Monday, October 04, 2010

More Greek Food!

Last night we had the Sister Missionaries over to dinner. One had expressed a hankering after Spanakopita, so they got the Tiganites to start with, and Spanakopita for main course. They must have liked it, as they refused ice cream on the grounds of being over-full already, and went off happily with all the left-overs. Next will have to be something Hawai'ian for the new arrival. In the meantime, though, here are last night's details.

[Food part 1]
Tiganites is a variety of Saganiki, or fried appetiser. So, you beat up a couple of eggs (about 1 per two people you're cooking for, and lay out a good healthy carpet of flour mixed with some salt and pepper. Put a fair old amount of olive oil into a frying pan - about 3 or 4 mm deep - and set to heat. Slice block feta into slices about 5 -7 mm thick. Dip each slice in the egg, dredge it very well in the flour, and lay it gently in the hot oil. By the time I have six pieces in (all that will fit in my smallish pan) the first ones should be almost done on the bottom - a rich golden-brown with some darker specks. Turn them all ... by the time all are turned and another couple ready and waiting these should be ready for taking out. You can put them straight onto the plate with some veg (I used chopped orange peppers and slices of tomato, for colour), but they can come a little drippy with oil. If you think that this may be too much for your guests, lay them first on a slice of plain white bread to soak up the excess fat before putting them onto the plate. The bread later can give wonderful toast!

[Food part 2]
Spanakopita. Spinach and cheese pie. Lots of people love it at the Greek restaurant, but never dare to make it at home. That's a shame, because it really is very easy to make. Here's how.

You'll want a box of frozen phylo dough, 2 pounds of frozen chopped spinach, a pound of crumbled feta cheese, a stick of butter, a couple of eggs, half an onion, and salt and pepper. You'll also need a baking dish that's about the size of a piece of letter-sized paper - 13 by 9 - as that's about the size of pieces of phylo dough. Before you start you'll need to leave the phylo out of the freezer for zbout two hours, and the spinach too - unless you like getting frozen hands! Before starting cooking, take the phylo out of the box and unroll it to let it warm evenly while flat.

Chop the onion up and start frying it gently in a prety big frying pan - it should take about 5 minutes for the onion to get to the translucent stage. In that time you can open the spinach (thawed, of course), put it in a bowl, and dump in all that cheese. Mix the spinach and cheese and then take it out in handfuls, squeeze it hard to get the water out, and add it in to the onion. Stir it all up and pop it back into the big bowl you mixed it in, add some salt and pepper, and let the mixture cool.

Now the delicate part! Melt the butter (I use a microwave) and brush the inside of your baking dish with melted butter - all over! Now gently peel off just one single sheet of phylo dough from the pile of sheets and place it carefully onto the bottom of your dish. Smooth it gently down, rather like wall-paper, and then brush it over with some more butter. Now repeat this with another half-dozen sheets, remembering to "paper" the sides, ends, and corners.

By now the spinach mix should be down to room temperature; mix in well a couple of eggs and then fill the dish with the mixture, getting all the corners well-filled. That's the easy part done - now back to being careful! "Paper" over the top of the dish with more phylo - at least another 7 sheets, brushing off the last sheet with butter too so as to get a good golden colour when it cooks.

Put in the oven for between 45 and 60 minutes at about 300F, checking at about the 45 minute mark: it should be all crisp, flaky, and golden when it's done, and it smells unbelievably good!

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