Archive for the 'Greek' Category

Feta, tomato and herb toasts – a cheeky little snack with a hint of Greece

August 30, 2010

Grilled feta, tomato and herbs

This is a bit of a twist on grilled cheese on toast with a little bit of Greece thrown into the mix.

Ingredients

Good bread or rolls
1 block of feta (approx 200 grams)
1 tasty tomato
1/2 small red onion
Fresh herbs (I used parsley, mint, chives, thyme)
Dried oregano
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Method

Finely dice onion and tomato and add to a bowl with crumbled feta. Add finely chopped fresh herbs removing any touch stalks. Add 1/2 teaspoon of dried oregano and a healthy glug of olive oil. Mash together and season.

Pile on top of halved rolls of slices of good bread, drizzle with olive oil and grill until golden.

Eat with relish.

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The “real” Greek Spanakopita

July 13, 2010

Spanakopita

Ok I know I have already written about Spanakopita (spinach pie) but I cheated last time and used puff pastry. This is proper spinach pie with filo and no pumpkin!! The other one is good too but this is better!

My friend Rebecca is the inspiration for this little beauty, she made Adam and I a cracking spinach pie for dinner up in sunny Brisbane (or more commonly know as Bris-vegas). It was fan-bloody-tastic and definitely would give the Greeks a run for their money!!

I made it for dinner last night and it was a raging success – the parents loved it! We had left overs for lunch today and may I say with a little bit of an oven reheat it was better that the fresh pie the day before.

Ingredients (serves 6)

750 grams of spinach (you can use silverbeet just remove the white stems)
1 medium white or brown onion
1 spring onions (shallots in Oz)
1/2 cup of flat leaf parsley
1/3 cup of fresh mint
Small bunch of beetroot leaves
1 packet of filo pastry (thawed in fridge if frozen)
120 grams of unsalted butter
200 grams of feta (ideally Greek)
100 grams of finely grated parmesan
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Olive oil

Method

Wash and remove any tough long stalks from the spinach leaves and dry in a salad spinner if you have one. If not drain well and pat dry with clean tea towels.

Slice finely and set aside.

Sauted onion and spring onion

Finely dice the onion and finely slice the spring onions and add to a large heavy based pan with approx a tablespoon or two of oil.

Fry on a low to medium heat until soft.

Add spinach, finely chopped mint and parsley and cook on a medium heat until all leaves have wilted and most of the liquid has evaporated. You may need to add the spinach in batches as it might not all fit in the pot at once.

Onions, spring onions and spinach

Once the spinach is at this stage stain the rest of the liquid out by placing in a colander over a heat proof bowl. Press as much of the moisture out as you can – this will help prevent the pastry from going soggy.

Straining spinach through colander

Leave spinach to cool.

In another bowl crumble feta and add finely grated parmesan.

Crumbled feta and finely grated parmesan

Once spinach is cooled add to the cheeses and mix through. Season to taste with salt and pepper and add a little finely grated fresh nutmeg.

Spinach feta and parmesan filling for spanakopita

Now it is time to make the pie. Filo pastry dries out very quickly so it is best to leave the packet unopened until the very last minute. Melt the butter in a small pot on the stove, get your pastry brush out, a ceramic, glass or metal pie tin and have the filling ready to go.

Ideally the pie dish would be approx the same size as 1/2 a sheet of filo.

Open the packet of filo and start by cutting the sheets in half.

Brush the dish with melted butter and lay one sheet at the bottom, brush with butter and lay on top. Continue to do this until you have used 1/2 of the sheets (this usually will be between 7 and 10 of the 1/2 sheets). Dollop the filling over the top and spread into an evenish layer.

Spanakopita - spinach filling added

Now layer the sheets on top making sure you brush each sheet with butter before you lay the next sheet on top. Once you have laid the last sheet brush the top with butter and cut diagonally across the top layers of pastry to create portions. Do not cut all the way through just the top part.

Cut portions sizes in diamond shapes

Cook in a preheated oven at 180 degrees Celsius until golden brown. If browning too quickly turn the oven down a little bit.

