Saturday, March 1, 2014

Feta saganaki

Living in the Netherlands, it often makes it difficult to remember some of the Greek holidays. For example it was only yesterday that I suddenly realized that this Monday will be Kathari Deutera (Clean Monday). Here, it is a working day so unfortunately I won’t be able to make lagana (traditional Greek flatbread consumed on Kathari Deutera) and prepare various seafood dishes. I will most probably have only time to make some fried calamari and mussels, hopefully.

At the beginning of this week though, I remembered that it was the week of Τυρινή / Tyrini (Cheese week), the third and last week of the Greek Carnival, when cheese, dairy products and pasta is traditionally consumed. Tyropita (cheese pie), galatopita (milk pie), galaktoboureko (semolina-based custard in phyllo), and all type of pasta dishes with a good grating of cheese like myzithra are the dishes of choice for us Greeks during Tyrini.

In keeping with tradition, I have been using cheese in different dishes throughout the week, something that admittedly I don’t need to try too hard to do since I am a cheese fiend, and if you have been reading my blog for a while you are surely familiar with my undying love for the tastiest Greek cheese of all, feta. So yesterday I made feta saganaki. (You can read here about what is the Greek saganaki).
I don’t normally use feta for saganaki, I prefer kefalotyri or graviera, but trying it after a long time, I realized how incredibly delicious and unique it is.

The saltiness of the feta with the creamy and crumbly texture, and the crispy, golden-brown crust that is formed around it, is strongly reminiscent of tyropita (cheese pie). The fastest-made tyropita that is, since it is made in less than ten minutes. Served with a good squeeze of lemon, or if you prefer a slightly different flavor profile with a drizzle of good Greek thyme honey, it is a first class mezes to have with a glass of ouzo.

Those of you Greeks out there who have forgotten the week of Tyrini, you still have time to make this saganaki. As for those of you who will fast during Lent, this is your last chance to have a proper cheese dish. Go for it.

P.S. I would like to thank from the bottom of my heart all of you who voted for me on theKitchn awards. I may not have won (I was third, which is awesome since I expected to be the last) but that is really unimportant because I am delighted and truly grateful for all your supportive comments and kind words.
Being happy for someone you don’t even know on a personal level requires generosity of soul, something that unfortunately these days is extremely rare, and you all have made me feel very special. You are the best!

Feta Saganaki (Fried Feta Cheese)

Use hard or semi-hard Greek feta in order for it to hold its shape during frying. Also, the double coating of the cheese with flour creates a thicker and crunchier crust.

Yield: enough for 2 people

1 piece of feta (170-200 g), not too thick (1½-2 cm)
1 cup all-purpose flour
Freshly ground white pepper
Virgin olive oil, for frying

Lemon, to squeeze on top

Special equipment: saganaki (small, round frying pan with two handles) or small frying pan

In a wide and deep plate, add enough water to fill it. In another wide plate, add a cup of flour and a little freshly ground white pepper and mix. Don’t be tempted to add salt to the flour, because feta is a salty cheese.

Take the piece of feta (it should be moist but if it’s not, dip it to the plate filled with water for a couple of seconds, to moisten it) and then place in on the flour. Dredge the feta in the flour on all sides, making sure you coat it well. Gently tap the excess flour off.
Immediately place it in the plate filled with water and moisten it again, and then dredge it again in the flour on all sides. Gently tap the excess flour off.

Pour enough olive oil in your saganaki or small frying pan to completely cover the bottom and heat over medium-high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer and it has gotten really hot, add the feta.
Fry the cheese on one side for about 4 minutes or until it has taken on a golden-brown color, then turn it over carefully on the other side and fry it for another 4 minutes, or until it has taken on a golden-brown color.

Turn the heat off and take the cheese out of the pan using a spatula very carefully so it doesn’t break up. Place the cheese saganaki on a plate covered with paper towels in order to absorb the excess oil and then onto a serving plate.

Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon.

If you want to serve the fried cheese in the saganaki pan, then pour out the oil and serve.

