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dsc00154Continuing on the theme of the most well-known (and delicious) Greek recipes, here’s my version of one of the number 31 pies- in this case, spanakopita. What spanakopita is, is essentially a spinach & feta cheese pie, made with phyllo pastry. Now, if you have the time & the inclination, you can make the phyllo yourself- and this is something many Greeks do at home, as a matter of course (and knowing how to make home-made phyllo is considered a wonderful, useful skill to have). Even though home-made phyllo tastes waaaaaaay better than the ready-made (frozen) version, sold at supermarkets, the recipe I offer uses ready-made, because- in the spirit of honesty- that’s what I use myself when I make spanakopita at home. Using home-made or ready-made phyllo takes cooking spanakopita in two completely different directions. In the first case, we’re talking of a lovingly, painstakingly produced home-made pie which you can feel very proud of (and here you can find a very good recipe for spanakopita, including directions on how to make your own phyllo dough). In the second case, we’re talking of a delicious everyday meal which you can make at the spur of the momentdsc00164.

My version of spanakopita

Ingredients:

  • 500 gr. ready-made phyllo (usually sold in the supermarket, at the frozen food section)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (to oil the phyllo)

Spinach Filling

  • 2-3 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 bunch of spring onions, finely chopped
  • frozen or fresh spinach (hard to say how much. Probably 3 bunches of fresh spinach or half a large bag of frozen. But you have to play it by ear here & go by experience)
  • fresh herbs: parsley, mint, dill, whatever you have or prefer; dill is more traditional, but I’ve used various combinations & all have worked (all of them chopped finely)
  • 2-3 eggs
  • 500 gr. feta cheese (again, you’ll have to play it by ear about the exact amount; you want a good balance of spinach & feta)
  • 3 loaded tablespoons ricotta cheese
  • 2-3 large tablespoons greek yoghurt
  • Black pepper to taste
  • Some freshly grated nutmeg, to taste
  • a bit of extra virgin olive oil, not too much (for the filling)
  • some dry herbs (optional)- e.g. dried mint, dried dill, or dried parsley

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180-200 degrees celsius
  • Sautee the onions, spring onions & spinach until softened & wilted. Towards the end, add the fresh herbs & cook a couple of minutes more
  • Put the spinach & onion mixture in a colander & let it drain, so that there’s no water, & until it cools a little. Put aside
  • In a large bowl, mix the eggs (beaten) with the feta cheese, which you’ve crumbled with your hands
  • Add the ricotta & greek yoghurt
  • Add pepper, nutmeg, a bit of olive oil & perhaps the dried herbs (if using)
  • In a large pyrex dish, place 5-6 pieces of phyllo, oiling each one as you go. Put the mixture of spinach & cheese on top, & then put 5-6 pieces of phyllo on top. Oil the top of the pie with extra virgin olive oil
  • If you want, at this stage (before putting the pie in the oven) cut the spanakopita with a sharp knife in pieces so that after it’s cooked it can be cut more easily
  • Cook in the preheated oven for about 30 minutes, or until the top of the spanakopita is reddish / golden.
  • Cool for a bit, & then eat. In my personal opinion, this is nicer eaten after a couple of hours, not straight from the oven, but others disagree!

Here are some other versions of spanakopita:


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dsc00141After sitting down & making a list of- what I consider to be- the most well-known Greek dishes, I thought I would take the opportunity to post my own version of some of the listed items. So I start with number 36, ‘pastitsio’, which is (as Maria at ‘Organically cooked’ says) the ‘Greek lasagna’.

We make pastitsio very often here at home, as I’m sure is the case in every Greek home. The recipe I present is very close to the Italian  ‘rigatoni al forno’, or indeed to lasagna, but there are a few subtle differences, starting from the pasta shapes used.

This is my submission to this week’s Presto Pasta night, hosted at Once upon a feast. While this recipe, if you make it from scratch on a weekday night, is certainly not ‘presto’ at all, it can be transformed into a presto recipe by completing some of the steps in advance. I give guidelines on how to do this throughout the recipe.

