Tantalising melt in your mouth and irresistible ...... What became our favourite Greek food?

In Greece, frying up a batch of saganaki, or fried cheese, is a real art. The perfect batch consists of cubes or thick slices of cheese that have been fried perfectly so that every side of the cube has a golden, crispy crust while the inside remains soft and melted. My previous experience of Saganaki has been disappointing as restaurants located outside of Greece often have the wrong idea of what saganaki really is. They think that by melting some Greek cheese and serving it on a plate that they have created the real thing. This couldn’t be further from the truth. We could not resist the traditional form, indulging ourselves at an given moment.

Traditional Saganaki Cheese .... 

Saganaki is a popular Greek entrĂ©e or appetiser which incorporates various Greek dishes named for the small round two-handled frying pan in which they are made, the best known being a fried-cheese version. However you will find different meats, vegetables, or even seafood with cheese, panfried or broiled and served as "Saganaki" as main courses as well. The exact Saganaki recipe may vary but the cheese appetisers have to be served on the table in the same sagani pan they were cooked in. 

Saganaki was a simple method of spicing up locally available cheese by the peasant class of Greece. Locally available cheese in Greece is highly salted but very tasty. The locals started to deep fry or pan fry different varieties of cheese. Although the exact origin of the recipe is unknown, most gourmands state that the dish is distinctly Turkish in origin. The word saganaki is derived from the Turkish word sagani or sahan which indicates the special frying pan that is used to prepare the dish. The dish has two handles on both side of the dish and the saganaki has to be served in this dish. A variant of this dish is also cooked in Arabia.

Preparing saganaki the right way is a true art, but it is one that can be mastered with a little know-how. The cheese—usually known as a yellow cheese ... kasseri, kefalotyri, kefalograviera, or another firm Greek cheese—is typically dredged in flour, seared in olive oil, and then served with lemon. It is frequently eaten as a Meze dish served in the pan, alongside bread, usually pita bread. However, in order for the dish to turn out well, it is still important to be a little picky. The perfect cheese will be sturdy enough to develop that golden, outer crust while also gentle enough to allow the warm, melted centre to develop. There are a few Greek cheeses that will create the perfect saganaki and those who have mastered the technique will surely have their favourite choices!

Kasseri ... Yellow Cheese.

The choosing the right pan to use could be just as important to the process as selecting the right cheese! Nonstick-style pots won’t get the job done because it is very difficult to get the edges to brown while using this style. It is best to invest in a proper saganaki pan if you plan to make it a habit to make this dish at home. We also saw in many Greek Tavernas Saganaki served in clay pots with great results ..... so a little experimenting might be needed.

Enjoy the Different Versions of Saganaki ...

There are two types of cheese Saganaki that are generally made – a savory version and a sweet one. Savoury saganaki is typically served as part of a meze spread. After the cheese is plated, a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkling of extra Greek Olive Oil Is usually added to enhance the flavour. Sweet Saganaki  is typically made with either manouri or halloumi cheese and is served as a dessert with a drizzled of honey.

It is worth your while to embrace the real art of making saganaki by learning how to do it the right way. The truth is, traditional saganaki is flavorful and makes a nice addition to any meze spread!

So let's look at the other versions of Saganaki

On a Greek Taverna's menu you are sure to find Saganaki listed in more than one form. Saganaki combinations can vary according to individual chef requirements. For example, a few chefs do cook the dish with slightly different ingredients using either prawns, steak or mussels  which are cooked in a rich thick tomato based gravy. The common element in all of these dishes is the  cheese that is melted throughout.

Saganaki Prawns
expertly cooked at Apagio Taverna and Grill in Tyros

At Apagio Taverna in Poros, I tried the chefs specialty.  Mussels that were bathed in a rich, ouzo-scented tomato sauce with fresh herbs and feta cheese. The mussels spoke for themselves, but you could not eat them without crusty bread to soak up that amazing leftover sauce.  There are some recipes you just want to leave a secret so I'm sorry this one will stay as a traditional family recipe .... You will just have to go to Greece as I did to experience this truly deLISH Saganaki  for yourself ...

Ouzo scented tomato sauce was an outstanding 
combination with prawns and saganaki cheese

"Kali Orexi!" (Bon Appetit!)

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