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Posts Tagged ‘Greek’

Spanakopita

The classic spinach & feta combination never gets tired. These savoury Greek pastries are delicious and very easy to make. We worked out a production line (thanks Tricia & Orla) and had them assembled in no time! Great as a starter or snack with drinks. Perfect entertaining food.

Wine Suggestion: If you can find an Assyrtiko,  a crisp and delicious Greek white, then you’ve got a great match. Unfortunately it can be hard to find good Greek wines so stick to the Mediterranean and search for a Fiano or Greco di Tufo from Italy. Failing this we’ve had crisp Touraine Sauvignon Blancs with this as well to great effect.

Spanakopita (Spinch, mint & feta pastries) – makes 18-20

  • 500g spinach
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 100g Greek feta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp finely grated Greek kefalotiri cheese or Parmesan
  • a pinch of finely grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 250-275g pack of filo pastry (about 6 sheets)
  • 100g butter, melted

Wash and dry the spinach (remove the stalks if they look tough). Finely shred the leaves.

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook gently until soft but not browned. Gradually add the spinach, a handful at a time, until it has all wilted. Tip into a colander and drain, pressing out the liquid with a wooden spoon, then return to the pan with the scallions and cook for 1 minute. Leave to cool.

Crumble the feta into a large bowl and roughly mash with a fork – you can leave it a bit chunky. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan, the spinach mixture, nutmeg, mint and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

Unroll the sheets of filo and cut the stack lengthways into strips about 7.5cm wide. Brush the top layer with melted butter. Put a heaped teaspoonful of the filling in the centre of one strip, at the end closest to you, and fold one bottom corner of the pastry diagonally over the filling, so that the corner touches the opposite side to make a triangle. Then fold over the filled triangular corner, and keep folding it along the whole strip in a triangular parcel. Repeat to make all the spanakopita.

Brush the undersides of each parcel with more butter and place on a lightly buttered baking tray. Brush the tops with butter and bake for 25 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.

These are best served straight from the oven while the pastry is still crispy but they are also good at room temperature.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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Moussaka

This is a really lovely moussaka which rates as one of our “comfort” dishes. We especially like roasting the aubergines in the oven rather than frying them which always seems to require vats of oil. The combination is a classic and is not difficult, but it does take a little time to bring together. It is always well worth it.

Wine Suggestion:  We’ve been inspired to drink wines from the Eastern Mediterranean with this and have found that top Lebanese wines, like Chateau Massaya, with their bramble and plum fruits plus velvety spices work very well indeed.

Moussaka – to serve 6

  • 3 aubergines, sliced 1cm thick
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1½ lb (675g) lamb mince
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tomato, skinned, seeded and chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp tomato purée
  • a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • a few tbsp dry white wine
  • Parmesan (optional)

FOR THE BÉCHAMEL 

  • 1 pint (600ml) full-cream milk
  • 1 onion, peeled and stuck with a couple of cloves
  •  bay leaf
  • 2oz (55g) unsalted butter
  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.

Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides then put on a baking tray in a single layer and roast until soft. You will either need to do this in batches or on two trays. They should take between 10 and 20 minutes but don’t let them get too brown.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and sauté the onions until soft and golden. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for another few minutes, then add the mince and fry for 5-10 minutes or until well browned. Season and add the cinnamon, then add the chopped tomato, tomato purée and chopped parsley. Stir well, add the wine and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the wine has been absorbed.

While the meat is simmering make the béchamel. Put the onion, bay leaf and milk in a small pan and bring slowly to the boil. Take the pan off the heat and leave to infuse for 20-30 minutes with the lid on and reheat just before starting the sauce.

Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a small pan. Just as the butter starts to foam, add the flour and stir gently for a few seconds. You want a thin bubbling base – if the butter hasn’t amalgamated with the flour, add a tiny bit more. Bubble for a couple of minutes or until it turns a pale biscuit colour. Add about half a cup of the hot milk and whisk hard until the mixture becomes thick. Add more milk and repeat – it will take longer to thicken each time.

Cook the sauce more slowly and stir with a wooden spoon – add more milk until you get the right consistency. You want the sauce to be thick but not solid. Cook gently for 20 minutes, stirring often. Season and grate in a little nutmeg about half way through.

When the sauce is ready put alternate layers of aubergine and meat sauce in a deep baking dish or roasting tin, staring and ending with a layer of aubergines. Pour a thick layer of béchamel over the top; you might not need it all. Sprinkle over some grated Parmesan if you like then bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until brown on top.

(Original recipe from Tamasin’s Kitchen Bible by Tamasin Day-Lewis, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005.)

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This is a bit like lasagne but easier to make and you can have it all done in advance, ready to throw in the oven when your guests arrive.

Pastitsio (beef and macaroni pie with cinnamon, red wine and cheese) –  generously serves 8-10

  • 500g pasta tubes (we used big macaroni or rigatoni would be good)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50g finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 10g fresh white breadcrumbs

FOR THE WHITE SAUCE:

  • 115g butter
  • 115g plain flour
  • 1.2 litres full-cream milk
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg

FOR THE MEAT SAUCE

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1 kg lean minced beef
  • 200ml red wine
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 10cm piece cinnamon stick
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
  • 3 fresh bay leaves

For the meat sauce, heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, garlic, and celery, and fry until starting to brown. Add the mince and fry over a high heat for about 4 minutes, breaking up the lumps. Add the red wine, tomatoes, tomato purée, cinnamon stick, ground cloves, dried and fresh oregano, bay leaves, 100ml water, 1½ tsp salt and some black pepper, and simmer for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened but is still nice and moist. Throw away the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add plenty of salt. Cook the pasta for a minute less than it says on the pack (as it will cook a bit more in the oven). Drain well, transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool a little.

