After leaving university Mr Dine at Mine had a very jetset job and was sent all around the world on projects for months at a time. So far, so sad (for me) - but sometimes, when we were very, very lucky, his travel allowance would stretch to flying ME out to wherever he was for a visit. Insert sigh for the once-booming economy here.
So, thanks to the absurd largesse of the finance sector back in the Bad Old Days, I was treated to all sorts of free holidays in five-class hotels. Weekends in New York, jaunts to Milan - you get the picture. And as if that wasn't enough, these long projects abroad also meant that Mr Dine at Mine built up hundreds of thousands of hotel loyalty points. Don't yawn, these points definitely meant prizes - free nights in top hotels in the UK and abroad and all sorts of perks in said hotels once you were there. Are you hating me yet? Honestly, it seems like a whole other world now.
The BEST of these perks was free entry into the hotels' posh executive lounges - and with free entry came free drinks and snacks. Oh wow, the drinks and snacks. Bottles of champagne just lying around next to comfy sofas and magazines; piping hot canapes and tables spread with tapas; drinks cupboards clinking with gin, vodka and anything else you can imagine, fridge after fridge of mixers and soft drinks. Free breakfasts, lunches, evening nibbles and afternoon teas; a whole bar just laid out for your slightest whim. Yeah, those executive lounges were pretty good. I miss them.
One of the best ones we tried was in Istanbul. Sitting on a balcony with an incredible view over the twinkling lights of the city, we sipped and supped almost every evening before (and after) heading out to explore the city. Five years later, I can still remember our favourite snack - little cheesy pastries called borek. These were absolutely everywhere in Istanbul and they were addictive. Along with Efes beer and over-sweet apple tea, they taste of Istanbul to me.
When we had friends round for dinner this weekend, I wanted some nibbly thing we could have with drinks before the tagine, sorbet and cheese and my memory dredged up these borek. Surfing the web for a recipe, I found bajillions (it seems to be a generic term like "pasta" or "pie") and eventually plumped for one which looked simple, easy and most similar to the salty crunchy cheesy bites of memory. A hop, skip and a flour-dusting later and there they were - fatter, more bedraggled and less deep-fried than my memory, but otherwise pretty good. I even made some cucumber yoghurt sauce to dip them into, although I seem to have made it in vast quantities so we'll be eating it for a while.
These days we're a bit older, not much wiser, a lot better housed and a lot more married. Admittedly we're not so jet set any more - we ate these in our own lounge, and we supplied our own drinks. But the eternal union of cheese and pastry is still a winner and, as far as I'm concerned, the view is a lot better from our own sofa.
Feta Filo Borek
Adapted from here
- 200g feta cheese, crumbled
- 1 egg
- a good grinding of black pepper
- handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- a packet of filo pastry,
- some melted butter
Preheat the oven to 180C and line a baking sheet with parchment.
Mix the feta, egg, pepper and parsley together in a bowl and set aside. Flour a clean surface and lay out one sheet of pastry, then brush with melted butter and lay another sheet on top. Brush again with butter, then cut into squares - I made 8. Portion out half of the feta mix among the eight squares, ie: using 1/16 of the whole quantity on each (if that's too mathematical, just add a spoonful and hope for the best). Shape the mix into little sausage shapes, fold in the sides and then roll each square into a cigar shape and transfer to the lined baking sheet. Brush with more melted butter.
Then do the whole thing again - sheet of pastry, butter, another sheet, butter, cut into squares, share out the rest of the mix, fold, roll, put on tray, brush with butter.
Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden and crunchy. Eat while hot!
Cucumber Yoghurt (Cacik)
Adapted from here
- half a cucumber, grated (I used the food processor which was amazingly quick but slightly too small and wet)
- a few spoonfuls of plain yoghurt
- 1 garlic clove, minced or grated
- 1 handful of fresh mint
- olive oil
Basically, mix together the cucumber, garlic, yoghurt and salt, then garnish with mint and olive oil. This is fine to make in advance, just be sure to keep it in the fridge.