Wednesday, 17 April 2013

Penirli (Πενερλί)

Cold colours (no flash)
Hot colours (with flash)
Last weekend, we took a stroll around the Venetian harbour. Strolling as a family is something we won't be doing for a long time in the future. The kids are getting older and they won't want to be strolling with their parents for long. The Venetian port is an amazing place to stroll, and you can also have a cheap drink or a bite to eat if you know where to go, or even just by studying the menu cards outside the many eateries that line the promenade. Ideally, you don't need to eat or drink anything; the scenery is more than enough to keep your senses satiated. But we have kids, and kids need to be entertained, which comes at a cost, so that they can remember some good times with their parents.
Pikilia is like eating souvlaki on a platter instead of a sandwich. With drinks, this came to €20 shared out among the four of us.
The original plan was to promenade around the old town, then go and have a cheap souvlaki  at a stand-up souvlatzidiko in the new town. We kept bumping into my husband's old friends and chums - at 57 years of age, having lived here all his life and working as a taxi driver, it is understandable that he will know a lot of people in the area. He says he is really tired of coming across the same people all the time, and he wishes that he could escape with me to New Zealand so he can live somewhere new for a change. I'm so glad he's 57; it's my excuse for not leaving.

All this stopping here and there worked up his rather young offspring's appetite. Rather reluctantly, their dad allowed them to stop off at a souvlatzidiko close to the entrance of the old port (what is sometimes called the 'alisithes', meaning the chains because the area is sometimes chained off so that traffic can't pass through the square), across from the fountain (known as the 'santrivani' - a fountain had always been there from former times). We knew it would be more expensive here at this sit-down place than the stand-up place - and why pay more when you can pay less for the same thing?

Menu cards were brought to us, although, as frugal folks that we are, we knew what we were going to order. But looking at a menu card is fun, except of course that it gives you other ideas about what you might like to eat. My son noticed that pizza was on the menu, so he asked for that, to which he got a flat negative response from his dad. He was very upset as he hadn't had pizza in ages. This is my fault, I suppose. I have made a lot of spinach pies in the last month, because we have a lot of spinach in the garden; if we grew ham and cheese, I'm sure I'd be making pizza instead.

My pizza dough: mix 2/3 cup water, 3 tbsp olive oil, a 6-7g sachet of yeast and a pinch of salt. Add about 500g flour to make a pliable dough. Knead it just enough to blend everything together and leave it to rise, preferably overnight, before using the next day. 
I decided to make up for this to him, by telling him that he could make pizza during the week. On one condition: he would have to get involved in making it. He has perfected his carbonara-making skills to a high degree, so much to the point that he now does not need a recipe. But for young children, pizza making poses a small problem - unlike carbonara, it needs preparation in advance. If you don't make your own pizza dough, then you may as well buy a ready-made pizza - the secret to pizza is in the dough, not the toppings. He agreed to this condition, so last night, I showed him how to make a simple yeast-based pizza dough. I told him that we would leave it covered with a tea towel in a ceramic bowl so it can rise overnight and we can use it the next day when we came back home from school and work.

The next morning, he took a peek at the dough. "Don't beat it down!" I warned him as I noticed that he was ready to poke his finger into it. From his face, I could tell that he was in awe of the chemical process that had taken palce effortlessly. When we were all home, he oculdn't wait to get stuck into a pizza making session.

I gave him a ball of dough and he began to flatten it (a bit too much, in my opinion). His sister came to join him, and she did the same thing. I still use my mother's old pizza tins with holes at the bottom, for the dough to cook to a crispy texture. (Glad I have two of them - they will inherit one each). They each topped them with their favorite flavours: my son likes tomato (home made sauce), ham and cheese; my daughter adds onions and peppers.
Kids' food
In the meantime, I had some dough left over. I really did not want to make another pizza. I had the urge to do something more creative. I decided to make a peinirli assortment. Peinirli is something like a cross between a baked sandwich and a boat-shaped pizza. You can read about its origins here (apparently, peinirli needs a lot of butter, but Iam making them according to own whims). I managed to sneak them into the oven before the pizzas and they were ready in very little time: about 25 minutes in a moderate oven.

After shaping the dough into ovals, I then filled them in different ways. To make the boat shape, fold each long side over the filling, leaving it open in the centre. Then twist the ends. Only the egg was broken into the pastry cavity last of all. All the other fillings were placed before folding the pastry.  
Peinirli flavours: Bacon and egg, Greek salad, Ham and Cheese.
I think I'll do a souvlaki flavoured one next time.
During this time, the kids had finished creating their pizzas. I took out the peinirli and broke off bits of the crust to let them try it. Again, it pays to watch their faces when their taste sensations begin to take effect. "Mmmm, that is the best pizza I've ever tried!" They were both amazed by the superior taste of the pizza crust. I put their pizzas in to cook. They kept checking them and wondered imaptiently when they would be ready.
A close up of my Greek salad peinirli; home made tomato sauce, peppers, onions, feta cheese and olives. These were baked on an oiled baking tray.
"And it really didn't take long to make, did it?" I reminded them.

Now, they have to make pizza often enough to get the hang of it, and learn to make it without using a recipe. That's the only way to learn how to cook: to get stuck into it, and to develop some idea about how to cook. Recipes won't ever provide the perfect meal: you need to learn how to cook, not just follow a recipe.

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