Strangely enough, after coming back from Oslo, I found myself reminiscing Greece. One of the things unique to Greek cuisine is the Spanakitiropita, or more commonly known as Spanakopita, which is a spinach and feta cheese pie. There are proper better recipes out there but here’s how I did mine, as little tarts.
Stuff you’ll need:
- 3 eggs
- 200g of feta
- 75g of cheddar
- a bag of prewashed spinach leaves
- zest of half a lemon
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- olive oil
- a box of filo pastry
- a 12-hole shallow muffin tray
- First things first, get everything ready. Preheat the oven to 200°C, boil about 2 pints of water, get a pot on the hob on low heat.
- Next, into the mixing bowl, crack the eggs and dump in the cheeses. Add the lemon zest and dried oregano as well. Pepper goes in as well. Stir about and stop before it’s all smooth. In this case, chunky is pretty good.
- When the water has boiled, empty the bag of spinach into the pot on the hob, then pour the boiling water in, just enough to wilt all the spinach leaves. Add a sprinkle of salt and toss about. The leaves should wilt in about 40 seconds or less. Once wilted, turn off the hob and drain the spinach leaves. Add them to the mixing bowl and mix everything about.
- Get your muffin tray ready. Then, on a board, lay out a layer of filo pastry from the box. Half it lengthways and sideways so you get four individual pieces. Drizzle olive oil and pat each of them so they are coated evenly. Sprinkle paprika over the pieces. Layer each of them atop each other. Don’t worry if they’re broken here and there. Once done, lay it in a well of your muffin tray. Repeat for all 12 holes; you should only need 12 layers of filo pastry then.
- Fill the wells of filo with the spinach and cheese filling, or with spanakitiro. Pardon my urge to speak Greek. Wrap the little tarts up erratically.
- Pop them into the bottom rack of the oven. Welcome the Aroma Fairies into your kitchen.
- Take those babies out when they’re golden brown and let them rest for about 10 minutes or so, while you salivate.
- Wait some more if you want. If not, DIG IN.
One of the first meals I prepared for myself when I was younger. Beginner level.
Fried Rice is probably the laziest dish in the world. After pre-made meals from the frozen section, that is. Choose whatever you’d like in your meal. Then, simply cut everything up, and fry it all, together with rice and garlic. Season with salt and pepper, and you’ve got a proper meal right there. Best part is, because you’re deciding what goes inside, it can be a vegetarian meal as well!
For best results, use rice that’s sat in the fridge overnight. The rice comes out not gooey at all and sometimes even crispy. Freshly steamed rice tends to be a tad sticky.
Also, if feeling extravagant, serve with a fried egg.
Tried out making your own pizza dough yet? Here’s how you can make your own Pizza Sauce now. Yes, that tomatoey first layer that goes onto your perfectly round and flat pizza dough. Instead of buying a jar off the shelf at the store, here’s a really good cheat. It’s actually Spaghetti Bolognese without the spaghetti and chopped up ingredients. Just the sauce alone. Combine a lug of olive oil, tomato puree, basil, pepper and water into a bowl and mix. Add water bit by bit till you get the consistency of a spread. You don’t want it too paste-like nor too runny.
So simple to do, it doesn’t even take a minute.
There are a couple of things that are absolutely necessary in a couscous dish, especially if you’re making one ‘cos you crave the rich flavour of the brilliant Mediterranean. Oregano and Cumin are essential. Unfortunately, I had a craving and had no cumin powder of any sort. But here are the ingredients I used to satisfy the craving as best as I could:
- Onions, preferably red.
- Mushrooms, just because.
- Balsamic vinegar, for ZING.
- Garlic, for wholesomeness.
- Parsley, for healthy colour.
- Oregano, essential.
- Sage, as a pathetic substitute for Cumin.
- Tomato puree, for lush redness.
Roasted root vegetables like aubergines or cucumbers would’ve been lovely. Bell peppers even. But I really had to make do with what I had in the fridge and great thing I had Asparagus and Greek Feta to save the day.
Remember Marmite Pasta? That was a simple as it could be. Today, I decided to use a ton of mushrooms with the dish. Mushrooms, spring onions, onions, garlic, butter and Marmite. As you can see, I added a small bit of chilli too, for the mandatory spicy kick.
