Italian recipe · no-dough · vegetarian

Pumpkin Curry… without Curry

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-5

Some weeks earlier I tried making a soup from a recipe that I found in a newspaper my sister brought for me from their trip to Italy almost 2 years ago. Not the most exciting reading but in terms of keeping up with the language from time to time even a commercial can be fine. Moreover, the newspaper is about eco / bio stuff and sustainability, and it featured two recipes as well.

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-4

So here’s the recipe of a quick vegetarian soup which I call soup but is more like a stew actually. With obviously not the most seasonable veggie but using the ingredients you will find almost everywhere and almost anytime. It’s not an Italian recipe either, rather Asia-inspired. Although in my adaptation it had no curry as it contains dried garlic which seems to be too acidic for our oversensitive stomachs, so we’re trying to avoid any such seasoning at the moment.

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-3

Curry di Zucca or Pumpkin Curry adapted from infosostenibile.it

Ingredients

  • 600 g pumpkin – I used frozen Butternut pumpkin bits
  • 500 ml milk – I used 1.5% fat
  • 2 tsp curry powder – omitted, used black pepper instead
  • 15 ml extravirgin olive oil
  • 1 onion
  • salt, to taste

Procedure

Clean and peel the pumpkin (using a sturdy vegetable peeler or just cutting the skin off with a knife), discard the seeds* and the fibers. Chop it into pieces (about 1-2 cm). Peel the onion and slice it too. Saute the onion in oil, then add the curry. Continue the process for a bit and then add the milk. Bring to the boil and add the pumpkin pieces and salt. Continue cooking for about 20 minutes or until the pumpkin softens and the stew thickens sufficiently.

curry-di-zucca...-senza-curry-1

Remarks

* You can reserve the seeds, wash and dry them thoroughly and then eat them raw or use in baking. We have quite a lot of them now from all the soups and vegetable stews!

This is a sweet soup – particularly without the curry powder, I guess. Plus the milk which also adds this sweetish vanilla-ish flavour. So to some it might seem a bit too ‘weird’ as a lunch option, though if you’re used to Asian cuisine, the taste will not surprise you at all.

The soup got even thicker the next day, so we added in some water.

Result

Sweet thick soup ready in just about no time. A chance to diversify your lunch routine!

Adding this recipe to the Lunch / Dinner collection.

G.
Family recipe · no-dough · vegetarian

Pureed Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

Well, we all prefer summer but then autumn gives us so much colour and… so many vegetables! So much more joy to be using fresh veggies instead of those frozen bits… My friend offered me a 4th of a pumpkin she bought on the way from her Granny’s village and so the idea of some sort of a hearty soup was born. I should have called it Cauliflower Pumpkin soup though, because there’s more of cauliflower there than of anything else, really. But the colour is that of pumpkin (plus carrots), so here it is:

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup with Carrots and Potatoes, Pureed

Ingredients:

  • 800 g cauliflower head, broken into florets
  • about 450 g pumpkin, minus the seeds and the outer skin, chopped
  • 3 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 3 T salt, or to taste
  • water to fill up a big pot, about 3.5 liters (for a 4 L pot)
  • stalks from fresh parsley, dill and coriander, optional
  • curry powder or seasoning of your choice
  • paprika
  • dried marjoram
  • dried basil
  • dried rosemary
  • freshly ground pepper
  • a splash of olive oil
  • sour cream and herbs, to serve

Procedure

We usually make some sort of a stock using leftover stalks from fresh parsley, dill and coriander – we wash and clean them thoroughly and then just boil with the water that we’re going to use for the soup, discarding them after they start loosing colour. You can skip this stage or use your stock / broth instead, just do not forget to reserve some of it (several ladlefuls).

Chop all the vegetables roughly to the same size. It will be actually easier to dish them out once they soften, when you are ready to process them in your blender. Carefully drop them in the stock / water and if there’s not enough space in the pot, take out some ladles of liquid and reserve. You can add your seasoning, salt, pepper, herbs and a splash of olive oil already at this stage. The veggies will reduce in volume as they soften and also the water will boil down, so the reserved liquid will come handy later on. When your veggies are soft enough (not too soft or you’ll have trouble dishing them out), reduce the heat to low and start processing them in your blender in batches (mine is just 500 ml, so I have to do quite a lot of batches). Pour back the puree, stir well and proceed with the rest of the veggies. You can leave some as is just for fun. When you’re finished with pureeing, add in the reserved liquid – or just any liquid – to get the desired consistency and reheat the soup to boiling point. Don’t forget to check the soup for salt.

