Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Easter bread - tsoureki

This sweet bread is part of the traditional midnight supper early on Easter Sunday morning after the Resurrection Service. The three dough ropes plaited together symbolise the Holy Trinity; the red eggs symbolise the blood shed by Christ. It is best made on the day of serving but most people buy it or a generous Mum or Aunty will make one for you. It is delicious toasted after that and like all breads, can be frozen for use after Easter.
Makes one loaf. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan-forced).
1c milk
2t dried yeast
1t caster sugar
1/2c plain flour
150g butter
2 eggs
1T zest orange
1/2t aniseed or mahlepi and masticha mix for a more authentic taste
1/2t salt
1/3c caster sugar
3c plain flour
2 egg yolks
2T milk
  1. Place one cup of milk in a bowl, sprinkle in two teaspoons (7 grams) of dried yeast and one teaspoon caster sugar and whisk until the yeast is dissolved. Stir in half a cup of sifted flour, cover and stand in a warm place for 30 minutes, or until the mixture has doubled.
  2. Stir in 150 grams melted butter, two lightly beaten eggs, the finely grated zest of one orange, two teaspoons of aniseed (or two teaspoons mahlepi and half a teaspoon of masticha), half a teaspoon of salt and a further one-third cup of caster sugar, then gradually stir in a further three cups sifted plain flour to form a dough.
  3. Gently knead the dough on a floured surface for about 10 minutes, or until smooth and elastic. Lightly oil a large bowl, place the dough in the bowl, cover and stand in a warm place until doubled in size (about one-and-a-half hours).
  4. Turn out and knead for one to two minutes.
  5. Cut the dough into three even pieces and roll each piece into a 40 centimetre long cylinder, plait the lengths together, then shape into a wreath, pinching the ends to join.
  6. Place on a lined baking tray.
  7. Press three red eggs firmly into the wreath. Don't add these eggs if you're making this outside of Easter.
  8. Stand in a warm place until well risen (about 45 minutes).
  9. Brush the bread with a combined egg yolk and two tablespoons milk, then bake for 10 minutes.
  10. Reduce the heat to 180C (160C fan-forced) and bake for a further 30 minutes, or until the bread sounds hollow when tapped.

Baba ghannouj - eggplant dip

You can buy this dip ready made in any supermarket for $2 to $3, but if you want to make your own and eggplants are in season, try this recipe.

When I made my first batch I couldn't believe it was so easy and yummy.

1 eggplant medium sized
harrisa or greek oregano (rigani)
1/4 c lemon juice
1/4 tahini
2 cloves crushed garlic
salt to taste
1T olive oil

1. Roast the eggplant in the oven on a baking tray or flat tray for 30 minutes at medium heat. Rub the eggplant with your favourite herb. I use harrisa or greek oregano, depending on who my guests will be.
2. Peel off skin while hot and remove stem and end. I tend to leave the skin for more texture, so I'm not a real baba ghannouj purist.
3. Place the eggplant into a blender with lemon juice, tahini, garlic and salt.
Check the taste and add more lemon juice or some olive oil to mellow out the taste. I like it tart, so I add more lemon juice.
This dip can be made days ahead and the flavour does develop further overnight.

Tess Mallos - thank you

When the late Tess Mallos published her book,The Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook, this was Mum's main reference book she used for Greek cooking. This book has a good flaouna recipe that Mum used every year as part of our Easter tradition. This recipe is still made by experience and passed on to their families through hands on learning with no real recipe to follow. I'm still trying to work on a savoury cheese bread/cake that Mum used to make with haloumi cheese.
I recently bought Tess's book via Amazon because I couldn't find it locally, and this is my go-to book for Greek and middle eastern cooking. I'm so thankful Tess was able to publish this book in the late 70's because it really is an complete reference book IMHO. She did a fabulous job for those of us who weren't able to learn how their Mums and Aunties made the fabulous traditional food away from their homelands, while they made a life for themselves and their families in a new emerging country, like Australia.

Here's one recipe that has to be made when watermelon is in season:

Glyko Karpouzi or watermelon rind preserve

1k watermelon rind
3 c sugar
2 small pieces cinnamon bark
strips of lemon peel
2T lemon juice
1/4c honey

1. Remove all traces of pink from the watermelon rind. Peel away the green skin. Cut firm white flesh into 2 to 3cm cubes.
2. Places cubes in a pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 hour or until the rind is transluscent. Drain.
3. Place 3 cups water in pan with sugar, cinnamon bark, lemon peel, 1 tablespoon lemon juice and hone. Stir over heat until sugar dissolves and bring to the boil. Skimmy the residue out as it forms.
4. Add drained watermelon rind, return to the boil and boil gently for 15 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and leave overnight.
5. Return to the boil over medium heat and boil until the syrup is thick when tested on a cold saucer. Remove cinnamon and lemon peel.
6. Add remaining lemon juice and boil for 1 minute, then ladel into warm sterilizes jars. Seal when cold.
7. Serve with a glass of cold water and some freshly made Greek coffee.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Picnic memories - Kolokithopita (filo zucchini pie)

When the family gets together, and I mean the whole family, there are some dishes that always go down well with every generation. This is one of them and it's typically made in a large rectangle baking tray.