Pastitsio, my own version, loosely adapted from Maria’s recipe in ‘Organically cooked’

Ingredients:

For the mince sauce (basically this is a bolognese sauce), you need:

  • 500 gr. (or 1 kilo, if you want this really generous) lean ground meat (pork, beef or a mixture) (Maria at Organically cooked makes the point– rightly- that fatty mince won’t reduce enough to get that dry consistency you want for pastitsio)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, pureed or very finely chopped (optional)
  • 150 ml dry red wine
  • 1 large carrot, chopped finely
  • 1 piece of celery, finely chopped
  • a small amount of streaky bacon or pancetta (unsmoked)
  • a jar of tomato passata (or you can use chopped tomatoes, perhaps 2 tins are necessary for this)
  • 1 teaspoon of tomato paste
  • salt, pepper, oregano to taste
  • 2 bay leaves
  • You can also add mushrooms (chopped) & red peppers (chopped), as Maria suggests in her own version. I haven’t yet tried these additions, but I’m sure they’ll be delicious in the pastitsio

dsc00144For the pasta you need:

  • 500g fat macaroni with a hole in the middle (Maria suggests Barilla No 10; you can also use rigatoni for this & it’ll be fine, but I think it’s much more authentic- I mean, close to the way it’s done in Greek kitchens- if you manage to find the correct pasta shape)
  • 250g grated cheese (Maria suggests regato, gouda or edam; I’ve also successfully made this with feta cheese, cheddar and of course parmesan to sprinkle over. All have been good choices. You can be creative in your choice of cheese)
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the bechamel sauce, you need:

  • 500 ml milk (preferably, full fat). You need to heat this- e.g. in the microwave- before you make the bechamel
  • 35 gr. flour
  • 60 gr. butter
  • grated nutmeg to taste
  • some semolina (this is my addition; I use about 1-2 tablespoons, maybe a bit less if you’re unsure about this step. It does make the bechamel taste wonderful & somewhat sweet & fragrant. You’ll have to try it to see!)

Method:

  • Start by making the meat sauce (which is basically a bolognese sauce). This step can be completed way in advance, you can even have bags of bolognese sauce stocked up in your freezer
  • Heat the oil in a large, heavy bottomed pot
  • Saute the onions and garlic till soft & translucent
  • Add the bacon or pancetta & cook until reddish & fragrant, but not until completely crispy
  • Add the mince and let it brown all over. The more time it is given to sizzle in the oil, the tastier it becomes
  • When it is well-browned, pour the wine over it, and let the mince cook to draw out the flavour of the wine
  • If you do decide to use the finely chopped vegetables, add them into the mixture at this point, so that they will blend in with the mince, turning them over to mix them in well
  • Now add the tomatos and paste, along with just enough water to cover the mixture up to no more than 0.5cm above the mince mixture (what I do is, I slosh some water around in the empty, tomatoey passata bottle, & use that). Maria rightly notes that it is important to not have too much water or tomato sauce, because mince cooked for pastitsio (as well as moussaka and papoutsakia) must not be made into a sauce, as for spaggheti bolognese. It will be added to thick spaghetti which will become soggy if there is too much liquid in the mince. I would say that you can go a bit more liberally with the sauce if you’re using rigatoni, which can hold up more ‘saucey’ sauce!
  • Add the salt, pepper, bay leaves & oregano, cover the pot, and let the mince cook for at least 40 minutes, till most of the liquid has been absorbed. I actually usually let this cook for 2 hours or so, on a very very low heat.
  • Now make the pasta. When it’s ready, add the pasta to the meat sauce in a large pyrex dish (preferably an oval one) & at the end complete the last step, which is the bechamel sauce.
  • Boil a large pot of water and add the pasta as the water boils.
  • Cook it till al dente, and drain it well.
  • Sprinkle it with salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper.
  • Pour the macaroni into your pyrex dish.
  • Sprinkle the grated cheese into the cooked pasta, so that it melts with the heat from the pasta.
  • Now pour over the cooked mince and mix it into the pasta.
  • As Maria suggests, if you think there is too much mince mixture & your pyrex dish is already full, put the remaining mixture into a container and deep-freeze it. The next time you want to eat spaghetti bolognaise, all you will have to do is defrost it and boil up the spaghetti.
  • Sit the pyrex dish  (containing your pasta & meat sauce) on the table & prepare the bechamel. Again, this stage can be completed in advance- but not too much in advance; maybe in the morning or early afternoon. If you do this in advance, simply cover the bechamel with cling film (so that it doesn’t form a skin) & put in the fridge. Then the only thing you’ll have to do when you want to make the pastitsio is cook your pasta, reheat the meat sauce & bechamel, put everything together in a large pyrex & put the whole thing in the oven.
  • Maria suggests you can make the bechamel, saving yourself time and hassle, by using the same pot that you used to cook the mince. She says it also gives the sauce a meaty taste. I’ve never tried doing this, but I certainly will next time I make pastitsio.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy based pot. When it starts sizzling, add the flour
  • Cook the 2 together until they become a light brownish ‘biscuit coloured’ paste.
  • Remove from the heat (or you can just lower the heat very much) & start adding the heated milk, bit by bit. Go slowly at first, & thoroughly mix so that the milk becomes incorporated, but then you can go a bit more quickly.
  • Around halfway through making your sauce, add the semolina & mix thoroughly. I use a small hand held whisk for this.
  • Mix the sauce continuously, with a wooden spoon, till it thickens. Don’t leave the pot at this stage, as the sauce might stick to the bottom.
  • When the sauce sets, pour it evenly over the mince and pasta. Sprinkle some grated parmesan cheese over the top of the sauce.
  • Grate some nutmeg over the sauce.
  • Put the pastitsio n the oven & cook until the top has taken a golden colour (usually about 20 mins-half hour, but make sure you keep checking it).
  • Maria notes: when the pastitsio is done, leave it to cool before cutting, so that it is allowed to set to a point that makes the dish easy to cut and serve. Cutting it when it is still hot will only spoil its appearance, making it less appetising. If the pastitsio is mainly for freezing, make sure it has cooled right down before cutting it.
  • Enjoy with a nice, large green salad & perhaps a cold glass of white wine.