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

Results

Spicy and filling, almost puree! This pureed soup loaded with all sort of vegetables will please even carnivorous men (I mean, males) who, it turns out, tend to prefer their veggies all blended to such a degree so that they forget they are there at all. This soup will not probably give you the smoothest texture but we enjoyed it anyway (occasional bits of tiny cauliflower florets and that specific lumps from the pumpkin flesh).

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

Remarks

Reserving some of the initial stock / broth for later is a good idea. My soup turned out really thick so I used up almost all the reserved stock / broth which helped fill up the entire pot after the thing has boiled down a bit. Also this might help if you put too much salt before pureeing…

Be careful when stirring this soup – due to its texture it attempts to splutter and spill all over. So the bigger the pot – the better (and also the taller the better too).

You can adjust this soup ingredients to your preferences but pumpkin for this time of the year is really good – and it also somehow overruns the cauliflower in its flavour!

My mother asked me to keep the pumpkin seeds. Well, her idea is to plant them. Mine is to bake some nice bread with them 🙂

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

And then you can add a little bit of a Russian touch to it – with some smetana, dill and dark rye bread:

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

My second batch came in less than a week with a little bit different set-up – more of cauliflower and a different variety of pumpkin, less potatoes and carrots, a red onion, and somehow more pepper. I used an even bigger pot this time and all of the reserved broth – and yet got a thicker soup!

Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup
Adding this recipe to the Lunch / Dinner collection.

G.

vegetarian

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel and Carrot Tomato Soup

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel

Raw April has begun with its streams running across the pavement and the crazy sun blinding you after all the winter gloom and the wind blowing in your face trying to get inside your clothes. You can have got snow, rain and sun all squeezed into one hour. Those swings of weather can sometime be pretty tiresome but you won’t fool us, April dear, we know spring is here!

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel

When spring turns into summer, there’s already that joy you have in your heart that you don’t really notice it. When summer turns into autumn there’s always so much drama. When autumn turns into winter… Well here in St Petersburg there’s hardly any (even fine) line between them. But when winter turns into spring there’s no drama, there’s plain happiness.

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel

Children playing hide-and-seek outside (well, that’ll be the least loud of all their games at the moment), there’s light until almost 8 pm (already in April!) – and that after those long winter months with barely any light at all! Although the change in the nature is gradual process, the difference is so stark here in the North that you inevitably dedicate a post or two to this spring coming every year 🙂 Oh that city of contrasts, our glorious St Petersburg.

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel

I haven’t done anything Easter-specific this year, although I am thinking of making some poppy seed roll sometime soon. It’s our family classic for the Easter time. No died eggs either. Instead I’m going to share with you an idea of a well-rounded vegetarian meal – a spicy chunky soup with a whole0wheat pita filled with baked falafel, salad and yogurt. Let’s start with the soup:

Carrot Tomato Soup

A year ago – Avant-Garde Architecture at Narvskaya Zastava

2 years ago – St Petersburg in March

3 years ago – Kaliningrad in Spring: Ships, Sea and Robots (I miss this city!)

4 years ago – Tea Muffins with Blueberry Jam

5 years ago – Crostata and Challah, United

6 years ago – Bring Some Artisan Bread to Your Life

Carrot Tomato Soup

Ingredients:

  • 3 medium carrots – roughly chopped
  • 2 medium onions – roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed and finely chopped
  • soy sauce
  • 2-3 T tomato puree
  • a handful or two of red lentils, rinsed
  • stalks from coriander, dill and parsley – optional
  • wheat bran
  • dried thyme, basil, dill, marjoram
  • paprika, pepper, curry powder
  • salt, (brown) sugar

Procedure:

First, sautee your carrots and onions in a frying pan with some sunflower oil. I also add all the dry herbs and seasoning (except for the salt) at this stage. When the oil seem to be all gone I add a splash or two of soy sauce and continue cooking the veggies at low heat. Add your minced garlic and continue cooking. When the veggies are almost soft, I add some water (which also helps get all those dried herbs stuck to the bottom get into the soup and infuse it with their flavours while making washing up easier) and the tomato puree. As we don’t like our soups sour, I add a tablespoon of brown sugar to counterbalance the acidity of tomatoes. You’ll get sort of a ‘sauce’.

