Sunday, 17 May 2009

Greek Dreams

We love and adore Greece. We've been to Crete, Corfu, Evia, Zakynthos, (twice) and Skiathos, a beautiful island in the north. I am always inspired by Greek food; tomatoes and cucumber, lemons, thyme, and slow-cooked lamb and beef. It was on Skiathos that we had this wonderful simple dish which has found its way onto my table over and over again. It just seems to set you up for summer, and everyone loves it, especially the kids.

I start by making some tzaziki. Peel and grate a whole cucumber and drain well. In a bowl place the cucumber, two or three crushed garlic cloves, a large tub of sheep's milk yoghurt. Mix well with some olive oil and salt and pepper. That's all you need. Let it stand. Slice at least four large courgette into fat diagonal slices and fry in olive oil in a hot pan. I sprinkle a bit of powdered vegetable stock over them (Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon). Let them get really crispy on the one side and turn over briefly then do the next batch. Serve as a starter with the tzaziki, or with lamb. Yes.

On the other hand, although I believe it's easy enough to make, I only ever buy houmous. I've never had any luck making it, and the bought ones are so good - especially the organic ones; and for people, I mix two different ones together with a spoon of Greek yoghurt. And I really have done this: toasted pine nuts. Tricky to toast in that they burn so easily but divine sprinkled thickly on top with some oil.

One of the things we adored in Crete was spinach pie. It took me many years to think of tracking down a recipe. It's called Spanakopita, and really quite fun to do.

I bought some Greek filo pastry but ordinary filo is almost better. Fry a couple of finely chopped onions in oil with some garlic. Add a kg of fresh spinach (although I suppose frozen would do) and half or a third again of parsley. Fry for a while, then allow to cool and then drain. In a bowl mix up a couple of eggs and a large piece of crumbled feta and mix the spinach into it. Salt, pepper.

Then the fun bit, building up the filo pastry and brushing with oil - or spraying is quite a good idea. Four layers into a 9" square baking tin, spinach mixture in, maybe a bit more cheese on top. Four more sheets brushed with oil, neaten it up, and bake in a medium oven for about 40 minutes. Also served with tzaziki. Everyone loved it.

Checking our the Spinach Pie recipe, I just came across this lovely-sounding one: Roast Garlic Lamb with Lemon Potatoes: Arni Lemonato me Potates. I've never cooked this, but I shall now.

Spike a leg of lamb with slivers of garlic and rosemary, and then marinate in oil, lemon, grated lemon rind, chopped thyme and rosemary, and a bit of white wine. Reserve the marinade and bake the lamb on a low heat for and hour. Then add the potatoes which have been mixed in an identical marinade of oil, lemon, grated lemon rind, chopped rosemary and thyme, but no wine. Bake for another hour, remove the lamb, cover, and roast the potatoes for another 20 minutes till crisp. Boil up the marinade and serve as a gravy. How good does that sound.