A Tess Mallos Slow Food Easter Weekend – Garithes and Pastitio

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For our family Easter Sunday 2011 Night Dinner I had planned Prosciutto, Basil & Boconncini Bites as starters – to be followed by Tuscan Bean Soup with Crusty Cob Bread from one of our local Thirroul Vietnamese Bakeries.

As mains I settled on Pastitio from Tess Mallos’s Greek Cookbook – which is quite similar to the Rick Stein version used by Almost Bourdain in her recent blog post. This is one of my favourite foodie blogs & I like her foodie pics – a blogger’s beautiful pics. It’s nevertheless probably a little more stylish than the home foodie blogs over at Jamie Oliver’s web page – which have an honesty about them. In fact I think that’s great when you consider Jamie’s Ministry of Food campaign to get folks back to home cooking.

On Sunday nights I usually do Mains & Nan brings along a dessert – this Sunday she also brought along one of our nephews – who was at a loose end with the rest of his family interstate or overseas.

I quickly discovered that the Prosciutto, Basil & Boconncini Bites (from Australian Gourmet Traveller – Feb 2001) were going to be Greek Style with Haloumi when Saffron’s, our local Deli in Thirroul, had already run out of baby Bocconcini. Fortunately I had Haloumi in the fridge. These Bites are so easy – take a strip of prosciutto and place a small piece of Baby Boconcini or Haloumi on it – follow with a basil leaf (our’s are fresh from our garden) – then a quarter of artichoke heart. Roll up and secure with toothpick. I did about a dozen and let them sit in the fridge until later (Pic 3). They can be grilled – but I was going to bake them (on a baking tray lined with baking paper) along with the Pastitio – checking every 3 to 4 minutes and turning a couple of times. They need to be warmed through – but I don’t like them crispy.

Having done the Bites I moved onto the Tuscan Bean Soup – from the Oz Family Circle Magazine – a few years back. Such a shame that one of the older Oz foodie mags, FC,  is no longer available as a monthly mag – but sometimes there are still special winter & Christmas editions.

So I started chopping 2 onions, 1 carrot, 2 celery sticks & 2 zucchini. Heating 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil ( I used less than the 3 specified) and sauteing all the veges, except the zucchini, along with 2 bay leaves from the small bay tree in a pot outside our backdoor, as well as some shakes of dried sage- for about 5 to 10 minutes. Finally throwing in the chopped zucchinis as well as a 400g can of diced Tomatoes along with a drained & rinsed can each of Borlotti Beans & Cannellini Beans (400g each) (Pic 1). Then simmering for about 20-30 minutes. (Pics 2 & 3). Should be served with shaved parmesan.

I then started on the Pastitio from the Tess Mallos legendary Greek Cookbook. I had cheated & done a huge batch of meat sauce a couple of days earlier – reserving some for tonight’s Pastitio. Likewise with the macaroni. So it was fairly easy to assemble the pasta & meat sauce layers – although I had to separate the individual pieces of cooked macaroni that always seem to clump together when you store them in the fridge. Pastitio is similar to Lasagne – however the Bechamel Sauce is a lot lighter – as it doesn’t have the cheese like in Lasagne. With the Bechamel almost done I discovered that I should have added 1/2 cup to the meat sauce before I had topped it with the second of the pasta layers – oops – too late. So I just poured the Bechamel over the pasta – hoping for the best (Pic 2). 

At this point I decided that we really needed a tossed salad – so sweetly asked David would he mind throwing one together – his are usually better than mine anyway. I handed him a couple of fresh basil leaves from our vegie garden. The salad smelled so good (Pic 4), and included black olives from the tree in our front garden which we had home pickled.

We gobbled up the Prosciutto Basil & Haloumi Bites & loved the Tuscan Bean Soup – always a favourite – although as usual it really tasted better the next day – note to self – do this a day or two in advance next time.

Then a longish break before the Pastitio was ready (Pic 5) – you have to leave it for 5-10 minutes before cutting & serving – the same as you do with Quiche & Lasagne. I served it at the table with the tossed salad as my tiny kitchen had filled up with the dishwasher already running – and so I was running out of space to plate up. The Red Wine ? Tatler’s Archie’s Paddock Shiraz (Pic 6) that I had picked up on a recent trip to the Hunter with the nephew’s parents – it really complemented the Pastitio. Seconds of Pastitio were served up & the tossed salad demolished.

Another long break.

Nan had brought along Passionfruit Slice – similar to the version in www.Taste.com.au – but without passionfruit in the top layer. Nan had nearly given up on finding her recipe so we nearly had passionfruit iced cupcakes. Anyway the Passionfruit Slice was so yum – I have never seen it disappear so quickly (Pic 7 – half demolished !) Then a phone call from London from another of Nan’s grandchildren – a wonderful way to finish the evening.

hmm – and everyone just too full to eat the mini Turkish Delight Easter Eggs I had put aside for later on !