Meanwhile start heating you water for the soup – I use a medium soup pot, that’s about 2 liters. You can always add more water if you get too thick a soup. We have this thing of keeping the washed & cleaned stalks from fresh coriander, dill and parsley in a container which we put in the fridge for the next soup we’re making. As soon as the water starts boiling, we throw all these stalks in and thus make a sort of a ‘broth’, leaving the water to simmer for a while. We then remove the stalks before adding the rest of the ingredients. You can skip this step or make your broth with any other way you prefer.

Rinse the lentils and add them to the water (do not turn the heat off). Then pour in all the veggies together with the ‘sauce’ and season with salt. Continue cooking for some time. Then fish out most of the carrots, onions and anything that gets into the ladle. Blend the veggies until desired consistency and return into the pot. Reheat the soup a bit and check it for the consistency and salt. The good thing about chunky soups is that you can add more water (if needs be) and then just say you wanted a less thick soup 🙂

Carrot Tomato Soup

Remarks: I tend to leave some carrots and (mostly) onion ‘whole’ for a chunkier texture. Serve with fresh herbs and sour cream.

Result: Hearty, chunky and spicy. Also a tad sweet with all the carrots inside! By the way, the soup does not feel too carrot-y as it is pretty spicy.

And now on to the first Egyptian recipe on my blog – the traditional flatbread Aish Baladi that is made with 100% whole wheat flour. I was looking for a different recipe for pita bread and this seemed to be a nice one. Which it is!

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel

Aish means ‘life’ and Baladi is anything ‘of the country’, traditional, rural etc etc. (By the way, a Wikipedia page leads to this very recipe shared by Karen, I found it out when googling what Baladi means 🙂 ). So you can imagine that this is going to be quite a hearty bread indeed!

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel

Aish Baladi or Egyptian Flatbread from www.karenskitchenstories.com will make chewy flavourful pita-like bread. Follow the link to get the full recipe with all the instructions.

My changes: Did not make these 100% wholewheat – mixed in some plain all-purpose flour too. I didn’t bake both batches one by one, as the oven was occupied in between, so the other 4 balls of dough were waiting much longer for their turn. Interestingly they were much more pocket-like (not that flat as the first batch) and with a more developed flavour as well. I baked both batches for a bit longer than 8 minutes, flipping them upside down somewhere near the end of the baking time.

Remarks: I bet you won’t make pita out of just plain flour after this recipe anymore! There’s just so much flavour to it, that even if you eat it as part of a composite dish (as in falafel), you cannot miss it, you do pause for a while to contemplate this pita’s taste.  Were pretty fine when I reheated them in the turned down oven (after I baked falafel there) the next day – there was those extra crusty parts to it as well.

Result: Sheer wholewheat joy. These flatbreads have a taste of their own. Can be used for falafels or gyros (I can imagine) or just enjoyed plain. The wheat bran really does make a difference!

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel

As for the falafel part of it, I was using a recipe which is no longer online, although it did go wrong at the moment of frying (that’s why I rarely fry anything, I so much prefer baking!) – it just disintegrated into bits of chickpea puree and onions 😉 So instead I added an egg (which was optional) and more wheat bran and baked the lot instead. Today I used up the leftover chickpea puree and made more falafel straight in the oven, without even trying to fry them. I guess for me it’s just the best option. So here’s the baked falafel recipe:

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel

Baked Falafel

Ingredients:

  • 250-300 g chickpeas
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • dried oregano, thyme, basil, dill
  • curry powder, paprika
  • salt, pepper
  • 1 egg
  • 1 T tomato puree
  • 2 T wheat bran and / or buckwheat flakes (aka instant buckwheat)
  • wheat bran for rolling in

Procedure:

Soak your chickpeas in water overnight or about 8 hours (I did it during the day, removing their skins all the while). Drain them, add fresh water to cover them and cook over medium heat. Remove all the foam that forms with a spoon and continue cooking until the chickpeas soften. This might take more than an hour and the water might disappear almost entirely. I forgot to add salt but you can add it towards the end. Drain (I retained some of the water) and then blend the chickpeas to the desired consistency. Finely chop the onions and add to the chickpeas. Add the rest of the ingredients and enough wheat bran to get a soft but pretty thick mixture. Place some wheat bran on a plate, take a tablespoon of the mixture and shape it into a sort of a patty, then roll it in the wheat bran. Place your patties apart on a greased baking dish (can use parchment paper instead). Bake in the oven preheated to 190-200 ‘C for about 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for several minutes more.

