Showing posts with label Politiki Cuisine. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Politiki Cuisine. Show all posts

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Greek fried calf’s liver with onion and parsley

Calf’s liver two days before Holy Week? Yes, because if you have low iron levels and your doctor tells you that either you start eating more red meat or you start taking iron pills, well, I chose meat, calf’s liver to be exact as it’s been a favorite treat of mine since childhood. Now, unfortunately, I neglect to buy it. How come this never happens with chocolate?

So I finally got some liver the other day from the butcher and of course I ended up eating it alone as S is notoriously anti-liver of any kind. I didn’t complain. Don’t go thinking however that I ate all the liver you see in these photos, no, these were taken back in October when I was home in Greece and the pictured liver was cooked lovingly by my grandmother.

This is my favorite way of eating calf’s liver; in the style of Greek cooking I was brought up with, the “Politiki cuisine” (read about it here). You cut the liver into cubes, flour and shallow fry it in olive oil. You serve it with a good amount of finely sliced red onion mixed with chopped flat-leaf parsley and you’re set!

The liver needs to be pinkish inside otherwise you end up with a chewy mess and you don’t want that. It should be eaten freshly fried accompanied by a small glass of ouzo, some hand-cut fried potatoes and a horiatiki (Greek) salad.

I don’t know if any of you are fasting or not, and trust me I don’t want to be the one who tempts you to break your fast, so I will suggest you have this dish on Easter day. It makes the perfect, pre lamb-feasting meze.

Sikotaki Politiko (Greek Fried Calf’s Liver with Onion and Parsley)

This for me is the best way to cook calf’s liver, not to mention one of the simplest.
There are no specific measurements for this recipe as they are easily adaptable to the amount of liver you want to serve.

Calf’s liver slices
All-purpose flour
Olive oil, for frying
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon, for squeezing juice on top

Red onion, thin half-moon slices
Fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped

Remove the outer membrane from the liver slices as well as any nerves. Cut the liver into bite-sized pieces.
In a large plate or round pan, add flour and add the liver pieces. Toss to coat them well with the flour.

In the meantime, in a large frying pan, add enough olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan and heat over medium-high heat. Once the oil heats well (it needs to be very hot but not smoking), add the liver pieces in batches, shaking off the extra flour and being careful not to overcrowd the pan. Fry 1 minute on each side but not more, otherwise it will be chewy.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the liver pieces from the pan and onto a platter, sprinkle with salt and pepper (salt is not added before cooking as it makes the liver tough), and squeeze some lemon juice on top.

In a small plate, mix the onions and parsley.
Serve liver immediately, with a good amount of onion-parsley on top or on the side.

Pin It

Thursday, June 27, 2013


Pastourmadopitakia means small pies made with pastourma (seasoned, air-cured beef) and they have been part of my family’s Sunday or celebratory feasts ever since I can remember. Either in the form of individual pies or the more traditional large rectangular pie that’s cut into square pieces for everyone to savor, baked or fried, made with traditional phyllo or sfoliata (puff pastry), pastourmadopitakia are part of my culinary heritage.

My mom made these while I was in Greece this May and that’s when I took these photographs. She always makes them for me whenever I visit home, she knows how much I crave and love them.

I made pastourmadopitakia the other day, just the way she makes them and they disappeared in a matter of minutes.

I hope you like them as much as we do.

On a different note: Google Reader is shutting down on July 1st which is only a few days away, and I'm really bummed about it cause I’m kind of attached to it. For those of you who follow this blog through RSS feed on Google Reader please make sure to transfer your feeds to another reader. I have been trying out a few and I found that the best ones are feedly and The Old Reader. Bloglovin’ is also easy to use and has been around for quite a while but it’s not my favorite. Make your choice soon; you don’t want miss the updates from all your favorite blogs.

See you again soon!

Pastourmadopitakia / Pites Kesarias (Greek Individual Pies with Pastourma)

This is one of the easiest recipes for Greek individual pies. If you can’t find pastourma where you live, well, use any other type of spicy cured beef you like. If you can’t find Greek Graviera cheese, use Gruyère.

