Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Tvorog Pie with Greek Horiatiko Pastry

Horiatiko fillo

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:

Horiatiko fillo

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!

Horiatiko fillo

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).

Horiatiko fillo

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.

Horiatiko fillo

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.

Horiatiko fillo

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!

Horiatiko fillo

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.

Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry for Midsummer

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry

Home again and tired… I’m a bit late with the traditional Midsummer Post this year because I’ve just finished a crazy trip to lake Baikal along the Trans-Siberian railroad and then to Vladivostok and back on a plane. Still need some time to recuperate… And obviously yet another week or so of holidays to write posts about the trip. The day I arrived I was already baking (without any particular recipe, lazy style). In two days I felt ready for some more effort which means following a recipe. And here it is, my semi-improvised midsummer Greek spinach and cheese pie:

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry will make a thin crunchy pie with soft cheese and herbs. For the recipe of the Homemade Phyllo Pastry, visit food.com. Here is the improvised filling and what I changed in the pastry recipe:

The only change to the pastry ingredients was to add some freshly ground pepper. As for the procedure, I did not use the dowel to poll it out as thin as possible but rather just… well, rolled it out with a rolling pin and then stretched it as much as I could before it would tear apart (which it inevitably did). For this pie I used only half of the pastry recipe – three sheets on the bottom and three sheets on top, brushing them with olive oil. Still thinking what to do with the remaining half (this type of pastry is traditionally used in both sweet and savoury pies, but  already added pepper to it…).

Filling:

  • c. 350 g of soft white cheese like Adygea cheese (try Feta if you can get it but be careful with salt)
  • 400 g of spinach (I used frozen)
  • 1 egg
  • some fresh herbs of your choice, chopped
  • salt, pepper, seasoning of your choice
  • dried oregano
  • sesame seeds
  • bran, wheat germ, semolina or just flour

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry

Procedure:

First, I heated up frozen spinach without adding any water, so that the liquid evaporates. Then I left it to cool down a bit and meanwhile prepared the pastry. While the pastry was resting, I added cheese, egg, spices and herbs to the spinach. My idea was to get a less liquid filling not to lose the crunchiness of the pastry.

I laid three sheets of pastry onto the bottom, brushing them with olive oil. Then I sprinkled some wheat germ on top to absorb the liquid of the filling (you can use whatever absorbing ‘agent’ you prefer). Then I spread the filling over the bottom sheets and covered the pie with three more sheets, slightly pinching the edges. I brushed some olive oil on top too and sprinkled it with sesame seeds. I also pre-cut the pie which created this ‘pattern’:

Spinach Pie with Phyllo Pastry

Then I baked the pie at 200 ‘C for about 30 minutes until the top pastry layer achieved its golden colour.

Remarks: Thanks to all the precaution I took to reduce the amount of liquid in the filling, the bottom pastry layers was not soggy and the top was quite crunchy. Also, the pre-cutting worked out just fine. If you add all the 12 sheets into one pie, I would suggest making larger folds for the top pastry layers, so that you get a less dense dough part.

Result: A thin pie with a nice balance of pastry and filling. Perfect with a (Greek) salad on the side.

My midsummer series so far:

Adding this post to the Lunch / Dinner collection, where you will find other cheese and greens pies. For many more Greek and Greek-inspired recipes like Tyropita or Spanakopita, check out the By Country collection.

Will come back with my Grand Russian Tour posts, I hope soon.

G.

bread · Greek recipe · pies · vegetarian

Greek: Grandma’s Cheese Pies and Homemade Village Bread

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

I’ve got two Greek recipes to share with you: cheese pies and bread. Both recipes call for whole-wheat flour which in Greece is not that very common unless you really turn to home or rather village cooking. And that’s exactly what I like in cooking – let’s walk on the rustic side of it!

