I adore Greek food. When I lived in Valencia, one of my work colleagues lived quite close to me and we were good friends. Her husband worked in a Greek restaurant, and one weekend they invited me to lunch there with them. This was back when I was fresh out of college and experimenting with international food and improving my cooking skills.
It was a curious setup. There were two Greek restaurants next to each other, owned by the same person. One was your basic cheap-looking cafeteria with metal chairs, plastic tables, and linoleum. The other had a beautiful wooden facade, cast iron and marble furniture, a romantic interior with vines and fairy lights strung across the ceiling, artfully half-melted candles everywhere, the works.
They had very similar menus, but the beautiful romantic-looking place was far more expensive. We ate at the basic cafeteria-style restaurant, which is where my friend’s husband worked.
I wasn’t expecting much, given the surroundings, and wondered what I had let myself in for. Some friends of theirs also came and there were a lot of us. About 15 people, most of them much older than me. Except for one young woman who sat next to me crying the whole time while I looked at her askance, unsure as to whether I should talk to her or not… I was tired and uncomfortable and wanted to go home.
My friend, who had lived in Santorini for years, took over and ordered food for everyone to share. Service was quick and within minutes waiters were carrying trays towards our tables. I think I started to drool as I saw the contents of the trays.
Platters of chunky Greek salad piled high and topped with slabs of briny feta. Trays of marinated dolmades, and terracotta bowls with various dips. Lo and behold one of those dips was Tirokafteri and the moment I tasted the salty spicy olive oil-laden dip, I knew I had to make it mine.
Over the years I’ve tried a lot of different Tirokafteri recipes and experimented and tweaked, and this is my favourite and final recipe. The addition of Basque pickled peppers (AKA guindillas) is completely inauthentic but tastes amazing. If you can’t pick up any guindillas, then I suggest you substitute with pickled pepperoncini or jalapenos.
Note that jalapeños are spicier than guindillas, and pepperoncini are milder, so adjust the amount of peppers to suit your particular spice tolerance level.
Tirokafteri is also called ktipiti (don’t ask me how to pronounce it, I’ll just embarrass myself in the attempt) and literally means spicy cheese, so don’t skimp on the heat. It’s commonly served with warm pita bread, or as part of a mezze platter. I like to serve it with EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING POSSIBLE! (Yes,I just shouted that).
I like to spread it on Socca and serve with some aubergine dip and hummus as a mini-mezze meal, use it as a salad dressing or a crudité dip…anything is possible when you
are obsessed with Tirokafteri put your mind to it . I’m going to go an even more inauthentic step further and posit it might also be tasty with the softest focaccia ever….as I am really rubbish at making pita bread, although apparently I excel at making little pita rocks.
One of these days I’ll crack the pita problem, but until them, as I’m really not a fan of about 90% of ready-made breads, Socca is my go-to solution for my Tirokafteri. This is a really easy recipe and comes together in just a few minutes. If you can, it’s best to let it chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before eating, to let the flavours mingle. Serve it with flatbread (Socca!) and a salad.
- 250g feta
- 150g ricotta or cottage cheese
- 8 basque pickled peppers
- 80 ml olive oil
- 250g plain greek yoghurt
- 1 clove crushed garlic
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- Water 60ml (optional)
- Chuck all the ingredients in the blender, except for the water, and blend. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a food processor. Then process the hell out of everything and skip the water unless you’d like it a little thinner.
- If you have a terrible blender like mine, slowly add in the water, a little at a time, just enough to allow the blades to turn and blend properly. Stop blending when you have a lovely smooth creamy sauce.
- Transfer to a container and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Ready!
If you can't get a hold of any guindillas (basque pickled peppers) then you can substitute with any other pickled chili pepper, jalapeños for example, but you may have to play around with the amounts to get the spice level right. Pickled jalapeños are spicer than guindillas, so I would suggest trying 4 and then upping the amount as needed. Pepperoncini would also be a good substitute but are less spicy, so try 8 and then check to see if you'd like a bit more spice.
Amount Per Serving Calories 303 Total Fat 25g Saturated Fat 10g Trans Fat 0g Unsaturated Fat 13g Cholesterol 50mg Sodium 504mg Carbohydrates 8g Fiber 0g Sugar 6g Protein 13g