Yield: 8 individual pies

1 sheet homemade puff pastry or ready-made puff pastry
8 slices of pastourma
1-2 vine-ripened tomatoes, finely sliced
100-150 g Greek Graviera cheese, coarsely grated
1 egg, lightly beaten, for glazing pies

Special equipment: box grater, pastry brush, baking sheet, baking paper

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees Celsius / 375 Fahrenheit.

Line a large baking sheet with baking paper.

Lay the puff pastry on a lightly floured surface so that the widest edge is facing you and cut the pastry into 4 long rectangles. Cut each rectangle into two shorter ones so that you end up with 8 pieces of dough.

Near the bottom edge of each piece of dough, add 1 folded slice of pastourma, 1 slice of tomato and some grated cheese. Fold the dough on top to create a pocket and crimp the edges with your fingers. Place the pie on the prepared baking sheet and continue making the rest.

Brush the tops of the pies with the beaten egg and place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated oven. Bake the pies for about 25 minutes or until the pastry has puffed up and has taken on a golden color.

Remove the baking sheet from the oven, allow the pies to cool slightly and serve.

Pin It

Monday, June 3, 2013

The Peinirli

Soutzouki and pastourmas have always been staples in my fridge in Greece. Here in Holland they’re impossible to find and even if I do manage to scare up something that resembles any one of them, their taste and quality is a far cry from what I’m used to.

One of the things I brought back with me from Greece, besides the good supply of chocolates, are these two delicacies. Soutzouki, as I’ve previously mentioned, is a spicy fresh sausage made nine out of ten times with beef meat, and pastourmas is seasoned, spicy air-cured beef.

The best way to eat these two is to simply slice them and serve them with a chunk of fresh bread and a shot glass of ouzo; they make the perfect meze on a warm summer evening. On the other hand, a wonderful way to savor them is adding them to a peinirli.

The Greek word Peinirli (Πεϊνιρλί) derives from the Turkish word Peynirli which translates to “with cheese” (peynir means cheese in Turkish). Peinirli is a boat- or rather canoe-shaped yeasted bread, similar to the Turkish pide but larger, with a dough that’s soft inside and beautifully crusty but not hard on the outside.

Peinirli is beloved by all Greeks, especially those whose families come from Constantinople and Smyrni as mine, but also Pontus. When Greeks from Pontus (the Greek name for the Turkish Black Sea south coast) arrived in Greece in the 1920’s after the population exchange between Greece and Turkey, some of them settled in Drosia, an Athenian suburb, and opened restaurants that served their specialty, the peinirli. Till today, Athenians make the almost one-hour trip by car to Drosia to have the best peinirli in Greece.

One more thing that makes peinirli unique and delicious is its fillings, with the traditional one being the Greek kaseri cheese that sizzles in the middle of the risen baked dough, and the butter that needs to be added as soon as the little doughy boat comes out of the oven so it can melt gloriously on top of said cheese.

Peinirli can have various other fillings like minced meat, eggs, tomato, ham, sausages and many more. In my family, what constitutes a traditional peinirli is one filled with soutzouki or pastourma, cheese and tomato.

The pungent and spicy flavor of both pastourma and soutzouki paired with the rich cheese and fresh tomato make for a tasty treat. Both these delicacies are quite heavy when cooked though, so tread cautiously. Try not to eat too much.

No matter what kind of filling you end up using in your peinirli, I do hope you enjoy this classic Greek yeasted savory delight.


Peinirli is quite substantial fare and can be enjoyed as a main meal, much like pizza, or as a snack cut in smaller pieces.

If you can’t find soutzouki, you can use any other kind of sausage you want. Same with pastourmas, just substitute with another type of spicy air-cured beef.

If you have a pizza stone, then by all means use it to bake the peinirli. The result will be excellent.

Semolina flour is finely milled semolina (it’s not fine semolina but semolina that is so finely milled that has the texture of flour). In Greece, this flour is widely used for bread and all kinds of yeasted savory doughs. If you can’t find it, use strong bread flour.

