Happy New Year! Ok, I know its been almost two weeks since New Years but I have some lovely recipes to share with you from the New Years Eve I had with my OH on the boat. He is an eager cook too and over the Christmas period expressed a wish to learn how to cook Middle Eastern style meze dishes to compliment his growing range of Mediterranean ones. So, for Christmas I bought him a little Turkish/Middle Eastern cook book and at New Years we decided to treat ourselves to a meze feast before departing for the celebrations in town. Our menu featured courgette fritters, beef meatballs served with tomato salad, and spinach (well cavolo nero) and feta (ricotta…) filo (shortcrust, Turkish ingredients are thin on the ground here ok?!) pie. It was all really tasty, it should be seeing as all of it contains cheese and most of it is deep fried, and although fairly time consuming to prepare, great fun to make.
So to start with, I got the pie ready for the oven which as I’ve mentioned before is a tricky beast to contend with. It takes forever to heat up and only has one setting – really f*&%ing hot and I’m talking 220 degrees plus…
Spinach and feta filo pie
About 600g spinach (or similar dark leafy green), 250g feta (or any other soft cheese you might have to hand), a packet of ready made (eek! sorry!) filo pastry (or short crust is fine too), one onion, two cloves of garlic, cinnamon, salt and pepper.
Chop the onion and garlic finely, fry gently until soft in olive oil with salt and pepper. Slice the spinach roughly, wash and then add to the pan once the onions are ready. Cook very gently until wilted. If using something like cavolo nero it will take longer and won’t reduce down quite so much as spinach. Add just a quarter teaspoon of cinnamon, or nutmeg if you have that instead, and stir in well. Place the veg in a big mixing bowl then mix in the crumbled feta. Butter your dish and then lay a sheet of filo in the bottom, allowing the edges to overhang. Brush with melted butter then lay another sheet on top, repeat with the rest of the packet then put the spinach filling in. Fold the edges of the pastry over the filling and then pop into the oven until its crisp and golden. Can be served hot or cold, and is great for packed lunches the next day so make a big one even if there aren’t many eating.
200g minced beef, one onion, one clove of garlic (I really hope you guys like garlic by the way, have you noticed I do?!), 1 well beaten egg (black eyes and a broken nose at least), fresh parsley, four tablespoons rice, 50g feta cheese (unless your OH uses all of it in the fritters…) salt and pepper, plain flour.
Chop the onion, garlic and parsley really, really, really small, put it in a bowl with the minced beef, some of the egg, leave a little for coating the balls in so the flour sticks to it later, the feta cheese, uncooked rice, salt and pepper then mix well – get your hands in, really squish the beef together so there are no lumps (or stick the whole lot in a blender if you’re squeamish). Form it into balls, this mix makes seven golf ball sized meatballs. Pop these into simmering water and cook for about 20 mins. Drain them and let them cool for a bit, then dip in egg and flour ready to fry them in about 1cm of hot oil. It takes just a couple of minutes to brown and crisp them so don’t take you eye of them, watch those balls like a hawk. Serve with a simple side salad of sliced tomatoes, sprinkled generously with olive oil and black pepper, and dotted with some olives.
Courgette, small onion, 2 eggs, a couple of spring onions, flour, 50g feta, parsley, salt and pepper.
Grate the courgette and onion then squeeze out all the liquid. Slice the spring onions and parsley finely, mix with courgette and onion then stir in the feta. Beat the eggs, add a little egg and a little flour at a time to the courgette mix, until you have a loose batter but there is more courgette than batter (if you tip in all the egg at once you might end up with too much batter, it depends how well you’ve squeezed the courgettes). Mix well and season then drop table spoons of batter into a pan of hot oil. Good ventilation is quite important in this process, open a window and turn on the extractor fan or you’ll end up blinded by smoke and unable to see your lovely food cooking! Drain the fritters on kitchen paper before serving with a nice yoghurty dip if they make it to the table.
I hope you enjoy this, cooking it should be all part of the fun too, try not to leave one poor person in the kitchen on their own while everyone else gets gazeebo-ed in the living room… Get the whole party involved if you can, and this is party food – I expect you to be having the whole road for tea, on a Tuesday…