Remarks: Baking falafels instead of frying them has several advantages, like using much less oil, being free while the falafels are in the oven, and also making sure they do not disintegrate while cooking in the oil 🙂 I didn’t make all the falafel at once, leaving some chickpea puree for the next day. I guess any bran and flakes will do as long as they soak in some of the juices and help you for the falafels. You can also use flour instead.

Result: Crispy and flavourful, a tad on the dry side (typical for falafel) which can be aided by some yogurt.

To assemble falafel in pita: My version is to cut the pita ‘pocket’ leaving an edge uncut (if you know what I mean), put some yogurt on the bottom, then in any order – falafel, cucumbers, bell pepper, salad leaves and more yogurt.

Egyptian Pita with Baked Falafel

Try other variants of pita and tomato / carrot soup. You might want to try chickpea soup.

These recipes go to the Yeast Bread, Lunch/ Dinner and Country-specific collections.

G.

Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Cheese Pie with Homemade Phyllo Pastry

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

Cheese. Crunchy pastry. Worth some effort that the traditional Greek phyllo pastry requires – as well as worth a short walk to get some Georgian cheese 🙂 It’s a coincidence that I found some flat suluguni cheese in our local ‘farmers” store (they say it is a blini type of suluguni and sell it in disks) – which looks just like the pastry before it’s rolled out into sheets.

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

I have been meaning to use this recipe for the Greek phyllo pastry since I saw the video on the Food Wishes blog (the videos are always enjoyable – even from the language side of it – fellow linguists will understand:) some time ago. And finally I did dare to make a cheese pie with it – a sort of tiropita.

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

I have to admit this recipe is not a very quick one but you’ll see the difference and you’ll like the result for sure. And moreover there’s the video so you just have no excuses not to make this phyllo pastry and use it for savoury or sweet pies like bougatsa or baklava (there’s another video on how to make baklava). Careful though – baklava is super nutritious and addictive!

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

Don’t get intimidated with the seemingly complicated recipe procedure – Chef John’s instructions will guide you through it and after several it-will-never-work-out-well moments you will master this pastry that they use in so many pies in Greece. Oh, Greece is the heaven for pie fans!

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

1 year ago – Official St Petersburg or Along Bolshaya Morskaya

2 years ago – Pear Croustade and Pane Tipo Altamura

3 years ago – From Sunny Greece to Autumn Leaves in St Pete

4 years ago – Plum Cakes from Italy and Austria

5 years ago – Shangi, Pies from the North and Urals

6 years ago – Ode to My Baboushka

Cheese Pie with Homemade Phyllo Pastry adapted from the hilarious foodwishes.blogspot.com will make an almost authentic Greek pie… well, at least you can imagine it is! Go to the link above to watch video instructions for the pastry (attention: requires some time and effort!). See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 5 teaspoons olive oil – for some reason I thought it was 5 TABLEspoons 🙂
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar – our 10-year old vinegar from France gave too much of flavour
  • 3/4 cups warm water

filling:

  • about 300 g rubbery cheese, ideally – suluguni, if not – haloumi, grated / mashed
  • about 300 soft fresh cheese in light brine, ideally Feta, Imeretian or Adygea cheese, grated / mashed
  • salt with dried herbs, pepper

starch mixture:

  • 1/2 cup cornstarch – I had only potato starch
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Procedure:

Make the pastry: Place the flour in a bowl, make a well in the center and pour in the oil, vinegar and the warm water plus the salt. Mix these ingredients with your fingers (not with someone’s else of course) in the bowl, then place on the surface and kneed into a smooth and soft ball, about 5 min. Roll the ball into a log and then back into a ball for several times. Wrap and leave to rest for at least 1 h at room temp.

Divide the dough into balls of 20 g (mine were about walnut size), cover the ones you are not using. Take 5 balls and roll each of these balls into a small disc, dust each of them really well (!) with the starch mixture and stack all 5 together. Then roll the stack out to about double the size, separate the discs (this will come with practice…), dust each disc again, re-stack them together in any order you like and roll out again into a sheet of pastry – the thinner the better.