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

1 year ago – Italian Sourdough Bread with Potatoes and Herbs

2 years ago – Sunflower Seed Rye Sourdough or We Need Sun Here

3 years ago – Thessaloniki

4 years ago – Mangoes and Rye to Welcome Spring

(Greek) Grandma’s Cheese Pies or Tiropitakia tis giagias (Τυροπιτάκια της γιαγιάς) translated and adapted from bettyscuisine.blogspot.com will make lots of pies with rubbery cheese filling – a Greek version of hand pies. Beware (:) the entire recipe will make about 40 big pies! I halved the recipe and yet got about 2 trays of pies 🙂 See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg whole-wheat flour
  • 1 Greek yogurt case – was not sure about the volume so added about a cup for 500 g flour, using a mixture of milk and kefir
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup olive oil + added salt
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 700 g Feta, crumbled with a fork – I used a 250 g pack of 5% fat tvorog (cottage cheese) + 290g Adygea cheese (for all three fillings) + fresh rosemary, salt and pepper. Second filling was some cooked millet and third – Adygea cheese + green onions, fresh rosemary, salt and pepper

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

Procedure:

Mix flour with yogurt (I would suggest adjusting the amount of liquid accordingly), soda, eggs and oil. Knead well and divide into pieces (I also let the dough rest about 20 minutes which made it softer). Roll each piece into a round disk and place a spoonful of the filling on one side. Cover the filling with the other side of the disk and pinch the edges. You should get crescent-shaped pies (I also tried other shapes, see remarks). Place the pies on a greased baking tray (I used a silicon mat) and bake at 200 ‘C for 20 minutes (before baking I sprinkled the pies with some water).

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

Remarks: My pies took exactly 20 minutes to bake – no matter what shape I used. First I thought about making small pies just like pelmeni (or Russian ravioli) but soon got tired of all the rolling, cutting and pinching, so made medium-small pies with the rest of the dough. And I should really warn you that we’re dealing here with a truly Greek recipe that will feed all your relatives! 🙂 So I would suggest making only half of the dough recipe or you might end up with no filling! Even with half of the dough I still had to invent more filling options thus adding fresh herbs (rosemary was good!) and using both cottage cheese and soft white cheese.

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

Result: I tried the smaller pies right out of the oven – they were hot (apparently) and rather rubbery with all the soft cheese inside. If you’re using real Feta (lucky you!) I bet your pies will be quite salty and won’t need any special spicy twist to them (the dough might seem a bit bland even with the added salt). You can serve these as a starter – or if you make them big as the author suggests, they can become your lunch or dinner! 

(Greek) Grandma's Cheese

***

Homemade Village Bread

I’m still looking forward to finding that very recipe which will result in the super soft and super whole-wheat rustic bread I ate almost each day at the free (!) student canteen in Thessaloniki. Gosh, even my parents remember it! 🙂 I guess the thing was in the flour which was rough but yet gave that wonderful flavour to the bread. And it was soft too – with a crunchy crust. Oh, that bread was perfect… So here’s what I call the Greek size:

Homemade Village Bread

Homemade Village Bread or Khoriatiko psomi spitiko viologiko (Χωριάτικο ψωμί σπιτικό βιολογικό) translated and adapted from www.sintagespareas.gr will make a huge flagrant bread with super soft crumb and yet all those healthy bran bits inside. See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • 1 kg ‘village’ flour (whole wheat) – made a mixture of whole wheat + all purpose + wheat and rye bran + some oats for the topping
  • 2 packages of instant dried yeast – used less
  • 500 ml lukewarm water – had to use more
  • 1 shot of olive oil (Greek, please!)
  • 2 tsp salt

Procedure:

In a big plastic bowl (not necessarily🙂 mix all the flour with the yeast. Add salt and gradually pour in the lukewarm water, mixing well with your hands (yep, that’s how you do it!). Knead vigorously so that it becomes soft. Cover the bowl with a towel and a blanket (I just used plastic). Leave the dough to double in size in a warm place for at least 2 hours.

Then add the oil and knead well again. Place the dough in a greased and floured baking pan (preferably a large thick non-stick pan or tray). Slash the surface (I also brushed it with olive oil + sprinkled oats). Preheat the oven to 180 ‘C for 10 minutes, place the bread on the middle rack and bake it for about an hour (I had to move it to the lower rack at the end and baked just 55 min.).

When the bread is ready, take it out of the oven and out of the pan and leave it on a rack so that it gets rid of all the moisture inside.

