It seems Universities are made to spoil people, making them used to free student life, especially those international programs with scholarships =) I wonder if ever Universities make people ready for their so-to-say adult life, with a job, with desk work etc etc. I guess no. At lest such humanitarian things as philology. Well, all this should have been obvious to me – what else would you expect after 6 years of Uni education?
Ok, no more of this, let’s turn to some Greek cooking instead of complaining! My post today is inspired by this Jamie Oliver’s gourmet journey to Athens and Aegina, my favourite Aegean island (there are 4 parts in this program, all are on youtube). I’m going to introduce you to two bread recipes, not that much authentically Greek, but at least inspired by Greek cuisine. As the weather gets colder and moodier, I tend to recall Greece more and more, especially my first and ultimate Greek language teacher, a wonderful person who completely changed my attitude to teachers, Isabelle Stamatiadou. I met her in Strasbourg and she was a ray of light for all of us a little bit depressed and oppressed with the French teaching style. A ray of Greek light, with embracing warmness and humaneness and kindness. I think Greek cuisine has lots of these – in my opinion – inherent to Greeks qualities. With all this crisis going on in Greece, I just wish them to keep going THEIR way.
The first recipe I’m going to give you, I heard on SBS radio‘s Greek service (sorry, Isabelle, still listening to that’s-not-Greek =), to the podcast of which I’m listening to for want of directly GREEK podcasts on the Internet. The program can be downloaded or listened to online here in Australian Greek =) . The program is called “Ελληνικές γεύσεις“, or “Greek flavours“, hosted byΘέμης Καλλός (Themi Kallos), where a certain chef Μαρία Μπενάρδη (Maria Benardi) presents one by one her versions of traditional Greek recipes with a definite homesick longing for Greece. The program from the 20th of September, 2011, gave me a wonderful chunky cheesy recipe of Τυρόψωμο με φέτα, κασέρι και θυμάρι – Cheese-bread with feta, hard cheese and thyme. I didn’t khm re-listened this program, just jotted down the recipe on a piece of paper while listening and introduced some changes, of course. This recipe doesn’t take much time or much tedious kneading, it’s simple and delicious. So:
Τυρόψωμο με φέτα, κασέρι και θυμάρι – Cheese-bread with feta, hard cheese and thyme (adapted from www.sbs.com.au)
- 500 g all purpose flour
- 7 g yeast – I used instant dried yeast
- 1/4 tsp salt (with all this feta you just don’t need more salt!)
- 1/2 cup olive oil (Greek, please!)
- 200 g feta, crumbled – sorry, Greece, had to buy German version of feta, the Greek one being considerably more expensive; I used just under 200 g + some homemade tvorog (cottage cheese)
- 200 g of what Greeks call ‘kaseri‘ or just some common cheese that you can grate =) Cause for Greeks only FETA is cheese – I used some habitual sort of cheese and about 1/3 of the original
- 2 t fresh thyme, chopped – I used dried thyme, couldn’t find fresh
- 3/4 to 1 cup warm water (lukewarm) – the amount of liquid depends on your feta – if it’s in brine (use it!) and quite soggy than you’ll need only 3/4. Mine being German was quite solid, so I used 1 cup.
In a bowl mix all the flour plus salt plus yeast plus 1/4 cup of olive oil plus 1/2 of all the amount of cheese (what I did was to put all the feta in the dough and the grated cheese went on top). Add as much lukewarm water (remember the brine!) as you need to form a ball of dough, knead slightly and put in a greased bowl, cover and let rise for half an hour.
In another bowl (μπολάκι =) mix the remaining oil with half of the thyme and knead the dough ball a bit so that it takes these ingredients in (I used less oil and already mixed in some thyme while making the dough). Put the ball in a greased bread pan (I used a shallow terracotta pan that Greek ewe yoghurt comes with for just about 2 euro, oh myyyyyy, I collected quite a number of them while staying in Thessaloniki =). Add the remaining cheese mixed with the rest of thyme on top, pressing a bit so that the cheese sticks to the dough.