Leave to cool for about 30 minutes before serving to give the pie time to rest.

Spanakopita portion

Serve with a leafy green salad or a Greek salad if you wish.

It was so good I feel like making again tonight – yummy!!! Or maybe I will try and do a mushroom, ricotta and parsley one……will keep you posted.

Gemista – Greek slow cooked stuffed vegetables

May 27, 2010

Gemista

I am on a roll with Greek food. No matter where I go I seek out Greek restaurants hoping that they will have an old Greek granny in the kitchen making traditional Greek food.

Unfortunately more often than not I am disappointed. One of the best Greek restaurants I have ever been to was actually not in Greece. It was in Balmain in Sydney and was called Artemis’s Village.

For many years it was my favourite restaurant. I felt like I was having dinner at my Greek friends house eating proper “home cooking”.

Great Spanakopita (spinach and cheese pie) and Tiropita (cheese pie), amazing Saganaki prawns (large fresh prawns in a garlicky tomato sauce with chunks of feta dotted through) and Gemista (stuffed veg).

Unfortunately Artemis (the Greek mama in the kitchen) retired and the family sold the restaurant. It was taken over but was never the same….sob sob.

I judge all Greek restaurants on the quality of their Gemista.

Firstly I will not even bother going into the restaurant unless they have Gemista and secondly it must be vegetarian – why do some restaurants put mince in their stuffed veg – yuck!

I have successfully made stuffed tomatoes many times before but have been unsuccessful with my stuffed peppers. So I had a little google search the other day and scanned a few recipes. One thing I picked up from my searches was once the peppers were stuffed and put in the oven a glass of water was added to the roasting dish. This makes the peppers nice and soft and also prevents them burning.

With this new piece of culinary genius I had to tackle stuffed peppers one more time.

Ingredients

8 large ripe tomatoes (6 for stuffing and 2 for the sauce)
2 large courgettes
6 small to medium peppers (I used red and yellow ones)
2 medium brown onions
4 large cloves of garlic
1 large glass of dry white wine
Small bunch of flat leaf parsley
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Approx 1 dessert spoon of fresh thyme leaves
250 grams of Arborio rice
Salt and Pepper
Olive oil

Pre heat oven to 190 degrees celsius.

Onion and garlic into the pot

Finely dice onions and garlic and saute in a heavy based pan with about 4 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt.

Scooping out the inside of tomatoes

Cut the “bums” off 6 of the tomatoes to make a lid, scrape out the insides of the tomatoes and add to a bowl.

Sprinkle with salt and leave upside down on a plate.

Peppers deseeded and caps cut off

Cut the tops off the peppers and discard the seeds. Sprinkle with salt and place upside down on the plate alongside the tomatoes.

Removing the centres of the courgettes

Cut the courgettes into 3 leaving the stem on, carve out the middle of the courgette, chop and keep to the side. Sprinkle inside with salt and add to plate.

Once onions and garlic are cooked, soft and sweet with no colour add the rice and stir through until coated with oil.

Add wine to rice, onions and garlic

Add wine and reduce.

Chopped tomatoes added to the rice mix

Chop up the insides of the tomatoes and the 2 left over tomatoes and add to the pot with the chopped up courgette insides too.

Turn the heat down and simmer until the rice has cooked for about 10 mins. Try not to add water there should be enough liquid. However if it is really drying out you can add a splash of water (make sure the heat is not on too high).

The rice should be cooked but still have quite a bite too it (more of a bite than you would have with a risotto).

Add chopped herbs

Finely chop the parsley and mint and add to the rice along with the thyme leaves.

Taste rice for seasoning add salt and pepper if you need.

Stuffing peppers with rice

Stuffing courgettes with rice mix

Fill the tomatoes, peppers and courgettes with the rice mix and put the lids on the peppers and tomatoes – make sure you do not over fill the veg as the rice will continue to expand as it cooks in the oven and it may split the skins.

Stuffed veg ready for the oven

Pack stuffed vegetables into a ceramic dish with at least 5 cm sides.