Yield: 8 peinirli


for the dough
300 g all purpose flour, plus extra for sprinkling your work surface
200 g semolina flour (from durum wheat)
9 g instant dried yeast
1 tsp sea salt
½ tsp sugar
200 ml lukewarm water
150 ml lukewarm fresh whole milk
50 ml good quality olive oil, plus extra for greasing dough and bowl

for the cheese filling
Greek kasseri cheese or Swiss Emmentaler, grated
Unsalted butter, preferably sheep’s butter

for the pastourma or soutzouki filling
Pastourma, sliced
Soutzouki, sliced
Tomato, sliced
Greek kasseri cheese or Swiss Emmentaler, grated

Special equipment: box grater, stand mixer with dough hook attachment (optional), large baking sheet, baking paper, pizza stone (optional)

In the bowl of your stand mixer or in a large bowl, add the flours, the yeast, sugar, salt (making sure it doesn’t come in contact with the yeast), the lukewarm water and milk, and the olive oil.

If you’re kneading in a stand mixer, attach the dough hook and knead for about 7 minutes, on the lowest speed, until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, remains slightly moist and it is smooth and elastic. Empty it onto a lightly floured surface (use all–purpose flour for this) and knead it a little to see how it feels. It should feel a little sticky to the touch.

If you're kneading by hand, once you have mixed the ingredients together into a rough dough, take it out of the bowl and onto a clean surface and knead well. It'll take about 10 minutes. What you're aiming for is a soft and pliable dough that's sticking slightly to your hands and that remains moist but not overly so that you can’t knead it.

Note: Not all flours are the same, so if your dough is very wet, don't be afraid to add more flour (all-purpose flour). Add a little at a time though, testing the consistency of the dough. You don't want to end up with a stodgy, stiff dough. I find that with this dough, I always seem to add a little more flour so that it doesn’t stick too much (about 35 g more).

Shape the dough into a ball, lightly grease the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl) as well as the dough ball with olive oil and place the dough inside the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place, allowing the dough to proof and double in size. It will take about 1 hour to proof, depending on how warm the room you leave it in is.
During the winter, I always leave my dough next to a working radiator. Not on top of it but on a chair and right in front of it.

Once the dough has proofed, take it out of the bowl and knead it for a couple of seconds just to deflate it a bit. It should feel smooth, pliable and soft. Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces (around 115 g each) and shape into balls. Oil the balls (so they don’t stick to one another) and place them in the bowl after you oil it again. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place, allowing the balls of dough to proof until almost doubled in sized. It will take 30-40 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 225 degrees Celsius / 435 Fahrenheit.
If you have a pizza stone, place it on the lower rack of the oven to preheat as well. If not, prepare your baking sheet by lining it with baking paper.

Once the dough balls have proofed, take each one and place it on a floured surface and flatten it into an oblong shape (about 26x13 cm). Take the bottom edge and fold it (see photo below). Then take the upper edge and fold it (see photo). Seal the two pointy ends by pressing them together (where the two folded parts overlap). If it’s difficult because of the flour, add a little water with your fingertips between the two pieces of dough and press them together to seal. You will have a boat-shaped dough with elevated sides that’ll keep your filling inside.
Continue with the rest of the dough balls. My oven is small so I can fit only three at a time. While the first batch is baking I shape the rest.

Place the shaped peinirli onto the prepared baking sheet (or onto the pizza stone that you have sprinkled with a little flour), prick the inside of the “boat” (where you’ll later add your filling) with a fork so it doesn’t puff up and place on the lower rack of your preheated oven. Bake for 10 minutes, until they begin to color. Take them out and lower the heat to 185 degrees Celsius / 365 Fahrenheit.

Fill the peinirli with the ingredients of your choice. If you’re using cheese, add a generous amount in the middle. If you’re using the soutzouki or pastourma, add a couple of slices of tomato at the bottom, followed by a couple of slices of soutzouki or pastourma and then some grated cheese on top. Be careful not to overflow the boat, no pun intended.

Return the peinirli in the oven and bake for a further 10 minutes, until the cheese melts but doesn’t brown. It shouldn’t form a crust.

Take them out of the oven and if you made the cheese peinirli, add a couple of knobs of butter on top to melt.

Serve immediately.

