Paddy Fermor’s Favorites: Caramelized Lamb and Fried Spanakopita

Elpida Belogianni, Patrick Leigh Fermor's cook at his home in Mani, shares the recipes of two of the late author's favorite dishes.


CARAMELIZED OVEN ROASTED LAMB WITH VEGETABLES

This was Patrick Leigh Fermor’s favorite dish, which Elpida served with different sides like mashed or oven potatoes, carrot and cauliflower puree (recipe below), or artichokes with peas.

STEPS:

Preparation: 20 min

Cooking time: 2.5 hr

Difficulty: Easy

Season the lamb pieces with salt and pepper.

In a wide and shallow pan, add some olive oil and saute the onions, carrots and herbs at medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Place the lamb pieces on the pan in a single layer, saute for 2-3 minutes on each side, turning once. Add the garlic cloves and saute for 1 minute, or until the garlic is fragrant. Remove from heat.

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Place the contents of the pan in a medium-size, deep roasting pan, making sure the lamb pieces are still placed in a single layer. Do not add any other liquid to the roasting pan, as the food will slow cook in the small amount of flavorful juices that the ingredients will release, particularly the onions which will sweeten the sauce.

Cover the pan well with aluminum foil and cook for about 2 hours. Uncover the pan, raise the temperature to 180°C and leave in for about 15 minutes, until the meat is nicely browned.

Ready!

Ingredients (4 servings):

  • 1 leg of lamb, with bone, cut into medium-sized pieces
  • 3 large onions, coarsely chopped
  • 2 carrots, coarsely chopped
  • 2-3 fresh bay leaves
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
  • 5-6 garlic cloves, cut in half
  • 120ml extra virgin olive oil
  • salt, freshly ground pepper

Side 1: Carrot and cauliflower puree with ouzo and nutmeg

Boil a small cauliflower split into florets and 3 coarsely chopped carrots in plenty of water, until they soften.

Drain the vegetables and mash them in a food processor, adding 50ml olive oil, 1 shot of ouzo, the juice of a lemon, ½ tbsp ground nutmeg and salt and pepper. Stir well.

If needed, add more salt and pepper and serve.

Side 2: Fennel, orange and olive salad

In a salad bowl, add one orange cut in slices (slightly press on these slices so a bit of juice comes out), ½ cup olive oil, 10 Kalamata olives (with pits removed), 2 fennel bulbs cut into thin slices, a few parsley leaves, salt and freshly ground pepper.

FRIED SPANAKOPITA

Patrick Leigh Fermor truly loved this dish, which he requested be served whenever he had guests. He accompanied it with fresh yoghurt flavored with very finely chopped spearmint or basil.

Preparation: 60 min

Cooking: 20 min

Difficulty: Hard

STEPS

For the Filling:

Pour the olive oil into a wide and shallow pan. Saute the onion and leek for 2-3 minutes on medium heat. Add the spinach, salt, pepper and nutmeg and saute for 2-3 more minutes until wilted. Pour the contents into a colander and let drain.

For the Dough:

Pour the flour into a food processor or large mixing bowl. Add salt and pepper. Slowly add water (which should be at room temperature) until the flour is well moistened. Knead with your hands or with a dough hook, very slowly adding water until the wet flour forms a homogeneous mass. Keep kneading until the dough is quite soft and doesn’t stick to your hands – if it begins to stick, add a very small amount of flour.

Divide the dough into two equal parts and start working with one of them – cover the other half with a towel so it doesn’t dry out.

Cut the first half into three equal parts. Place each part on a floured surface and press them, one after the other, with the base of your hand: The diameter should be similar to that of a tea cup saucer. Place the three dough “disks” one on top of the other, sprinkling a bit of flour between the pieces. Flatten with a rolling pin on a floured surface, until you create a thin dough disk, wide enough to cover the bottom and the walls of a 28cm diameter non-stick frying pan, with the edges protruding a bit from the pan.

Cut the second half into two equal parts. Repeat the process with two pieces but flatten the dough only until it reaches the same diameter as the pan.

For the Pie:

Oil the pan well (off the heat) and place the three-layered piece of rolled-out dough in it, pressing it up against the walls, with its edges protruding from the pan. Spread the well-drained filling mixture evenly on the base; it’s depth should not exceed more than half of that of the pan.

Cover the stuffing with the smaller piece of two-layered dough. To seal the pie, place the hanging edge of the base inside the pan, folding it over the smaller piece of dough. Baste the top generously with oil, and pour some oil fairly generously between the edges of the pita and the walls of the pan so that it flows to the bottom.

Place the pan on medium heat and fry for 5-6 minutes until the bottom browns nicely and small bubbles form. Remove the pan from the heat. With great care, using two spatulas, flip the pie over in the pan: the bottom, brown part should now be facing up. Place the pan on medium heat again, adding more oil if necessary- this pita needs a lot of oil as the dough absorbs it rapidly. Fry until the second side browns and remove from the heat.

Place the pita on a pile of paper towels to drain excess oil. Allow plenty of time for it to cool properly to about lukewarm, before cutting it like a pizza, in triangular pieces.

This article was first published in Greek in the April issue of Gastronomos magazine, which features a range of Easter dishes photographed in the home of Patrick and Joan Leigh Fermor, which is now a writer’s retreat operated by the Benaki Museum.

Ingredients (for a 28 cm diameter pie)

  • Plenty of olive oil

For the dough:

  • 600g all-purpose flour
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • water at room temperature

For the filling:

  • 100ml olive oil
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 leek cut in thin slices
  • 1kg fresh young spinach (after trimming), finely chopped
  • salt
  • freshly ground pepper
  • ½ tbsp ground nutmeg


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