The beauty of this is recipe you can make this ahead of time and still look as fresh as a daisy when the family arrives for that long weekend lunch.

This is also one of those favourite dishes that reminds me of when our parents used to take us on weekend picnics with all of their friends and their young families and everyone brought their signature dishes. As kids, we just played all day but we were really well fed. No one went home hungry. I should post up some b/w pics from the family archives or that could be too embarrasing.

  • 1 packet filo pastry 
  • 7 medium zucchini (about 900g), coarsely grated (use flat leafed spinach when it's in season)
  • 1 t salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 eggs
  • 200g feta cheese grated
  • 100g haloumi cheese grated
  • ¼ c coarse burghul
  • 1 bunch mint, chopped
  • ½ c melted unsalted butter
  • milk to brush over the top of the filo
  • sesame seeds
Preheat the oven to 180C fan, 200C regular oven.

  1. You will need a large pie dish or rectangle baking pan. Brush it with melted unsalted butter.
  2. To make the filling, toss the grated zucchini with the teaspoon of salt and leave in a colander to drain for at least an hour. Give it a shake and toss from time to time. Then take handfuls of the zucchini and squeeze out as much liquid as you can, or wring it out in a tea towel.
  3. Lightly beat the eggs in a large bowl with plenty of pepper. Stir in the feta, mozzarella, rice or burghul and mint. Then add the zucchini and keep the mixture in the fridge until required.
  4. To assemble the pie, lay 10 sheets of filo on a tea towel, cover them with a dry tea towel and then with a damp tea towel. Keep the filo covered as you work to prevent it becoming dry.
  5. Use a wide pastry brush to melted unsalted butter on the filo sheets and work as quickly as you can.
  6. Arrange 5 sheets individually brushed into the baking dish so that the ends hang over the sides.
  7. Tip the zucchini mixture into the filo-lined dish and spread out evenly. Fold the overhang in over the filling. Brush the remaining sheets of filo with unsalted butter as before and place over the filling.
  8. Brush melted butter on top. Tuck the surplus filo snuggly in around the pie.
  9. Score the top couple of sheets of filo with a sharp knife in a diamond pattern or into segments where the pie is to be cut later. Make air vents by plunging the knife right through the top layers a few times. Sprinkle the top with sesame seeds. 
  10. Bake the pie on a tray in the middle of the oven for one hour or until crisp and golden. Keep an eye on your first version so that it doesn't burn.
  11. Rest the kolokithopita for 20 to 30 minutes before serving. Cut into slices and serve warm or at room temperature.

Upside-down caramel pear cake

This cake is easy to make and looks mouth watering. The sticky brown caramel glazes the pears and seeps into the cake, making it moist and delicious. I love it best served warm from the oven with ice-cream or vanilla sauce (code for custard).
I'm aiming to make this in a couple of week's time, before winter ends.

Serves 6

  • 1 c sugar
  • 1/3 c water
  • 3 firm pears
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 c raw sugar
  • 1/2 t vanilla essence
  • Zest of one orange
  • Zest of one lemon
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 c self-raising flour
  1. Preheat fan-forced oven to 170C (190C conventional).
  2. Grease a 20-centimetre cake tin with removable base and line the bottom with baking paper.
  3. Put sugar and water in a small saucepan and warm gently until sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and cook until the liquid is a light caramel colour.
  4. Pour into the tin and swirl around to cover the base.
  5. Peel, core and quarter pears and arrange on top of the caramel, with points facing towards the centre.
  6. Beat eggs with raw sugar, vanilla, orange and lemon zest.
  7. Add melted butter. Mix in flour.
  8. Place spoonfuls of batter over the top of the pears and gently spread, so as not to disturb the pears.
  9. Bake in oven for 30-40 minutes or until the cake is set in the centre.
  10. Remove from oven and turn out on to a plate while the cake is still hot.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/cuisine/baking/recipe/upside-down-caramel-pear-cake-20111019-1m6kp.html#ixzz1rc75G3hj

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Taramosalata (fish roe dip)

What's a meze plate without tarama? Exactly. so it was about time I made my first batch. And this will be the first of many batches in the future.

100g tarama (find a greek deli that stocks this)
1/2 loaf of day old bread
1 grated onion
garlic clove crushed
1 c olive oil
juice of 2 lemons

Soak the bread in cold water then squeeze dry.
Grate onion and squeeze out the juice
Place everything in the blender adding the oil and juice a little at a time.
Add extra water if it's too thick. Add extra lemon juice for a sharper flavour. Add extra oil for a mellower taste.

My first batch needs more bread and a bit more oil. I didn't add any oil to the first batch, but I will before I serve it.

The Tess Mallos recipe suggests adding an egg yolk or a whole egg. I'll leave that to you to consider adding when you make this yourself.

Serve with lamb bbq, or crusty bread, or on a meze plate with olives, celery, cucumber, tzatziki dip and houmos.