Thursday, 9 January 2014

Lemon Bougatsa

2014 has arrived and we have welcomed in the New Year. After all the rich and heavy foods consumed over the festive season, I now yearn for something a little lighter and zingier on the palate. This seemed like just the recipe to kick-start my taste buds during the long and cold month of January, made as it is with light and crispy filo pastry and tangy, refreshing lemons.

I love the taste of lemon and think that it is an invaluable ingredient in the kitchen; a few drops of lemon juice, used almost as if it were a seasoning refreshes all manner of savoury foods, intensifying their flavours and creating balance. For this reason, I always have lemons to hand in my kitchen.

I go weak at the knees when lemon is used in baking and in desserts…lemon meringue pie, tarte au citron, lemon drizzle cake, lemon mousse, lemon surprise pudding… I love anything that includes lemon! It is therefore unsurprising that I was drawn to this recipe.

Filo pastry can be a little tricky to work with because it does dry out very easily, but so long as you keep the sheets you are not immediately using wrapped in a damp tea-towel and are generous in your use of melted butter when brushing the individual sheets prior to layering up, you should have no problems. Believe me, if you like the flavour of lemons and are also partial to custard-based dishes, this is a recipe you must try out! There is nothing particularly complicated in making this dish and it keeps surprisingly well covered in the fridge.

Bougatsa is a Greek breakfast pastry which may be sweet or savoury but which always uses filo pastry. Savoury versions use minced meats or cheese, but sweet versions usually consist of a sweet semolina custard. Whilst I would love to be greeted by this bougatsa for breakfast, I also think that it would make a fabulous dessert, served with a few fresh raspberries during the Summer or some poached figs in early Autumn - and with a dollop of crème fraîche or softly whipped cream on the side! This version of bougatsa is based on a recipe that I came across in Food and Travel Magazine.

Ingredients:

600ml double cream
500ml full cream milk
125g caster sugar
100g semolina
150ml fresh lemon juice (about 4 juicy lemons)
Rind of 4 lemons, pared into wide strips.
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1 x 270g filo pastry
75g butter, melted
Syrup:
100g caster sugar
50ml fresh lemon juice

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 180C/Fan Oven 160C/Gas Mark 4. Base line a 24cm x 17cm x 6cm deep tin with non-stick baking parchment.
2. Put the cream, milk and caster sugar in a saucepan and bring to the boil over a moderate hear.
3. Slowly pour in the semolina, stirring continuously as you add it. Keep stirring until the mixture begins to bubble again and then remove from the heat and set aside to cool for about quarter of an hour.
4. Add the lemon juice to the semolina mixture, followed by the eggs and stir well to fully incorporate.
5. Place four sheets of filo pastry in the lined tin, using a pastry brush to brush each sheet individually with meleted butter before placing another on top. Leave some of the pastry overhanging the top edges of the tin.
6. Pour in the lemon semolina filling and fold the overhanging pastry on top of it.
7. Leave two of the remaining filo pastry sheets to the side and layer the others on top of the filling, brushing with melted butter between each layer as before. Ruffle up the two remaining sheets of pastry and place on top of the bougatsa. Brush  with the remaining butter and bake in the pre-heated oven for 40 minutes until the pastry is crisp and a rich golden colour. Remove from the oven and place the tin on a wire rack and allow the bougatsa to cool completely.
Make syrup:
8. Put the caster sugar and lemon juice into a small saucepan and gently heat until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for about three minutes until the syrup thickens slightly. Add the strips of reserved  lemon rind and set aside to cool.
To finish:
9. When the bougatsa and syrup have cooled, spoon over the syrup and lemon rind and cut into squares.

Cuts into 20 squares.