‘It’s all Greek to me!’ is a phrase that, as a speaker of Ancient Greek, you must learn to put up with. Nonetheless it is a phrase that still drives me mad, no matter how oft quoted it is. I could, however, bear it, if every time those words were muttered I received this baked feta dish as recompense…
Having always been a fan of the more simple baked feta dish (a block of feta, doused in oil, chillies, garlic and oregano cooked until spreadable), I wanted to make this dish a little more substantial, a meal in itself rather than a constituent part. So I had a think, and this is what I came up with.
The sauce is one that I always use as a base for Greek-ish dishes; originally taken from Nigella Lawson’s involtini recipe (which is also delicious, although a bit more effort than this dish!), I have tweaked the base ‘pulp’ to include a greater hit of oregano, the herb of Greece, and also a fierce sting of chilli (which suits my tastes, but can easily be removed if not your cup of tea). Not one to do things by half, I also add capers and black olives. Why not?
This is one of my favourite sauces, and one that proves infinitely versatile. Over feta like this it makes a dish fit for Elysium.
INGREDIENTS (serves 2):
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chunked
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chunked
2 hot chillies, roughly chunked
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tsp tomato purée
400g tin chopped tomatoes
100g thick passata
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp capers
Handful black olives, sliced
To make the tomato sauce, start by blitzing (in a blender, a small chopping machine, or, painstakingly, by hand) to a pulp the onion, garlic, chillies and oregano.
Fry the resulting mush in one tablespoon of the olive oil, over a low-medium heat, until softened and translucent (around 5 or so minutes).
Add the tomato purée and allow to cook out for a minute or two.
Add the chopped tomatoes, passata, sugar, capers, olives, and the remaining tablespoon of olive oil; lower the heat, put a lid on the pan, and leave to gently simmer for around 20 minutes.
When you are happy with your sauce (having checked and altered seasoning), cut your feta into large chunks (about 3cm squares) and lay them across your chosen dish (I use a Pyrex oven dish, about 30 x 20 cm); pour your tomato sauce over the top of the cheese, sprinkle with a little more dried oregano.
Place the dish in the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, until the sauce is bubbling and the cheese is molten.
Serve with tons of bread to mop up the delicious sauce.
I have a confession. I haven’t been shopping for over a week. It’s the Olympics, see. Every time I am about to leave the house there is a super-human flinging themselves about in a most impressive way. So non-essentials, such buying food, merely have to slip. (Luckily every pub in London is streaming the games, otherwise I might have become a recluse.) So this was a dish borne of necessity.
And there lies the beauty of this dish: you will always have the ingredients in the house (feta is a great thing to keep in the fridge, what with its fantastic shelf life and its flexibility). So even if you can’t leave the house for looking at the super fit and super hot athletes, you can still stuff your face, whilst pretending that you are going to be the next big thing, standing upon that podium in Rio. If only you could stop thinking about food long enough to decide upon your sport.
Although some of us are perhaps less into it all than me…