Σάββατο 14 Σεπτεμβρίου 2019

Flavors of times past

Anna helps her mum
Family is not as it used to be and food on our table isn't either. In our globalized fusion kitchens we tend to experiment with tastes and flavors from all over the world. Greek cuisine is not an exception since the land itself has been the crossroads and the melting pot of different civilizations and cultures for thousands of years. Modern greek cooks cannot identify themselves with what was served on Plato's "Symposium" nor with the extravaganza of the byzantine times.

However, apart from the elaborated dishes that have ornated the tables of the mighty and rich, what actually remains in the collective subconscious is the simple and often poor food, served on the tables of the humble people, dictated by seasonal ingredients and more often than not by what was affordable or available by foraging.

The women of the house, since cooking was a chore totally assigned to them, had to improvise from what little provisions they had in their pantry and provide a meal to satisfy the hunger of a usually extended family. A household which had stored in its cellar flour, olive oil, cheese and wine, was considered to be well-off and the rest of the staple foods were provided by the kitchen garden for vegetables and herbs and the nearby fields or forest for greens and various nuts.

Areas near the sea were also blessed with an abundance of fish and seafood and the mountainous people relied on hunting, mostly birds and hares. Wild boars have never become extinct even though they were hunted fiercely because they damaged farmer's crops.
Selling fish

Farm animals were mostly raised for their products - milk, eggs, wool- and rarely consumed as meat,

A very popular traditional wedding song says " In my child's joy (=wedding), we slaughtered a rooster"! Imagine a feast, where the whole village was usually invited, with only one chicken as the centerpiece of the celebratory dinner!

This culture of self-sufficiency is gaining ground worldwide, especially in times of economic crisis such as these but I wouldn't imagine myself making an absolute 180⁰ u-turn and start doing everything from scratch. What I'd really like to do is to preserve those unfamiliar and unknown recipes, handed down from our grandmas, and maybe, just a little, taste the original flavors of a difficult but equally fascinating bygone time.

(The pictures for this post were taken from the alphabet book of my childhood)
unless they were very old or on festive days, such as Christmas or Easter. Even then they made the most of them and nothing was wasted.

Πέμπτη 12 Σεπτεμβρίου 2019

Lazy Girl's Pasta

Lazy Girl's Pasta

A popular greek saying goes like "a greek mum knows everything except for tonight's dinner" 😂😅, and who am I to disagree?

When it comes to desperation the best solution is pasta and an especially quick version for working (or lazy) girls like me, is this "pastitsio".

I was given the recipe by my late aunt Ifigeneia (I will always remember Robin Williams in "Mrs Doubtfire") when I was very young and just learning how to cook. It was a hit from the very first day!

This is an all-in-one pan recipe. The ingredients are for 6, or 4 very hungry people!!!

We'll need
500 grams of  big tube-like pasta such as rigatonni, raw, not cooked!
300 grams of crumbled feta cheese or similar goats cheese
150 grams of grated hard cheese such as "kefalotiri" or "pecorino"
5 medium size eggs
3.5 glasses of milk (about 1lt)
3.5 glasses of water

The original recipe didn't include it, but you can add 100 grams of chopped salami or bacon.

Preheat your oven at 180C. Put some oil or melted butter in a baking pan and throw inside the pasta, the cheeses, the salami and the water and 2 glasses of milk. Beat the eggs with the rest of the milk and pour it also in the pan. Use a big laddle spoon to mix them all and put it in the oven. Wait for about 45 min to 1 hour until the top is set and it's got a nice golden brown color. Ready!


Κυριακή 13 Μαΐου 2018

Spicy Hot Cheese Dip

Τυροκαυτερή - Spicy Hot Cheese Dip
Spicy hot and cool at the same time, this dip is a perfect company to roast or grilled meat. You can order it at almost any "taverna" around the country and its color or "heat" depends on the chef. Personally I prefer the Northern Greek version made with roasted red Florina peppers. And I use only one of those almighty chillies. 😛

200 grams Feta cheese or some other crumbly goat cheese
100 grams "anthotyro" or ricotta cheese
1 chilli pepper
1 green and one red bell peppers (or two roasted red peppers from a jar)
5 tbs olive oil
1 tbs vinegar

If you use fresh peppers, put them in a bake dish and roast them until they become brown-black. Put them in a bowl, cover with cling-film and let them rest for 20 minutes. This way it will be much easier to peel them and de-seed them.
Put all the ingredients in a food processor, push the button and voila!, stop when you like the texture of the mix. Some people prefer it more crumbly while I prefer it more smooth. Check the salt and the vinegar and put in the fridge at least for 30 minutes before serving.

Enjoy! Kali Orexi!

Τετάρτη 26 Οκτωβρίου 2016

Spaghetti and tuna sauce

Today is not only the Festive day of Saint Demetrius, but it's also International Pasta Day, so we celebrate it with something delicious but without so many calories.(Therefore less guilt!). Actually in my family we don't need special days, the whole year round is a celebration of pasta. Too bad for my dear husband who is on diet at the moment...

For 3 hungry people  we need a packet of spaghetti, a can of tuna in oil (200 grams), a small carton of concentrated tomato juice (250 grams), one small chopped onion, a teaspoon of dry oregano and a teaspoon of dry basil.You can always use fresh herbs if you have them but then you will need to double the amount. Salt and pepper according to taste, but for this amount I add one teaspoon of salt.

Put the water to the boil and when it's bubbly add a full tablespoon of salt and the spaghetti. Let it boil until it is cooked to the point YOU like it. Others prefer it "al dente", others prefer it well-cooked, just like their Mama used to make it. Meanwhile in a sauce pan, heat the the oil, add the onion and let it sizzle for 3 - 4 minutes. Then add the tomato, the herbs, salt and pepper and half a glass of water. If the sauce is a bit sour, add a teaspoon of sugar. Let it simmer while your pasta is cooking. Before you drain the spaghetti, add the tuna to the sauce, stir until it disolves and take the sause pan off the heat.

Drain your pasta, put it back in the pot and sprinkle with extra-virgin olive oil. Toss the pasta and you are ready to serve. It is a common belief not to combine fish and cheese but we break the rule and add some ground white cheese on top, such as dry mizithra.

Enjoy the dish and the day!

Τρίτη 25 Οκτωβρίου 2016

Beef Burgers and Potatoes

The daily nightmare is back What shall I cook today? First glance in the freezer: Only beef minced meat.Now in greek cuisine this may result in many different dishes from the most complicated, such as "mousaka" to the most simple ones such as "spaghetti bolognese". Today I'll go simple and make beef burgers and potatoes roasted in the oven.

- 500 grams of minced beef
- 1 large chopped onion
- 300 grams breadcrumbs*
- 1 cup water
- 1 full tablespoon of each: chopped mint, chopped parsley
- a pinch of thyme leaves and rosemary
- 100 ml olive oil
- 1 teaspoon salt and a pinch of black pepper.

* For a gluten-free recipe replace the bread with 8 tablespoons of oats.

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl until you have a soft mixture. Add more water if you have to. Put the bowl in the fridge for half an hour so that the flavours develop. Meanwhile, peel the potatoes, cut them into large chunks, add some salt and, if you like, paprika.

In a well-oiled baking tray, form burger patties, place the potatoes around and add 1 glass of water. Sprinkle with olive oil and put in a pre-heated oven at 220C for about an hour.

A glass of wine and greek salad with feta cheese would be the best company.


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.


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