Mushroom Marmite Spaghetti: Incredibly lazy, absolutely satisfying.
A perfect brunch for the lethargic noon bird.
Baked dishes are a breeze; simply shoving the tray into the oven and waiting for a lush treat is not difficult to do at all. Best part is, you’ll get a crispy layer on top, and succulent parts below. You can bake just about anything – from rice to pasta, vegetable to poultry. But here’s what I did last night:
Dump whatever tickles your fancy into a tray, with the parboiled pasta dumplings. For this, I had a base layer of fresh wild rocket leaves, then a bunch of mushrooms and a couple of white onions, all sliced up. The tortellini of choice was bacon-filled, but if you’re vegetarian, spinach-filled ones works too! After adding the tortellini, I grated a hunk of cheese to cover the top, making sure every inch of that pasta goodness was sitting under a snug blanket of mature cheddar. Drizzled with nuts and chopped rocket, the tray goes into the oven, baked till golden and precious.
Welcome the Aroma Fairies to your kitchen.
Before devouring, more rocket is laid atop, together with a sprinkle of paprika for colour.
Ignore the Very Succulent Braised Chicken Portions. What I’d like to turn your attention to, is the bland-looking mishmash of a pasta.
Lesson for the Day:
Butter, mushrooms, garlic and oregano are a fantastic combination, a crowd-pleaser. But if what you wanna achieve out-of-this-world fireworks that will knock your loved ones out of their seats, add finely grated cheddar and chopped rocket before you take the pasta out of the pan. The nutty flavour of rocket will complement earthy oregano and mushrooms beautifully. The cheese sticks everything together, and adds the coveted stringy trail in every bite.
If you’re still looking at that juicy chicken thigh, I’m sorry the pasta doesn’t look as good. More on the Very Succulent Braised Chicken Portions here.
I remember the first time I ordered Aglio Olio. I was a young student then and pocket money was well, just pocket money. So pompous Bolognese and obnoxious Carbonara sitting on the menu had to take the back seat. Since then, I’d always thought of Aglio Olio as the humble, poor man’s pasta.
Most definitely, things change when you’ve got money. But hey, things also change when you can make your own food. Aglio Olio isn’t the same anymore; look who’s come out to play with the big boys now.
I didn’t sleep well last night because my thoughts couldn’t stop running – thoughts of making my own pasta. So today, I made some tagliatelle from scratch. I need more practice for sure. But for a first-timer, without a food processor nor pasta machine, I think this deserves some attention.
Fresh Homemade Pasta
Combining a single egg and 100g of flour per person is all that was required. Kneading till smooth, rolling till flat, all before folding and cutting. Finally, I understood how tremendously beautiful it is to hold a handful of pasta, freshly made with my own hands.
It’s dangerously addictive too. Try it today! Because even if you fail, that one egg and bit of flour is definitely worth the experience. (:
Important Tip: Be sure to flour the counter top and rolling pin just a little when you’re working. Don’t want all that hard work sticking itself away. Good luck!
I got a suggestion from a friend to try this one out – Marmite Pasta. (In case you don’t know what Marmite is, it’s made from yeast extract, a by-product of beer brewing. Imagine a concentrated gravy, thick and sticky.) It’s Nigella Lawson’s recipe, which she got from someone else, and I’m sharing it here. I decided to have an evening snack and had no idea what I was getting myself into.
This five-minute meal is incredibly easy to make. While the pasta is cooking, toss a wad of butter into a hot saucepan. Add Marmite, according how salty you’d like it to be. Then, steal some of that starchy pasta-cooking water and add it to the saucepan as well. Stir and smile to yourself.
At this stage, I got itchy and dumped a portion of minced beef into the sauce. It reminded me fondly of Bovril, which is similar to Marmite, except that it’s beef extract. Well, at the least the original one is, until Mad Cow Disease changed it to chicken extract. I remember. When I was a kid, every time I was down with a fever, Dad would spread Bovril on toast and cut each slice into sixteen smaller parts. Then, he would stick a couple of toothpicks in each piece, so the plate resembled a dish of cocktail finger food. He did this ‘cos he knew I didn’t feel like eating proper food. Thanks, Dad. (:
Anyway, away from memory lane now. Finally, drain and add the pasta to the sauce. Mix and serve. Gobble and slurp.