Oh, and before I forget. Here are some dishes for Kathari Deutera:
Lagana (Greek Lenten Yeasted Flatbread)
Greek Fava (Yellow Split-Pea Purée)
Greek Braised Octopus with Short Pasta or "Htapodi me Makaronaki Kofto" and How to Clean Octopus
Htapodi Ksidato (Greek Octopus with Vinegar, Olive oil and Dried Oregano)
Sautéed Shrimps with Tahini and Garlic Sauce
Greek Mussel Pilaf or "Midopilafo" and How to Clean Mussels
Greek Beetroot Purée with Potatoes and Walnuts
Melitzanosalata - Greek Smoky Eggplant Dip

And more Lenten recipes

Enjoy and have a good Kathari Deftera!


  1. You photograph texture so well. This looks delicious.

  2. Dear Magda, it’s so nice! I‘ve been planning to prepare Saganaki exactly tomorrow and now I’ve got to know that it’s Tyrini Sunday tomorrow! Such a wonderful coincidence! Actually, it was here when I first read about Cheese Saganaki. It was one of those days when I found your recipe for Sofigado, fell in love with the blog and began reading all the posts searching for my favorite Greek dishes. And Cheese Saganaki appealed to me as well. That’s why when I saw it in one of Lefkas’ tavernas during our Lefkada&Ithaca trip last summer, I ordered it without any doubts. It was Kefalotyri Saganaki and I fell in love with it. Then, one month ago, when we were on a week’s vacation on the magic, tremendous island of Hydra, I saw Graviera Saganaki and ordered it. But this time my boyfriend succumbed and ordered it too. Now he is on love with Cheese Saganaki – just like I am! So tomorrow I am preparing it and will post a link to my photos. Hope everything will be OK. I am to use Gruyere for my boyfriend and Pecorino Romano for myself. It’s a pity we don’t have Feta here in Moscow anymore (God, I miss Briam with Feta soooo much because Briam without Feta is not that delicious, for my taste).


  3. Magda - the saganaki looks delicious! Another "must try" from your LEK. I am sorry about the award, but know you are always first in our hearts! (And our tummies...)

  4. I love saganaki!! Especially by itself with a wedge of lemon, some lovely freshly baked bread and a glass of ouzo! Actually, it's a coincidence seeing this recipe here because I've just made and photographed some baked feta! Kali kathara deftera!

  5. Hi! I just started following your blog and I love your recipes:) I cannot wait to try this one because it looks really delicious and I never tried feta in this way:) Greetings from Italy!!!

  6. I am so pleased to learn that this dish is also done with feta! Love feta, and here it is almost a national dish as well; love the version deep-fried, beautiful clics!

  7. Denise — thank you!

    Xenia — it is indeed a pity you don't have feta there. The cheeses you mention will make a great saganaki though. Good luck!

    David — I am very happy I was third! I can't believe it among such wonderful blogs!

    Helen — baked feta is great as well! Καλή Καθαρή Δευτέρα!

    Wszystko o Italii — hi there! Thank you very much for stopping by. You must give it a try, it's delicious!

    Joumana — it's shallow-fried actually, not deep fried and yes, it is done with a good firm feta. I'm sure you will love it!

  8. i had an outstanding salad of saganaki feta battered with ouzo and sunflower seeds in athens last summer. i am so glad you posted a recipe because it has inspired me to experiment and try and recreate a bit of that dish. there's a bit about that lunch here

  9. Wow I want a slice of that too! Might try making it one of these days!

  10. Cheese week? That's it--I have to move to Greece. :) Love it!

  11. I am so excited to try this. A local market has been carrying real Greek Feta. I've consumed 2 large blocks in a short period of time and due to inclement weather have run out! I hope to correct that tomorrow and make this.

    I did recently make your other posted saganaki recipe with pecorino and it was wonderful, but I have a feeling that this will be better.

    And what gracious thanks you gave.

  12. Molis ekana auto to snack kai einai pragmatika uperoxo :D To lemoni on top einai oti prepei!! Euxaristw gia tis sudages :D Molis thn edwse kai se mia filh mou apo thn Ollandia pou ths aresei h ellinikh kouzina kai anypomonei na to ftiaksei :)))