From Eggs to Apples Episode III: Ancient Greece (Cheesy Mackerel with Roasted Barley Flour Dough)

In our third episode, we investigate the cuisine of Ancient Greece, including a dish alluded to in the work of the first food critic, Archestratus (who I have written about on this blog before). One of the two recipes in this episode, for the roasted barley flour dough called maza, I have also written on this blog before; the other is something I’ve wanted to try for a long time: mackerel baked with grated cheese on top.

Maza (Roasted Barley Flour Dough)

1 ¼ cups barley flour
¾ cups water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt

Heat a skillet or pan over medium-high heat and add barley flour. Stir continually with a wooden spoon until it gives off a toasted aroma and turns brown. Remove from heat and add water, oil and salt. Continue stirring or mix with your hands until you have a thick dough. Let stand for a few minutes to cool. When the dough has cooled, squeeze small amounts in the palm of your hand to shape them, or form into balls or discs. Serve with fish, or balanced with another flavorful dish.

Cheesy Mackerel

2 whole Spanish mackerels or unsmoked mackerel fillets
Hard goat’s or sheep’s-milk cheese, such as Greek kefalotyri or kefalograviera, or Italian pecorino Romano
2 tsps olive oil (for drizzling, plus more for the pan)
2 tsps white wine vinegar
1 tsp coarse sea-salt
2 tsps powdered asafetida (available at South Asian markets. You can also grate solid asafetida resin with a microplane.)
Fresh thyme, marjoram or oregano leaves, removed from stem

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a pan or baking sheet with olive oil. Remove the spine of the fish and lay them out flat in the pan, with the skin side down. Drizzle olive oil over the fish and sprinkle with salt and asafetida. Grate cheese over the fish (enough to cover), leaving head exposed. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is golden-brown. Add vinegar and fresh herbs as desired. Serve with maza or bread.

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