Elies se Armi – Greek Pickled Olives from my Thirroul Seaside Garden – Global Wanderings in My Kitchen

I’ve been to Greece  a few times and just loved the food, Spanokopita. Tiropitakia, Dolmades, Tzatziki, Taramasalata, Souvlaki, Greek Roasted Leg of Lamb, Cheeses (Feta & Haloumi), Saganaki, Garithes me Feta (Garlic Prawns cooked in Tomato & Feta Sauce), Baklava & of course the Olives.

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A while back our local Thirroul Bowlo Club eatery turned Greek for a while, when it wsa run by the husband of one my old school mates, Efti, one of the few Greeks in Thirroul in those days. We’d celebrated our wedding anniversary at their inaugural Greek Bazouki & Belly Dancing Night. It was a great night with Greek dancing, even more so to find that some of our old workmates, who are members of the Illawarra Greek community, as well as being friends of friends of Efti’s husband, had wandered up to Thirroul to help kick it off.

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So enthused by Greek foods, about 10 years ago, I’d planted an olive tree in the front garden of our seaside home on the NSW South Coast. We have a southerly exposure to salt laden winds so everything takes ages to grow – if they survive at all. The olive tree grew & grew – competing with the banksia’s that attract Sulphur Crested Black Cockatoos.

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We didn’t get any olives for a long, long time. And even if we had, I recalled the label on the little bush I’d bought said something about a caustic soda pickling method – surely there was something less nasty ? But most stories I’d heard mentioned the caustic soda method – really offputting.

Finally, 3 years ago we had lots of olives – not enough to press our own oil – but enough to bottle the olives themselves. By then I’d read a few more of my Greek cookbooks, and discovered caustic soda wasn’t necessary at all.

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So I used Elies se Armi, aka Pickled Olives, pp18-19 from the AWW Easy Greek Style Cookery book – similar to Tess Mallos’s Greek Cookbook p98,Angeline Kapsaskis’s Greek Commonsense Cookbook p16 & Bourke’s Backyard Factsheet – ( full instruction details here ).

The tedious part is making the 2 lengthwise cuts to the stone in each olive, gloves are recommended if you don’t want your hands dyed a burgundy-purplish shade. I mentioned the olive slitting to an ABL (Australian Born Lebanese) work mate and she muttered about her father’s bottling of olives – not something she wanted to do again too often. Another Macedonian workmate confirmed that the brine pickling was definitely the way to do olives & mentioned that it is common to not get a good crop every year.

Altogether, it really is too easy – all you need is olives, water, salt and, at the end, olive oil. Change the water every day for 5-10 days, depending on whose recipe you follow, then leave them in the dark. I leave them for months, rather than opening after 5 weeks as some recipes indicate. Contributions to the Manisa Turkish website tend to agree – some suggesting keeping them in the dark for 6 months before opening.

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My husband’s bottled olives from last year’s crop were checked by our nephew James, the Apprentice Chef, & he was very impressed that we bottled our own. James liked their flavour too. We’d emailed a copy of the technique to cousins down on their farm in Oaklands, near Corowa in southern NSW. Ann had been a high school cooking teacher, but had left to manage the farm finances. She is deadly with removing avocado stones with quick knife stab – but hadn’t worked out how to pickle the many olives growing on their trees in the Home Paddock kitchen garden. But she was very keen to try it out.

So we’re finding that we get reasonable crop every second year – depending on how many we lose to storms and alas, the sulphur crested black cockatoos & galahs who seemed to have enjoyed this year’s crop.

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Postscript for @misssafet

Psari Lemonato from Tess Mallos Greek Cookbook – which I believe is out of print – possibly in her Complete Middle East Cookbook – recently reprinted

  • 1 whole fish for baking (1kg)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • salt& pepper
  • 500gm potatoes very thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  1. Clean fish & slash each side in 2 or 3 places
  2. Sprinkle inside & out with some of lemon juice & season with salt & pepper
  3. Place in oiled baking dish
  4. Arrange sliced potatoes around fish & pour remaining lemon juice over potatoes & fish
  5. Season potatoes with salt & pepper – pour olive oil over contents of dish
  6. Sprinkle with oregano then cover with foil
  7. Cook at 180-190oC for 40 minutes (check after 30 minutes)
  8. Remove foil & continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until fish & potatoes are cooked
  9. Serve immediately with steamed spinach, green salad and/or Greek salad

Serves 4-5

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