Place one sheet of pastry between 2 sheets of parchment (reuse them in baking later), roll into a log (do not press), wrap in plastic (I placed them in a plastic bag) and leave in fridge / freezer if not using straight away.

When assembling your pie, use several sheets for the bottom layer and some more for the top layer (or even in-between layers, as in baklava). Drip olive oil over each 2nd sheet of pastry and do not forget to pre-cut the pie (do not cut through). Bake at 350’C for about 1 h (I did not have that much time so I switched the fan on at 180’C and reduced baking time to 30 min).

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

Remarks: Chef John says the recipe will make enough for about twenty sheets of pastry but I got 3 sheets with 5 layers + 1 sheet with 3 layers which was enough for a rather large though flat pie. I didn’t roll my pastry out too thin though. And yes, re-separating the discs of pastry is the most challenging part of the process, I only got the trick after rolling out and re-separating two stacks.  After all, phyllo means a leaf (or a sheet in this case)… Another remark, the cornstarch mixture makes a bit too much for this amount of pastry – I used the leftovers in a cake. Also, I used quite a small baking sheet so had to make rather thick borders – better avoid it, the pastry get too tough at the edges.

Result: Crusty-crunchy flat cheese pie. Do you need any more comments to persuade you to make it here and now? That’s what you are striving for – the crunchy outer layers of the pastry:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

…and these layers that separate from each other on their own once baked:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

…which are not that easy to separate before baking 🙂 Here is one of the stacks before rolling out:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough

and before re-separating the discs:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough

I was a bit late to photograph the entire pie – this is what was left next morning:

Homemade Phyllo aka Filo Dough from foodwishes.blogspot.com

And yes, my blog has just turned 6!

This post goes to the Lunch / Dinner and Greek recipe collections where you will find many more Greek – and not only – pies.

G.

Family recipe · no-dough · on USSR / Russia · vegetarian

Stove-Baked Potatoes

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

This summer feels like a lingering spring. Though most of June it looked like autumn – isn’t it a bit early to sit in front of the stove yet?! Thanks God, we are having pretty warm days now and are already dying from ‘heat’ (22 ‘C) :). And the White Nights period is still on:

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

Since I’m (again) searching for a job and can move around freely, I’ve spent several days at our dacha, unfortunately dressed in many clothes and trying to warm myself and the house up by feeding the stove with all that paper junk. Among which I found this Geography notebook from 1997:

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

Yes, back then we learnt that Pluto was a full-fledged 9th planet in the Solar system (what a loss!). I remember the teacher gave each pupil a planet’s name and we had to quickly rearrange in the planets’ order. We did the same with the months of the year and I can vividly recall my fear because I didn’t really study the months at home for that lesson! However, nostalgia did not prevent me from eventually throwing this school memorabilia into the dacha stove as well.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

Heating pechka (brick stove) is almost obligatory even in summer because our house is wooden and poorly isolated. It feels pretty cool inside during hot days which is nice but it cools down a bit too much once the heat is gone (in our case the heat has not been here at all). We used to heat soup or other things using the metal ‘plate’ on top of the stove but you can also cook things inside the stove too.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

The ‘recipe’ I’m going to share with you today is actually a no recipe at all, it’s just a way of making up a lunch or dinner which requires two main ‘ingredients’: a stove and potatoes 🙂 Ah yes, the third ingredient is that grainy salty salt!

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

My grandparents would bake us some potatoes in the residual heat left over from heating the stove when we spent our school holidays at our dacha. By the way, they constructed the stove themselves back in the 1970s when they were allotted a plot near Sinyavino in the Leningrad region. The dacha era was on!

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

So, backing potatoes in the stove goes like this: you wait till you get burning coal in your stove and then place some potatoes with the skins on (no need to clean them) right inside that coal & cinder mess. Shut the stove door and wait for about 40 minutes to 1 hour. You can check the doneness from time to time (it depends on the amount of heat left and the size of your potatoes) by fishing one of the potatoes out and touching them with your fingers (ouch!). If it feels soft and you can almost squash the potato through with your fingers – the potatoes are done.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

So grab some salt and peel the potatoes with your fingers, creating mess all around (your face included), gobble them down while they are still hot! The best part is this burnt crispy layer which lies right beneath the skin. The rest is tender and almost sweet. New (baby) potatoes work best here – they are small and so will bake through in less time.

