Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Comfort Food # 1

Last week I was called away on a culinary mission of mercy to help restore the strength and failing appetite of an ill family member. So Min (that's her, left) and I packed up, equipped with my pack of chef’s knives and supplies aplenty. Comfort food was in order. Things that taste yummy and make you feel good as well as being good for you (well in some cases only sort of good). Little souvenir d’enfant that remind you of mum looking after you when you were a kid sick in bed with the day off school.

So the following posts are a selection of what tempted this particular appetite into recovery and ultimately (I’m glad to say) wellness.

First job upon arrival was a big batch of Jewish/Asian ‘penicillin’, set to bloop on the hotplate for a few hours – the rich chicken stock that has scientifically proven restorative powers and can be turned into any number of limpid golden delights like chicken and corn soup, or a light gingery broth with silken poached chicken breast infused with lemongrass and a hint of chilli. Mmmmmmm ….. feeling better already. In addition to whole chicken use a few kilos of chicken necks for extra flavour and remove the chicken and take the meat off before it overcooks, put the carcass bones back into the stock and let simmer for a few more hours. This way you have abundant sweet chicken to lace through finished soups.

Another request:


60 mls olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 large bunches of baby spinach or English spinach
1 bunch shallots, finely chopped
2 tbsp finely chopped dill
250 g feta cheese crumbled plus 150 g ricotta cheese (or you can use all ricotta if you prefer)
4 tbsp kefalotyri or parmesan cheese, grated
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg.

1 packet of filo pastry
Lots of melted butter.
A brush.

Heat the oil and fry the onion and garlic till softened. Set aside in your mixing bowl.

Blanch the spinach, refresh in ice cold water, then in your hands squeeze the spinach until you get most of the residual water out. You should end up with a densely packed handful. This process concentrates the flavour and ensures that the finished pie won’t be watery and soggy. Watery spinach is the natural enemy of spanakopita.

In the mixing bowl, combine the onion and garlic with spinach shallots, cheeses, dill and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.

Brush your baking tray with butter start layering the pastry, pushing gently into the sides to fit the tray. Don’t cut the layers, let them drape over the side. Trust me. You’ll see why you have to do this soon. Brush each layer with butter as you build up the base. Use about 8-10 sheets.

Before you put the filling in, sprinkle the base of the pie with about 1-2 tablespoons of fine breadcrumbs. This also helps with natural enemy as mentioned above. Spread the filling out evenly and Then use more layers of filo for the top, this time trimming to size and tucking the edges over the filling and into the base layers. Fold those draped layers back into the tray over the filling. See! I told you it would work. This makes for a better seal and makes a neater pie. Brush the top with butter and score the pie with a sharp knife into serving portions into the top layers – in squares or diamonds or origami patterns or the shape of your current favourite pop star. This makes it easier to cut when baked and saves you spraying cooked crisp filo all over the dining room floor and the guests. It also saves you from totally destroying and crushing your pretty pie and serving up a lump of green and white goo with shards of filo scattered all over it. Not a good look. Bake in a 180-200C oven for about 45 mins or until the top is golden brown.


Anonymous augustusgloop said...

Yum! I love spanakopita! And I do love my comfort food...

11:41 AM  
Blogger Reb said...

ALl that iron must be good for you ... and the butter ... and the cheese ... um well maybe

3:50 PM  

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