Add a glass of water and a drizzle a good quantity of olive oil over the veg.

Pop it in the oven for 1 – 1 1/2 hours or until the peppers are soft/collapsed.

Stuffed peppers, tomatoes and courgettes

I covered mine with foil for the 1st half of the time so that it steamed too but you do not have to do this.

Gemista

Serve with a green salad and a glass of chilled red wine.

Close your eyes and think of Greece……

Kefalonian spinach and feta pie (with roast pumpkin thrown in)

May 24, 2010

Spinach Pumpkin and feta pie

How can you go wrong with puff pastry? It’s just great, obviously not the best diet food but everything in moderation.

I am a huge fan of Greek food – good Greek food that is. Stuffed veggies, slow roast lemon potatoes, Tzatziki, Greek salad and my absolute favorite Spanakopita.

While I was at Art College I managed to wangle a job in a bar on the Greek island of Kefalonia for the summers. I had an absolute ball, at the time I was in my late teens early twenties and I really can’t think of anything I would have enjoyed more!

After work my friends and I would head off to get something to eat. It was usually about 5am and the place was always buzzing, our options were to head down to the square for Souvlaki, the beach for a toasted sandwich or to the bakery for fresh out of the oven Spanakopita.

My first choice every time was the bakery. Gorgeous flakey puff pastry filled with spinach and feta. Yummy!

So I decided to make my own version tonight but with a little difference I added some roast butternut pumpkin because I had some in the fridge, and pumpkin, spinach and feta goes really well together.

Ingredients

1 block of puff pasty or sheets
200 grams of English spinach
1 red onion
1 large lemon
1 teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon of fresh mint finely chopped
1/2 cup of finely grated Parmesan (Padano or Reggiano)
150 grams of feta crumbled
1 1/2 cups of 1 cm diced butternut pumpkin
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
1 egg
Sesame seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees Celsius.

Finely diced onion

Finely dice onion and add to large bowl.

Finely sliced spinach

Wash dry and finely slice spinach and add to the onions.

Onion spinach and lemon with pinch of salt

Add a pinch of salt to the bowl and the juice of one lemon give a good mix through.

Diced pumpkin

Pop pumpkin pieces into a roasting dish and add a pinch of salt and a few turns of the pepper grinder. Add a glug of olive oil and toss so that the pumpkin in coated.

Put pumpkin into the oven for approx 20 – 30 mins until the pumpkin is cooked and slightly golden in colour. Make sure you regularly stir the pumpkin to ensure that it does not stick and roasts evenly.

Squeezing out the liquid from the spinach

After the spinach has been sitting for about 20 – 30 mins it should have released a lot of liquid. Empty the spinach mixture into a colander or sieve and squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can.

Spinach feta parmesan thyme mint

Pop the spinach into a clean dry bowl and add the thyme leaves, finely chopped mint, crumbled feta and grated Parmesan. Season with pepper and a little salt (if you need it). Stir through thoroughly.

Spinach mixture

Once the pumpkin is cooked add to the spinach and cheese mix.

Add pumpkin to the spinach mix

Increase the oven temperature to 220 degrees.

Rolled out puff pastry cut into 15 cm squares

Roll out the puff pastry on a floured surface and cut into 15 cm squares.

Spinach mixture onto pastry

Add a large spoonful of the spinach mixture to the center of the pastry squares.

Press edges together with fork

Brush the edges of the pastry with lightly beaten egg and fold over to make triangles. Press the edges together and either mark with a fork or fold over on its self to create a sealed edge.

Pies on a baking sheet ready to go in oven

Brush the pies with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Place on a floured baking sheet and bake in oven for 15 – 20 minutes until golden brown – make sure you check the underside of the pies – this should also be golden brown. If not put back into the oven and back for a few more minutes until the underside is golden brown.

Pies cooked

Serve with a leafy salad.

Spinach feta and pumpkin pie with salad

You could make smaller versions of these for finger food or picnics.

Delish! And also good cold.