Monday, January 30, 2006

A feast for friends

My dear Greek friend Anna was in Edinburgh last weekend for her PhD viva, which she passed with ease. On Friday night we went out for drinks. But to properly celebrate this long-awaited occasion (Anna had taken some time off to give birth to a gorgeous baby son), I cooked a meal for six* last Saturday. The feast was Greek(ish). Not that Anna doesn't get to eat delicious Greek food back in Athens, but it was a good opportunity for me to try out some old and new recipes of one of my current favourite cuisines.

On the table were:
Potatoes with lemon and garlic (Kreeka sidrunikartulid) - simply boiled potatoes, tossed with olive oil, chopped garlic, salt and lemon juice at the end.

Feta and spinach mini omelettes (Feta-spinati miniomletid) that I have made couple of times before and went down a storm.

Roasted mushrooms (Täidetud seenekübarad), this time stuffed with some Welsh goat cheese, grated parmesan and chopped parsley.

Black Greek kalamata olives with garlic and herbs

In addition to the above, I cooked two new dishes, both from Tessa Kiros' beautiful book Falling Cloudberries: A World of Family Recipes. The first recipe was a Greek fish dish, the other Cypriot cracked wheat dish.

Oven-baked fish with tomato and parsley
(Kreeka kalavormi retsept)
Serves 4-6

1 kg white fish fillets (I used haddock), cut into 5-6 cm pieces
400 grams chopped tomatoes with juice
a generous handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
juice of 2 lemons
2 celery stalks, chopped with some leaves
1 tsp sugar
3 Tbsp olive oil
salt and crushed black pepper

Put fish fillets into a large oven dish in a single layer. Sprinkle with Maldon salt flakes and crushed black pepper.

Mix tomatoes, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, celery, sugar and olive oil. Season to taste and spoon over the fish fillets to cover completely.

Cover with foil and cook for 30 minutes at 180˚C.
Remove the foil, increase the heat to 200˚C and cook for another 40-50 minutes, or until the liquid has thickened and the top of the fish is golden in a couple of places. (To be honest, I cooked it for 30 minutes under the foil and then just another 15 minutes more. I would have preferred the liquid slightly more thick, but the fish was beautifully cooked and according to my friend Anna, Greek sauces would always be a bit soupy rather than sticky). The taste was perfect, it felt (and probably was) very light and flavoursome.

Serve with a crusty bread to mop up the juices. According to the author, "this dish is great served either hot or cold, even straight from the fridge".

Purkouri - Cracked Wheat
(Küprose bulgurisalat)

This is from the "Cyprus" chapter of the book, and probably Turkish in origin, as it reminds me a lot of a dish, kisir, that my former Turkish flatmate Fatosh prepared regularly. Tessa Kiros writes that "This is good as part of a vegetarian meal, or instead of rice or potatoes with something like a simple grilled chicken breast."

Serves 4-6 as a side dish

4 Tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200 grams chopped tomatoes (I used 400 grams)
265 grams bulgur/cracked wheat (I used medium)
1 tsp paprika powder
750 ml boiling water
salt & pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan, sauté onion until soft. Add the garlic, sauté for a minute or two before adding the tomatoes. Heat until tomatoes are bubblying.
Add the cracked wheat, season with salt and pepper and mix through.
Add the paprika and boiling water. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, half-cover the saucepan with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes. Gently stir every now and then.
Take the saucepan off the heat, cover with a clean teatowel and the lid. Let it steam off for 10 minutes or so.
Fluff up. Serve warm or room temperature with a dollop of yogurt, if wished. (I omitted the yogurt and added a generous sprinkling of parsley).

* It was a mixed bunch: nationalities present were Greek (1), Turkish (1), Korean (2), South African (1), Estonian (1) - just as colourful as the food:)


Stephanie said...

Now that's my kind of dinner party!

My husband is a trained archaeologist, maybe we could come to the next one!

Anonymous said...

No pudding???

Anonymous said...

By the way, congratulations to Anna, although I feel there is an inflation of PhDs these days. Everything looks and I'm sure tastes delicious, but I still can't get over the fact that there is no pudding. Also, what wines did you serve with the feast? (and no photo of the happy multicultural group....hmmm)

Pille said...

Stephanie - yep, I think you'd qualify:) Though I only highlighted the degree bit as it was a PhD celebration dinner and I think Anna still needs to get used to the idea that she's done it despite of the baby (and the other A. to be reminded that it's no sooooo difficult after all;)

Roxy - we had just fruit and chocolates for pudding.
Re: alcohol - between six of us we _almost_ finished a bottle of South African red and 2 cans of IKEA pear cider in about 4 hours, as well as loads of water and cups of coffee. Not heavy drinkers this bunch, obviously (plus detoxing from night before for some)..

Anonymous said...

I wish I were part of your dining group. What a delicious feast!


Pille said...

Foxy Roxy - the wine was Leopard's Leap, The Lookout, Cape Mountain Red, 2003 (from Western Cape Vineyards, South Africa). It was very nice, eventhough we didn't finish the bottle:)

Paz - you would have been very welcome to join us!

Anonymous said...

It was lovely indeed. I'm so lucky to know Pille who's the sweetest friend and the best cook! (unlike me... hmhm)

Pille said...

Hi dear dr Anna - the pleasure was all mine! I'm the lucky one to have some great friends to cook for. Looking forward to seeing you in June in Greece! Pxxx