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Kitchen Rescue

Leek pie and feta cheese in filo pastry, chicken with cream and honey sauce, pork souvlaki–authentic Greek dishes by a Manila-based Greek chef

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CHEF ANTHONY Kouroutsavouris and Emily Reyes of El Greco Filipino

When Chef Anthony Kouroutsavouris and his partner Emily Reyes moved to the Philippines, they had one goal in mind: to let Filipino taste buds travel to Greece without having to leave home. Together, they established El Greco Filipino to showcase authentic Greek ingredients and, through chef Anthony’s skills, promote authentic Greek cuisine.

I had the chance to host chef Anthony in my kitchen, thanks to Aleth Mapa who introduced us. For lunch he prepared Leek Pie and Feta Cheese wrapped in Filo Pastry, Greek Cabbage Salad, Chicken with Cream and Honey Sauce, Greek Pork Souvlaki with Tzatziki, Tomatoes, Onions, Parsley and Milfeig Pastry (Greek filo pastry, patisserie cream.)

Many of the dishes he prepared were designed to highlight his exquisite phyllo that he imports from Greece—very thin, light, and stays crisp long after it has been baked.

According to Kouroutsavouris, there are over a hundred recipes for this type of pastry alone. The chef said that when baking desserts using phyllo, it is best to use butter from sheep and goat. The butter gives out a sweeter fragrance and distinct taste and makes the phyllo a lot crunchier. The dessert he made indeed stayed crunchy a day after. For savory pies, he said, it is better to use olive oil.

The chef’s souvlaki was unforgettable, so simple yet delectable on many levels. The meat was grilled to perfection, thus tender and juicy. The yogurt that the chef himself made and used as a base for his tzatziki was exquisite—thick and creamy, an indulgence and a must-try to eat alone or to cook with.

His homemade pita bread, made from a special type of Greek flour, was also delicious (his is the pocket pita type—soft, tender, yet with a nice bite that melts in your mouth). Thinking about it now makes my mouth water.

 

Little fat

According to chef Anthony, “genuine Greek souvlaki is made of pork (or chicken) meat with as little fat, skewered on a stick and grilled on the charcoals, placed on an original Greek pita (specially made for souvlakia, one that is completely different from the Lebanese pita which is very thin and unleavened) together with a small amount of tzatziki (cucumber-garlic dip), fresh tomatoes, onions with parsley, salt and paprika. A few fried potatoes, according to your liking, can be added. This is the real Greek souvlaki.”

Chef Anthony is proud of the rich history of his cuisine and the many benefits of the Mediterranean diet. A typical Greek meal starts with at least two to three little dishes, or mezedes, to prepare you for the main course. The main course consists of meat (lamb-beef-chicken) or fish.

There should always be fresh bread on the table, some kind of cheese (graviera, feta, kasseri) and at least one fresh salad, he also said. “The food is enjoyed with a glass of wine, beer or ouzo (anise-flavored aperitif). Typically, dessert comes after, and it could either be a pastry or yogurt together with honey and nuts or spoon sweets and cup of classic Greek coffee. A digestive mastic liqueur is offered to end the meal.”

With a history that dates back thousands of years, the Greeks have indeed learned how to live by taking their time to enjoy each and every meal.

As a Valentine treat, chef Anthony shares his souvlaki and tzatziki recipes. If you wish to be pampered on V-Day, ask him to cook you a special meal worthy of the gods.

Souvlaki

For every souvlaki,  we need about four to five pieces of meat pork (shoulder is good, fat-trimmed) or chicken.

Skewer meat on wooden sticks and grill on charcoal.

Brush Greek pita lightly with some olive oil and grill until it’s almost golden brown.

Mix the finely sliced onions together with the parsley.

Place grilled pita on a square piece of wax paper big enough to wrap the pita altogether.

Remove meat from skewers and lay them on the pita.

Spread a bit of tzatziki, add the slices of tomato together with the onion and parsley, a bit of salt, pepper and paprika.

Fold the pita to form a cone.

Add some fried potatoes if you wish.

 

‘Tzatziki’

Mash five cloves garlic to make a paste with a pinch of salt.

Wash and, without peeling, cut one large cucumber in four and remove the seeds from its inside. Grate in a course grater, add salt and let it drain very well. Do the same with one small carrot.

In a mixer, on low speed, combine yogurt, cucumber and the carrot. Add garlic, a drop of vinegar, salt and pepper, pour the 125 g or a little less of Greek olive oil slowly and, toward the end, add half a bundle of dill leaves.

Season with salt if needed.

For Greek ingredients, bread, yogurt and catering, call tel. 6618240 or 5143278.

Chinese New Year tip

But before Valentine is Chinese New Year, so I am sharing this tip with you: I accompanied my Filipino-Chinese girlfriends to Atong, who owns World of Crystals, where we bought trinkets to give away as gifts for the New Year. According to my friends, Atong’s crystals are of good quality and very reasonable. It’s worth the trip. The shop is at 817 Benavidez St., Binondo.

I wish you happiness and good health. Kung hei fat choy!


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