Saturday, 15 September 2012

Tsaizika - coiled aubergine and feta filo pastry

Tsaizika - cooked

So, as mentioned before, I like to take cookbooks out of the library to test them out before adding them to my (rather too large) cookbook collection.  The other week, I took out Mediterranean Vegetarian Cooking by Paola Gavin.  I took it out because it had so many unusual recipes - mostly variations on better known themes - but still.  I like cookbooks with unusual recipes.

I recently tried out my first recipe from her book - for tsaizika which I've never had before but she tells me is a Sephardic Jewish speciality from Greece.  Essentially, what this is is coiled filo pastry with a filling made from burnt aubergine pulp, feta and eggs.   Mmmmm.  In the MightyAubergine household, it generated a certain amount of hilarity:
My lovely husband:  Wow, that looks...  yoni-esque
Me:  How rude!  I'm going to put that in my blog!
MLH:  Oh, come on, you were thinking it too!
Me:  No, I wasn't!
MLH:  I bet you are now!
Me:  Ye-es.  Can't wait to.. tuck in.
Burnt aubergines, feta, eggs, and parmesan filling

Essentially, the filling consists of:  pulp from two burnt aubergines, 150g of feta, 2 eggs, 100g Kefalotyri (or parmesan if you have none) mashed together and seasoned with salt, black pepper and nutmeg. 

Cheat - burnt aubergines in a jar

I am pretty good at doing the burnt aubergine thing but it is time consuming and so I tend to cheat and use jars of burnt aubergine which are available from my local Turkish supermarket.  (Photo to the left.) They have the advantage of also working out quite a lot cheaper.  If you have no local Turkish supermarket or just prefer to do these things yourself, Ottolenghi's description of how to do that bit is pretty good and can be found here. 

You then roll the filling up in tubes of filo pastry (around 3 cm thick) and coil them up like a Danish pastry on an oiled baking sheet.  When you're done coiling up one roll, you do another roll and add that to the existing one to enlarge the coil.  And so on and so forth until you've run out of..  something.  I ran out of filling first.  You then bake for 180 degrees for about 30 mins or until the top is golden brown.

Tsaizika - all coiled up with the oven to go
Tsaizika - all coiled up with the oven to go
The process of coiling was..  a little messy and it decidedly did not look very artistic.  There was a certain amount of spillage as not all of the tubes held together very well.  I overlapped the next tube when that happened and kept it all quite tightly coiled and, actually, the end result was no spillage at all.  I left it to stand for a couple of minutes before cutting into it but, although I fully expected it to explode a bit, the filling was the perfect consistency - moist but non-explosive.  

Tsaizika - cooked
Tsaizika - cooked

Tsaizika - cooked - non explosive filling!
The dish was lovely - one of the most interesting things I've cooked recently.  Though, I did think it could usea different texture in the filling - the feta and the aubergine are both quite similar in that sense - perhaps olives?  or sun-dried tomatoes?  or pine nuts? I also wondered just how important all this coiling business was..  I mean, it was kind of fun but I might be inclined next time just to make it as a pie.  Or as savoury baklava.  Hmmm.  

I have been slightly spoiled by beautiful food photography in most of the cookbooks that I own and I really missed photographs/illustrations when doing this recipe - my lovely husband and I had to debate exactly how to coil the pastry using a rolled up piece of kitchen towel - but, actually, the directions that Paola Gavin gives (at least in this recipe, I have yet to try anything else in the book) were clear enough that I coped just fine.

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