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The Greek 100!

greece3That didn’t take long, did it. After posting about the British 100 foods (initially created by Helen of Food stories) and (especially) after declaring how much I looooooove creating lists, I just had to compile a Greek 100 list of foods and / or recipes. I’ll try providing links to them when I can, so that those readers who are not Greek can get an idea of what I’m on about. I don’t pretend there’s anything ‘authentic’ or quintessentially Greek about any of these foods or recipes (after all, Greek cooking is very much influenced by- and sometimes is indistinguishable from- cooking in nearby Mediterranean & Balkan countries, including- or especially- Turkey). The only claim I can make is that these foods are all regularly eaten in Greek homes & cooked in Greek kitchens.

And before I forget- as Helen asks in her own list- anything I missed that should have been on here?

The rules remain the same. Here they are:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Link back to this blog, if you would be so kind.

(Note: I’ve made an effort to provide links in English for most of these recipes whenever possible, just so you can get an idea what these recipes / foods are about… but in some cases I could only find the recipes in Greek. If anyone’s interested in a particular recipe that’s only linked to a Greek-language site, please email me & I can send you a quick translation).

MY GREEK 100:

  1. Gemista (and here’s Ivy’s version) (stuffed vegetables- a classic Greek homemade food-, usually with tomatoes or peppers. You can either make a meat version or a veggy version).
  2. Touloumpes (syrup dipped desserts, not that commonly found anymore in Greece, but really really scrumptious. Very hard to find a home-made recipe for them, I have to say…)
  3. Mydopilafo (a lovely rice with mussels, the Greek version of paella)
  4. Yiouvarlakia (a delicious, homely, hearty meat soup, made with tiny meatballs, finished off with avgolemono sauce, this is quintessential Greek home cooking- perfect for a cold winter evening).
  5. Avgolemono (a classic Greek egg & lemon sauce, which we eat…eeerrrm, basically with everything!)
  6. Manouri (a mild, white Greek cheese, not easily found outside Greece)
  7. Feta cheese (the most famous of Greek cheeses; at our home we eat it with literally everything)
  8. Bougatsa (pies either filled with cheese- feta cheese, for sure- or with a sweet cream, this is one of Thessaloniki’s most wonderful, delicious breakfasts. Not usually made at home, but served at what are called ‘bougatsatzidika’, meaning little cafes that serve bougatsa. To  be honest, not sure if a good home-made version can be made, but I’ve provided a couple of links nevertheless).
  9. Revani (one of my favourite desserts, made with syrup & semolina- and here are 2 more interesting versions by Ivy)
  10. Frappes (Of course I’ve tried this coffee. There’s no Greek that can avoid it, really. But I have  to say, it’s the most disgusting coffee drink ever. Still, many consider it the national Greek drink. Anyway, I suppose I did have to include it…Here’s what Maria has to say about it.)
  11. Fakes soupa (as I say in my own version of this lentil soup, this is the most everyday of everyday Greek dishes. And here is Maria’s version).
  12. Fasolada & fasolia gigantes fournou (Greeks make various dishes with butter beans- what we call ‘fasolia gigantes’- and some consider ‘fasolada’ (a bean soup) the quintessential national Greek dish).
  13. Prasoryzo and  spanakoryzo and lahanoryzo (The greek version of risotto! These are rice dishes made either with leeks (prasoryzo), spinach (spanakoryzo) or cabbage (lahanoryzo). Can’t be found in restaurants that often, these are everyday dishes, cooked at greek homes).
