Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Boureki for the freezer (Μπουρέκι για την κατάψυξη)

My most popular posts have remained stable over the years that I have been writing this blog (which is five this month - happy blogoversary to me!): fasolada (bean soup), Roses (a story about the chocolate brand) and how to freeze aubergine (see sidebar on the right-hand side). The latter has become the most popular post this month, given that it's summer and the aubergine season is in full swing.

I freeze everything that grows in our summer garden: eggplant, zucchini, peppers, tomato, beans, corn and herbs (as well as winter garden produce, in season); my biggest forte is freezing a meal that I have made from such produce, at a stage where it is ready to cook without defrosting. My freezing techniques have been learnt by experimentation, mainly borne out of the desire to preserve a great amount of excess produce. Some of my techniques sound quite unusual, and they probably aren't well documented in other sources, because they seem to go against what we take for granted.

Eggplants, like potatoes, turn brown when their peel is removed and their flesh is revealed. You need to work very quickly to stop this from happening when you want to freeze them. If they are left to go brown, they are useless in terms of freezing. The most important aspect of freezing any vegetable is to freeze it at its freshest, in the same form that it will be cooked when it is to be used.

Boureki, a Chania specialty containing potatoes, zucchini and mizithra cheese, with herbs and olive oil added, is a self-crusting pie. I freeze it at the point where it is assembled in the tin with all its ingrdients, except the olive oil, which is poured over the top. Some cooks make boureki with the addition of pastry, but I never do this - it's too time-consuming.

The tins go into the freezer at the ready-to-cook stage - all they need when I decide to cook them is to pour some olive oil over them. Because I freeze a lot of boureki every summer (6-8 family-sized tins), I place them very carefully, one by one, in the freezer. I never freeze one tin on top of another - they will stick together (even when the bottom tin is frozen solid and you place a fresh tin in top). They can be stacked on top of one another once the tins have all frozen. This goes for all my pie-type freezer meals: moussaka, pastitsio and spinach pies.

Sometimes I mix the ingredients together in a large mixing bowl, other times I make the boureki in layers. At any rate, the potatos don't discolour. The thin slices of frozen potato are visible in the photo. To avoid freeze-burn, it's better to keep them in a plastic bag.

When it's time to cook the boureki, I take a tin out of the freezer, pour 1/2 cup of olive oil over it and stick it in the oven - WITHOUT DEFROSTING! That way, the potatoes do not have time to discolour. The boureki cooked from frozen does not need extra water added to it - it will have accumulated enough liquids from the freezing process.

Boureki is always beter the next day, as Laurie says, who made boureki in Alaska with a mixture of feta and ricotta cheese, as mizithra is unavaible there. My frozen boureki is always made to be eaten in this way: I cook it in the evening (last year I was cooking them in the wood-fired oven), and it is left overnight to set. The next day, it comes out of the tin like a piece of pie. It makes a very fresh nourishing meal in the winter when everyone comes home from school or work very tired, and there are other activities to attend to in the evening, leaving no time to cook meals 'from scratch'!

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