For the white sauce, melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan, add the flour and cook, stirring, over a medium heat, for 1 minute. Gradually beat in the milk, then bring to the boil, stirring, lower the heat and leave to simmer for 5-7 minute, stirring occasionally. Season with nutmeg and some salt and pepper.

Stir 250ml (about one-fifth) of the white sauce into the warm pasta with the beaten eggs and half the grated cheese. Keep the rest of the sauce warm over a low heat, stirring now and then and adding a bit more milk if it gets too thick.

Use the melted butter to grease a large, ovenproof dish (about 23 x 33 cm across and 7 cm deep) or baking tray. Spread one-third of the pasta over the base of the dish and cover with half the meat sauce. Add another third of the pasta, then the rest of the meat sauce, then cover with a final layer of pasta. Spoon the rest of the white sauce over. Mix the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle this over the top.

The dish is now ready for the oven. When you’re ready, bake it in a preheated oven at 180ºC/Gas Mark 4 for 40 minutes or until bubbling hot and nicely browned.

Serve with some salad.

Drink with: a glass of good Bordeaux but from a warmer vintage, like the atypical 2003. One of our guests kindly brought an ’03 Domaine de Chevalier.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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This has such great flavours that we made it two days in a row – it’s even great cold the next day so don’t be put off by the large quantities. Serve with barbecue lamb or just some feta cheese.

Briam – to serve 8 

  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit extra to grease the tin
  • 500g waxy potatoes, peeled and cut lengthways into ½ cm thick slices
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 large courgettes, sliced
  • 1 large aubergine, cut into 1cm thick slices
  • 1 large green pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 large red pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 large red onion, thickly sliced
  • 15-20g dill sprigs
  • 15-20g flat-leaf parsley sprigs
  • 200ml passata

Preheat the oven to 190ºC.

Oil a large roasting tin (about 26 x 36 cm) well and spread the potatoes on the base in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper, then scatter over the garlic and courgettes. Season again, then add a layer each of the aubergine, peppers and onion, seasoning between each layer. Scatter over half the dill and parsley sprigs, cover with tomato slices and then add the rest of the herbs and season again. Pour the sieved tomatoes over the top, followed by the olive oil.

Cover the roasting tin tightly with foil and bake for about 1½ hours or until the vegetables are tender.

If you have a lot of juices in the tin, carefully pour them into a wide pan and boil until reduced and concentrated. Pour back over the vegetables and leave to cool a bit before serving.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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These Greek kebabs are easy and delicious when barbecued and served with Tzatziki (a Greek yogurt dip), sliced tomatoes, pickled chillies and sliced gherkins.

Souvlaki – to serve 8

  • 2kg boned shoulder of lamb
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 large lemon, juiced plus wedges to serve
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Paprika for sprinkling

Trim excess fat off the lamb and cut into bite-sized pieces. Put into a bowl with the oregano, lemon juice, olive oil, 2 tsps salt and some black pepper and leave to marinate at room temperature for about an hour.

Preheat the barbecue. Thread the lamb onto metal skewers and cook on the hot barbecue, until browned on the outside but still juicy in the centre. Sprinkle with a pinch of paprika and a squeeze of lemon juice to serve.

Drink with: a southern Italian red such as Negromaro or Primitivo. Italian wines from Puglia and Calabria complement Greek foods very well which is not surprising given the very strong historical and social links between them. In this case there is a good balance of warm ripe fruits, earthy tannins and medium weight.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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The best Tzatziki we’ve made with great flavour and a really thick creamy texture. Totally different to the watery shop-bought versions. Serve with lightly toasted pitta breads, for dipping, or Greek lamb kebabs.

Tzatziki – to serve 6 

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 500g natural Greek ewe’s milk yogurt (‘Total’ if you can find it – don’t buy a low-fat version for this)
  • 75g scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill or mint
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar

Peel most of the skin off the cucumber but not all of it. Coarsely grate the cucumber, put into a clean tea towel and squeeze out most of the excess liquid.

Crush the garlic into a smooth paste by adding a large pinch of salt and crushing on a board with the back of a large knife.

Put the yogurt into a bowl and stir in the cucumber, garlic, scallions, dill or mint, olive oil, vinegar and some seasoning.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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We hadn’t thought of using Pernod or ouzo in a salad until Rick Stein inspired us in his Mediterranean Escapes book. Good enough to make twice in two weeks.

Salata Horiatiki (Greek salad with tomato, cucumber, olives, dill and feta cheese) – to serve 4

  • 450g ripe, red, tasty tomatoes
  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 red onion
  • 200g Greek feta cheese
  • 4½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit extra to serve
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ouzo or Pernod
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill
  • 20 small black olives
  • Large pinch of dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Crusty fresh bread, to serve

Cut the tomatoes into chunks, and cut the cucumber in half lengthways and then across into thick slices. Very thinly slice the red onion. Crumble the feta cheese into small chunks.

Put the olive oil, ½ tsp salt, the red wine vinegar, ouzo and some black pepper into a large salad bowl and whisk. Add the tomatoes, cucumber and onions and toss gently. Add the feta, dill and olives and mix briefly, then divide onto plates.

Drizzle the salad with a bit more oil, sprinkle with the dried oregano and a little coarsely ground pepper, and serve with crusty bread.

Wine Suggestion: If you were on a Greek island you would be sipping ouzo or retsina… not sure that we’d recommend either. Maybe try a Vermentino, which is still from the Mediterranean (Sardinia or the Italian coast), a fresh white wine that has a bit of texture to it.

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