Sunday, February 28, 2010

Rabbit Stifado (Greek #9)

When I blog about Greek food I try to avoid using Greek names to describe dishes as I find it a little bit pretentious and possibly quite confusing for non-Greeks. I will definitely be found guilty of doing the exact thing I'm pretending to dislike around this blog, but I do at least make an effort. Sometimes, it's just a bit silly to say Courgettes, Aubergines and Potatoes baked with Tomato and Olive Oil rather than just Briam.

I was thinking about an English name for this dish the other day while watching Masterchef when Gregg spoke the words "She's making a Beef Stifado. Will it be enough to get her through to the next round?". Well, if the word is good enough for Gregg, then it's good enough for me. Because Gregg isn't pretentious at all. Fact. So there you go: we're almost at the end of the Greek month (the word month used in the most general way possible) and we are having Rabbit Stifado.


Rabbit is a controversial meat I suppose, but I feel that we should eat most things and eat them in moderation. And if you think about it, rabbits have probably enjoyed a much better life than those battery chickens that haven't got the space or the energy to move.

Having said that, I managed to persuade Alex to do the dirty job of cutting it in pieces. It didn't look like a great job. It was a bit messy but the idea is to try and cut it in half following the spine and then remove the 4 legs and any other meat pieces from around the main bone. We threw that away. If you want some proper advice on preparing the rabbit, there are quite a few useful videos on YouTube that we only thought of looking up after we had finished.

The sauce is simple, but very aromatic and I love the sweet onions. As it's normally the case with stews, the longer you leave it to simmer, the better it becomes.


Rabbit Stifado

Ingredients (serves 4)


1 rabbit, cut into pieces
10 small onions or shallots, peeled
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 glass of red wine
1 cup creamed tomatoes and/or some fresh tomatoes, pureed
1 cinnamon stick
a few allspice berries
olive oil
salt and pepper

Fry the rabbit in a bit of olive oil. If you like, you can first roll the rabbit pieces in some flour and then fry them. Slightly healthier if you don't. When it's nicely browned, add the onions, the garlic and the wine and boil until the alcohol evaporates. If you have fried bits of meat stuck to the bottom of the pan you can use a wooden spoon to scrape them off. Then, add the tomatoes, enough water to almost cover the meat and the cinnamon, allspice and pepper and cover. Let it simmer for a couple of hours or longer if possible. The meat will just get more and more tender. When it's done, season with the salt.


Serve with pasta or some good bread. I actually fancied some mash when I made it so I had it with that and it was really good with the lovely, thick sauce. The next day we had the leftovers on spaghetti, with some grated pecorino on the top. Very nice too.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines
Ladopita 
Cheese and Salami Pie
Pork Souvlaki
Homemade Pita

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: Finishing off with a childhood sweet!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Pork Souvlaki with homemade Pita (Greek #7 & #8)

When I lived in Greece there were some things I never thought of making myself. To be honest, I didn't do a lot of cooking back then, being a student and all, and having my mum to cook yummy food for me! And it never crossed my mind to make some souvlaki with pita, given how many places there are around that make it so well! But in England, most Greek food places (fancy or not) try to prove every bad stereotype about Greek food true.

It was Tsiknopempti a couple of weeks ago (I am slow at posting recipes!) and I was also feeling quite homesick so I decided to put some Greek music on and make something traditional. Tsiknopempti is what in other countries is called Fat Thursday and because it is 10 days before Lent starts people eat a lot of meat, traditionally barbecued.  The name comes from the word tsikna which is the smell that meat has when grilled or barbecued.




Pork Souvlaki

a joint of pork shoulder
a small onion
2 lemons
olive oil
oregano
salt and pepper
skewers (soaked in water, so they don't burn under the grill)

First of all, cut the meat into squares (sides approximately 2cm), keeping some of the fat on it. To make the marinade, grate the onion on the thick side of the grater and mix it with the meat, the juice of a lemon, olive oil, oregano and the seasoning. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge, ideally overnight, but if you're feeling impatient, for as long as you can wait.


When you are ready to cook it, put pieces on the skewers and cook them under a medium grill, turning the skewers round half way. You want them to be crispy on the outside but make sure you don't overcook them.


Serve with some more lemon on the side and this easy and tasty pita bread. I am never buying pita from the supermarket again.

Pita Bread (recipe from Kalofagas)
makes approximately 6 big ones

3 cups plain flour
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

oil for greasing the pan
flour for dusting

Mix the water, olive oil, yeast, salt and sugar and leave for a few minutes. Add the flour slowly and mix with a wooden spoon until it becomes a dough. When it is too difficult to do it with the spoon, start mixing with your hands. When the flour has been incorporated, knead until the dough looks smooth. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave for half an hour.
Pull pieces off the dough, the size of an orange (although it depends on how big you like your pita!) and roll them out into 1/4 inch thick round sheets. Use a fork to poke holes into the dough, without going all the way through it.


