Papoutsaki, the most delicious shoes ever

The greek flavours are coming come back to my blog. This time in the form of papoutsakia. The little fancy shoes are great either as main dish or as an appetizer. This dish came to mind when I have seen the September challenge of the  Dulce Romanie Project . unfortunately, I couldn’t participate to this contest during the previous months even though I would’ve loved to do it, the proposed ingredients were simply great. This time, the dishes had to contain one of the following ingredients: eggplant and/or pear. As I couldn’t find any pears at the market and all the greek flavours that I encountered during my holidays in Greece were still fresh in my mind, I made some papoutsakia.

Papoutsakia consists mainly of stuffed eggplants topped with bechamel sauce.

The name – little shoes come from the fact that the eggplant sliced in half and stuffed with aromas, veggies and meat resembles some pretty shoes. Ok, ok  – not really Manolo Blahnik material, but pretty damn tasty ones.

papoutsakia

serves 2

Stuffed eggplants

2 large eggplants

1 big onion

2 garlic cloves

2 chicken breasts chopped in small pieces or 250 grams ground meat

one can of tomatoes or 300 grams chopped tomatoes

olive oil

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 tablespoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

salt, pepper, oregano

graviera or kefalotyri cheese

Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise and scoop out most of the eggplant flesh using a spoon and a knife. Sprinkle the eggplant shells with salt and let them “sweat”for 10 minutes, Meanwhile chop the scooped-out eggplant flesh and cook them olive oil, in a pan over medium fire, until browned and wilted.

Separately, pat dry the eggplant shells and then grill them until they soften slightly without loosing their shape.

In a pan, heat 3 tablespoons olive oil and over medium high heat, cook the onion until golden brown and soft. Add the garlic, cook it for 30 seconds and then add the ground meat and continue cooking for about 5-10 minutes, or until the meat is cooked. Add the cooked eggplant flesh, season everything with salt and pepper and then add the chopped tomatoes. Add the cinnamon, oregano, sugar and balsamic vinegar. Cook for 30-40 minutes until sauce has thickened. Remove pan from heat and set meat sauce aside.

 
Bechamel sauce

30 grams butter

30 grams flour

250 ml milk

1 egg

125 grams graviera or kefalotyri  cheese

1 half teaspoon nutmeg

salt, pepper

Melt the butter in a pan, over low heat, and as soon as it starts bubbling stir in the flour,  whisking constantly until the flour gets slightly toasted. Add in the milk and continue whisking for about 8–10 minutes until the sauce starts to thicken. Remove from heat, add 125 grams of graviera or kefalotyri  cheese and the egg. Season with salt, pepper, and nutmeg.

Pre-heat the oven at 170-200C. Set the eggplant shells in a baking tray, spoon the meat sauce in the shells.  Spoon bechamel sauce over the shells, sprinkle graviera or kefalotyri  cheese (gouda  and parmesan cheese in my case, since I couldn’t find any greek cheese around) and bake for about 20-30 minutes or until the top of the eggplants reaches a golden brown colour and the eggplants are tender and cooked throughout.

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Ode to greek food

I love travelling around the world. Holidays are my favourite way of travelling, however if I could combine travelling with a career – a travelling chef would be IT. Every time I go to a new country I come back home with a gazillion ideas of what to cook next, how to combine new flavours and textures with old ones or how to reproduce an amazing dish that I tried in a restaurant or taverna. And this time it was Greece…

Octopus drying in the sun

Before I went to Greece I did not enjoy the greek cuisine so much, mostly because of the greek restaurants that exist abroad.

Grilled mushrooms  seasoned with oregano, olive oil and parsley

Unless you know a greek that will point you towards the only slightly decent greek restaurant in town, you are doomed to get some badly grilled meat in industrial quantities or some oily mousaka.

Grilled calamari

However, the reality in Greece is totally different. The food is simply amazing, based on fresh ingredients, simple flavours cooked to perfection.

Loukoumades with honey syroup

Of course the greek cuisine has its down sides – it will probably tip the scale towards the heavier side, nevertheless, the entire experience its worth taking this risk.

Marides

And since this time I went to Crete, I did not only have to put up with greek food, but also with some amazing local cretan delicacies like dakos (twice baked bread topped with tomatoes and myzithra), amazingly flavourful olive oil, delicious olives, creamy myzithra cheese, glyka tou koutaliou (spoon sweets), raki and endless amounts of fresh fish or seafood.

Glyko fistiki

Beside the fact that I had some amazing days enjoying the sun and devouring delicious food, this trip will keep me busy for a while afterwards. On top my list to do list is cooking an amazing grilled chicken breast with sun-dried tomatoes, halloumi cheese and pita bread that I tried during one of our lunches.

Grilled chicken with sun-dried tomatoes and halloumi cheese on top of a pita bread

So stay tuned, the recipe will follow in few days. Until then, here are few photos from Chania, the city where I spent my latest holidays and where I plan/dream to retire one day and open a little taverna …

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Grilled eggplants, olive oil, garlic and feta cheese – greek flavours in a simple dish

Holidays are approaching slowly. One day seems like eternity, when it is the only thing separating you from a gorgeous greek beach. Tomorrow, I am flying to Greece and I my taste buds are  dancing for joy  – all that gorgeous greek food that they are going to enjoy soon. I can already hear the waves and feel the breeze and the hot sun on my skin.

In preparation for this trip, I made a dish that reminds me of Greece and of summer. It consists of few simple ingredients, that will give you a great summery dish.

grilled eggplants, with olive oil, parsley, garlic and feta cheese topping 

appetizer – serves 2

2 eggplants

3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped

a bunch of parsley leaves, finely chopped

6 tablespoons of good quality olive oil

1-2 red chilli peppers

salt and pepper

100 grams feta cheese

1 roasted red paprika

Start by grilling the eggplant, for 40 minutes or until it is cooked and soft on the inside  and the skin is charred. Set aside, allow to cool and remove the skin as soon as possible (this part depends on your tolerance to heat ).

Meanwhile roast some red paprika as well, following more or less the same process as for the eggplant. Chop the paprika in small cubes. Mix the garlic with parsley, red-hot chilli pepper, parsley, salt and pepper.

Place the eggplants on the plate, then cut them in quarters on the length. On top of the eggplants sprinkle on top some of the cubed red paprika, crumbled feta cheese and the oily concoction.

Serve warm next to a wedge of lemon.

Kali Orexi!