Every cuisine has their late night food. The food that whilst perfectly good during the daytime, tastes even better after a long, late night and is best enjoyed when your memory of it and whoever you kissed is fleeting and when your stomach craves something buttery or greasy to balance the alcohol within it.
Greece's late night food looks almost too damn pretty to give it a tag of "late night food" (click here for an example of a late night monstrosity I had in Finland called the Kannibal). No greasy kebab or pie, it's a delicious custard filled filo pasty parcel. I first heard about this from a Greek friend and my interest intensified when I started talking to David Tsirekas from Perama restaurant, a restaurant that I visited only the other night. He'd twitter tempting things such as "making mandarin bougatsa" and I'd be urged to bump this to the top of my "to make" list, a messy scrawled piece of paper that I've clipped to my teapot wall calendar. I knew of course that I wasn't going to make the filo from scratch and my version wouldn't be as amazing as his but I persevered.
These were very, very good. I wouldn't be so presumptuous to say that they were as good as the ones at Perama but if you want to make your own version at home, say late at night when the clock strikes midnight, these will certainly do. I loved the crunchiness of the buttery, light filo and the softness of the oozing vanilla and lemon custard.
And yep you guessed it. It's Wallpaper Wednesday! How about some Bannoffee Peanut Butter cups? I'm sure we've all made a quick version of this late at night with a spoon, some chocolate and a jar of peanut butter!
So tell me Dear Reader, what is your favourite late night food either at home or when you are out? A kebab? A pie? A friend used to get the urge to make wedges at midnight. What's yours?
Bougatsa - Custard Filled Filo Pastries
3 1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon lemon rind (or citrus rind of choice)
1 cup white sugar
2/3 cup superfine semolina
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
4 egg yolks
20 sheets filo pastry
150g unsalted butter, melted and browned*
1 tablespoon sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon of cinnamon
Sifted icing sugar to dust
Step 1 - Combine milk and rind in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in semolina until thickened. Beat eggs, sugar and vanilla until pale and then add to the saucepan and stir until it becomes a custard and cool completely.
Step 2 - Preheat oven to 180°C. Line 2 large baking trays with baking paper. Place 1 pastry sheet on a work surface. Brush with melted butter. Place another sheet directly on top of this and butter this too. Fold in half crossways to form a rectangle. Spoon 1.5 tablespoons of custard onto centre of the pastry. Brush the edges with butter. Fold long edges over to cover custard. Fold in sides to form a rectangle. Place, seam side down, on baking paper lined tray. Brush top with butter. Sprinkle with some cinnamon sugar.
Step 4 - Repeat with remaining pastry, butter, custard and sugar. Bake for 20-25 minutes. Sprinkle with sifted icing sugar. These are best served warm, on the day they are made.
*To brown butter, melt and heat it until a nutty aroma is released (be careful not to overbrown or it will become bitter). Skim off the foam from the top and cool.