Heat your pan and spread a little oil on it. Place your flat dough on the pan and cook on each side for about 2 minutes, or until golden. When each pita is cooked, put it inside a towel to make sure it doesn't dry out while cooling down. Serve warm, or if you want to serve them later, let them cool down inside the towel and reheat on the pan.


It's perfect Greek food, so easy to make, quite healthy and very tasty. Serve with some Greek salad, and my favourite Greek dips: Tzatziki and Roast Pepper and Spicy Feta dip. Actually, this pita is so yummy that a couple of times last week my dinner consisted of it and these dips.


Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines
Ladopita 
Cheese and Salami Pie

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: It's a cute animal, but it's also pretty yummy.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chocolate bread and butter pudding

Sometimes I get a craving for chocolate. I keep some in the cupboard for emergencies. But it has to be of the non-dangerous kind, i.e. no praline, no mini eggs and no chocolate hobnobs.

And more often, I crave carbs. Apparently that's a sign of winter depression, lack of sunlight, etc. I'll blame it on that. My main addiction is pasta, but I wouldn't exactly turn down some crusty bread or a toasted crumpet with loads of melting butter on top.

You see, I am not really very good at resisting temptation. I can pretend I'm not going to finish that box of cookies, but then I'll spend half hour thinking about them. And then I'll be angry that I've wasted so much time thinking about cookies. And so I'll eat them. Once, I had to throw a bag of hobnobs in the bin because I couldn't stop eating them although I was feeling sick. It's a good thing I live in a shared house and people help me finish off everything I bake, or I would be twice my size.

The reason I'm saying all this and making myself sound so greedy is to explain how I got round to making this intensely rich pudding.

I read this post on Life's a Feast.

It's Jamie's fault.


Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding (from Delia)

Ingredients:

9 slices of stale white bread, no crusts
150 gr good dark chocolate
75 gr butter
425 ml whipping cream
4 tbsp dark rum
110 gr caster sugar
3 large eggs
pinch of cinnamon


Cut the bread slices in 4 triangles. Place the chocolate, whipping cream, rum, sugar, butter and cinnamon in a bain-marie until everything is melted, and give it a good stir. In a separate bowl whisk the eggs, then pour the chocolate mixture over them and whisk very well.


Spoon about 1/2 inch layer of the chocolate mixture into the base of a shallow dish, about 7 x 9 inches, which you have buttered lightly. Then, arrange half of the bread triangles, add half of the remaining chocolate, then the rest of the bread and finally the last bit of chocolate. Make sure the bread is well soaked by pressing down into the chocolatey liquid.

Ideally, you need to leave this outside the fridge covered with clingfilm for a couple of hours, and then in the fridge for a day or two to let the flavours develop.

Cook it (without the clingfilm!) on the top shelf of a preheated oven (180 degrees) for 30-35 minutes or until the top looks nicely crispy. Be patient and wait for 10 minutes when you get it out of the oven as it will be very hot. Serve with cream or custard or ice cream. Or all of them.



We didn't manage to finish it on the first day as it was so heavy, but it was possibly even better for the next couple of days and the texture developed into some kind of rich fudge cake with a layer of crunchy chocolatey bread on the top.



The concept of Monthly Mingle was new to me, but I couldn't resist Jamie's invitation to make something combining two so special ingredients and when I looked at the recipe I realised it would be a winner: really, you can't go wrong with chocolate, cream, bread and eggs. If you like bread and butter pudding, try this version - I'm sure you'll love it. And let me know how it went!


Monday, February 08, 2010

The Big Buddha, Cambridge

- You see, this man-lion strategy problem hasn't got a fixed point.
- Huh?
- For example, let's say we all want to go to the Big Buddha tonight. But you and Alex will only go if Raph and I come along. While Raph and I will only go if you and Alex don't come.
- Well, that's a bit harsh.
- Same with the lion and the man.
- Right.
- Do you want to go to the Big Buddha tonight?
- Yes please. 


The Big Buddha is a Thai restaurant on the first floor of a building which also accommodates the Ugly Duckling, serving Chinese food, on the ground floor. From the outside there was no other obvious entrance apart from the one leading into the Chinese restaurant. We walked into the (empty) ground floor and found out that the two actually operate together, and we could have either of the menus or mix and match. Uh-oh.

I suppose there is nothing really wrong with a restaurant serving both Chinese and Thai food, but it seemed like a marriage of convenience.

Although the initial plan was for Thai, I got a craving for dumplings and then decided to stick with Chinese for my main too. I shared a starter of them with Alex, who insisted in having them fried rather than steamed.

Fried is okay, but I just love the sticky, silky dough you get from a steamed dumpling. Turns out, they were steamed and then pan-fried. The perfect compromise. The porky filling and the accompanying sauce were lovely too.


The Szechuan pork I had for my main was crispy and meaty and spicy. It looked great and tasted lovely. I'm not a big fan of cashews but Phil polished them off for me and we all had a little (or big!) taste of the chillies. They were quite flavoursome and not as painful as our waiter had suggested when he begged me not to eat them!

