Saturday, January 24, 2015

The easiest and quickest tyropitakia (Greek individual cheese pies)

Sometimes recipes can be quite simple, as simple as they can get really. That doesn’t mean they are less delicious or that they lack in flavor or panache. A recipe doesn’t have to be difficult, laborious or extravagant to be worthwhile. There are times when efficiency, swiftness and simplicity of ingredients, is key.

Greek cuisine is like that many times, especially when it comes to mezedes. Mezedes are small, simple dishes made to accompany or prelude the main dish, or to accompany a glass of beer, ouzo or wine. This one is such a mezes and yet another version of tyropita, cheese pie.

In Greece, tyropites can be made with all sorts of dough. Sfoliata (puff pastry), kourou (yoghurt pastry) and of course phyllo. Phyllo is the most widely used dough in Greece for pies (phyllo / φύλλο is a Greek word which means leaf). There are many types of phyllo in Greece; the paper thin type which is normally used to make sweets like saragli, baklava or galaktoboureko, the slightly thicker but still very thin phyllo (called kroustas in Greek) used both for savory and sweet pies, and then there’s the thicker phyllo (horiatiko/rustic phyllo) which is mainly used for more hearty savory pies like tyropites, spanakopites, hortopites (wild greens pies) or kreatopites (meat pies).

I make my own hand-rolled phyllo when I have time and I’m in the mood, which is by far the best, but most of the times, let’s not kid ourselves, I buy it ready made. This time, I used horiatiko phyllo, the thick one, to make these shallow-fried tyropitakia, possibly the most simple, easy pies that you can make. With a feta, egg and dried mint filling, they are fried in sunflower oil—although you can fry them in olive oil but they will be heavier— and they are incredibly delicious.

Rolled into a pipe-like shape (the musical instrument that is) called flogera in Greek, they are ultra crispy with the feta filling oozing out in all its exquisite saltiness, while the scent of mint tickles your nose. With a glass of ouzo or a beer, you have a perfect little Greek meze.

More Greek cheese pies:
Tyropita (cheese pie) with puff pastry
Tyropitakia with Greek yoghurt dough/kourou

Tyropitakia with horiatiko phyllo (Greek individual cheese pies with thick phyllo)

Try not to use the regular phyllo but search for the thick one. Regular phyllo will absorb more oil while frying and will be less crispy.

The way I roll the dough makes the tyropitakia even crispier, with many edges. Don’t worry about not being sealed at the ends. Rest assured there’s no danger of the filling spilling out, as long as you follow the instructions, or just look at the photos below.

Yield: 48 tyropitakia

12 sheets of phyllo (preferably the thick type)
500 g Greek feta, grated
2 medium-sized eggs
½ tsp dried mint
Freshly ground white pepper, 4-5 turns of the pepper mill
Sunflower oil for frying

Special equipment: wide frying pan, absorbent kitchen paper

In a medium-sized bowl mix well feta, eggs, mint and pepper with a spoon.

Open up the package of phyllo and roll out the sheets. Cut them all at once in half lengthwise and then cut them in half crosswise to create 48 pieces about 20x17cm each.

Take each piece of dough and place 1 tsp of filling near one corner. Roll the phyllo like in the photos below. Brush the end corner with a little water so it sticks together and doesn’t open up while frying.

Fill the bottom of a wide frying pan with oil by 1-2 cm and place over medium-high heat. When it’s hot, fry the tyropitakia in one layer, 1 minute per side, until crispy and golden brown, being careful not to burn them.

Transfer them to a plate lined with kitchen paper to absorb the extra oil. Fry the rest of the tyropitakia.
Serve while warm.

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Thursday, January 8, 2015

Flourless dark chocolate and demerara sugar cake with pomegranate seeds (GF)

Happy New Year, friends. May 2015 be a healthy, joyous and lucky year for all, with lots of fun times and of course, delicious food.

I wanted to start off 2015 with a dessert that combined chocolate, my eternal love, and the pomegranate, a fruit that symbolizes luck, prosperity and good fortune in Greek culture; this one proved to be the ideal one.

It is a flourless cake with the rich, deep flavor of dark chocolate, some bitterness coming from the addition of freshly brewed espresso coffee, a hint of vanilla and the caramel-y flavor of demerara sugar that makes it particularly delicious.

Being not overly sweet, it welcomes the generous sprinkling of icing sugar that transforms its crackly top into a snowy landscape. The addition of the small, burgundy, sparkly jewels in the form of pomegranate seeds that decorate the top, adds another level of sweetness as well as an acidic undertone.

It is dense but not stodgy, almost like a fudgy brownie but much lighter, softer and far tastier, very moist with crackly, crispy top and edges, and with the plump pomegranate seeds giving extra crunchiness. Served with a generous dollop of freshly whipped cream sweetened with a little icing sugar, it is utterly scrumptious.

Chocolate and pomegranate is a beautiful combination and starting the New Year with these flavors was a choice that proved to be absolutely brilliant.

