I bought Tessa Kiros’ new book, Food From Many Greek Kitchens and was really looking forward to trying out some recipes, however with work, 3 kids, Halloween, sleepovers and life in general, I only had time to steal brief glances through the book here and there. Knowing that soon I’d have the time to cook something from her book instead of turning to my usual meals out of ease, I planned my project and savoured the anticipation. In the end I realised I was kidding myself and there would never be a good time so I decided to pass on a lunch with some of the mums from school to stay home and play!
I’ve watched my mum turn dodgy looking ingredients that you’d swear were on their last legs into a meal that tastes so good you can’t bring yourself to stop eating! She just slaps things together and there is never any waste or lack of flavour.
I grew up eating Yugoslav food. Manja with peas or potatoes, burek, grav (pasulj) which is a stew with beans, my mum would then throw in salty smoked pork ribs that melted off the bone and added just the right contrast to the sweet beans. (Now I’m not sure if I am doing these dishes any justice here with my writing, in fact, I would probably look at these foods in a cookbook from a foreign country and pass them by as I searched for something familiar while telling myself I was looking for “authentic” foreign dishes!)
When I was a kid, I thought everyone cooked and I ate like we did! As I got older I was embarassed when friends came over because our house always smelled on whatever my mum had going on the stove. I was too busy trying to fit in to hear my friends saying “I love coming over! Your mum feeds us the best food!” I think I took it all for granted until I married a man who was raised on meat and vegetables, he raved on and on about how great everything tasted. I then realised that I was lucky growing up in a house where cooking and flavour were valued! I have also realised that as a result I have much higher expectations from food than my husband does!
I don’t have my mum’s flair for cooking (I think it got buried in my uptightness!) But as I’ve mentioned in my previous posts on finding youself and finding happiness, I found trying to be “perfect” (whatever that meant!) and “people pleasing” were not working for me (funny that!). It made me an anxious, miserable, mess! So I’m letting go of how I thought I “should” be and am discovering who I actually am. And who I am is someone who loves to stay home and cook! It’s such a creative process that gives me so much satisfaction and I am finally giving myself permission to indulge in it.
I love mediteranean, mexican and south american food and have decided I am going try to create as many “authentic” dishes as I can. Just the idea of this fills me with joy and an almost unbearable amount of butterflies in my stomach. (A few years ago I would have thought Aha! This gets me excited! So then I should follow my passion and become a chef! I thought that’s how this finding your purpose/meaning/happiness thing worked!)
Today, I can follow my interests just because they make me happy. Not judge them as possible pathways to fame and fortune. Just accept that this is what makes me happy. This is what makes me want to get out of bed this morning. What better reason could there be!
SPINACH PIES (SPANAKOPITA)
by Tessa Kiros from her book Food From Many Greek Kitchens
(the photo is my end product!)
27 filo sheets (23x25cm squares)
olive oil for brushing sheets
5 tbs oil
180g green onions
700g spinach leaves
200g greek feta
2 eggs lightly beaten
Method (in my words as I don’t have her cookbook with me while I write this!)
Heat 5 tablespoons of oil in a pot large enough to fit all the spinach leaves and then cook the onions over medium heat until they are soft.
Add the spinach and cook with lid on until spinach wilts, then take the lid off and simmer until all the juices disappear (my juices didn’t disappear so I just took it off the stove after a while and drained the spinach).
Once it cools, add the grated feta, dill, eggs and season.
Next is the tricky bit, pulling off the filo sheets without tearing (impossible but I just accepted the holes and kept going!) Put one sheet down, brush the oil over it, put down another sheet, oil it and then the last sheet.
Then put 2 heaped tablespoons of the spinach filling at one of the square and spread it in think line to the other end leaving a centre our so around the side and top edge.
Finally roll the sheet over the filling tightly and continue until you have it all rolled up. Lightly brush with oil on top.
Now do the same thing 8 more times and line them up in baking dish and bake for 30 mins at 180C.
The satisfaction of cooking this was fantastic! My husband and kids were very impressed with the taste and the smell. I thought the actual taste of it was ok (probably needed to season it a bit more). But as I said I grew up spoilt with flavour so I while I was hoping for something more, I was still pretty happy with the result!