Τρίτη, 5 Απριλίου 2016

Stuffed vine leaves "Dolmadakia"

Stuffed vine leaves with ground beef and rice
It is a different flavor. It is true that not everyone likes them, especially if your first try is with preserved vine leaves which sometimes are very tough and leave the impression that chew a package along with its string!
But the fresh leaves are tender and melt in your mouth. Their sour taste raises the usually indifferent ground beef and make them memorable.
For a few days a year, April and May, when I find fresh leaves in the market, I wash, drain and put them in the freezer. From there directly to scalding and I have fresh leaves for another three months at least. I like to stuff them with a mixture of ground beef and rice but there is also the vegetarian alternative, only with rice.
For 4 people we need:250 grams of grape leaves

1 large onion, chopped1 1/2 cup of olive oil 1 cup of rice300 grams of ground beef1 shot of ouzo (optional)1 cup warm watersalt, pepper, a handful of fresh mint, choppedthe juice of a large lemon
Wash the leaves and add little by little in salted boiling water. Let stand 3 minutes, then put into a bowl with cold water. Once you finish the process put them in a colander until you prepare the filling.
In a small bowl put the minced meat, onion, rice, 1/2 cup oil, mint, salt, pepper and ouzo. Mix to make a mixture soft enough, and if necessary add a little water.
With a spoon take a bit stuffing and place on the base of the leaf. Fold both ends and then wrap them in a 

roll. The truth is that at the beginning it needs a little effort to get down to the point but after the 4th or 5th dolmadaki you'll have no problem.
We throw the remaining oil to the pot and place each dolmadaki in concentric circles from the outside to the center. Depending on our pot we will make one or two layers.
Sprinkle with a little more oil to the surface and cover into the pot with a plate upside down. This will help to keep them firmly in place and not unfold with cooking. Add enough hot water to reach the middle of the dish, cover the pot and simmer for about half an hour.
Once ready, remove from heat and pour the lemon juice. Cover again and leave to cool completely. So it is better to start cooking early.
We can accompany with extra egg-lemon sauce or even with tzatziki.
Good appetite.

You can find the recipe in Greek here.

Πέμπτη, 2 Ιουλίου 2015

Watermelon rind (traditional Greek spoon-sweet)

Traditionally summer asks for spoon-sweets and cold refreshing water.

Served in a saucer that was built specifically for this, with the brim turned upwards to avoid spilling drops of the syrup. A silver or metal tray and below the crocheted napkin "semedaki" of our Mom. Unfortunately, what once had been a sign of tidiness, today has become to be considered as kitsch.

Times might have been difficult and the greek coffee that came with the spoon-sweet made from roasted chickpeas but the sweets were made from the most fanciful fruit or vegetable the housewife of the era could devise : from the famous small eggplant to small tomatoes or even green olives!

Yet, when you sat at the small table in the courtyard and here came the humble disk balancing the goodies, you felt as the honored guest and the hostess did feel as the lady of the castle. And of course, not a word spoken about "Thanks, I won't have anything, I'm on a diet." Such insult would be unthinkable. You swallowed two mouthfuls of the sweet, you drank  some refreshing water and felt a moment of happiness.

So what to choose? Watermelon rind or fat pumpkin? Since this year we are not going to eat a decent watermelon due to our bad weather, let us at least keep its skin to have something good come out of it.

I'm looking into my small notebook with recipes. By the way, do you keep such a notebook yourselves? One where you have gathered all the wisdom of your mama, grandma, aunt?

Every time I try something new and find I like it, I get my pen and start exercising calligraphy like a good student. Sure, you'll tell me, nowadays when you can find everything you want on the internet, you keep on writing in a notebook with a pen?

Actually, yes. I feel that the time spent writing the recipe and the love I put into this activity will be asorbed by the paper and from there will go to whomever inherits my notebook, just as I find even today scattered slips of paper from my Mom.

Therefore I will share with you the page from my notebook and wish everyone a good summer. (However, I have to give the recipe in English, since the original is in Greek!)


4 kilos of  watermelon or pumkin rind peeled on the outside
4 kilos of sugar
2 glasses full of water
2 spoonfuls vanilla extract
a small lump of limewash
lemon juice (from 2 lemons)

Cut the watermelon or pumkin rind in small squares (1.5x1.5 inches) and peel them so that you have only the white part. Dilute the limewash carefully in a big pan, add the rind, and let it soak overnight. This procedure will make it crisp on the outside and mellow on the inside. The following morning wash thoroughly changing the water about 10 to 12 times until it comes out crystal clear. Put the rind in a big pot, cover with water and let come to the boiling point. Do this 3 times to ensure that all residue of limewash has gone. Next, prick the pieces with a small fork and put it again in the pot with the sugar and 2 glasses of water. Let it boil until the syrup begins to thicken. Take it off the fire, add the vanilla and the lemon juice and let it cool in the pot overnight so as to absorb the syrup. The following morning it is ready to be put in glass jars.

Μπορείτε να δείτε τη δημοσίευση στα  Ελληνικά εδώ.

