Sunday, October 30, 2011

Savory pie with Spetzofai

Spetzofai is a traditional dish of central Greece. It is made of fried sausages with red sweet peppers, lots of onions and tomato. Very delicious!

Today me and Stratis were thinking what to cook for dinner. Stratis came up with an idea of a savory pie so I was googling around a bit to find a new recipe. The usual spinach an feta cheese pie is of course wonderful but sometimes you really want something different. When we saw a spetzofai pie, we both got excited. Normally, the stuffing is served separately, as a main course, so combining it in a pie was a rather interesting variation. I thought I might give it a try and it was very good! A bit spicy but really really good!


For the dough:
200 gr flour
100 gr cold butter, cut in cubes
1 egg
1 pinch safran
1/2 tsp salt

For the Spetzofai:
2 Greek "choriatiko" sausages, cut in 1 cm thick pieces (you could use bratwurst or something similar instead)
300 gr Pancetta, cut in thin stripes
3 tbsp olive oil
2 large red onions, sliced
2 red horn peppers, seeded and sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp chilly flakes
2 tbsp tomato puree
1/2 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1/2 cup spring onions, chopped
1/2 cup dry red wine
salt to taste

1. First prepare the dough. Sieve the flour with the salt, add the cubes of butter and work with your hands. You should get "sand-looking" mix. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well and work with your hands until the dough is smooth. Place in a bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and place in the fridge.
2. Prepare the Spetzofai. In a large pan hit the oil. Add the pieces of sausage and pancetta and brown over a strong heat.
3. Add sliced peppers, onions, garlic, tomato puree and chilly flakes, cover and cook until the vegetables are soft. Add the wine, parsley, spring onions, season to taste and set aside.
4. Take 2/3 of the dough and roll out a sheet big enough to cover a baking tray about 25cm in diameter. Place the sheet on the tray, fold all the stuffing on top of it and spread evenly. From the remaining dough roll out another sheet, place it on top of the stuffing and with your fingers or a fork seal the edges. Brush with some oil and bake in a preheated oven at 200°C for about 30 minutes or until the pie is golden brown.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Syrniki - Russian quark pancakes

- I'm hungry!
- ... (waiting)
- ... (sweet eyes)
- Do you want me to make you something for breakfast?
- Will you make me a toast? (sweet eyes)
- A toast? Sure! What do you want inside?
- Oh well, something not too difficult... Ham and mozarella?
- Hmmm, ok. (Pause) What if I make you syrniki?
- What?
- You'll see!

Syrniki. (plural from syrnik)... How do I explain this? Well it's something very Russian (I already hear a voice of G. saying "BACK to Russia!") and very breakfasty. They look like american pancakes but are made of "tvorog", which is the Russian word for quark, and very little flour. This combination makes them crunchy outside and soft and creamy inside. The taste is something between sweet, salty an sour. It might not sound very tasty, but you have to try in order to understand!

You could also make them with cottage cheese instead of quark. In this case you should first drain the liquid, then put the cheese in a blender and process until it is almost smooth.


500 gr fresh, thick quark or processed cottage cheese (it is important to use thick quark, otherwise your mix will be too liquid an it will require more flour)
1 egg
5 tbsp white flour
2 tbsp sugar + 1 tbsp vanilla sugar
1 pinch salt
some extra flour for dusting
vegetable oil for frying

1. Place all the ingredients except for sugar in a bowl and mix well. You should have a very thick dough, that doesn't stick to your hands. If it is too liquid add some more flour, just no too much.
2. In a large, non-stick pan heat the oil. Once it starts "smoking" add the sugar and vanilla sugar to the dough an mix well.
3. Take once table spoon of dough, shape in a cake, dust with some flour and place on a pan. Continue with the next syrnik. Depending on the size of the pan, fry about 5-7 syrniki at a time.
4. Fry for a couple of minutes on both sides, turning carefully with a fork, until they are golden brown. Place on kitchen paper towel to absorb the extra oil.

Serve either plain or with jam, honey or caramel syrup! Amazing for breakfast or just a snack with your coffee or tea. You could also add some dried berries to the dough for a little twist and some extra taste! Wonderful!

On the other hand, if your dough is too liquid even with the extra four you could do the following trick. Instead of shaping the syrniki and dusting them with extra flour you could just take some dough with a wet table spoon and place it directly on the hot pan. They will be a bit more flat but still very very tasty! Plus you avoid the extra calories from the flour :P

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Green salad with figs and walnuts

A bit more than a year ago my mom started working in another hospital, in Kastoria, about two and a half hours away from Thessaloniki. So now she spends about 4 days a week there and 3 days back home. At first I was a bit worried, you know, it's not easy to change your every day routine from one day to another and I guess age does not help much here. But after she settled down there I figured that she actually enjoys the lifestyle of a smaller city. Being there alone (my dad works in Thessaloniki, so he stayed there) she started new hobbies and sports. My dad generally is very conservative when it comes to food. So in the past, when cooking, my mom stayed within the limits of my dad's taste. And now she totally grabbed the chance and started experimenting with new ingredients and new combinations!