Let’s make this year a good one by being kind, generous and loving to ourselves and others. Let this be the year that all of our dreams come true.

Flourless dark chocolate and demerara sugar cake with pomegranate seeds (Gluten-free)

Demerara sugar is raw, cane sugar that gives desserts and cakes a special flavor and it is also healthier than white, refined sugar.

Use chocolate whose flavor you enjoy because the cake will taste very much like that chocolate. Make sure it is of good quality and I would suggest you don’t use a chocolate that has less than 70% cocoa solids.

If you don’t have an espresso machine, you can use a one-serving packet of espresso powder dissolved in 100ml boiling water.

I would strongly suggest you make the cake a day before you want to serve it as it is most delicious the next day.

Yield: 1 cake / 8-10 pieces

250 g unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into pieces, plus extra for greasing the pan
250 g good quality dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), cut into pieces
100 ml freshly brewed strong espresso coffee
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
180 g demerara sugar (raw cane sugar)
4 large eggs

Icing sugar, for dusting the cake
The seeds of 1 pomegranate

for the chantilly cream (to serve with the cake)
250 ml cream, full-fat (35%)
1 Tbsp icing sugar

Special equipment: stand mixer or hand-held mixer, springform round pan 22-23 cm, baking paper, baking tray

Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of barely simmering water (bain-marie) and melt, stirring often with a spatula. The bottom of the bowl must not come in contact with the simmering water otherwise the chocolate will burn.
Remove the bowl from the top of the pan and add the espresso coffee, the vanilla and the salt and mix using a spatula. Set aside.

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the sugar and eggs and beat using the whisk attachment (or with a hand-held electric mixer) on high speed, for 4-5 minutes, until the mixture reaches the ribbon stage (when you lift up the beater and let the mixture drip inside the bowl, you can see a ribbon forming on the surface and it stays for a few seconds before it disappears inside the rest of the mixture). The mixture should triple in volume and should be very light and fluffy.

In the meantime, preheat your oven to 175°C.
Butter the bottom and sides of the springform pan very well and line the base with a piece of baking paper (click here to see how to make a baking paper circle).

Pour slowly the chocolate mixture in the egg mixture and fold it in using a spatula, being careful not to deflate the eggs.
Empty the batter gently into the prepared baking pan. Place the pan inside a square baking tray to prevent any liquid (or butter) spilling out into your oven (you may want to line the baking tray with a piece of aluminum foil) and place on the low rack of the preheated oven.

Bake cake for 30 minutes, and then transfer it to the middle rack of the oven and bake for a further 10-15 minutes or until a wooden skewer or toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
You will notice that during baking the cake will puff up and once you take it out of the oven it will sink and crack on top. That is perfectly okay, that’s how it should be.

Remove it from the oven and transfer the baking pan on a wire rack so that the cake cools completely. Don’t remove the sides of the pan while the cake is still hot, otherwise the sides will collapse. Run a knife around the edges of the cake to ensure that the cake is not stuck and then remove the sides of the pan carefully. You may serve the cake on the base of the pan or remove it. Be careful though because it may break.

Prepare the chantilly cream by whipping the cream and the icing sugar with a hand-held mixer or in a stand mixer until stiff peaks form. You can keep it in the fridge for 2 days, covered with plastic wrap.

When you want to serve the cake, dust it with icing sugar and decorate with the pomegranate seeds. Serve cut into pieces with a dollop of chantilly cream.

In case you have leftover cake, remove the pomegranate seeds from the top because they will make it soggy. Place seeds in a bowl and refrigerate them.
You can keep the cake covered, at room temperature, for 3 days.

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Sunday, December 28, 2014

Greek roasted pork loin with petimezi (grape molasses)

Hello all. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas and enjoyed good food with your loved ones.

Are you full yet? I know I am. But that doesn’t stop me from eating some more. Well, it is the holidays after all. I can feel guilty about it afterwards. For the time being, let me rejoice in the food and the people I love. I suggest you do the same.

Greeks traditionally eat pork on Christmas and/or on New Year's. So if you would like to feast like a Greek, let me share with you a recipe for pork loin with petimezi that is truly delicious, if I do say so myself.

Petimezi is Greek grape molasses which comes from moustos (grape must). The thick, viscous petimezi is used in Greek cuisine as a condiment in salad dressings, to enrich sauces for meat and poultry, with eggs, cheese, in traditional cakes and cookies named moustokouloura, you name it. Here, I used it as part of a glaze along with mustard and olive oil.

The pork, slathered with the glossy glaze, sits on a bed of garlic heads cut in half, sliced juicy oranges and lemons, and whole, aromatic fresh herbs like rosemary, thyme and sage. Everything gets a generous drizzle of olive oil and the pork is roasted in the oven. After an hour, out comes the succulent meat.

