Sunday, 12 December 2010

Filled meat patties (Μπιφτέκια γεμιστά)

What Greeks call 'bifteki' looks on first sight to be what Americans would call a hamburger. The difference between them is enormous. A bifteki is an aromatic meat pattie, which can be pan-fried, cooked on the grill or even roasted in the oven in a baking tin with potatoes. It's a popular children's choice in tavernas, where it's often served with fried potatoes. I make them in bulk on a monthly basis, store them in the deep freeze, and cook them once a week for lunch, served with a salad. It's a staple in most Greek homes, and an integrated part of modern Cretan cuisine.

filled bifteki

A delicious variant of bifteki is the filled version, μπιφτέκι γεμιστό (bifteki yemisto), 'filled/stuffed meat pattie', what could be called the adult version of the basic dish. Again it is a taverna favorite. I make it only on the day when I am making a large batch of biftekia for the deep freeze. they are the ones we'll eat for lunch, while the other plainer ones are for our regular weekday meals.

Filled bifteki is very easy to make. You'll probably enjoy making and serving them, as they are like little meat packages with a surprise waiting inside them.

You need:
a batch of my basic bifteki mixture - the recipe is reprinted here for convenience:
500g or pork or beef, ground (I always use a mixture of the two meats)
1 cup stale bread crumbs soaked in water, then strained by hand
1 large onion, minced
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 sprig of mint, finely chopped
1 sprig of parsley, finely chopped
salt, pepper, oregano or cumin

For the filling:
some think slices of yellow cheese like Gouda, Edam or Emmenthal (I use Cretan graviera; you can use grated cheese if you prefer)
some tomato, thinly sliced
some slivers of green bell pepper (I used banana peppers from our garden)

filled bifteki

Mix the bifteki as given in the recipe for biftekia. Shape the mince mixture into a large flat pattie. Lay the filling ingredients on it. Now curl up the sides of the pattie, and bring the mince mixture towards the centre from all sides. Then flatten it out as much as possible without breaking it open (which won't affect the taste of the cooking procedure anyway, especially if cooked in the oven). Some people roll out another pattie on top of the filling ingredients, but I prefer not to do this, as it makes the pattie rather thick and it won't cook homogeneously.

filled bifteki filled bifteki

There are three different bifteki in the baking vessel; the two largest are filled bifteki, while the others are plain bifteki. The green one is kolokithoketes (zucchini pattie). When they are cooked, they do not look too different from each other.

The patties are now ready to be cooked in the oven, on the grill or in a pan. If you cook them in the oven, you can add some par-boiled potatoes to roast together, with a little oil and water placed in the pan so that they don't burn. If you cook them in the pan, be sure to let them cook well enough for the filling to blend with the pattie. Beware of the browning on one side - that's not a sign that the pattie has cooked through. I always cook them in the oven, because it's easier for me to prepare a salad while they are cooking. No need to double on my efforts!

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