God Bless the Greeks. They invented democracy, philosophy and some damn fine food. Including fried cheese. How good is that stuff? You take cheese…which is one of my all time best ever foods to begin with…and fry it. That;’s not even eleven. That’s twelve! Possibly thirteen. But, I digress, yeah, I know opening paragraph…and we’re already off track, because today we’re talking about the second wonder of the Greek cuisine pantheon…(or should that be Parthenon?) the cheese and spinach pie, also more formally known as the Spanakopita.
I live in Melbourne, which as anyone in Melbourne will tell you has the largest population of Greek people outside of Athens. I have no idea if this is actually true or just one of those urban myths about the city you live in. Regardless of numbers, there are a lot of Greek people and hence a lot of super delicious Greek food. In fact, just as much as some families have the local Chinese or Indian restaurant, my family would go Greek.
No, not like that you bunch of perverts….I meant we would celebrate family occasions at the local Greek restaurant.
Mind you, this did come after a debacle at the local Chinese. You know the classic tale of the gauche family who drink the fingerbowls? Not that old chestnut for my family. No way. Uh huh.
We’re a much classier lot.
So when, towards the end of our meal, the waiter delivered some small bowls of water to our table we dutifully dipped and dunked and positively soaked our fingers revelling in our (sub) urban/e sophistication. He then reappeared with a plate of…I can best describe them as caramel coated sweet dumplings. The idea being that you dipped your caramel dumpling into the icy cold water thereby changing the caramel from a hot liquid to a crispy shell. We all looked to our now slightly grubby bowls of warmish water and the thought of dessert suddenly didn’t seem so good.
Now, I can’t speak a word of Mandarin, but believe me, that wasn’t a prerequisite to understand what our waiter was muttering as he swished away the original bowls. There is a certain tone people adopt when they say “You people are morons” that is pretty much universal.
We celebrated with Greek food from then on.
The February Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Audax of Audax Artifex. The challenge brought us to Greece with a delicious, flaky spanakopita – a spinach pie in a phyllo pastry shell. I had thought I was au fait with the cooking of this particular dish as it is something I make fairly regularly. However Audax’s version had a few curve balls.
First there was massaging the ingredients. It made me think about those Wagyu cows…
Then post the massage there was the squeeze….this was both kind of disgusting and a shit ton of fun.
Post the squeeze, you end up with two bowls. Once containing a dry mixture, one containing a milky green liquid.
It is at this point that I would diverge from the recipe as given by Audax and add some more cheese into the dry mixture. I don’t know what happened to the cheese but somewhere during the massage or the squeeze it kind of disappeared, leaving a less cheesy spanakopita than I would normally have. For me, it’s all about the cheese.
Anyhow, then you add some couscous to the liquid and let it soak it all up. This is utter brilliance. The couscous bulks up the mixture so you can have a higher pie and it stops the bottom pastry getting soggy.
Another brilliant idea? Cutting the squares before baking. Stroke of genius!
You can find the recipe here.
Huh, I just realised I’ve mentioned fried Greek cheese in at least two out of the last three posts. I think my subconscious is trying to tell me something.
I’m going to be spending my week having at least one trip to the Paradise of Lindos to partake of some plate smashing, some haloumi and maybe even a little bit of this…
Have a great week whatever you get up to!