The pork’s crust is slightly caramelized and underneath hides the juicy and tender meat. The fragrance of the citrus, of the sweet and sour petimezi, of the herbs and the mustard has permeated the pork and its flavor is now sweet, tangy and zesty. The sauce, made from the deglazed pan juices, petimezi (again) and balsamic vinegar, finished off with some butter to give it a beautiful sheen, completes the picture. Poured all over the slices of supple meat, it is a wonderful combination and a winner on a festive table.

I wish you all a Happy New Year with health and happiness!

Petimezi and mustard-glazed roasted pork loin with herbs and citrus fruits, and a petimezi and balsamic vinegar sauce

Pork loin is lean so it needs careful cooking as it can dry out very easily. Having a meat thermometer is very handy to ensure that it’s cooked properly.

I love serving it with the garlic that has cooked down to soft, plump cloves and with the herbs, picking some with each bite to give extra flavor to the meat. Roast potatoes, rice or celeriac purée and a big salad would make great accompaniments.

Don’t be tempted to serve the pork without the sauce. It needs it, not only for flavor but for moistness.
I didn’t add any flour to the sauce because I didn’t want it to be thick, but if you prefer it on the thick side, add half a teaspoon to a teaspoon of flour or corn flour.

Yield: 6 servings

1.2 kg center-cut pork loin (with a little fat on top, no bones), tied (you can ask your butcher to tie it for you if can’t do it)
1 large orange, sliced thickly
1 lemon, sliced
2 heads of garlic, cut in half crosswise
4-5 fresh rosemary sprigs
5 fresh sage sprigs
5-6 fresh thyme sprigs
Freshly ground black pepper
6 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup water

for the glaze
4 Tbsp Greek petimezi (grape-must syrup/grape molasses)
2 Tbsp mild-flavored mustard

for the sauce
200 ml chicken stock
2 Tbsp petimezi
½ Tbsp balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
1½ Tbsp unsalted butter

Special equipment: large baking pan (preferably suitable also for the stovetop), pastry brush, meat thermometer, sieve

Take the pork out of the fridge at least half an hour before cooking so it can come to room temperature.

Preheat your oven to 190ºC.

Arrange the orange and lemon slices in a baking pan in one layer. Place wider slices in the center so the pork can sit on them comfortably. Add the half garlic heads between the citrus slices. Arrange the whole sprigs of rosemary, sage and thyme mainly in the middle of the pan.

Prepare the glaze by whisking the petimezi and mustard in a small bowl to combine.

Rinse the pork and pat it dry with paper towels. Rub it well all over with 3 Tbps olive oil and season it well all over with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Transfer it to the middle of the pan (fat-side up), on top of the citrus slices and fresh herbs and using a pastry brush, brush the top and sides with some of the glaze (see photo). Drizzle the remaining 3 Tbps of olive oil over the citrus fruits around the pan and pour in also the water.

Place the pan on the low rack of your preheated oven and roast for 20 minutes. Take it out and glaze the pork with the glaze mixture using the pastry brush. Make sure to be very gentle so you don’t remove the previous layer of glaze.
Roast for a further 20 minutes on the low rack of the oven. During roasting, check if the pan is dry and if so, add a little more water.
Take the pan out and glaze the pork for the last time with the glaze mixture, being gentle again with the brush. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven this time and roast the pork for a further 20 minutes or until a meat thermometer inserted in the middle of the loin reads 65ºC.

Take the pan out of the oven and remove the pork from the pan and onto a board. The temperature of the pork will continue to rise while resting, a couple of degrees. You can cover it very loosely with aluminum foil if you wish to keep it warm.

While the pork rests, prepare the sauce. Remove the garlic and herbs from the pan. Press the orange and lemon slices through a sieve to get their juice, letting it fall into the pan. Discard the citrus slices.
Place the baking pan on the stovetop over medium heat and pour in the chicken stock. Using a wooden spoon, deglaze the pan. Take it off the heat and pour the liquid through a sieve and into a small saucepan.

Note: In case your baking pan/dish can't be put on the stovetop (for example, clay pots may break when put on direct heat), add the chicken stock to the pan and return pan to the oven (which you have kept at 190ºC) for 5-10 minutes or until the stock starts to simmer. Remove pan from the oven and deglaze, using a wooden spoon. Continue with the recipe instructions as described above.

To the saucepan, add the petimezi and balsamic vinegar as well as a little black pepper, set over medium-high heat and let it simmer and reduce by a third. Don’t let it get syrupy, it needs to be on the thin side. Add the butter and whisk it in. Check the seasoning and add salt if you think it needs it. Don’t add salt in the beginning because the flavor of the sauce concentrates as it cooks down so it may be too salty.

To serve, cut off and discard the twine from the pork carefully so you don't remove the crust and discard it. Place the pork on a platter and drizzle it with a little olive oil. Pour the sauce in a small container with a spout so you can add as much or as little as you wish. Slice the pork and pour the sauce over it.
Serve with the garlic and herbs.


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