Homemade Village Bread

Remarks: With all its Greek dimensions the bread did bake through! However, if you’re not planning to gobble this entire loaf at once (which you will surely do if you try just a bit!) and would prefer to freeze a part of it, I would suggest baking two loaves out of this recipe. I eventually cut the bread in – still – huge pieces and froze them. Beware of the burning top – I had to move the pan to the lower rack as the oats started burning and the voluminous top was menacing to reach the upper heater.

Homemade Village Bread

Result: The crumb is really very soft – and crumbly while the crust is… you get it, crusty! :). It’s hard to slice this bread properly – but I’m sure you will manage without perfect slices! This bread won’t keep well because a). you will eat it fast no matter how huge it is and b). the crumb has lots of moisture in it.

Homemade Village Bread

Hope I’ve given you a desire to bake some nice rustic Greek food. Ideal at the end of the winter (let’s hope we’re getting there soon!).

This post goes to Lunch / Dinner, Leavened Bread and Greek recipe collections.

In neverending search for wonderful food, always yours,

G.

pies · vegetarian

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs, Azerbaijani Pies with a Russian Twist

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

Let’s have some savoury dish for a change. This time it’s going to be a recipe for Qutab from the Azerbaijani cuisine but with a certain Russian twist. I recently tried a similar fried filled bread from Turkey called gozleme traditionally made with white brine cheese. Both recipes are easy to make and do not require lengthy dough preparation. You can make them with meat or other fillings but I just love the cheese + herbs combination. For both recipes I used suluguni cheese mixed with some tvorog (cottage cheese) for the lack of proper brynza, and whatever is available from the fresh herbs.

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

The Russian twist is ensured by the addition of rye flour to the dough. I doubt that in Azerbaijan they eat rye qutabs (rye flour is characteristic of the Northern parts of Russia rather than Azerbaijan!) but at the same time this adds some extra flavour (and a bit of wholesomeness) to the somewhat heavy dish. You might want to make a 100% white flour dough or mix in some whole wheat flour. Whatever your choice, heat your sturdy cast iron pan and let’s make the qutabs!

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

1 year ago – Vyatka, City of Snow that Dreams of Summer

2 years ago – Two Spinach Pies and Spinach…Rice

3 years ago – French Bread

4 years ago – Two Rrrrrye Breads (Raisin and Riga)

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs translated and adapted from perfectfood.ru will make a chewy and vegetarian version of the Azerbaijani pies. Check out the original website for the video recipe (understandable even without any knowledge of Russian). See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients for 9-10 qutabs:

For the dough:

  • 150 g rye flour (can substitute with whole wheat or all-purpose flour)
  • 150 g all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 4 Tbs sunflower oil
  • water – as much as the dough will take

For the filling:

  • 100-150 g cheese, hard and /or soft (Adygea, brynza, paneer…) – I used fat-free cottage cheese and Suluguni
  • 300 g of herbs of any type, can use spinach, sorrel, nettle, etc. – I used dill, parsley, spring onions and coriander
  • salt, according to your cheese (I also added pepper)

For the sauce (optional):

  • matsoni or natural yogurt or smetana (sour cream)
  • garlic, couple of cloves

Procedure:

In a bowl mix the flours, add salt and oil. With your hands rub oil into the flour mixture, so that it’s distributed evenly. Gradually add water and mix until you have a very soft sticky dough. Cover the bowl and leave the dough to rest for 10 min.

Meanwhile prepare the filling. Finely chop the herbs. If you’re using nettle, first scald it with boiling water and then chop it (the nettle will thus lose its stinginess). Finely grate the cheese and mix in with the herbs. Add salt.

Flour the work surface and your hands. Pinch off a piece of dough that will fit in the palm of your hand. Roll it out into a flat round. Place some filling on one side of the dough leaving the edges free. Then fold the other side over the filling and seal the edges with a fork.

Place a dry skillet (preferably cast iron) over high heat (no greasing required!). If your pan is big enough you will be able to cook 2 qutabs at a time. Cook 1 minute, then turn the qutabs over and cook 1 minute more (my qutabs needed more time – I also baked only 2 and then placed the dough and the filling in the fridge for a later use).

Serve immediately with the matsoni and garlic sauce, dipping the qutabs into the sauce. The sauce can be made in advance so that it gets the most out of garlic flavour: press several cloves of garlic into matsoni, mix and place in the fridge. For the lack of matsoni you can use natural yogurt or smetana (sour cream).