Pin It

Monday, April 1, 2013

The Tas Kebap

Last week, I was waxing poetic about the arrival of spring and the anticipation of all that it would bring. Well, let me tell you, it has brought many things alright, just not what I was expecting. It brought snow, and cold, and chapped lips, and pairs of boots that need to be thrown away because they have been worn for six months already. I’m not going to tell you that I don’t like this weather; I’m going to tell you that I hate it. Enough is enough!

As it is understandable, this northern European spring is making me crave all kinds of wintry things like stews and soups and warm cocoas. I know for some of you all these may not sound that appealing anymore, but for those of you living in places that spring has forgotten, you get me, I know you do.

So, I give you my version of comfort food. A traditional Greek dish of the Politiki cuisine, the kind of Greek cuisine I grew up with (you can read all about it here). This dish is called Tas Kebap and the name is not Greek but Arabic. It’s a dish that was brought to Greece from Greek refugees leaving Constantinople (Istanbul) and Asia Minor, and it has since become part of the Greek culinary heritage.
You may know of the Turkish version of the dish which is heavier as it uses butter and is made with lamb, whereas the Greek version is made with olive oil and the meat of choice is veal.

When someone hears the word kebap or kebab, what jumps into their mind are images of meat skewers being grilled over an open fire and yes, in some cases this is true, but kebap actually refers to numerous dishes containing cubed meat, and different varieties of kebap can be found around the world.

The Greek Tas Kebap is a hearty stew of cubed veal cooked in a thick and rich tomato sauce flavored with spices and red wine. The meat is cooked slowly over a low heat until succulent and at the end you have a luscious, glistening red sauce with the tangy and sweet taste of tomato and spices warming your soul, comforting you in all the right ways.

This unassuming dish is for me the epitome of comfort food, with all the smells and flavors of my grandmother’s kitchen. It is a dish my mom always made and still makes for me whenever I have meat cravings. A dish I grew up with and one that I love. It is, after all, my favorite meat dish.

Tas kebap is traditionally served with pilaf rice, a simple white rice, or with eggplant purée thus creating the famous hunkar begendi, another dish I grew up with and for which the recipe I need to share with you. In the case of hunkar begendi, I change slightly the recipe for the tas kebap, but I will tell you more about it when the time comes. For now, enjoy a taste of traditional Greek Politiki cuisine and let’s hope that spring will make its way here soon.

Tas Kebap (Greek Veal Stew in a Tomato Sauce)

Greeks always choose veal over beef, we don’t particularly enjoy the mature flavor of beef, but you can choose either.

For me, the best accompaniment to this stew is white medium-grain rice that’s cooked al dente to add texture to the dish. Serve the meat on top or next to the stew but make sure to mix it all up as you eat it so that every grain of rice gets coated with the scrumptious sauce; that is the way to eat this dish.
Other options include a potato purée or fried potatoes, which are traditional Greek accompaniments to all kinds of stewed meat in tomato sauce.

Yield: 6 servings

1 kg boneless veal (or beef) stewing steak, like chuck steak
120 ml good quality olive oil
2 medium-sized onions, grated
2 large garlic cloves, mashed
½ heaped tsp ground allspice
½ heaped tsp ground cumin
400 g fresh tomatoes, grated, or canned diced tomatoes, puréed in a food processor
1 heaped Tbsp tomato paste
⅛ tsp freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of sugar
50 ml dry red wine
250 ml hot water
2 tsp salt or to taste

Special equipment: box grater or food processor

Take the meat and cut with a knife the large pieces of fat off, leaving a fair amount of fat on in order to flavor the dish. Cut the meat into pieces, about 2cm each. Place them on paper towels and pat them dry. This is an important step because the meat will not brown properly if it's damp.

In a large, deep, heavy-bottomed pan or preferably in a Dutch oven, add the olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. When it starts to shimmer, add enough meat pieces to cover 2/3 of the bottom of the pan (do not overcrowd the pan because the meat will boil rather than brown) and brown the pieces on both sides. Remove the browned pieces from the pan and place them in a bowl. Brown the rest of the meat pieces in the same manner and place them in the bowl.

