3 countries, 1 dish
If I had to choose one dish that represents my style, my influences, and generally myself as passionate about cooking, I would undoubtedly pick this one
First, because it is a very simple dish made with a small number, yet of quality and character, ingredients. Those features reflect perfectly my attitude in the kitchen. Basically, to make this dish, it is more difficult to obtain the ingredients rather than to execute the recipe, the latter involving only the making and cooking of ravioli.
Secondly, the dish contains principal elements from the food traditions of the three countries I highly admire. Particularly, the products used in the dish are Greek, the cooking technique is Italian and the visual presentation is Japanese.
The main protagonist of the dish is carob (Greek: χαρούπι), which is a fruit coming from the homonymous tree that is native to the Mediterranean countries. The fruit looks like a bean pod, from which the pulp is chewed and eaten or milled to flour. The latter is used in recipes substituting cacao because of its similar flavour and colour. In Greece, carob grows a lot in the warm south and it is one of the most traditional products of Crete.
Coming also from Crete is the product that makes the ravioli filling in the recipe. It is a fresh cheese called mizithra (Greek: μυζύθρα) produced from the liquid whey that remains after milk has been curdled and strained. Simply, it is the Greek equivalent of Italian ricotta. Mizithra, so as many other Greek cheeses, is made from a mixture of sheep’s and goat’s milk.
The third Greek product in the recipe, the one that constitutes the dish a dessert, is petimezi (Greek: πετιμέζι), which is a molasses-like, thick syrup produced after concentrating grape juice. It is used in desserts or as a sweet topping for foods. The word petimezi comes from the Turkish pekpez, and in Turkey, it is typically combined with tahini and eaten for breakfast.
The only cooking technique involved in the dish is the making of Italian-style ravioli. To make the pasta, I used the classic durum wheat semola-and-water dough, in which I added some carob flour. The dough was kneaded, left to rest, and then rolled out to pasta sheets that were cut and filled to ravioli. The filling included the mizithra cheese, some fresh mint for the aroma, and some extra carob flour for flavour.
The dish lacks Japanese food ingredients, yet is presented in a Japanese style that by itself is an essential ‘ingredient’ in this great gastronomic culture. It feels sometimes that Japanese chefs spend more time arranging and garnishing the several dish elements rather than cooking the food. It is all about minimalism, beauty, and careful placement of each piece. The dishes contain interesting combinations of colours, patterns, and they have a pure look. This, together with the use of empty space and different serving utensils gives to Japanese dishes their characteristic appearance.
Carob ravioli filled with mizithra cheese and served with petimezi
durum wheat semola (Greek: συμιγδάλι) *
fresh mint leaves
* a typical proportion for the pasta dough that makes at least 15 ravioli is 100g semola, 30g carob flour and ca. 60g water
- Mix the semola and carob flour with water and knead by hand to form a smooth and cohesive dough. Cover it and let it rest for 30 min
- In the meantime, prepare the filling by mixing the mizithra cheese with some chopped fresh mint and a bit of carob flour
(Mix with a spoon, and if needed, add just a bit of water to get the mixture smoother)
- Roll out the pasta dough with a pasta machine or a rolling pin to a thickness of ca.1 cm
- Place the filling and close the pasta sheet to form pockets. Try to squeeze out as much air as possible and cut with a pasta cutter to release the formed ravioli
- Cook the ravioli in salted, boiling water for 4-5 min
- Serve the ravioli with the petimezi, and enjoy!