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

oh that melting cheese!

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

Remarks: I would rather call the rye dough pretty bland (although it contained salt) but the filling was pretty salty (didn’t pay attention to the saltiness of the cheese). Also, next time I would roll the dough really thin cause it was quite chewy. You can also experiment with the sizes and the amount of filling – some of my qutabs were a bit too big 🙂 These are best eaten hot – so I suggest cutting the dough recipe by half. I ran out of cheese with that much of the dough and had to use mashed potatoes with the leftover cheese filling for the last qutabs.

Cheese and Herbs Qutabs

Result: Easy pies with melting cheese? Count me in! Perfect with some greens on the side and a lot of kefir (for the lack of traditional matsoni). Also no problem with keeping these pies in the fridge and reheating them later.

This post goes to Lunch / Dinner and the country-specific recipe collections (first Azerbaijani recipe!).

G.

French recipe · pies · travel · vegetarian

Tarte au Coulommiers and Impressions of Provence

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

Just came back from my short trip to Provence, the South of France – only a week it lasted but how long it actually felt! Both when I was there and when I returned and found out that I was missing at least a month – or so it felt! There’s this usually short period between your coming back from a journey and the reinstatement in your habitual life – and it’s a weird moment of not knowing where you are, actually. Suddenly everything looks unfamiliar, you feel estranged and it still seems that you’re not here for long, that the journey will continue.

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

This journey was a condensed one, after which I would not mind a short recuperation… But I totally loved it! Walking (a lot), hiking (a bit but what views, what wind, what emotions!), biking (the greatest means of transport!), running (what could be better than jogging and discovering new areas at the same time?), lots of trains, some buses and cars. And then more walking and abundant breakfasts to make up for it (or vice versa)… The abrupt sunsets and slow sunrises, absolutely driving-me-crazy Mediterranean aromas and warm wind. Backache and sleeping without hind legs (=like a log). Simple food – whole wheat bread, fresh cheese, apples and yogurt. Great to rediscover taste for those simple things!

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

And there was the concert. At first (and it lasted quite long actually) it felt I was not there, I was somewhere else – or was it a recording? David Gilmour’s amazing voice coming right into my ears from down there while I was sitting on top of the Roman amphitheater in Orange.

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

Opening to people and accepting all the ridiculous accidents on the road. Travelling alone brings you somehow closer to the place and the people. Oh, I will need several posts to express all that, for sure. Meanwhile – a recipe of a French pie with – bien sûr – French cheese! Yes, brought all those well cheese-smelling cheeses back to Russia 🙂 And not only cheese… My back still recalls the weight of the rucksack (14 kg…) which in its turn is waiting to me mended 🙂

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

A year ago – From Sunny Greece to Autumn Leaves in St Pete

Two years ago – Herb Buns Digest

Three years ago – Peach, Apple, Plums and Banana: Pies and Rolls

Four years ago – Introduction to Soviet Creativity and Practicality

Tarte au Coulommiers translated and adapted from www.marmiton.org will make a substantial pie with that cheese flavor you just cannot imitate! See my remarks in italics.

Ingredients:

  • pâte briséemade my own pastry, feel free to use your favourite recipe or follow the link
  • 3 to 4 small potatoes – I used 4 medium
  • 1 Coulommiers cheese or 1 Brie – I put almost an entire Coulommiers except for those pieces eaten before filling the pie 🙂
  • 3 egg
  • 100 ml liquid crème fraîche (30-45% fat French sour cream) – I used plain 2.5% fat milk
  • 150 g grated Gruyère – some Russian cheese, ooops!

Procedure:

Cook peeled potatoes in water (I didn’t leave them to cook completely).

Roll out the pastry and place it in the pan (I also used parchment paper). First layer – slices of Coulommiers or Brie, second layer – potatoes cut in rounds. Next comes grated cheese.

Mix the eggs with crème liquide, add salt and pepper. Pour the mixture on top (here I also added some herbes de Provence). Bake at 180 ‘C for about 30 minutes.

