I'm interrupting our on-going Indian fest for a quick diversion into Greek gastronomy.
You might remember a while back I mentioned looking forward to learning more about Greek cuisine from Tessa Kiros' Falling Cloudberries. I haven't forgotten, and with the weather warming up, it seemed like the time might be right to pick up that thread again.
These two dishes of Tessa's to me are perfect partners; both luscious and fresh tasting, with a nice lemon tang, but you might want to try each separately first, as they both use a very liberal hand with the garlic (raw and cooked) and might be a little overpowering together for some. They certainly were for the Young Man, which is a shame because I adored both of these and want to make them together again. Perhaps we'll have to wait till he goes away for his summer holidays...
I used trout in the fish dish (and far less than 1 kg) and it was superb. I may have had it in the oven for slightly less time than specified in the recipe; just keep an eye on it toward the end of the cooking time and you should be set. Although both this and the potatoes contain some celery, it is very subtle, and the celery-averse YM had no complaints in that department.
The potatoes are another one of those why-didn't-I-think-of that recipes that you sometimes come across. In essence, you make a veggie stock to cook the potatoes in. Don't throw this away after the potatoes are cooked; it will give you almost enough to make risotto (or whatever) with at a later date. Two dishes from the one stock. Who could complain about that!
My innovation was to dice the carrot and onion finely from the stock and add it to the mash (actually the onion didn't need to be diced, but you know). Mainly it was to add some color for the photo, but I think I like the little change in texture that these brought. To make the garlic paste, I crushed the garlic directly into a handy-dandy little mortar and pestle I use for saffron, and smooshed it around a bit with the pestle. I did pretty much the same with the potatoes. A big wooden pestle (which is easier to get at than my seldom-used potato masher) made short work of pureeing the spuds.
My other suggestion would be to taste each time you add the garlic and lemon, and stop when it tastes about right to you. This is raw garlic, after all.
Greek oven-baked fish with tomato & parsley
1 kg firm white fish fillets
400 g tin tomatoes with juice, chopped, or very ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
15 g/ 1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
juice of 2 lemons
2 celery stalks, chopped with some leaves
1 tsp sugar
3 tbsp olive oil
crusty bread, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Put the fish in an oven dish where they will fit in a single layer. Mix together the tomatoes, parsley, garlic, lemon juice, celery, sugar and olive oil and taste for seasoning. Pour over the fish to cover all the pieces, shaking the dish from side to side. Cover with foil and bake for about 30 minutes.
Remove aluminium foil, increase the heat to 200 degrees Celsius and bake for another 40-50 minutes, or until the liquid is thickened and the top of the fish is golden in a couple of places. Serve with crusty bread to mop up the juices.
Skordalia: Greek garlicky and lemony mashed potatoes
1 large carrot, cut in half
1 small celery stalk
a few parsley stalks
1 small onion
a few black peppercorns
500 g potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
5 garlic cloves
185 ml/ 3/4 cup olive oil
juice of 1 lemon
Place the carrot, celery, parsley and onion in a fairly large saucepan of water, add some salt and a few peppercorns and bring to the boil. Boil for about 15 minutes before adding the potatoes and then boil for another 25 minutes or so, until the potatoes are very soft.
Meanwhile, crush the garlic completely with about 1 tsp of salt to make a puree. Put the garlic in a small bowl and ad a couple of tbsp of the oil.
Take out one third of the potatoes with a slotted spoon and mash in a large wide bowl with a potato masher, or put through a food mill. Add the garlic, then mash another third of the potatoes with more of the olive oil and a little of the lemon juice. Carry on until you have used all the potatoes, lemon juice and olive oil and have a smooth puree. Taste for salt. The skordalia should have a fairly soft consistency and can be eaten with fried or grilled fish, meatballs or just bread.
Serve at room temperature.