Monday, April 15, 2013

Blueberry and Ricotta Greek Pastries


I just had to make another sweet pastry today, after being deliciously inspired by a Morello cherry and ricotta strudel my dad made for Tony and I over the weekend.

It's not often you will see my dad making something sweet. At least not since his days as an ice cream manufacturer. For many years he has reigned as King of the Main Meals while his wife Julia has always held the title of Dessert Queen in their household. But on Saturday Takis ventured out of his comfort zone with the desire to recreate something he remembers his mother making when he was a boy – a simple, sweet cheese strudel filled with what ever fruit was in season at the time: figs, cherries, grapes, apples, peaches, pears or apricots, and wrapped in fresh, home-made filo pastry.


Home-made filo is something I am dying to make but am just trying to get over the final "it's too hard" hurdle before I take it on. I've always thought making your own filo was one of those things that should be left to the experts. Watching a documentary a few years ago of village ladies stretching the dough over massive marble tables until you could see through it like tissue paper, without a single tear or hole, didn't leave me feeling this was a technique I was going to be mastering any time soon.

Oh, but can you imagine my excitement when recently I came across a new method of rolling and folding the dough, buttering as you go, to create the paper-thin layers, without having to make paper-thin pastry! I plan to experiment with this alternative technique over the coming weeks and am thinking it might be fun (or funny) to share some of my experiences with you here on the blog. Feel free to throw any tips my way, anything to get me over that final home-made filo hurdle!

In the meantime, I am still using commercial filo for my flaky pastry dishes. Here in Australia we are very lucky to have a very good fresh filo product available to us that comes in two thicknesses. Today I am using the thinner filo because that's all I have left in the fridge, but I think a thicker filo might be better suited for this recipe, mainly because the filling expands a little during cooking and the thinner pastry can sometimes tear.

I've chosen to use blueberries in these pastries because this week it's "B for Blueberry" over at Heather's Meatless Monday A–Z challenge. If you haven't heard of MMAZ, it goes a little like this: Each fortnight a new ingredient is introduced that corresponds with the next letter of the alphabet. For the first week of the fortnight participants are asked to create a recipe and in the second week we cook a recipe, preferably chosen from one of the dishes submitted in the first week.

Better With Veggies

I love the MMAZ concept and am going to try and stick with it for the entire alphabet. The added challenge I've made for myself is that all my dishes need to be Greek! I'm sure there'll be times when I'll struggle to come up with fresh ideas for this challenge so prepare yourselves please because I'll be calling on you guys for help!

For the letter "C" the ingredient is Cabbage and of course I could turn to the classic Greek recipe for stuffed cabbage leaves but would love to create something a bit more original. So please throw me any suggestions for flavour combinations or perhaps even just one other ingredient that you think would pair well with cabbage to create something that would be acceptably Greek. I'd love to hear your thoughts.


Blueberry and Ricotta Greek Pastries


Makes 8

Ingredients

  • 400g ricotta cheese
  • 1/3 cup castor sugar
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 100g blueberries, fresh or frozen
  • 8 sheets of filo pastry
  • 100g unsalted butter, melted for brushing
  • Flaked almonds for sprinkling
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. Combine ricotta, sugar, egg, vanilla essence and lemon zest in a bowl and mix well.
  3. Add the blueberries, stirring until just combined so that you have a two-tone marble effect. Try not to mix the blueberries in too much otherwise the mixture will just become a rather unattractive greyish colour.
  4. Have your melted butter ready, cut all your pastry sheets in half and place in a pile.
  5. Take one sheet of pastry and brush with melted butter. Lay another sheet over the first and brush again with butter.
  6. Place two heaped spoonfuls of the filling at one end of the pastry, roll it up a little, fold the sides in, then continue to roll up, not too tightly, to form a parcel. Flatten the parcel a little and lay seam-side down on a greased baking tray. Repeat for the rest of the pastry sheets and brush the tops of all of them with remaining butter.
  7. Bake for 20 minutes or until pastry is lightly golden.

To serve, sprinkle with toasted almond flakes and dust with icing sugar.



30 comments:

  1. Oh this sonds amazing! The directions make this sound a lot easier than it looks. I love seeing all the MMAZ creations :)

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    Replies
    1. These really are very easy to make. And if you have the time, making your own ricotta is also super easy, and tastes so much better than store-bought ricotta!

