aubergine

Tourlou!

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Spring is here! I am writing to you from one of our local cafés. Its wide French doors are open to an outdoor terrace. It’s still light and warm and a soft breeze just brought in scents of blossom (and something delicious cooking in a kitchen).

I have chosen to share with you the recipe for Tourlou, a mixed vegetable dish that tastes like spring and summer to me. A fridge chilled portion of it with some crumbled feta (surprise, surprise!) is just as nice to eat as straight after cooking or cooled to room temperature. But I’d prefer the chilled version today because it makes me think of Vourvourou, my friend Maria and resting in the shade in her company sipping a chilled beer (sigh!).

Back to cooking! Tourlou is an easy recipe and great for using a medley of vegetable. It can be a light evening dinner on its own or served with rice, a delicious side dish or alternative to salad, and a fantastic tapa or meze. And apparently Tourlou is the same as briam only it’s cooked on a hob- here’s something new for food geeks like me.

Ingredients
Serves 2 for main and more as a meze or side

1 aubergine
2 courgette
2-3 potatoes
1 large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
1 pepper, chopped (optional)
1 carrot (optional)
200g ripe tomatoes, finely chopped or chopped in blender
OR
1 can chopped tomatoes (400g mixed weight)
Small bunch of parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
½ tsp sugar
Pepper (to taste)
Olive oil

Preparation
Takes up to an hour

Wash all vegetable, peel the potatoes, and dice it all in five centimeter (large) chunks.

Sauté the onion and a pinch of salt in about two Tbsp olive oil for a couple of minutes.

Add one or two more Tbsp olive oil, the vegetable, toss and fry for about five minutes.

Add the garlic, let it fry for a minute without burning and add the tomatoes.

Add the sugar and also season with salt and pepper.

Stir well and cover.

Lower the heat and simmer for forty minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Add the chopped parsley at the end or half way through the cooking.

Lia’s Notes:

  • For a good Tourlou do not to stir during simmering to avoid breaking the vegetable as it softens.
  • The tomatoes should have enough juice for all the vegetable to cook but halfway through cooking check if you need to add a couple of Tbsp of water to make sure the potatoes cook.
  • Replace potatoes with other root vegetable such as parsnip if you like.
  • I prefer cooking Tourlou with more aubergine and one courgette.
  • Use any vegetable you like. Okra is fantastic in tourlou but might take a bit longer to cook.
  • For Briam use the same ingredients, add a little bit of water and cover a baking tray with foil. Slow cook for about an hour in the oven.

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Little Shoes of Aubergine

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This is one of these dishes that I loved as a kid as much as I love it now. A true family favourite at many Greek homes around the world. Little Shoes (Papoutsakia) are a Sunday special, a holiday treat and a more indulgent version of the know Imam Bayildi.

Below is a recipe that might convince you that Little Shoes are as easy to make as lasagne, or a pasta bake, if not easier. Little shoes can easily be transformed to a vegetarian version as suggested below. If you are vegan you can remove the béchamel and still have a very tasty special dish. If you use plain wheat free flour for the béchamel you can have a dish for your wheat intolerant friends. This dish can be easily adapted to your taste and needs.

Ingredients

The little shoes
1kg medium sized Aubergines (preferably Tsakoniki akaΤσακώνικη)[1]

The Filling
500gr Quorn mince (or 700gr minced beef for a non-vegetarian version) [2]
3 small onions, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
1 cup of dry white wine
2-3 tomatoes or 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 bunch of parsley , finely chopped

The Béchamel
4 cups of milk
1 cup flour
50gr butter
1-2 eggs
Tspn ground nutmeg
1 cup of cheese (graviera or pecorino are preferable)
salt and pepper

Preparation

The Filling

Sauté the onion in a little olive oil with a pinch of salt until nearly translucent.

Add the Quorn or meat mince, season with salt and pepper and stir fry. [3]

For the Quorn mince add a little more oil so that it does not stick to the pan.

For the beef mince keep stirring so that the mince remains separated and evenly browned.

Add the wine and stir for a couple of minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes, the garlic and the parsley, stir, cover and cook.

The filling is ready when the mince has absorbed all the liquid but is not dry.

