When you cook a large meal, as I did on Sunday, it’s not unusual to have some things left over. I had a good portion of the stuffing for the peppers left and I considered freezing it, but didn’t in the end so decided yesterday to use it up by stuffing a large tomato. I also had half a block of feta, left over from making the cheese parcels.
On my first evening in Istron I had baked feta: Bougiourdi. This is feta baked in the oven with tomato, peppers, olive oil and oregano. It was so delicious. I’m so used to using feta in salads rather than cooking with it, that it was quite a revelation to discover how simply baking it transformed the cheese. We’ve been eating a lot of griddled or barbecued halloumi – a Cypriot cheese – over the summer and while I’ve come to quite like it (for a long time I didn’t like it at all), it has to be said, it is quite rubbery – however well you cook it. Feta on the other hand becomes soft and creamy when cooked.
The history of feta goes back to Ancient Greece and a similar cheese is mentioned in Homer’s The Odyssey. Since 2002 it has been a ‘protected designation of origin’ in the EU and only feta made in some areas of Greece in the traditional way can bear the name. Feta is usually made from sheeps’ milk, although sometimes a combination of sheep and goats’ milk. It’s ‘brined’ in salt water and thus is usually quite salty, so when cooking with it, you’re unlikely to need extra salt.
For my supper last night, the first thing I did was to prepare the tomato and get it in the oven. I cut the top off of a large, beefsteak tomato and scooped out the seeds inside.
I then filled it with the stuffing left over from the Stuffed Peppers on Sunday (click here for recipe).
Put the tomato in a small ovenproof dish and mix together a little water, olive oil and squeeze of lemon and put round the bottom. Cover loosely with foil and put in a 2000/180 Fan oven for about 30 minutes or until the tomato is nicely softened. Meanwhile, prepare the feta. It’s barely a recipe! All you do is put the slice of feta in a small ovenproof dish. Cover it with slices of tomato and slivers of pepper; pour over a little olive oil and sprinkle some dried oregano over it all. You might want a little black pepper too, but it won’t need salt because of the saltiness of the feta.
I put this into the oven when I took my tomato out. It’s best to serve the stuffed tomato warm rather than hot – that’s more authentically Greek, too – so while it cools a bit, you can cook the feta. Put it into the hot oven for about 15 minutes. The timing will depend slightly on the thickness of your slice of feta but you will see it browning just slightly round the edges once it’s ready. Transfer both the tomato and feta to a serving plate. I also added a little green salad on the side.
It was all so delicious. The stuffing and herbs give the tomato a lovely fragrant freshness. The vegetables and oregano on top of the feta cut through the salty richness and are complemented by the fruity olive oil. It’s all wonderfully rich in flavour but not heavy and makes the most gorgeous meal.