Sunday, April 24, 2011

Souvla - Greek lamb BBQ on the spit.

We won a souvla a couple of months ago so Greek Easter was the perfect time to test it out. DH got advice from the Souvla oracle (DB) and with some lamb loin pieces from Supreme Souvla (Belmore) the result was a success.
Good pieces of meat lined up the fat side next to a meat side along the skewer helps to baste the meat throughout. The coals were lit ahead of time and the meat skewers were added once the coals became grey. You don't want any flames during the cooking process.
We rotated the skewers every 15 minutes so they all browned consistently.

I can still taste it. mmm.

Greek Easter eggs

This year I got some advice from my favourite Greek sweets shop at Parramatta and my Greek Easter eggs worked out.
The dye is diluted into a warm water and vinegar solution and then added to the saucepan with the eggs. I began with a low simmer and allowed it to then slow boil. There was only one layer of eggs in the saucepan so the result was no breakages and each egg was boiled properly.
My youngest nephew got advice from his grandfather on how to beat the rest of us and this year he won the egg cracking competition. We all had fun.

Baklava fingers and wheel

This Easter I decided to make a couple of shapes with the basic baklava recipe.

The first version was to make Baklava fingers. Below is the result of rolling the fillo pastry with the nut mixture. I've cut the pastry into quarters along the length and then rolled the pastry, tucking in the sides after the second roll turn.

The nut mixture consists of almonds, walnuts, sugar and ground cinnamon. I've used unsalted butter to seal the pastry although you don't need to seal the pastry when you pack it tightly into the tin. You will however need unsalted butter to coat the top of the pastry.

The syrup is a water, sugar and lemon juice mixture that I prepared the day before. The trick with baklava is to add cold syrup to hot cooked pastry. Alternatively, add hot syrup to cold cooked pastry.

The snail version below was done by placing the nut mixture along lengthways on the fillo pastry. Then you use the round cake tin to shape the snail. Everything step is then the same.

I did baste both versions with syrup and then drained out the excess.
They remained finger lick'n good.

Kourabiethes - two recipes

This year I decided to test two recipes. The first recipe is from The Complete Middle East Cookbook by Tess Mallos. My mum used this book as her reference cookbook for lots of Cypriot recipes. Mainly the ones you do once a year.

Makes 40; Cooking time: 20 minutes; Oven: 160C or 325 F.
1 cup unsalted butter
3 Tablespoons icing sugar sifted
1 egg yolk
1 Tablespoon brandy
1/2 cup finely chopped roasted almonds (optional)
2 1/2 cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Cloves and 2 cups icing sugar to decorate finished biscuits

1. Melt butter until bubbles subside and sediment is golden brown - do not burn. Pour oiled butter and sediment into mixing bowl. Wait until butter has solidified before attempting the next step.
2. Add first quantity of icing sugar and beat on electrix mixer until light and fluffy. Add egg yolk and brandy and beat well.
3. Remove bowl from mixer and stir in almonds if used. Sift flour and baking powder twice and mix lightly into butter mixture. knead by hand until smooth.
4. Break off small pieces the size of a large walnut. Shape into crescents, or roll into balls, place on a flat surface and pinch tops twice, making four indentations and at the same time flattening them slightly.
5. Insert cloves in the top of each biscuit, and place on ungreased baking sheets.
6. Bake in a modertely slow oven for 20 minutes or until lightly coloured. Do not brown. Leave to cool on tray for 10 minutes.
7. Sift icing sugar over waxed paper and lift warm biscuits onto this. Sift more icing sugar on top and sides.
8. When cool, place in a container and sift remaining sugar on top of biscuits. Seal and store for 2 days before using to improve flavour.
9. When serving, place each in a small paper cup cake container.
Note: The melting and light browning of the butter is not traditional but it does give a delightful flavour to the biscuits. Many excellent Greek cooks use this method, but omit this step if you wish.

My opinion:
The preparation time with the melted butter took too much time to do and then wait for the butter to solidify. The final biscuits were a bit heavy for my taste. The result was still the traditional Kourabiethes. You should try this for yourself to see how it works for you.

The picture below is the chopped almonds. 
The second recipe is taken from Step-by-Step Greek Cooking from Family Circle books.

Makes 24; Preparation time: 20 minutes; Oven: 180C but I used 150C because my oven is fierce.

1 cup unsalted butter

1/2 cup icing sugar sifted
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 Tablespoon brandy
3/4 cup roasted hazelnuts finely chopped
3cups plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup icing sugar to decorate finished biscuits

1. Preheat oven to moderate 180C. Using electric beaters, beat butter and sugar in a small mixing bowl until light and creamy. Add yolk, beat well. Add vanilla essences and brandy; beat until combined.
2. Transfer mixture to large mixing bowl; add nuts, baking powder and flour. Working quickly, use hands to press ingredients together to form a soft dough. Do not knead.
3. Shape 2 teaspoons of mixture at a time into a crescent shape. Repeat with the remaining mixture. Place crescents into ungreased biscuit tray about 4 cm apart. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly golden. Remove, cool on tray.
4. When cool, dust biscuits liberally with icing sugar. Serve shortbread with Greek coffee.

My opinion:
These took less time to prepare and the mixture was lighter, resulting in a lighter biscuit.
Final result: I used almonds for both recipes and they all tasted great and no one complained about the biscuits. Both recipes are easy to make for novice cooks who want a yummy biscuits.
PS: Don't breath in or out when you eat these. Icing sugar can be tricky :)

Wild rice salad

Salad ingredients:
1 pkt (100gm) Wild rice - soaked for 2 hours and boil until soft.
2 cups cooked rice
1 capsicum - sliced finely
1 cup snap peas - par boiled

fennel for decoration

Dressing ingredients:
1 part basamic vinegar, 1 part olive oil, salt, pepper, 1T curry powder, lemon juice

This salad is a summer family favourite and once it's made, it lasts in the fridge for days. If you want fibre, this salad has plenty. Omit the amount olive oil if you can't have it in your diet. Add brown rice for more fibre.