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My Big Fat Greek Dinner Party

December 12, 2011

So here’s the deal.  The Man About the House’s family are a socialable sort and like to gather at each other’s houses three times a year.

Five years ago, when it was the Mother-in-Law’s turn to host, I nochantlantly suggested that I could cook for her, if she wanted.  Little did I know what I was letting myself in for, when five years later, I’m still undergoing the stress of cooking an almighty feast for up to 17 people, in a domestic kitchen that I’m not familiar with.

But we all like a challenge, don’t we.

So year one, I did Italian.  The next year it was Spanish.  The third, traditional English.  Last year was Indian (a perfect cuisine when you’re feeding the masses).  So, this year, I needed something different.  And then my eyes fell upon my copy of ‘Vefa’s Kitchen’ and it was decided: Greek.

I’ve never really cooked much Greek food, so I was relying on Vefa to help me out.  If you’re familiar with ‘The Silver Spoon’, then Vefa’s Kitchen is like the Greek cousin.  If I was now going to rate this book based on my how easy it was to follow and how useful it was to the ordinary home cook, I’d easily give it an 8 out of 10.    The only part where I fell short was when I was ordering my shopping as it gave me the weight of aubergines I would need, but Ocado just tells you that there are two in the packet.  I ordered well short.  For future reference, I now know that a medium aubergine weighs around 225g…

The good thing about the family get together is that it’s a continual feast; meaning that all the food didn’t have to be ready at the same time.  So I picked 19 dishes in total, prepared as much as I could the day before and then just churned them out as quickly as I could.  And when I say quickly, I meant over about five hours…

Here are some of the best dishes based on my experiences and feedback from the guests…

Pumpkin Fritters, page 123: Made using pumpkin, or in my case butternut squash, these also mix together ingredients such as spinach, feta cheese, fresh herbs and spring onions to make little patties, which you then just shallow fry.  They can be eaten hot or cold and they went brilliantly with the home-made Tzatziki.

Tzatziki, page 152:  I’ll be honest with you, I did consider just ordering a few pots of this when I was getting the rest of the shopping, but then a guilty conscience got the better of me.  Taking the plastic seal off the pot can hardly be considered cooking, and that’s what I had promised.  But my oh my, how glad I am that I didn’t.  Although the Tzatziki takes a bit of advanced preparation because you have to leave the yoghurt to drain for about six hours, it’s a piece of cake to finish off.  I don’t think I’m breaking copywrite laws if I tell you that all you have to do is mix in some chopped cucumber, garlic, salt, olive oil and dill.  Try it, you’ll see what I mean about fresh being best!

Potatoes roasted with lemon, page 224:  These were like lemony potato wedges and were simplicity itself to make.  I did chuckle to myself when I put them on the table and then two minutes later heard one of the guests saying to the others “How can you all be sat there talking when there are amazing lemon chips waiting to be eaten?!”

Feta Omelet with pasta, page 273:  Ok, so imagine a potato tortilla but replace the potatoes with linguine and the onions with feta.  That was this omelet.  It was great warm, it was great cold and it took the absolute minimum of effort to make.  Would be great for picnics too!

Moussaka, page 419:  It wouldn’t have been much of a Greek feast without a Moussaka and this was a great recipe.  I had a good feeling that this was going to taste good as I was constructing it and when it came out of the oven, bubbling and golden, I knew it wasn’t going to let me down.  There was mere mouthfuls left in the baking tin at the end, which was testament to how well it was received.  Word of warning though, it takes blooming ages to prepare!

Drunken Pork, page 139: A great one to prepare in advance and re-heat when it’s required.  It’s like combining a virgin bloody mary with a lot of red wine and pork loin.  Hence the drunken part.  Alas, all the alcohol is burned off during the cooking process.  Goes well with the Spiced Rice.

Fried Triangles, page 109: Although there is a choice to do cheese-filled parcels and meat-filled triangles, I just tried the meat ones.  I wasn’t disappointed.  Encased in a little filo parcel and deep-fried, these morsels were like the Greek equivalent of a samosa.  They were very popular and I will be making them again.  Next time I’ll try the cheese ones as well.

Fried Squid, page 82: Possibly the easiest dish of the night, this was simply squid tubes cut into rings, tossed in flour and deep-fried for 2 minutes.  Then seasoned and a squeeze of lemon.   My squid-hating Man About the House tried and liked them, as did more than one person that had never tried squid before.  Great if you’re in a hurry.

Spiced Rice with Tomatoes and Bell Pepper, page 256: If I was going to name the most stand out dish of the feast, this would be it. Which is weird, because it’s just some tomatoey rice.  But my goodness, it was tasty tomatoey rice.  And would be delicious accompanying so many things.  I will be making this a lot from now one, as it was cheap, easy and most of all, the Man About the House loved it!

So there you have it; the highlights from my Big Fat Greek Dinner Party.  If you like the sound of any of this, I would urge you ask Santa for a copy of Vefa’s Kitchen, or visit your local library to pick up a copy, if you don’t already have it.

Do you have any favourite Greek recipes? I’d love to hear about them.

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