Tarte au coulommiers from www.marmiton.org

Remarks: I had no ready-made pastry, so I threw in some cold butter, salt, flour and mixed it with water, then left the dough in the fridge. It worked! The leftover pastry became a small pie with chicken and potatoes – a special treat for my Dad. As for the milk instead of sour cream – I think it was a good idea, given that the potatoes and the cheese(s) are already quite nutritious (not to say fatty:).

Result: Serve this pie with a green salad à coté – even the non-vegetarians will enjoy it! The cheese in this pie is that very cheese. The tangy cheese creates a great combination with the soft potatoes. Although I’m not a fan of those Brie-like cheeses, I liked how it ‘worked’ in this pie! It just wouldn’t be the same with any other cheese…

Will come back with lots of photos. And more food!

Adding this to Lunch / Dinner and Country-specific recipe collections.

G.

Italian recipe · no-dough · vegetarian

Involtini di Melanzane

new job

Autumn. Veggies. New job. More veggies and kefir. Tea, tea, tea. New people, new tasks. Seems like I normally change jobs in autumn, already somewhat a habit of mine:) Walking in shorts on September 1st – something new too! Please, autumn, do linger some more!

Involtini di Melanzane from www.greenkitchenstories.com

A year ago – Gulf of Finland and Neva River

Two years ago – Franconian Wood Oven Bread in Regular Oven

Three years ago – Pita, Sourdough Pizza and Stewed Aubergines

Involtini di Melanzane or Aubergine Rolls adapted from www.greenkitchenstories.com will make peppery aubergine rolls à l’italienne with a hidden – Greek – ingredient… For the entire recipe please visit the link above.

My changes:

I had just a bit of canned tomatoes so I had to add water to the tomato sauce. However it was ok! Used couscous instead of bulgur and added some salt. Instead of Feta used Adygea cheese. Had no capers so skipped these. For the topping used hard cheese and no pistachios – cause I forgot about them.

Baked the rolls at 190 on the upper shelf.

Involtini di Melanzane from www.greenkitchenstories.com

The hidden ingredients from Greece in this Italian dish – Feta (here subbed by Adygea cheese) and pistachios, right from the Aegina island! I won’t say that you can immediately tell that there are pistachios in the filling (they get quite soft after baking) but they surely add some special flavour to this dish!

Involtini di Melanzane from www.greenkitchenstories.com

Remarks: Do not skip the tomato sauce – mine was definitely too scanty for the amount of rolls this recipe produced. It adds some extra… Italianism to this dish! Serve the rolls with some salad to balance the spiciness.

Result: Garlicky-peppery vegetarian rolls with thick filling (which won’t escape – that’s nice!) and tasty tomato sauce. Something to bring change to your veggie dishes portfolio!

***

Two more shots from my new job. It’s an old mansion in the center of St Petersburg, right close to the most incredible place in St Petersburg:

new job

And following a nice tradition of working at places resembling Hermitage, this mansion has at least three very authentic-looking halls and a marble staircase. More photos to come!

new job

Adding this recipe to my collections of country-specific dishes and those for lunch / dinner.

More recent veggie recipes here and here.

G.

Family recipe · no-dough · vegetarian

Veggie Dishes, Improvised

Yellow Lentils with Bulgur and Cauliflower

Back to food for a change. Two improvised vegetarian recipes I threw in together when I got tired of the usual pasta-rice-buckwheat circle. I’m actually thoroughly enjoying this ‘throwing’ procedure, which allows you to get curious results and varied flavours. It is all very easy and creative, so join in!

A year ago – Chasing Alexander Pushkin in Tsarskoye Selo

Two years ago – Zucchini and Aubergine Whole Wheat Pizza

Three years ago – Moscow and Courgette Pies

Yellow Lentils with Bulgur and Cauliflower (improvised) will make a fiber & protein-rich vegetarian dish.

