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Monday, 3 September 2007

Boureki (Κρητικό μπουρέκι - courgette potato bake)


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Boureki is a Cretan specialty (not to confuse it with the meaning of boureki in other parts of Greece), especially in the region of Hania. We cook it right throughout the summer, and when the garden is full of zucchini, as most Greek gardens are right throughout summer, I make it in small tins and freeze them. It is especially easy to make, but it needs a long cooking time in the oven. The potatoes and courgettes, when covered with creamy fatty mizithra cheese (a locally made ricotta-type cheese), need a longer cooking time. To speed things up, it really helps if you boil the potatoes for about ten minutes before you cut them into slices to make the meal. This dish is also eaten as a pie: a lot of of my friends cover the pan with a layer of thick pastry, brushed with beaten egg and sprinkled with sesame seed. In our house, we eat the classic boureki without the topping, because it's easier to make. It freezes brilliantly; in fact, I'm cooking a frozen one today.












You need:

5-6 small to medium sized potatoes
5-6 big zucchini (or at least a dozen small ones)
half a kilo of soft white creamy cheese; we call it 'mizithra' in Greece ('ricotta' style cheese)
a few springs of mint
olive oil
salt
a few slices of tomato (optional)

Peel and cut 2-3 potatoes (boiled or raw) into wafer-thin slices and spread them on a baking tin. Now slice 2-3 zucchini into very thin slices and place them on top of the potatos. Spread the cheese evenly over the vegetables, and sprinkle with minced sprigs of mint. Then peel and cut the remaining potatoes and spread them over the cheese, pressing the potatoes firmly down on the cheese to flatten the ingredients into the tin. Do the same with the remaining zucchini. Pour a cup of oil over the dish, and season with salt to your liking. At this stage, you can freeze the dish; when you decide to cook it, take it out of the deep freeze and put it into the oven immediately without defrosting. Cretan mizithra freezes very well, in pies and on its own. The boureki does not need defrosting before being cooked.

Cover the dish with aluminium foil. Bake in a hot oven until the potatoes soften. This may take at least 1 1/2 hours. Half an hour before the end of the cooking time, take the foil off the tin and let the zucchini brown, to look like a pie. It doesn't matter if it burns a little, although you'll need to scrape the tine quite well to get the crust off. If the pie still needs cooking and it looks a little dry, pour a small amount of boiling water, repeating the process until the end of the cooking time needed to soften the vegetables. This step won't be needed if you are using a deep-frozen boureki. A really nice touch to this dish is to cover the top of the 'pie' with slices of tomato to help regulate the moisture.

boureki

Stand the tin for about 10 minutes out of the oven before cutting and serving. The 'pie' goes espcially well with a tomato salad, or any leftover roast meat or fish. During the summer, I had made a fresh boureki just before we went away on a little mini-break. We only ate half the tin, but as this was our last meal before leaving the house, I froze the tin as it was with the leftover meal, along with a few slices of our weekly loaf of bread, and when I came back home, I simply took out the tin, placed it in the oven on medium heat, and the meal was ready to eat in half an hour, which is the time it took us to unpack. Nothing is wasted in our household, and we were able to eat a healthy meal after a long trip.

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CRETAN PRODUCE:
Soft mizithra cheese
Tsigariasto
Xinohondro (hondro)
Stamnagathi
Marathopites
Avronies (wild asparagus)
Wedding pilafi
Orange juice
Dakos rusk salad
Lagos stifado
Sorrel
Silverbeet
Bougatsa Iordanis
Black mustard greens
Kalitsounia in the ovenKalitsounia fried
Malotira
Sfakianes pites
Olives tsakistes - pastes
Olive oil