Potatoes Baked in Pechka

If you’re afraid your potatoes will burn too much or in case you prefer a cleaner type of meal, wrap the potatoes in aluminum foil before placing them in the stove. But this won’t be the authentic rough old-school way, you know.

P.S. I’ve tried baking potatoes in a bochka, a metal barrel traditionally placed outside the dacha plot (so that all your neighbors can enjoy the smell), used to burn down all that cannot decompose naturally (according to my Granddad). So I guess anything goes here!

Adding this recipe to Lunch/Dinner collection.

G.

no-dough · vegetarian

Carrot Soup Puree

Carrot Soup Puree

I recently had a sudden inspiration which resulted in a big pot of Carrot Soup Puree. A bright and spicy comfort food soup for these frosty March days.

Carrot Soup Puree

Year ago – Chestnut Coffee Cake and St Petersburg in February
2 years ago – Italian Sourdough Bread with Potatoes and Herbs
3 years ago – No-Fuss Russian Blini from Old Recipe Book
4 years ago – Sprouted Grains and Welcome Spring!
5 years ago – Sourdough Pancakes, as Promised

Carrot Soup Puree – spicy and creamy soup from carrots and the secret ingredients – cauliflower and potatoes.

Ingredients:

  • 5 medium carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 400 g frozen / fresh cauliflower
  • 2 onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 boiled potatoes
  • stalks from fresh parsley, dill and coriander
  • chopped dried celery and parsley roots (traditionally used in soups in Russia)
  • soy sauce
  • olive and sunflower oil
  • pepper, salt, turmeric, paprika, dried basil and other herbs and spices
  • 4 l water
  • fresh herbs and smetana (sour cream), optional

Procedure:

With my mother we usually first make the (vegetarian) broth by heating plain water in the pot together with stalks leftover from the fresh parsley, dill and coriander we use for salads (we keep those in the fridge for the ‘soup day’). We discard them once they loose colour. Then we also add chopped dried celery and parsley roots (traditionally used in soups in Russia) and we do not discard these. My mother also adds whole black pepper but I don’t – since I was a child I just hate the moment when you get it in between your teeth, brrrr.

Meanwhile, heat a large cast-iron pan on medium to low heat and add your roughly chopped carrots. I usually first ‘roast’ the carrots without oil and then when they start getting a bit too brown, I add a mixture of olive and sunflower oil. Add chopped onions (again, the chinks can be pretty big and rough, you will puree them anyway), herbs and spices and keep cooking the veggies stirring from time to time. At some point I also add soy sauce and then I throw in the garlic, chopped.

When your broth is ready, discard the stalks and add the cooked veggies. Don’t forget to pour some water from the pot into the pan, stir a bit and pour the water back into the pot so that you get all the juices and flavours from the veggies. Add you frozen / fresh cauliflower into the pot (you can leave large florets whole), adjust salt and pepper, lower the heat and keep cooking until the carrots and the cauliflower are verging on becoming soft. Puree two boiled potatoes in your blender and add them to the pot – stir well cause the starch can create lumps. Then fish out carrots, onion chunks and cauliflower and puree those too, adding them back to the pot and stirring well. You can leave your pot at low heat while doing this. At this point you can adjust the amount of water and the salt / spices. No need to keep cooking the soup, it should be ready.

Carrot Soup Puree

Remarks: I guess you can use any ‘secret ingredient’ such as pumpkin, zucchini or other member of the cabbage family. And of course you don’t have to have pre-boiled potatoes, you can cook them with the rest of the ingredients. As I was quite generous with the black and red pepper, my soup was pretty hot. Adjust the amount of spices and herbs to your taste buds. Also, add as much water as you wish (to create a thicker / thinner soup) and feel free to leave some veggie chunks too.

Result: Colourful comfort food for early days of spring. Serve it with sour cream and fresh herbs and a slice of good rye bread.

Carrot Soup Puree

Adding this recipe to the Lunch/ Dinner collection.

G.

Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry

My sister came back from her Greek trip some weeks ago and brought us gostintsy (souvenirs) from the sunny country. We now have our stock of oregano refilled and I have new Greek books which will help get me through the winter. And there was this herby olive oil from Corfu as well:

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry

That was a good excuse to make one of my favourite things when it comes to savoury and comfort food – pies. A successful marriage between Russian fresh cheese filling and elastic Greek pastry made with olive oil was it, and as I had no Greek alcohol required for it too, I used some (pseudo) Russian vodka. The pastry recipe comes from Dina Nikolaou, Greek chef who travels around Greece and then presents the region from the gastronomic side of life on TV. The great thing about this pastry is that it doesn’t need lots of time to rise – it actually only rests half an hour in the fridge and then the yeast makes its magic right in the oven, rising the pastry just enough to be soft and not enough to get all soggy! Teleio!

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry

1 year ago – Orange and David Gilmour

2 years ago – An Autumn Day in Lappeenranta, Finland

3 years ago – Bread-therapy for a Tired Traveller

4 years ago – Autumn Colours and Karelia

5 years ago – Creamy Peach Tart and Kitchen Reborn

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry (pastry recipe adapted from Village Pastry with Olive Oil, Horiatiko fillo me elaiolado / Χωριάτικο φύλλο, με ελαιόλαδο from dinanikolaou.gr) will make a Greek-size pie with a soft filling and just enough pastry (I know I’ve said this about so many pies but you just can’t keep yourself from saying this when you taste it!).

Ingredients:

for the pastry (enough for 2 big pies):

  • 500 g all-purpose flour
  • 30 ml or about 3 Tbs olive oil (I had to add some water too)
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 30 ml milk (mine was 2.5% fat)
  • 8-10 g fresh yeast dissolved in 1/2 cup (100 ml) lukewarm water (I used 1.5 tsp active dry yeast instead)
  • 2 1/2 Tbs tsipouro or ouzo (well, I had to go for vodka!)
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

for the filling (enough for half of the pastry recipe):

  • 500 g 5% fat cottage cheese / quark (tvorog) – might as well be feta or brynza or a mixture
  • leftover mashed potatoes (optional but good)
  • some grated hard cheese
  • 2 small eggs
  • fresh herbs like spring onion, coriander and parsley, chopped
  • salt, pepper, dried oregano and seasoning like khmeli-suneli

Procedure:

First, make the pastry: Place fluffed flour in a big bowl and make a well in the center. Pour in olive oil, beaten egg, milk, yeast with the water it was dissolved in, tsipouro / ouzo / vodka and add salt and pepper. Knead lightly with your hands until you get soft and flexible dough. (Here I had to add a bit more water cause my 500 g of flour seemed like a lot for the indicated amount of liquid). Divide the dough into 2 equal parts, wrap in plastic foil and place in the fridge for 30 minutes (I left them there for more than an hour).

Meanwhile, prepare the filling: Mix all the filling ingredients (a good idea would be to add all except eggs and try it for salt) and put aside.

Now you can proceed with assembling the pie: Take one piece of the pastry and roll it out finely on a floured surface (I used only one piece of the dough both for the bottom and the top layers). It should be larger than the baking dish you’ll be using so that the borders are covered too. Place it onto your greased / laid with parchment paper baking dish. Roll out the second piece (or the leftovers from trimming the overhanging edges, which I did) to the very size of your baking dish – this will be the top layer.

Place the filling evenly on top of the bottom pastry layer and cover it with the top layer, pinching the edges. Don’t forget to cut slits in the top layer to help escape the steam (and occasional cheese liquid).

Bake in the preheated to 200 ‘C oven for about 30 minutes. The pie should start getting brown on the top (the top layer got browned faster than I expected so keep an eye on it).

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry

Remarks: You will get more pastry than you would need for a very big pie (I baked my pie in the biggest cast iron pan we have, greased). I’m keeping my second half wrapped in the freezer for future comfort-food pies.

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry

Result: The pastry is just perfectly elastic and keeps shape nicely – it also rolls out easily after its rest in the fridge. The filling was a bit too bland to be called Greek, so I would suggest adding either more salt or a different kind of cheese like the salty feta or brynza (super-salty brine cheese) or at least making it 50/50 with the cottage cheese.

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry

When you take the pie out of the oven, the pastry is all smooth at first but then these nice cracks appear on the surface patricularly when you cut your huge slices. And the top of this pie is also crunchy, oraia!

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry

To make your life even more comfortable and cozy in this cold season (we’ve somehow skipped the autumn here and headed straight into oh-no winter, you just read some Moomin stories!

This post goes to country-specific recipes and Lunch / Dinner suggestions where you will find more Greek / Greek-inspired pies.

G.