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.
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.
The second episode of From Eggs to Apples, my food history video series, is now online! In this episode we investigate the beverages of Ancient Egypt, including the barley beer that was the dietary staple, and the surprising ancestor of modern horchata.
Egyptian Porridge Beer
1/2 cup red wheatberries
1 cup barley
3 cups water, plus more to cook barley
Pomegranate juice (optional)
Soak wheat berries in a bowl of water overnight. Drain and transfer to a glass jar or container. Cover the jar with a light cloth, such as cheesecloth, secured with a rubber band. Let stand at room temperature for 1-3 days, or until you see little tails sprouting from the grains. During this time, make sure the grains stay moist but not submerged in water. Once a day, shake the jar gently to help air circulation. Once your grains have sprouted, spread them on a baking sheet and roast at 300 degrees F for about 3 hours. When done, they should be completely dry and dark brown and give off a pleasant, nutty aroma. Grind the malted grains into coarse flour in a food processor or with mortar and pestle. Place barley in a pot and add water until just covered. Boil until barley is mushy (about 30 minutes), adding more water as needed to keep from burning. Let stand (unrefrigerated) until cooled but still warm (about 1 hour). Combine barley porridge with the ground-up wheat berries and another six cups of water. Cover and let sit at room temperature for 3 to 4 days. Strain (optional) and serve. Add pomegranate juice if desired.
1 cup tigernuts
4 cups water
¼ cup honey
¼ teaspoon each ground fennel seed and coriander seed
Soak the tigernuts in water until softened (at least 12 hours, or up to 24). Pour the water and tigernuts into a blender. Add honey and and blend into a smooth paste. Smooth the mixture with more water if necessary. Allow the paste to sit in the fridge for an hour to rest. Strain the mixture. Be sure to press all the moisture out of the solids before discarding. Mix in spices and serve.
From Eggs to Apples is hosted by Andrew Coletti (@passtheflamingo) and Fiorella Di Carlo, RN, CDC (@fiorellaeats). Special thanks to Kevin Schreck, Henry Liu, Walden Wang, Huỳnh Nguyễn Tường Băng, Ismail Butera, and Kamilo Kratc. In memory of Bill Mullen.
Join us next week for Episode 3: Ancient Greece!