Add the grated onions and mashed garlic to the pan and sauté on medium heat for about 4 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the ground allspice and cumin and stir continuously for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste and stir continuously for 1 minute. Add the browned meat pieces along with the juices accumulated in the bowl you kept them in, stir well and add some freshly ground black pepper and a pinch of sugar. Turn heat up to medium-high and add the wine and the hot water (hot so the cooking process doesn't stop) and stir well. Let it come to the boil, then turn heat down to the lowest setting, put the lid on and let the meat stew for 1 ½ hours or until it is tender. Check the meat every 20 minutes or so, stirring it around a bit so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. When the meat is almost done, season with salt. The reason you're adding the salt now is because if you add it at the beginning of the cooking process, the veal (or beef) will become tough and chewy.

In the end you will have tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat with a rich, thick tomato sauce.

While the meat is cooking, prepare your rice, your potatoes or whatever your accompaniment to the dish is.

Serve and enjoy with some good crusty bread and feta cheese (you know it goes with everything!).

Tas Kebap will taste even better on the second day.

Pin It

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

The Greek Simiti / Koulouri

If you've ever found yourself walking the streets of Athens on an early morning, then you might have happened upon a vendor selling the famous Greek koulouria Thessalonikis otherwise known as simitia.

These small, sesame-crusted bread rings are sold on street corners and bakeries and are the breakfast of choice among the busy Athenians who hurry on their way to work with nothing more than a coffee in their belly. Us Greeks are not big on breakfast but when you see these bread rings in front of you, there is no room for resistance.

Before moving to the Netherlands, I have never thought of making simitia myself. There was no point to it since I could go to my neighborhood bakery and get one whenever a craving would hit. Now, things have changed. Now, whenever I crave something from home, I have to make it myself.

Simitia are a common snack and street food for both Greeks and our neighbors, the Turks. They were brought to Greece by Greek refugees from Asia Minor and Constantinople (Istanbul) who settled in Thessaloniki, the second largest city in Greece, which explains why simiti is also called 'Koulouri Thessalonikis'. Koulouri/κουλούρι (plural: koulouria/κουλούρια) means small round-shaped bread ring.

The Greek word simiti/σιμίτι (plural: simitia/σιμίτια), comes from the Turkish word simit, which comes from the Arabic word semid, which in turn comes from the ancient Greek word semidalis/σεμίδαλις (simigdali/σιμιγδάλι in modern Greek), meaning semolina.

The traditional Greek version of koulouri/simiti is a thin bread ring encrusted with sesame seeds. The one I prefer eating and making is another version, the Politiko simiti (Politiko refers to the type of Greek cuisine I grew up with, of which you can read all about here), one that originates from the Greek bakers of Constantinople. It's a braided, fuller version of a bread ring, that is first coated with a generous amount of petimezi (Greek grape-must syrup/grape molasses) that gives them a light sweetness and then with toasted sesame seeds.

The braiding creates a more intricate texture and thus a more interesting flavor as the delicious petimezi sneaks in the crevices of the braids, creating a light caramelization when the bread ring bakes in the oven. The toasted sesame seeds give the bread a more intense, nutty taste and the addition of eggs and milk in the dough, another difference between the plain Greek simiti and this one, gives it a richer flavor.

Simitia are characteristically crunchy on the outside and soft and slightly chewy on the inside and even though they are a traditional Greek breakfast snack, you can serve them any other time of the day. Let me assure you, no one will complain.

Greek Politiko Simiti / Koulouri (Braided Bread Rings Coated with Grape-Must Syrup and Sesame Seeds)

Simitia can be served either with sweet or savory accompaniments. I love cutting them in half crosswise, spreading a generous amount of butter on top, followed by some honey or jam, and having them for breakfast. Served with Kalamata olives and Feta or Graviera cheese they make the perfect light lunch.

You can find grape-must syrup (petimezi) in Greek or Middle-Eastern stores. If you can't find it, simply coat the bread rings with water before covering them with the toasted sesame seeds.

