Tapas, mezze, picnic, however you refer to this style of eating I loved putting a load of different dishes on the table to pick at. Whether as lunch itself or simply a couple of things to whet the appetite before the main event. You will find many such recipes on these pages Cheese Gougeres (November 2016), Moutabal (February 2017), Artichoke Crostini (March 2013), Grissini with Rosemary (May 2015) are a few. More often than not the little plates I serve are vegetarian and it has often been a good way to entice my children to try something different. Rather than being faced with an entire supper of something new and unfamiliar – this is an opportunity for them to try something whilst knowing there is a myriad of old favourites to tuck into at the same time.
I am a little ambivalent about feta. If it is mild I am happy to tuck in, enjoying its salty edge. Too strong or mature however and it ventures into that hirsute, goaty thing that I struggle with. In this recipe use whichever type of feta you prefer – you can even find feta style cheese now that only contains cow’s milk.
This baked feta graced our table on Saturday evening amongst some other goodies. I served it with homemade little tortilla chips (don’t panic the chips are homemade not the tortillas – find the recipe in Girls’ Night In, February 2014) and this was the first empty plate, it literally disappeared before my eyes. Warm, soft, salty with a bite from the chilli – this could be one of the most moreish things I have eaten.
Now this is a winning get out of jail free card if you need a last minute canapé or snack to go with drinks. The warm soft feta has a completely different character to the cool white chunks more familiarly seen in Greek salads. It takes on a delicate squidge that is enormously inviting and along with some chilli flakes and a sprinkling of herbs is the perfect mouthful to scoop onto a pita or tortilla chip. Packs of feta last for ages in the fridge and along with some hardy herbs you may have weathering the winter storms and chilli flakes in your cupboard you are all set. Sometimes I add olives to the dish before baking, it depends whether I have any to hand and its very good either way.
Feta with Chilli and Herbs (or Olives)
The ingredients that follow are what I tend to have on hand and therefore what makes this a store cupboard saviour. You can use chopped fresh chilli if you prefer and even pickled chillis for a different but very delicious vibe.
200g pack of feta
1/4 – 1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes, depending on how hot you like
A couple of sprigs of fresh thyme
25g black or green olives, pitted (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200. Put the feta in a small ovenproof dish, sprinkle over the chilli and thyme, drizzle with oil and add the olives if you are using them. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until soft but not collapsing. Serve with homemade pita chips, tortilla chips or whatever you like.