nest Baklava. Each sheet of filo is buttered and sprinkled with walnuts and pistachios before being pleated and rolled into rosettes. They are then baked and drizzled with an orange flavoured syrup before they cool. These are perfect with strong coffee after dinner.

I hope you try some of these recipes, they are very achievable and you'll be surprised with the results.

This rich lentil soup is traditionally served with a drizzle of red wine vinegar and olive oil.
Serves: 8
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 45- 60 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, vegetable peeler, garlic press, large pot and ladle.

375gm lentils, washed and picked over
½ cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped
4 cloves garlic
4 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 celery, stalks and leaves –chopped
½ red or green capsicums
1 tin whole peeled tomatoes
2 tablespoon tomato paste
2 bay leaves
2 tablespoon oregano
3 litres vegetable stock
Salt and pepper

2 tablespoon parsley, chopped to garnish
¼ cup virgin olive oil, extra for drizzling
Red wine vinegar for drizzling (optional)

1. Place lentils in a pot, just cover with water and boil for 10 minutes whilst preparing the other ingredients.
2. In a large pot heat oil and gently fry the onion, carrot, celery, capsicum and garlic for 5 minutes .
3. Add the bay leaves, oregano and pepper.
4. Drain lentils and add them to the vegetables along with the stock, tinned tomatoes and tomato paste.
5. Simmer, stirring occasionally for 30- 40 minutes or until lentils are tender.
6. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

To serve:
Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley and drizzle with a splash of olive oil and a dash of good red wine vinegar.

Accompanied with bread, fetta and olives it forms a satisfying and complete meal.

Popular as a pie or as individual pastry triangles.
Serves: 8
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 1 hour

Equipment: chopping board, knife, grater, large mixing bowl, pastry brush, 20cm x 30cm baking tray
Oven 180C

2 bunches English spinach or silverbeet (or a combination)
2 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
4 green shallots, chopped
400g Greek feta cheese
150g ricotta cheese
½ cup finely grated kefalograviera, parmesan or pecorino cheese
6 eggs
2 tablespoons dry breadcrumbs
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
½ teaspoon black pepper
50 ml olive oil

16 sheets packet filo pastry
150 g butter, melted

1. Trim spinach/ silverbeet removing the stalks. Wash well and chop finely. Dry and set aside.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine feta, ricotta and hard cheese. Mash well with a fork.
3. Add eggs, breadcrumbs, nutmeg, pepper, oil and mix well.
4. Add spinach mix through and set aside.
5. Grease a 20cm x 30 cm baking tray.
6. Take filo pastry from box and cover with a clean tea towel.
7. Take one sheet of filo pastry and place on the bottom of the tray making sure all sides are covered.
8. Using a pastry brush lightly spread some melted butter on the pastry.
9. Place the next sheet on the tray and brush with melted butter.
10. Continue till roughly half the sheets are used.
11. Pour in spinach and cheese mix, spreading the filling till it is level.
12. Place a sheet of filo pastry on the top, brush with butter.
13. Continue with the remaining filo pastry and butter.
14. Make sure final layer is well buttered.
15. Trim and tuck in the top into the sides.
16. Using a sharp knife cut through the top layer of pastry into diamond shapes.
17. Bake in 180C oven for 45- 50 minutes till golden brown and cooked through.
Alternatively: Brush 3 sheets of filo with melted butter and cut into thirds lengthwise. Place a spoonful of the filling at one end and roll up into a triangular package. Brush with melted butter and bake on a greased tray till golden and crisp. See photo above.

This salad is best made just before serving using fresh ingredients.
Serves: 6 (as part of a meal)
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife, large bowl

6 ripe yet firm tomatoes, chopped into 1” pieces
3 Lebanese cucumbers, chopped into 1” pieces
1 red onion, halved and then sliced into rings
1 red capsicum, halved seeded and chopped into 1” pieces
200g kalamata olives
220g Greek fetta, cubed
1 tsp dried Greek oregano
½ cup olive oil
Salt & Pepper to taste

60 ml red or white wine vinegar (optional)
Iceberg lettuce (optional)

1. Place tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, onion and fetta in a bowl.
2. Sprinkle over fetta, oregano, olives and olive oil and mix till combined.
3. Place into serving bowl and sprinkle with oregano and pepper.
4. Taste and if desired add the vinegar and salt.

In Australia this salad is often served with crisp iceberg lettuce and crunchy bread.

These are a coiled Greek version of the popular baklava.
Serves: makes 20-24 coils
Preparation time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 50 minutes

Equipment: chopping board, knife or food processor, pastry brush, greased baking tray, tea towel
Oven 200C

1 box Fillo pastry
½ cup melted butter or olive oil
¾ cup walnuts, finely chopped
½ cup pistachio nuts, unsalted finely chopped

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 orange, peel only
A little extra melted butter or oil to grease the baking tin

1. Prepare all ingredients and grease baking tray well before taking fillo out of the box
2. Lay fillo in a stack on your clean work surface and cover with a clean tea towel
3. Working on the top sheet first, brush lightly with melted butter or oil
4. Sprinkle surface with nuts. Remember these nuts have to go on all the sheets, a tablespoon is fine
5. Starting at one of the short edges, gather up the fillo like a loose fan fold
6. Don’t worry if fillo tears
7. Scroll the strip of gathered fillo and place in the baking tin
8. Continue until you have used up all the fillo and nuts and scrolls are packed in tightly into the baking tin
9. Bake at 200C for up to 40 minutes till golden and crunchy. Let cool for 10 minutes in tin
10. Whilst they are baking make the sugar syrup by boiling all ingredients and stirring till sugar is dissolved
11. Pour syrup over the pastries and let sit 4 hours or overnight to absorb the syrup.
12. Serve pastries at room temperature.

For a more fragrant syrup you can add a little rosewater, cinnamon, cardamom or cloves to the syrup whilst it boils.

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