Posts Tagged ‘Greek Cooking’

Mousaka making at the Greek Cookery Class

February 1, 2012

There is a reason why I rarely teach mousaka in the class, it’s very time-consuming, tiring for the students mainly and it tests your patience. But also the hard work makes it difficult for me to find a second to take pictures of what the students cook and what they achieve.

For this class we used just over 2,5 kilos of aubergines per tray and we made two trays of mousaka.

You can use potatoes as well, it’s making the cooking slightly easier but then you lose some of the taste the aubergines give to the dish. So we started with slicing, salting and draining over five kilos of aubergines, to make the frying process easier.

While the classes started as a fun thing and a way of introducing the real Greek food back into the London scene, they have also taken a slightly more serious approach in that I do talk about how to eat and cook healthier as well. As I said both in the beginning and at the end of this class, mousaka is not something we should eat every month…. With all the cheese and milk and eggs that go in it, and all the fried aubergines, its taste is divine for sure, but it should probably be a treat for maybe once in a while. And though frying is to be avoided generally, if you are going to fry something, do use a really good extra virgin olive oil, as it stands a better chance to avoid giving you too much smoke to inhale or burning your food. Opposite to what a lot of people believe, it is the healthiest oil to use when frying. However, if we are cooking a dish like mousaka, we might as well get it right, with all its glory and forget about the health aspects for just this once.

The other step for the mousaka is to make the mince. This is probably the easiest bit, you just have to be careful to have a mince sauce which is not too runny, or it will ruin your layout of the mousaka and drip through to the bottom of your tray.

We do a sandwich of aubergine slices with the mince in the middle before continuing to the final step, which is the hardest and most feared by many, making the Greek béchamel sauce, which is poured over the last layer of aubergines.

But before the béchamel, we need to refuel. I had baked some bread ahead of the class to offer it with some extra virgin olive oil but I had also made a Greek favourite dessert, mpougatsa, (=μπουγάτσα) a semolina custard like cream between crispy fyllo pastry sheets that is served with icing sugar and cinnamon, or syrup when it’s also known as galaktoboureko.

And here below are the individual portions that were served during the cooking session to keep everyone going for a little while longer.

 

On top of the mpougatsa, one of my students, all the way from Spain, brought some Spanish authentic jamón to share with the class. So I served it with some extra virgin olive oil and the home baked spelt bread with nuts and seeds. Thank you Mauro for the unexpected gift!

Just like it’s important to have a thick mince sauce, it’s crucial to have a thick and smooth béchamel. Thick so it won’t slide through your layers of mince and aubergine and burn at the bottom of tray with your mousaka dish and smooth, well who wants lumps of flour balls in their mouth? Therefore, it’s important to get started with a creamy base of flour and butter before adding the milk and the rest of the ingredients. Also, there’s a lot of whisking going on, for a very long time.

Apart from the mousaka we made two salads as well, one with rocket leaves, orange wedges and extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice plus some sprinkled almond flakes on top and then a fresh beetroot salad with yoghurt, walnuts and fresh garlic.

When you’re so busy cooking a demanding dish, it is nice to make something that requires less effort as side dishes. Besides, serving a rich dish like mousaka requires simple and light and refreshing dishes to go with.

Everyone had two portions of mousaka after the cookery class which lasted a few hours and everyone also got to take home a big portion of the dish. My sponsor Total Greek Yoghurt also offered pots of yoghurt for each participant to take home in a cooling goodie bag.

Thank you Total Greek Yoghurt, Fage and Kenwood for sponsoring the classes with your products.

And a big warm thank you to all the students who joined and join the classes to learn how to cook some of the lovely food Greek cuisine has to offer, both known and unknown dishes.

What’s really exciting is this email I received a couple of days ago from one of my students saying he had invited his family over and cooked the dishes he learnt at the course and chose to make the mousaka as the main! I was very proud and happy at the same time, because the classes are about cooking together and eating together, but also about taking home the skills you’ve learnt and making the dishes again to your loved ones!

