As the smell of cheese, heated cinnamon and fried eggplants filled the anarchist steki, my friend began to reminisce of childhood memories. “You know Heath,” she began whispering between the hand rolled cigarette in her mouth, “When I was a kid in Messenia, I never new what a pasta or tomato sauce tasted like without cinnamon… my Mom put it in everything! ” Laughing as if the joke was on her, she added,”And now I do the same thing!” The topic quickly turned to politics and the plight of her home town being overrun with fascists and I realized that the moment was gone. That smell-induced memory, the window into a childhood, dissipated into the air amidst the cigarette smoke. Allowing little time to contemplate what I had just experienced, once again her voice pierced into the deepest part of my brain. “Ela Heath! You have to see how I do this.” I turned away from the sink of dishes and focused my gaze on the frying pan before me. What I saw intrigued me. What was an exciting and fresh new technique to me, was a time honoured tradition to her. “Heath, it must be on low, you mix the cinnamon with the cheese and you heat it to let the flavours combine and the smells weave together.” She was right, over the next few minutes the aroma changed into an almost toasty smell, inviting and intoxicating. A while later as I tucked into a steaming bowl of hilopites with fried eggplants, my tastebuds could now participate in the simple dance of aroma and anticipation. Simply delicious… I have no other words that can express it. Hilopites are Greek noodles made with egg and milk which are hand cut into tiny squares and then dried for days in the hot sun. Once dried they are tucked away into the cupboard, ready to be used in a soup or stew on a cold wintery day. Using a traditional recipe I decided to mix it up a bit and make my hilopites with sun dried tomatoes.
What you need:
- 4 cups flour (+ some extra for dusting and rolling the hilopites)
- 4 eggs
- 3/4 cups milk
- 1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
- Pinch of salt
- 3 medium eggplants cut into a large dice
- 1 large onion rough chopped
- 1 cup grated hard cheese such as Romano
- 1 tbsp ground cinnamon
- Olive oil
- Oil for frying (half olive and half sunflower)
How it’s done:
- For the hilopites:
- Finely dice the sun dried tomatoes and toss them into a food processor with the eggs and milk.
- Pulse until smooth. Set aside.
- Place the flour in a bowl with the salt. Make a well in the centre and add the tomato milk mixture.
- Using a circular motion, slowly incorporate the flour with a fork. Eventually you will have to use your hands, keep mixing until you have a nice stiff dough.
- Divide the ball of dough into workable sized pieces. (i.e. 5-6)
- Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to a thickness of 1-2 mm (1/8 inch)
- Roll up the dough like a carpet and cut into 1cm (1/2 inch) strips.
- Unroll each piece stack them up and cut them again into 1cm (1/2 inch) pieces.
- You should have a whole pile of little pasta squares 1cm (1/2 inch) square.
- Place them on a cookie sheet, dust them with a little flour and continue rolling and cutting until you have used all of the dough.
- For the eggplants:
- In a large frying pan add enough oil (half olive, half vegetable) to a depth of about 2cm (1inch).
- Once hot, add the diced eggplants and fry them until they are golden and crispy. Set aside.
- Add the onion and fry it as well. Be careful not to overcook it. It should be golden but not too crispy. Set aside.
- For the cheese and cinnamon:
- In a second pan over low heat toss the cheese and cinnamon together and stir continually. Gently heat until you have a nice aroma, but do not let the cheese melt. Set aside.
- Put it all together:
- Boil the hilopites in a large pot of salted water. You will know they are done when they float to the top. Drain and toss with a little olive oil.
- In a large serving bowl, toss the hilopites with the onions and eggplants. Add the cheese mixture on the top, and season with salt and pepper.
This is a real traditional and simple dish, enjoy it often and with great friends.