 

I actually preferred the Double Cooked Pork that Alex had. The meat was soft, with a nice amount of fat on it and the sauce was sticky and spicy.

 

Finally, I sampled a Thai curry that Phil and Raf were sharing which had a great kick to it! I think I would have found it a bit too much actually if I was eating the whole thing but the little taster I had was perfect: strong flavours and creamy texture.

  

This meal actually left me looking forward to my Chinese and Thai months of cooking and really managed to save the first impressions that weren't too positive. At £20 pounds for half a (large) starter, a main and a beer, it's not exactly cheap but not too bad either.

7/10

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Quick squid pasta

When I was little I used to love the days when my dad came back home having bought some seafood, preferably cuttlefish, because my mum made black risotto with it. Somehow, eating black rice and having your lips coloured from it seemed so much fun! I still consider it a treat, since it's difficult to buy seafood with their ink sac still intact in this country.

I had spotted the dried pasta, coloured and flavoured with cuttlefish before, but never tried it. Yesterday though, I saw it in a new Italian deli, and I had just bought a small squid. It was going to be a perfect, quick, late lunch.


I wasn't really sure what to expect from the flavour but when I dipped it into the boiling water, a subtle smell of seafood hit me.



In a frying pan drizzled with olive oil, I quickly shallow-fried the squid, cut in ribbons, and then added some chopped chilli and garlic. After a couple of minutes, I added a bit of white wine, let the alcohol evaporate, seasoned and mixed it with the dried pasta. The original plan included some lemon, which I discovered I had run out of, but it didn't matter.



It was so tasty for such a quick and uncomplicated meal. The squid was tender and smelled great, it had a nice amount of kick to it, and the pasta complimented the whole thing very well. And it looked pretty!

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Cheese and salami pie (Greek #6)

I'm talking about a Greek style pie of course, which involves layers of phyllo pastry on the top and bottom with a filling of your choice. Most common example I suppose is the spinach pie or Spanakopita. The one I made is loosely based on Pastourmadopita and it was made in an effort to use up all the graviera cheese that was sitting in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It turns out it's quite tricky to eat 1.5 kilos of cheese before it starts turning mouldy.

The recipe originally uses kaseri, a cheese with similar texture to cheddar. The one I had, graviera, is a hard salty and spicy cheese, which doesn't melt as well. In this case it didn't matter, as I made some bechamel sauce for the filling, but if you are not doing that you probably want to use a meltier cheese. If you can't find graviera you can instead use some Pecorino. I also substituted pastourma, a type of cured beef, for some peppery salami I had brought back from home.

Cheese and Salami Pie

Ingredients:

1 pack phyllo pastry (~8 sheets)
olive oil for brushing
sesame seeds for sprinkling

  

For the filling:

400gr cheese, grated
1/2 salami, chopped
2 medium-sized tomatoes, no seeds or excess juice, chopped
1-2 red pointy peppers (or any other kind you prefer)
bechamel sauce* (use just enough to bind everything together without making it too saucy, see below)
ground pepper

Grill the pepper(s) until lightly charred and then chop them, discarding seeds.

 


Mix all the filling ingredients together and add the bechamel sauce. You probably don't need any salt, as the cheese will be quite salty, but you can give the filling a taste and adjust it accordingly. Place half of the phyllo sheets on the tray, brushing with olive oil between each layer. Top with the fillling.


  


Fold the edges of the phyllo on top, cover with the rest of the sheets (brushing with olive oil again!) and tuck the ends inside the tray. Use a knife to cut through the top layer down to the filling, making sure you don't cut all the way to the bottom phyllo layer. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

  

Cook in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for about half an hour or until golden on the top.


Serve it with some salad on the side.

You can see that I didn't do a great job when I tucked my phyllo sheets in as some of the filling escaped but it didn't really matter. The flavour and smell are brilliant. The salami is spicy and strong-flavoured and makes for a great addition to a standard cheese pie. The pie is quite heavy because of all the cheese and the sauce, but the peppers and tomatoes make it more aromatic and somehow it tastes lighter because of them.

*About the bechamel sauce:
You can use your favourite bechamel sauce recipe; I make it the way my mum always does and these ingredients will make you just a bit more than what you need for the pie. Then you can eat the leftovers from the pot while your pie is baking.

3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp olive oil
milk
nutmeg
salt, pepper

Quickly fry the flour with the olive oil until it becomes a smooth paste. Turning the heat right down, add the (preferably warm) milk slowly and stir/whisk. I never know how much milk to use, I just keep adding it until the sauce reaches the right consistency. You want quite a thick bechamel for this recipe. Let it come to the boil, but keep whisking to avoid the bottom burning and the sauce turning lumpy. Add the seasoning according to taste (but remember that for this recipe, you are about to add salty cheese to the sauce).


Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines
Ladopita

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: Meat Feast!
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