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  2. Lovely pastries! Refined tasting and surely extremely delicious. Purple is also one of my favorite colors.

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Rosa - yes, extremely delicious, pretty-coloured little pastries these are :)

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  3. That looks delicious! I am looking forward to seeing you make home made filo...
    Tony

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    Replies
    1. Well you will be my witness (and hopefully, assistant!!)

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  4. My grandmother had a round kitchen table with the six swivel chairs in the 70s, and us grandkids would help her stretch the pastry so that it covered the entire table and then some. If it didn't reach the edges it wasn't thin enough. I so wish I learnt how to make it, although nobody in my family now has a round table! My other grandmother never did the table stretching thing because her pastry preference was much thicker. But the filo-thin pastry was amazing!

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    Replies
    1. Oh what a gorgeous story! Now THAT'S the way to make filo - and definitely a technique I'm going to keep well away from. I think that's something that can only be mastered with years of experience and the yiayias certainly have that!

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  5. Oh wow... that looks fantastic! We've used filo for spanokopita but never made something sweet with it. Yum!!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Laura! Filo is such a versatile pastry and is commonly used for sweets in Greek cooking. Baklava being one of them! Oh it's so good :)

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  6. you never sieze to amaze me. these pastries look downright delicious and perfect in every way! they remind me of cheese and blueberry danish that used to be a big hit at the bakery i used to work at. they must taste so amazing, biting into the crispy dough into delicious, soft and warm cheese and blueberry filling.

    i believe in your ability to make filo dough! do it, girl!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks for the encouragement Caitlin! I'm really excited about experimenting with filo dough-making. It would be so cool to make Greek sweets with my own home-made pastry..

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  7. WOW..looks Tempting

    new follower to your blog

    visit my blog

    http://foody-buddy.blogspot.com/

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks for stopping by Gayathri! Your blog is wonderful too - I love Indian cuisine :)

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  8. These look simply incredible! I'm with you on the pastry- filo is one thing I am super nervous about trying to make at home!

    xx Kait

    ChickadeeSays

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    Replies
    1. Thanks Kait! I'm nervous about it too but can't wait to start playing with the rolling, buttering, folding technique - it doesn't sound anywhere near as hard as the stretching method!

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  9. Hello from Greece
    The recipes and your photos are amazing. I really like that in your recipes
    i can find elements from your Greek origins. (sorry for my english)
    I start follow your blog today, and i hope you visit mine

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hello Mookies! It's lovely to see someone here from Greece. Even though I was born here in Australia, my emotional connection with Greece is very strong and I love telling stories of my family and origins.

      I have just visited your blog and it is wonderful, I LOVE it!!! I will have to spend some time going through your archives. Thanks for connecting with me! :)

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  10. Ricotta, blueberries, lemon zest, flaked almonds, ... I am nodding my head vigorously at every ingredient. These are perfect!

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    Replies
    1. Oh yeah, those four ingredients make me nod too :) .. still nodding in fact!

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  11. Your pictures are just beautiful, they just jump off the page (and I don't even eat dairy)! :) I'm loving the greek twist on MMAZ, love the extra challenge. And I can't believe you're thinking of making your own filo - so impressive!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Heather! I think this round of MMAZ will be a lot of fun and at times I'm sure will take me out of my comfort zone, but I'm looking forward to braving a few ingredients I might have otherwise been too scared to use!

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  12. These look amazing! I'll have to healthify em a lil but definitely gonna try em! :)

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    Replies
    1. Oh I know, Greek sweets are so over-the-top sometimes with the sugar and butter, but these actually aren't too bad (relatively speaking!). You could probably replace the sugar with honey and the butter with a mild-flavoured olive oil.

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  13. These are so beautiful!

    I cannot wait to hear how your homemade phyllo goes. I am SO impressed you're going to try it!

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    Replies
    1. Oh the pressure's on now! I've been doing some more research and am really itching to start experimenting. Stay tuned!

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  14. I've heard of people making their own filo too, but I think that's one of those things that I am just way too lazy to tackle. ;) Besides, I just know I'd mess it up--pastries are not my strong suit!

    These look absolutely delicious. As always, I am drooling over your photos!

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    Replies
    1. Oh I'm sure I'll mess up the pastry too! And because of my own laziness, I'll be using as many shortcuts as I can to do this - I'm certainly not expecting to produce any paper-thin filo in my experiments, that's for sure!!

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    ReplyDelete
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