Thursday, 29 May 2008

The first boureki of the season (Μπουρέκι)

Now that the garden is in full swing, we are eating mainly what we grow, which is highly cost-effective for us: the rising cost of living is burning holes in our pocket. I dare not use the car these days for fear of emptying the gas tank. At the supermarket the other day, a Danish tourist was horrified to realise that what she wanted to buy would cost her more than 20 euro (2 bottles of local wine and some cold cuts were among the few things she had in her basket), which in her country, she explained to me, would have cost half the price.

"Look what I'm buying," I told her, "and see what I'm paying for it" - 3 half kilo loaves of bread, 6 bread rolls, 1 kilo of mizithra and a packet of ladies sanitary towels (the Queen has yet again changed brands): 16 euro and 26 cents.

"Oh my God," she exclaimed, "that's exorbitant."

Having a garden is not cost-free, but it is certainly cheaper than buying everything whenever you need it. We can't eat everything as it grows, so the deep freeze is working over time as of late.

I've already posted about courgette-potato bake, which we call boureki in Crete, but you simply can't post enough about it. I made two on Thursday, neither of which we ate: they both went straight into the deep freeze, in their freshest form possible. Making boureki is simply a question of assembly: it takes about half an hour to prepare it, so you wonder why it needs three hours to cook - and 20 minutes to devour it. It's all to do with chemistry: whether it's the juices from the potatoes and/or the courgettes, or the galactic acids of the mizithra, in combination with the other ingredients, I have no idea, but it's somewhere in there that makes boureki time consuming to cook.


You need:
5-6 large courgettes, cut into thin slices
5-6 large potatoes, cut into thin slices
750g mizithra
a few sprigs of mint, chopped finely
3 tomatoes, cut into thin rounds
olive oil

Layer half the zucchini slices on the bottom of a deep baking pan. Then do the same with half the potato slices. Sprinkle the cheese evenly over the potatoes. Season with salt (we do not add pepper in boureki for inexplicable reasons) and the mint. Now layer the remaining potatoes over the cheese and press them down so that the dish starts to look like a pie. Now add the final layer of courgettes and liberally pour some oil over the boureki. Top all this with the tomato slices, and you are done. Cook in a moderate oven until the potatoes are done (it will take a long time, as I explained above). During the cooking process, you will need to add water as the potato takes in all liquids.

After making my boureki on that hot summer's day) and putting them into the deep freeze, I felt a deep sense of fulfillment, in that way that Michael Pollan described in Omnivore's Dilemma, when he hunted and gathered his own food. In the morning, before my boureki making foray, I was accompanying my husband in the fields of our orange groves, watching him toil away, producing a kilo of sweat, trying to keep uncontrollable weeds at bay.

At 3.30pm I went to school to pick up my children. The happiness, peace, satisfaction, contentment and pride that I had felt in that last hour while I was in my kitchen was shattered once I arrived at school. But that's another story, the last episode of which has not been written yet - it takes place on Monday morning in the headmaster's office.

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  1. I think the cost of food is rising dramatically everywhere!!! I have all the ingredients for boureki in my fridge so I better not let them go to waste:D

  2. Dear Maria,
    I love boureki and so does my family.If I'm in the mood I make filo dough for it, which everyone seems to love.As far as the cost of food goes, it has substantially increased here in NY.One has to budget nowdays or else all savings are out the window.

  3. Food prices are dramatically increasing in Alaska and the price of gasoline has doubled in the last year. I'm already getting nervous about our greek trip this year because of the declining dollar. at least we have our house so don't have to pay for hotels. as for the boureki - love it! i remember eating some in hania shortly after we got married. it's wonderful food.

  4. I have questions about freezing the raw boureki- does freezing cause any bitterness in the zucchini? Does the potato turn brown in the freezer? If not, how do you stop these things from happening?

    Everyone always tells me that vegetables must be blanched before freezing to prevent bitterness, but then I see great cooks who freeze without blanching... so I want to know!

  5. Maria, I bought ingredients to make your boureki. How large is your baking tray? really looking forward to this!

  6. these days, i usually use a 30x20 cm tin - and i reduce the potatoes to 3-4 only, as i feel the zucchini is much tastier

  7. Hello, I hope it's not too late to ask, but what temperature is the oven?

    1. medium to high heat - boureki needs at least 2-3 hours to cook successfully, so you need to do it on a slow-cook basis (i also like to add a large grated tomato to mix into it these days, which saves on adding water later)