For more pictures, updates and info on classes join the mailing list on greekcookeryclass(AT)gmail.com and keep an eye out on www.facebook.com/GreekCookery

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Greek Cookery Class – first session of the Jan course 2012

January 9, 2012

New year and new classes!! After running cookery classes teaching Greek food for almost three years, what started as a simple cooking class, evolved into me hosting and cooking for supperclubs and private dinners and birthday parties, teaching at other cookery schools like Divertimenti and Leith’s and finally starting my own little Greek Cookery Class Course.

Gigantes

On the first class of 2012 we made Gigantes, fasolia – butter beans – from Florina! For the first time we had more boys than girls in the class, it’s pure coincidence I am sure! The cliché that boys prefer to eat rather than cook and that girls want to learn cooking might not be true after all!

Comparing the butter beans you get in most big supermarkets in London/UK with the real deal, Gigantes or giant beans from Greece, the price is the first thing that hits you, they’re more expensive, but they’re worth the price as they taste much better and also look much better.

Gigantes - Butter Beans

Gigantes - Butter Beans

One place to buy the Greek butter beans that we call gigantes is in Bayswater, there’s a small little shop on Moscow Road called Athenian Grocery! So if you plan to cook this dish it’s worth using Greek beans, instead of normal butter beans. And since we’re talking about Florina, we also baked piperies Florinis, red long sweet peppers for one of our salads.

Nothing goes better with beans than some home-baked bread, but being busy with cooking all the dishes for the class, there was no time for the students to get into bread making as well. So I prepared that in advance, and baked bread using white spelt flour, wholemeal spelt flour, sea salt and of course Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Home baked spelt bread

Home baked spelt bread

During a long cooking session we’re all being teased and tempted by all the smells from the food slowly simmering away. So at some point we had a 5 minute break and a tasting with some bread and Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Greece but also some pieces of the vegan banana bread cake I had made the day before.

Banana bread cake - vegan

Banana bread cake - vegan

There was no plan to make this class vegan, but realising we’re so soon after Christmas and New Year’s when most people have been stuffing themselves with all sorts of goodies, meats, cheeses and chocolates, I thought it’d be a good idea to introduce an all vegan meal, where the olive oil plays a very important role.

I prefer the olive oil (extra virgin always) to any margarines or spreads containing some small amount of olive oil, not only is the pure olive oil healthier it also tastes so much better. In my opinion, most spreads (not including the real 100% butter) leave an aftertaste which is not very pleasant.

Aside from the beans, the class also made pereski, this is a pontic dish that my mother and her mother always made as a starter or light snack for meals including soups or beans. Pereski is usually made with a dough that you then use to make little pies that you stuff with a mix of potato, onions and herbs, before you deep fry them in olive oil! But we used phyllo pastry for the pereski and we baked them in the oven instead of frying them in loads of olive oil.

Preparing the filling for pereski - onions, boiled and mashed potato and spices.

Preparing the filling for pereski - onions, boiled and mashed potato and spices.

As I told the class, this is hardly an item you’ll find on the menu in a restaurant. Usually, only a grandmother – the Greek giagia – will be making those and offering to her guests and mainly family. Having said that there is a small little restaurant in Thessaloniki, serving Pontic and Cretan dishes!! So they might still have it on their menu.

Pereski

Pereski

Finally, we made a simple salad of winter vegetables, Politiki Salata, it’s a salad whose name refers to the big city Poli, Constantinople or Istanbul as it’s now called. The salad from the Town, Poli, consists of cabbage, carrots and celery and a dressing of olive oil and vinegar.

Chopping, slicing and grating the ingredients for the Politiki Salad

Chopping, slicing and grating the ingredients for the Politiki Salad

And here it is ready, garnished with some piperies florinis:

Politiki salata

Politiki salata

Next week we’re doing Kleftiko!

A thank you goes out to Kenwood, whose blender was used to grind the nuts used in the banana bread cake.

If you are interested in booking yourself in for a course or joining a supperclub, contact me to be put on the mailing list for future events.

Or read more details on the classes for January and how to join here: https://greekcookeryclass.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/greek-cookery-class-three-sessions-in-january-for-gigantes-beans-kleftiko-and-mousaka/