Last Christmas me, Stratis and my dad went to Kastoria. So my mom wanted to impress us with her new cooking discoveries. Among other things she made a really nice salad, which all of us liked a lot. Fresh lettuce blended with the sweetness of dried figs and a touch of balsamico was just wonderful and full of flavor, great during the winter, when the big, ripe tomatoes are impossible to find! There is no exact proportions of the ingredients, it really depends on your personal preferences. Here I post more or less the amounts that I used, but it's really a try and fail process! :)


5-7 large lettuce leaves, roughly chopped (enough to fill a large salad bowl)
2 handfuls fresh rucola leaves
3-4 dried figs, quartered
1 tbsp black raisins
1 small handful walnuts, chopped

For the dressing:
3 tbsp balsamico
1 1/2 tbsp liquid honey (I like thyme honey, but you could use any other)
freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Mix all the ingredients for the dressing in a separate small bowl.
2. In a large salad bowl mix the lettuce, rucola, figs, raisins and walnuts. Pour over the dressing and add some extra black pepper if you like and it's ready! So simple!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Chicken Fajitas

I don't know how does this happen, but every time I go shopping for something I finally buy something completely different! Like today for example, we went to buy candles and ended up in front of the stand with ingredients for ethnic food. So, eventually, we bought tortilla wraps, special spice mix and Mexican salsa and made Fajitas for dinner! Yum!


4 large corn tortillas
1 whole skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 medium onion, cut in wedges
1 green and 1 red bell peppers, sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cup spring onions, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
juice of half lime
1 cup canned red kidney beans, mushed
2 tbsp avocado oil for frying (I used chilly flavored avocado oil for extra spicy taste)
3 tbsp fajitas spice mix dissolved in 1/2 cup water
1 cup Mexican salsa (I chose mild salsa but it's totally up to you!)
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp hot smoked chilly flakes
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Guacamole or low-fat thick yogurt to serve (optional)

1. Season the chicken breast with salt and pepper and grill it until golden outside and cooked through. Cut in small stripes.
2. In a heavy pan heat the oil. Stir fry the peppers, onions and garlic. Do not overcook the vegetables! They should be slightly cooked but still crunchy. Set aside.
3. Pour some more oil to the pan and add the chicken, diced tomatoes, salsa and fajitas mix and cook for few minutes until the most of the liquid evaporates.
4. Return the vegetables to the pan and add spring onions, parsley and lime juice. Mix well, season with coriander, chilly flakes, salt and pepper and set aside, allowing for flavors to mix.
5. Brush the tortillas with some oil and warm them in a pan.
6. Divide the mushed kidney beans in 4 parts and spread each part over one tortilla. Place some of the chicken mix in the middle of the tortilla, pour some guacamole or yogurt if using, and roll into a tight wrap. Enjoy!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Belgian Chocolate Mousse

World's best chocolate? Swiss! Second best? Definitely Belgian! Living just next door from the country famous for it's chocolate and beer it is very easy to get carried away! The variety is amazing and the quality... oh well, nothing to comment about the obvious!

Few weeks ago a friend of mine got me a birthday present. A cooking book about Dutch and Belgian cousin. Knowing how good Belgians are when it comes to desserts, I opened directly the relevant section and... oh dear God! Chocolate based desserts, waffels, pies and much much more! So my first option was a chocolate mousse. I only hesitated for a second, when I noticed the amount of calories per portion (no, no I'm not gonna reveal it!), but then again... who cares! We all deserve a little piece of heaven for a change!


150g semisweet Belgian chocolate, cut into small pieces (I used half butterscotch and half bitter chocolate. Yam!)
200ml double cream
75 gr caster sugar
2 eggs, separated, at room temperature
cocoa powder for dusting

1. Put the chocolate in a small bowl on bain-marie and let it melt. Remove the bowl with the chocolate and let it cool.
2. In a separate bowl whip the cream with 15gr of sugar until it stands in soft peaks. Set aside.
3. In another bowl, whisk the egg whites and gradually add 50gr of sugar, until the mix is white and stiff. Be careful, when adding the sugar. If you add it all at once the egg whites may separate.
4. Finally in a small bowl whisk the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until the mix is foamy. Fold the yolks into the melted chocolate and mix until uniform.
5. Next, mix in the cream and after that the egg whites.
6. Spoon the mousse into serving cups, dust with some cocoa powder and place in the fridge for at least one hour I know it is very hard to wait but it is really worth it! When cooled the mouse becomes more foamy and it tastes and feels amazing!

PS: This post is dedicated to a great lover of chocolate in all it forms! Zoaki this one is for you!