How would you feel if I presented you with a dish that presented you some of the favoured ingredients in Greek cuisine?Â All wrapped-up in one dish? You get spinach (check), you get tomato (check), you get green pepper (check), you get tender pieces of lamb (check), Greek cheese in Cretan Graviera (check) and it’s all wrapped up in a packet of phyllo pastry (check)!
Here’s a version of “Exohiko” where a parcel of food is presented to you at the table. Exohiko dishes can appear wrapped in parchment, in aluminum foil or in this case, phyllo pastry. Here, you get to eat the dish, wrapping and all. This recipe is for four (you need eight sheets of phyllo) which means you’ll have leftover phyllo. My solutions to you? Make more than four (up to ten servings) or combine this recipe with with another.
With the remaining phyllo, you could make a smaller Portokalopita or whip up a filling of ricotta, Feta and egg, mix and season and fill and make some phyllo triangles. How about about phyllo cups filled with a Spanakopita filling? You have options – the rest of the package of phyllo doesn’t have to go waste.
On to the lamb Exohiko. The main ingredient of this dish is the lamb meat. I used the meat leftover from the Leg of Lamb I made this past Easter. The meat was succulent, tender and very flavorful. Fully aware that you might not have leftover lamb on hand, you will likely need to cook up some lamb. My suggestion to you is to purchase some stewing lamb, cut into cubes, season and saute them in a little oil, add some dry white wine, equal amount of stock and cover and simmer for about 40 minutes or until tender. Now you can use the tender pieces of lamb for you very own lamb Exohiko with leftover lamb or stewed lamb. Either way, make sure your meat is juicy and tender.
Your other components are the filling of spinach, tomato, green pepper and cheese. There are two options with your spinach filling, boil and blanche fresh spinach or simply buy the pre-blanched frozen spinach. Most supermarkets sell this wonderful convenience product and it will save you some time. Thaw it, squeeze the water out and then saute it with some scallions and add some flavour with salt, pepper, wine and chopped fresh dill. For the this dish, add the tomato and green pepper slices near the end to soften before assembling the packettes.
The final component of your filling is the Graviera cheese. Fine Graviera cheese in Greeece is produced in Crete, Mytilini and Naxos. I like a firm, slightly sharp Graviera that will melt but not disappear. If you cannot find Graviera, seek out a firm Gruyere or other sheep’s milks cheese that’s more on the firm side.
At long last, the filling is assembled inside an envelope of buttered phyllo pastry and then baked until just golden. Serve your Exohiko with a salad and/or some roast potatoes and “dinner is served”.
Here in Toronto’s Greektown or The Danforth, a popular eatery named Mezes of Rhodes has had this dish on their menu since it’s inception and it’s still it’s most ordered entree.
This recipe is adapted from a Christine Cushing Food Network Canada show and it’s courtesy of Sue Zindros of Mezes. They used chicken on this program but I went hardcore Greek with the use of lamb.
For the Lamb Exohiko recipe and more, please buy my Everything Mediterranean cookbook.
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