Being really, really bad with really, really good bread.

IMG_1988 Yes, I know my last post was all about me renouncing wheat.

I know. You're right. But, I believe it was some sort of God of Gastronomy who made me look through that old box. It was divine intervention, the kind of "Aahhhh" moment that us mere mortals are powerless to resist.

There's a back story people, about fate and a little late night antics and youth and romance and well...yes wheat. But I should start at the beginning...

I was nineteen when I first caught the boat from Athens to the little Greek island of Aegina. With my hair in long braids and a backpack, I found myself staying in a small hotel that looked a lot like the back of someone's house. Complete with a yiayia in the kitchen and a few stray kids with grubby grins and old taped together bikes.

Because of it's close proximity to the mainland, the island was a playground for the locals with good food and great bars. Really good bars. Lots of really good bars that one could easily lose a few hours in and forget dinner. In those days I was a tad forgetful at times.

Where was I? ....

At an hour more suited to waking than eating, I fell into a little gyros place (don't judge me!) for some much needed sustenance. My high hopes for the dinner/breakfast of champions were in doubt. Everything was anointed with a fine mist of smoky grease but when handed a warm, chewy blanket bread stuffed with (who cares) I fell deeply and madly for a middle aged Yanni in a buttonless cheesecloth shirt.

That bread! Holy heck. Salty, warm, chewy, puffy, light and lovely. What was happening? Did I have the mouthy equivalent of beer goggles? Because it was the most perfect wheat treat I'd ever shoved in my cake hole! The best part was that the whole heavenly experience was repeated for my actual breakfast a couple of hours later. This time served with cheese and fruit by my temporary yiayia.

"What's the deal with this amazing bread!!!!" I said, trying not to shove the doughy goodness into my face lest I appear to be a horrid hungover tourist (which of course, I was).

Later that day her rather pervy spotty teenage grandson handed me a piece of paper with a rough recipe, which at the time meant little to the wayward me that could barely boil an egg. I think I must have kept it as a souvenir because keeping ouzo bottles would have made me look cheap and too cheerful. :(

I couldn't believe it when I found it amongst some dodgy old love letters and faded ferry tickets. There it was, the holy grail of bread recipes in my hot little hands. In service to you, I'm going to share it. But only if you promise to put fried potatoes on it with lashings of tzatziki. I don't wan't any healthy versions or spelt flour people! This bread is the absolute best way to be B-A-D!!!

Take your Kitchen Aid or a bowl and put 5 cups of flour in it and two cups of warm water. Next add two tablespoons of yeast and two tablespoons of olive oil. Knead by hand for about ten minutes or by machine for five. Add two tablespoons of salt and knead for another five minutes by hand or three minutes by machine. Cover it in an oiled bowl and let it double in size in a warm place.

Roll into into rounds on a floured board until thin but not too thin- about three millimetres is probably good. Heat up a frypan to medium heat and add about a tablespoon of oil. Roll the oil to coat the pan and then tip excess oil into a little container for the next one. Fry bread until golden on each side.

This recipe makes a lot but it keeps in the fridge for about four days so I'm assuming my yiayia made enough for her family and her wandering guests for a few meals. She also had to get to the serious business of making amazing pastries and shooing stray cats. If you have no interlopers or doe eyed boys, you can halve the recipe if you wish.

Get on and get dirty people. Being bad was never so ridiculously good!

Greek pie

In Need Of Greens

In my wayward youth, I spent a hedonistic summer living on the Greek island of Crete. One of my favourite things to do was to wake early, before the tourists and touts, and wander through the old town. Tiny yiayias in black headscarves would be out sweeping their doorways. Wide toothless grins lit up faces weathered by hard work, war and wonder. Full lives up and firing at 5am!
The bakery was on the outskirts of the village, but the toasty aroma of pastry heaven led the lost by their noses, through the maze of meandering streets. The girl behind the counter, a Miss all of twelve, had doe eyes rimmed in inky lashes. So lovely in her grecian bloom. She spoke no English and had no map for my mispronounced Greek, so every pastry purchase was a luscious surprise.
My favourite contained cheese and wild bitter greens harvested from rocky hillsides. The blazing sun, combined with dry volcanic soil perfumed all the local produce with a faint note of wild thyme and dry oregano. Dark nutritional greens that nourished sad livers, tired and yellow after too much raki and retsina.
At home in the vege patch, the spinach was competing with the kale for verdant supremacy and the ruby chard was enormous! I remembered my favourite greek pie but I wanted a pastry that could match the greens for whole goodness. I found just the ticket. Crunchy and flavoursome, this pastry is so amazing and contains barely a lick of oil. ( I know! You can thank me afterwards). Serve it with tomato or beetroot relish. Yum!

Greek Pie

pastry

3/4 cup polenta
1 cup of SR flour
3/4 cup buttermilk (or half skim milk, half yoghurt)
2 T olive oil

filling

2 leeks
big basket of mixed leafy greens
350 grams feta
3 eggs
bunch mint
1/2 t dried dill
1 t dried mint
1 T lemon zest
2 cloves garlic

topping

thin mandolin sliced potatoes blanched ( I used 3 large pontiacs)
1/2 cup grated cheese ( I used a mix of parmesan and tasty)

method

*Mix pastry ingredients in a bowl and then knead until smooth, cover and put in the fridge for a rest.
*Heat large pan with a dash of olive oil and caramelise leeks, add garlic and then wilt the greens.
*Remove from heat and add the rest of the filling ingredients.
*Roll out pastry in one large oval shape until about 3mm thick and place on an oven tray.
*Spoon filling on top of pastry and spread out leaving a 5 cm border.
*Single layer of potato slices on top and spread with cheese. Then add a second layer of potatoes.
*Fold over edges
*Drizzle with little olive oil and bake at 180 degrees for 1/2 hour. Enjoy!

Michelle x