Yield: 10 simitia/koulouria


for the dough
11 g (3 tsp) dried instant yeast
220 ml plus 30 ml (2 Tbsp) lukewarm water
30 g (2 Tbsp) caster sugar
650 g all-purpose flour
1 large egg
30 ml (2 Tbsp) olive oil plus extra for oiling the bowl
100 ml lukewarm fresh whole milk
8 g (1 tsp) salt

for the coating
1½ cups sesame seeds
⅓ cup grape-must syrup (petimezi) diluted in ¼ cup water

Special equipment: mixer with dough hook attachment (optional), one or two baking sheets, baking paper

In the bowl of your stand mixer (or in a large bowl), add the yeast and the 2 Tbsp (30 ml) of lukewarm water. Massage the yeast with your fingertips into a paste and then add the sugar, the rest of the water, the flour, the egg, the olive oil, the milk and the salt, in that order.
Note: Be careful not to add the salt on top of the yeast but on top of the flour. If the salt comes in direct contact with the yeast, it will kill it and your dough will not rise.

Attach the dough hook and knead for about 7 minutes, on the lowest speed, until the dough no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl and it is smooth and elastic. If you're kneading by hand, take the dough out of the bowl and onto a clean surface and knead well. It'll take about 10 minutes. What you're aiming for is a soft and pliable dough that's ever-so-slightly moist but that is not sticking to your hands.
Note: Not all flours are the same, so if your dough is very wet, don't be afraid to add more flour. Add a little at a time though, testing the consistency of the dough. You don't want to end up with a stodgy, stiff dough.

If you're using a mixer for kneading the dough, turn out the dough onto a clean and lightly floured surface and shape it into a ball.
Lightly grease the bowl of your stand mixer (or a large bowl) with olive oil and place the ball of dough inside. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in a warm place, allowing the dough to proof and double in size. It will take about 45 minutes to proof, depending on how warm the room you leave it in is.
During the winter, I always leave my dough next to a working radiator. Not on top of it but on a chair and right in front of it.

In the meantime, toast the sesame seeds. In a large frying pan, add the sesame seeds and toast them over medium heat, stirring them around constantly with a spatula or wooden spoon, until they take on a light brown color and start releasing their aroma. Be careful not to burn them because they'll have a bitter taste.

Prepare your baking sheet/-s by lining the bottom with a piece of baking paper. Depending on how large your oven is, you can bake the simitia in one batch of 10 or two batches of 5. I bake mine in two batches.
Place the toasted sesame seeds and the petimezi that's been diluted in water in two separate, medium-sized and deep plates.
Preheat your oven to 200 degrees Celsius / 390 Fahrenheit.

Once the dough has proofed, take it out of the bowl and knead it for a couple of seconds just to deflate it a bit. Divide the dough into 10 equal pieces (100-110 g each) and shape them into 10 balls. Take each ball of dough and roll it on a lightly floured surface into a 70 cm-long rope.
Note: Don't flour your work surface too much because you need friction in order to shape the balls into ropes.
Bring the two ends of the rope together and braid the two strands (see photos for reference). Then, form a ring and press the edges together to seal. You can use a little bit of water to make the ends stick.
(In case you prefer your simiti a little thinner and with a bigger hole in the middle, roll the ball of dough into a longer and thinner rope than the 70 cm one, or roll it into two shorter and thinner ropes, about 50 cm-long each, and braid them).

Place the simiti on the baking sheet and continue rolling the other balls of dough.
Once you have prepared all your simitia (or half of them if you're baking them in two batches), take each one and first dip it in the petimezi and water mixture, coating it well on all sides and then immediately dip it in the sesame seeds, coating it thickly on all sides. Then return each simiti to your baking sheet. Continue doing the same with the rest. Don't place the simitia too close together on the baking sheet because they'll rise while baking.

Place the baking sheet on the middle rack of the preheated oven and bake the simitia for about 20 minutes, until they take on a golden-brown color.
Take the first batch out of the oven and continue baking the second batch.
Place the baked simitia on a wire rack and eat them while still warm or when they have completely cooled.

You can keep them for a couple of days, covered lightly with a clean kitchen towel, but as with all baked goods and bread in particular, they're at their best on the day you bake them.

More recipes with grape-must syrup (petimezi):
Greek Beef Stew with Quinces and Grape-Must Syrup
Moustokouloura (Greek Grape-Must Syrup Cookies)

Pin It