Ingredients:

  • cauliflower, broken in florets, if frozen no need to defrost
  • yellow lentils, rinsed
  • bulgur
  • olive oil
  • turmeric
  • chopped herbs such as dill or parsley
  • toasted pumpkin & sesame seeds, optional

Procedure:

Start with heating a deep pan, then throwing in bulgur and adding a splash of olive oil so that the bulgur is ‘moistened’. Don’t let it burn! Then add the cauliflower (frozen is fine), and the yellow lentils. Cover them with water. The moment the water starts simmering, season with salt and add some turmeric. You can either throw in the chopped herbs now or add them later. I usually cover the pan with a lid and add more water if it boils off. Don’t overcook the lot, cause both cauliflower and yellow lentils are quick-cooking buddies! Check the bulgur and if it’s cooked, than the dish is ready. Serve with some toasted pumpkin & sesame seeds, a splash of soya sauce and some white cheese, to taste.

Yellow Lentils with Bulgur and Cauliflower

Remarks: You can adapt this recipe to your own taste buds and hunger. You can adjust the amount of each ingredient according to your preferences. The yellow lentils I was using for this recipe cook very fast and if slightly overcooked become quite mashy. You might want to add them later! Also make sure to add enough salt, this dish might get a bit bland without the extra soy sauce. Next time I would add some chopped onion as well.

Result: Yellow and quite unusual! The turmeric adds just a tiny bit of spiciness (try curry instead), the bulgur remains crunchy while the cauliflower and lentils are soft.

By the way, if you’re not sure what bulgur is (I learnt about it for the first time in Strasbourg and since then it has entered our family cooking) and what benefits it might have, here’s what you read on Wikipedia: ‘Compared to unenriched white rice, bulgur has more fiber and protein, a lower glycemic index, and higher levels of most vitamins and minerals’. Sounds pretty impressive!

***

When I think of aubergines I most often immediately think of garlic. This is such a traditional combination for our family that it just comes naturally. Mom used to fry aubergines with crushed garlic and this fragrant duet is solidly engraved in my mind. As these superbly coloured eggplants or aubergines are in season now, I’m carpe-diem-ing them a lot in my cooking 🙂

Garlicky Aubergine Rolls with Cheese and Olives

Garlicky Aubergine Rolls with Cheese and Olives (improvised) will make salty and zesty rolls with melt-in-your-mouth cheese inside. The preparation requires some time.

Ingredients:

  • aubergines, preferably long
  • soft white cheese such as Adygea, Feta or farmer’s cheese, sliced
  • olives, sliced
  • some hard cheese
  • garlic, minced or crushed, to taste
  • olive oil
  • dried oregano (or any other herb)
  • coarse salt and freshly ground pepper
  • sesame seeds

Procedure:

Preheat the oven to 180 ‘C. Grease a large baking sheet. Wash, clean and slice the aubergines – you will need long slices for the rolls but the short bits are ok too – these will also go in. In a small bowl combine some olive oil, dried oregano, coarse salt and freshly ground pepper, plus minced or crushed garlic (if you’re not sure about the amounts for this mixture, make it small for starters, you can always make more!). Rub this mixture (or brush it over) into the aubergine slices – I left one side clean and so placed the aubergines clean side down onto the baking sheet. Bake the aubergines until they get quite soft but not burning! Just peep in from time to time. Meanwhile you can slice your cheese and olives. When the veggies are ready, take them out of the oven and cool slightly. Places cheese and then olive slices on each aubergine slice, season (if your cheese is not very salty already) and roll from the short side (the bits too small to roll can just be made into ‘towers’ of cheese and olives). Don’t worry if they naughtily unroll – just tuck the ends under the rolls and push the rolls close together. This will also facilitate the next step: grating some hard cheese over, sprinkling with oregano and sesame seeds. You now need to reheat them and make the cheese melt, that’s all – so you can place the sheet back into the oven onto the highest rack. Be careful not to burn them!

Garlicky Aubergine Rolls with Cheese and Olives

Remarks: I’ve repeated this recipe without rubbing in / brushing with the oil + herb mixture, just splashing some oil over the sliced aubergines and then baking them. The result was less interesting from the first super-garlicky variant. Also the second time the quality of the cheese was better and I also grated it on top but I was quite careless to let the rolls overcook and the smallest of them became hard. 

Result: Garlicky! And cheesy. The aubergine flesh is very soft while the skin is crunchy (sounds pretty carnivorous, doesn’t it?). Perfect as appetizers – I can imagine piercing them with a toothpick to make them into snacks.

Enjoy!

Adding these to my lunch / dinner recipe collection.

G.