There is nothing as sinful as this mezze. Cheese saganaki is one of the most popular mezzes in Greek tavernas. It’s really rather simple to make, a nice square cut of cheese, pan-fried and served warm in the company of lemons. You will see it disappearing from your table within minutes.
Head straight to the recipe.
Saganaki is an appetizer to share in these big gatherings when the table is full and the wine glasses are magically refilled on their own. It’s an even more welcome nibble on spontaneous gatherings, when friends come by in the afternoon for a cup of coffee and the chatter goes on until you feel a little bit peckish, you crab a bottle of beer, obviously you need a little something to help it all go down. Essentially, it’s a quick-cook dish that brings a smile on everybody’s face.
The word sounds a little weird doesn’t it? Saganaki is the word for a small, shallow pan with two side handles. It also signifies another lovely dish – see prawns saganaki, you might remember it from a few months back. The process to make saganaki is really straight forward: grab your cheese of choice, dip in flour and straight into the pan. If you are curious, nope, I do not flambé it, I am pretty happy with pan-seared.
In this post, our focus is on cheese saganaki and two wonderful cheeses we can use, hard yellow cheese like graviera or the much beloved feta cheese.
So, which cheese for saganaki?
The best is to choose a hard, salty cheese. Normally in Greece we use graviera, kefalograviera, kefalotyri but also talagani or mastello from Chios island. Cypriot halloumi is also great for saganaki. If you are not close to a good source of any of these cheeses, fear not, a slab of gouda or cheddar will also do a good job. Here is the classic cheese saganaki version.
- 200 gr of cheese e.g. graviera kefalotyri, haloumi
- All-purpose flour
- A pinch of sugar
- a bit of water
- Vegetable oil for frying
- 1 lemon for serving
- Warm up a bit of oil in your frying pan, remember our cheese is pan-seared not deep fried.
- Mix the flour with a pinch of sugar.
- Dip your cheese in a bit of water and then straight into the simple flour mixture.
- Once the oil is hot, add the cheese in and leave for 1 minute each side, until browned.
- Serve with as much lemon as you like.
Does saganaki work with feta?
Well, feta has different qualities as a cheese and it will not conform to the traditional saganaki methods. Feta has the wonderful tendency to melt in high heat. Remember the prawns saganaki? Feta is what gives the dish the wonderful creamy-salty texture. To overcome this, you can be a bit more thorough with your wrapping. You can try wrapping feta in filo pastry and serve with thyme honey (it is delicious) or make a thicker coating for crust. You can use sesame seeds, nigella seeds, pumpkin seeds or whatever seed you have in your cupboard. The method below works wonders with manouri cheese as well. Again, it’s pan-seared, not deep fried and a little bit of olive oil will do the job just fine.
- 200 gr of feta or manouri cheese
- 2 eggs, beaten
- a bit of flour
- 150 gr seed mix (sesame, black sesame, nigella seeds, pumpkin)
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Greek thyme honey for serving
- Pass the feta through flour so that it can absorb the moisture of the cheese.
- In a small bowl, beat the eggs.
- Dip the feta first through the eggs and then through the seed mix bowl.
- Rest for 15 minutes in the freezer.
- Heat up the pan with a bit of olive oil in medium high heat.
- Fry your cheese and rest on some kitchen towel to get rid off any excess oil.
- Serve with honey.
If you are keen on Greek cheese have a look here, there is a mini guide on Greek PDO cheeses. So which saganaki would you go for, hard yellow cheese or feta? Let me now in the comments.
From Athens with love,