This should take approximately half an hour for quorn and a bit longer for the meat version.

The Aubergines

Wash the aubergines, cut the stalk end off and slice in half lengthwise.

Bring a deep pot of water to the boil, add the aubergines and boil until they are slightly soft (5-10min).

Drain and cool down.

Lay in a baking tray skin down and with a sharp knife cut a cross shape in the fruit’s flesh

Pull open to create enough space for filling.


The Béchamel

Prepare the sauce whilst the sauce is still cooking and use a cooking whip for stirring [4]

Add the milk to the pan and stir in the flour making sure it is well mixed with no lumps [5].

Place on medium heat and bring to the boil stirring more as the temperature rises.

When the sauce starts simmering lower the heat, add the butter and stir continuously.

Add nutmeg, salt and better and a whipped egg.

Continue stirring on low heat until the sauce thickens.

When removed from heat keep stirring, add the grated cheese and mix well.

The baked dish

Add the filling to the aubergines evenly.

Spread the béchamel on top of the filling.

Bake in a preheated medium temperature oven until the béchamel is golden (about half an hour).

Rest and cool down for 15 minutes before serving.

Notes:

[1] 1kg of aubergines should be 5 medium pieces of the tsakoniki, flask variety. You can cook this disk with the normal aubergine but the tsakoniki variety is much nicer with this dish and cooks faster.

[1] 1kg of aubergines should be 5 medium pieces of the tsakoniki, flask variety. You can cook this disk with the normal aubergine but the tsakoniki variety is much nicer with this dish and cooks faster.

[2] 500grof quorn make more filling than 500gr of minced beef so you might be able to fill an extra pepper.

[3] You can add the Quorn mince frozen to the pan. This should take a few more minutes than when your mince is defrosted. Overall cooking with quorn should be faster than with meat at this but also the sauce cooking stages.

[4] I prefer a flexible wire whip when making béchamel and it helps avoid lumps.

[5] I used plain wheat free flour this time which was very easy to mix in the milk and made a very creamy sauce.

papoutsakia 5

Pancake heaven

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Shrove Tuesday is now gone but I’d like to think that pancakes can return to Lia’s kitchen before the next one in 2014.

Pancakes don’t always have to be overindulgent naughty treats. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I hope this post becomes a quick and easy pancake recipe reference and an inspiration for an alternative savoury filling.

This recipe was given to me by Dan Green who, hat’s off to him, makes the best pancakes I have ever had-he flips them and all that! I just followed his instructions to make the batter, made a filling with what we had in the fridge and watched him put the pancakes together skilfully for us.

Aubergine and fenugreek pancake filling ingredients

1 small aubergine, cubed in 2cm pieces
Half an onion finely chopped
Half a tin of chopped tomatoes
Pinch of cinnamon powder
3-4 handful fresh fenugreek leaves roughly chopped
100gr or more grated cheddar

Filling preparation

Stir fry the aubergine, onion and a pinch of salt for five minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cinnamon, stir and cook for five to ten minutes on low heat until soft and cooked.

Season with some salt and pepper (2-3 pinches of salt suggested).

When nearly ready add the fresh fenugreek.

Add the cheese when filling the pancake in the pan and whilst the second side is cooking.

You can optionally add some fresh baby spinach leaves when filling the pancake.

This is enough filling for four small pancakes.

Pancake Batter ingredients

125gr Spelt or whole meal flour
300 ml milk
1 egg
A pinch of salt
Knob of butter from frying

Pancake preparation

Add all ingredients (not the butter) and whisk to mix well.

Let the batter sit in the fridge for 20 minutes or until you prepare your fillings.

Heat a non stick frying pan on high heat.

Melt enough butter to coat the pan’s surface.

Add about a ladle full of batter in your pan.

Lift and swirl until the batter evenly covers all the surface and almost ‘licks’ its sides upwards. [1]

Lower the heat and cook for a minute or until ready-that’s when it’s easy to flip.

Flip and whilst the pancake is cooking fill with preferred filling and cheese , or fruit and chocolate.

Fold in four in the pan.

This amount of batter should give you six small pancakes and plenty for two people.

Enjoy whilst hot!

[1] This should help you flip the pancake easier.

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