Παρασκευή, 24 Απριλίου 2015

Pasta Salad, quick'n'easy

Ok, this might not be a greek authentic recipe, however is one of our family's favourites and it's the best I can do on a busy, hectic day.
I use low fat ingredients as much as I can and I put the bowl in the fridge for those especially hot days, which are not so far away.

So, for two hungry people I need:

- 250 grams of pasta
- 1 small can of tuna in salted water or 150 grams low fat ham (chicken or turkey)
- 1 cup of low fat greek yoghurt (200 gr)
- 2 tablespoons low fat mayonnaise
- 3 tablespoons mustard
- 1 small ripe tomato, diced
- 3-4 fresh leaves of basil or parsley

Boil the pasta in abundant salted water, strain and put in a large salad bowl. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and toss gently. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix gently again.
You can serve it immediately or let it cool in the fridge.
It's also an excellent idea for a buffet dinner.


Τρίτη, 23 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014

Greek comfort food

Makaronia me kima

Everyone and each of us have a favorite primitive memory of his favourite comfort food. Food that consoles, bringing back warm memories of motherly hugs and sweet kisses. Of Sundays around the family table and of the tantalizing smell of a home-cooked meal, wafting in the air at least fifty metres before arriving at the house door.

Although each home has its own specials, there must be a national memory rooted deep inside our genes which characterizes our crave for certain dishes. Those cooked by our mothers or grandmothers and which are registered in our subconscious mind as our safe haven from exterior threats.

For many years, during the “speaking session” in my classes, I’ve been asking my students the same personal question: “Which is your favourite food?” Seven times out of ten, the answer was “Makaronia me kima”, that is spaghetti with minced meat sauce. The eighth was “pastitsio”, the more elaborated version of the same dish but this time topped with beschamel sauce and gratined. The ninth was either “souvlaki” or”pizza. Finally the tenth was usually the food that their mum used to cook best for the Sunday family reunion, such as roast lamb or chicken and potatoes.

But the most interesting of all were the answers I got when I probed them a little more. Sometimes I got answers like “yemista” (stuffed tomatoes) “spanakopita” (spinach pie) or even “lahanodolmades” (cabbage leaves stuffed with meat, rice and herbs).
Patsas Soup

Surprisingly, “chicken soup” was not among them at all. On the other hand some of my students mentioned “patsa” a soup made with the legs and the stomach of an animal (mainly beef or pork) or “trahana”.a soup made with a traditional pasta, consisting of bulgur wheat and milk. The traditional “fasolada” (bean soup) is not so popular though a necessary evil, tolerated during the fasting weekdays (Wednesday and Friday) when
neither meat nor fish is permitted by the Christian Orthodox Church. Many a times when I mentioned it, I found myself confronted with grimacing faces.

So, which is your favourite comfort food? What reminds you of "mum"?


Δευτέρα, 22 Σεπτεμβρίου 2014

"Red" Giouvarlakia

Few tourists in Greece ever get to know the dishes that make us bow to our "mama's" comfort food.
One of these, is "Giouvarlakia", that is meatballs with rice, either in the form of a soup or with a thick egg-lemon (avgolemono) sauce.
Actually I prefer the second version - that's the way my mum used to cook it - so I like to pay homage to her cooking many times during the winter.
However, I'm such a fun of the dish that I experimented with this summer alternative, using fresh tomato instead of the egg-lemon sauce. The result was a fusion between "giouvarlakia" and "soutzoukakia" which made us all clean our plates with big chunks of freshly baked bread.
I thought you would like this version which is much easier, since it doesn't require the tricky "avgolemono".

- 750 grams of beef mince (or any kind of mince)
- 1 cup of rice, the type you usually buy for soups
- 1 thinly chopped onion
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 of a teaspoon grounded cumin
- 1 crashed garlic clove
- 1/2 cup red wine
- 500 grams finely chopped fresh tomatoes or tomato juice
- 1/2 cup of olive oil
- a pinch of each: grounded pepper, cinnamon, clove
- 1 fresh or dry bay leaf.

In a large bowl, we mix together the minced beef, the rice, the onion, the spices, half the olive oiland the wine. While mixing, add some spoonfuls of water until you have a very soft mixture. Put the bowl in the fridge and let it rest for about 1 hour.
In a large cooking pot we put the rest of the olive oil, 4 cups of water and the tomato and we let come to the boil. Then we add some salt, and the bay leaf and we turn down the temperature to medium. We form small balls with our mixture, the size of a walnut, and we drop them carefully into the simmering sauce.
Cover the pot and let it simmer until the rice is well cooked (about 1 hour). In the meantime you can add some hot water if you thing it is needed.
The final consictency should be that of a thick soup as it will become thicker when it cools. It can be eaten warm or in room temperature, after all that's why I cook it in the summer.
You can also experiment with your favorite spices, either inside the mixture or in the broth.
Finally if you want the original version, don't add tomato in the beginning but when the food is cooked add the "avgolemono" sauce.
You can see my step-by-step tecnique here.

You can also find the recipe on my sister Greek blog here.

Kali orexi!


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