Saturday, 12 June 2010

Boureki (Μπουρέκι)

When I make the first boureki for the summer season, it always seems to turn out extremely good, much better than when I make it at other times. The whole family notices the difference, and tells me to make boureki again in just the same way that I made it the first time for the season, as if I finally got the recipe right this time, and I didn't know it before. I keep reminding them that this is in fact how I make it all the time, but they still think I'm cheating them.


The first boureki for the season in the Cretan kitchen is made with the freshest courgettes and potatoes in the garden. The light green courgettes are full of water,


cretan boureki courgette pie

and the new spring potatoes are practically oozing with their fresh juices.

cretan boureki courgette pie

Mizithra made in the spring is soft and creamy white, not too sour, not too sweet; it has a spreadable but firm quality. Its mild milky aroma bears no relation to the slightly sour taste of winter-made mizithra, when there is not enough fresh feed for the goats and sheep (they are often fed on oranges at this time).

The tender leaves of the fresh mint in my mother-in-law's herb garden have a vibrant green colour.  The light brush of a hand stroke against the stalks of the plant aromatises the area, and the scent lingers in the air for more than a few seconds.

diosmo mint

As the summer progresses, everything starts to dry up in the summer heat. The zucchini gets more fibrous, the potatoes lose their shine, the mint leaves develop tougher stalks, and mizithra tastes sour, yellowing more easily. The last boureki of the season can never compare with the first one.

And so it is with all seasonal produce: fresh tastes best, and the fresher something is in its season, the better.

horta vlita stifno
The first horta of the season make you want to eat them every day forever.

I am a slap-dash cook. I can whip up a meal quickly for unexpected guests. I can prepare a dish in next to no time. There's always a fresh meal on the table most days. The food on our table smacks of freshness. This is why it always tastes so good (despsite its appearance: let's leave plating to the restaurant chefs and not the hectic working mother). But I can't change the seasons, so my cooking depends on what fresh produce is available at the time that I cook. Zucchinis will always be 'fresh' throughout the summer season, but the first zucchini of the season will never compare to the rest of the growing period.

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Boureki can also be frozen:
Assmeble the boureki (with or without filo pastry - I never make it with filo): zucchinislices first, then potato slices, then the cheese and seasonings, then some more zucchini slices, and finally pour some olive oil over the tin. Place the tin in the freezer. When you want to cook it, turn on your oven, take the boureki out of the freezer (do NOT defrost) and place it in the oven to cook, as if it were freshly prepared. The boureki will cook, the potatoes will not brown, and you won't need to add any more liquid to the tin. Just make sure you use the freshest best quality ingredients.

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