Bake in preheated to 180 C oven for 35 minutes. The dough will spring in the oven and the cheese will melt, creating a great cheese crust.
Result: The bread turned out very chunky, cheesy, it seems you’re eating cheese rather than just bread. Feta is god!
The next recipe is Kalamata Olive and Dill / Rosemary Bread that I spotted on In a Nutshell blog. As the above one went for breakfast (finished today), I needed some black bread for lunch and dinner, so this one is just OK. It’s a two loaf recipe, with an easy starter and with a certain Greek flavour in it. The only thing is that it needs fresh yeast but you can always use an appropriate amount of dried yeast (e.g. look here for the Yeast Conversion Table). It’s also quite artisan-looking and the aroma of the baking bread is just overwhelming, you should try it! Here we go:
Kalamata Olive and Dill / Rosemary Bread (adapted from inanutshell.typepad.com) makes 2 loaves (à la baguette)
For the starter: (don’t worry, it won’t take long!)
- 1 cup warm water – warm enough to your fingers, not to kill the yeast
- 2 tsp fresh yeast – I had my 50 g fresh yeast block, which I used whole for this recipe
- 1 cup whole wheat flour – under strict economy measures applied to my stock of whole wheat flour from Greece I used all purpose flour plus wheat and rye bran which costs about nothing here and also ‘Eight grains’ flour mixture I came across in the first ever supermarket in St Petersburg I visited recently for the first time in my life – Frunzensky universam it’s called, quite expensive but they’ve promised me even whole wheat flour in stock this week!
For the dough:
- 3 Tbs light brown sugar (I have JUST brown sugar)
- 4 tsp fresh yeast
- 1/4 cup + 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil (apparently ONLY Greek!)
- 1 Tbs salt
- 1,5 Tbs dried dill (rosemary would work equally as well and that’s what I used)
- 2/3 cup warm water
- 1 jar of pitted kalamata olives (traditional Greek), thoroughly drained, roughly chopped – I used less and of course my olives were Spanish… ooops! I also added some flax and caraway seeds
- 4,75 cup all purpose flour – I used a little bit more
First combine the the starter ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Briskly stir with a wire whisk (I used a fork) to incorporate and fully dissolve yeast. Cover with a towel and let rest in a warm area for 30 min.
In a large mixing bowl, add yeast, brown sugar and warm water. Stir vigorously with a wire whisk to dissolve yeast. Once dissolved, add olive oil, salt, dill, starter, and about half the flour. Mix until evenly combined. Add in remaining flour and olives, here you can already work with your hands. Work the dough until it no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl and is evenly moistened. The dough will be soft and pliable, but not sticky (for this condition I needed just a little bit more flour).
Divide the dough in half. Form each half into a smooth ball. Place the dough onto a lightly oiled cookie sheet. Cover loaves with a warm damp cloth (I used ex-kitchen towel). Let them rest in a warm draft-free place for 30 min.
Gently form the loaves into an oblong shape about the thickness of a baguette (mine were quite thick). Place them back on the cookie sheet, and again, cover with a warm damp towel and leave to rest in a warm draft-free area for 30 min. Preheat your oven to 200 C.
Score the loaves with a sharp bread knife, mist with water, bake for 30-40 minutes (mine took 35 min). You want the crust to be a rich golden colour. Remove the bread from the oven when ready, and cool before slicing.
And I would add – enjoy the aroma! I didn’t want my bread to be too tough with olives so I added less, but with all those flax and caraway seeds I added and also with that amazing 8-grain flour (which contains even some peas, whole grains, bran etc) my bread came out very puffy and just perfect to break it with hands not cutting with a knife.
Wish me luck in my job-seeking. And I wish you to visit Greece and enjoy all the possible types of bread, cheese, fruit and vegetables there (and of course meat, I forgot)! The 2 other components that create Greece and make it so unique and welcoming are nature and its people. Miss you, Greece! Miss you, Isabelle!