  14. Patsas (would never try this, I think it’s disgusting! But many many greeks eat patsa in the early hours of the morning, after having one too many drinks. They say that patsas helps with hangover! Don’t have personal experience about this…but you could try it).
  15. Mageiritsa (This is a delicious, rich meat soup, eaten once a year at Easter)
  16. Kokoretsi (personally I don’t like this meat dish, served at Easter…but most Greeks love it).
  17. Melomakarona (these honey & walnut cookies be found in every Greek home around Christmas time. Here’s another version).
  18. Tsoureki (a Greek easter bread or cake).
  19. Galaktoboureko (a wonderful, creamy dessert, made with filo pastry & lots of milk)
  20. Greek yoghurt (everyone knows about thick, strained greek yoghurt…Like feta cheese, eaten with almost everything by Greeks)
  21. Rice with yoghurt (my one & only, best ever comfort food! A light supper commonly eaten by many Greeks. Can’t really provide a link for this! It’s exactly what it sounds like- white rice with Greek yoghurt).
  22. Tzatziki (I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t know what tzatziki is, so it’s a bit superfluous to provide recipes for it…but just in case, I’ve provided 2 links that show how you can make this classic yoghurt dip).
  23. Melitzanosalata (this is a dip made from pureed aubergine, commonly found in Greek tavernas).
  24. Roast lamb with roast potatoes (often this is the main Easter lunch dish, but is eaten in other times of year as well).
  25. Vasilopita (one more link here) & vasilopita trifti (this is the traditional cake that Greeks cut on New Year’s Eve. There’s a foil-wrapped coin inside the cake. Whoever gets the slice with the coin is the lucky person for the New Year! There are different ways to make it. I personally prefer the ‘trifti vasilopita’ version.)
  26. Glyka tou koutaliou (these are fruit desserts, made with syrup, often served with greek / turkish coffee & a glass of cold water. The exact translation is ‘spoon desserts’)
  27. Taramosalata (dip, made with fish roe)
  28. Tyrokauteri or htypiti (A feta cheese dip, can be made quite spicy- hence ‘tyrokauteri’ which essentially means spicy cheese. This is one of my partner’s favourites)
  29. Kourampiedes (and here’s Kalofagas’ version). (These are usually eaten around Christmas time. They’re absolutely delicious little cakes / biscuits, a bit like shortbread or something like that- but they have a very particular taste!)
  30. Sofrito (a traditional meat stew, made mostly in Corfu)
  31. Tyropita, spanakopita, prasopita, prasotyropita etc (Greek pies are traditionally made with filo pastry- ideally, home-made-, but not necessarily just filo pastry, as you can see by the example of prasopita- aka leek pie- that I provide).
  32. Olive oil (Olive oil- and usually extra virgin- is used with absolutely everything in Greece).
  33. Kalamata olives (wonderful big black olives from Kalamata, a southern Greek city)
  34. Souvlakia and gyros (I don’t think there’s anyone who’s visited Greece & hasn’t tried our own version of kebabs. Can be found in every street corner in Greece. The quality of course varies, but you don’t eat gyros because it’s quality food! This is street food at its most delicious- here’s what Maria has to say about it).
  35. Piperies florinis (this is a very good way to prepare red peppers. These are called ‘peppers from Florina’- I suppose they refer to a particular type of red pepper found in Florina, a small northern Greek city)
  36. Pastitsio (and here’s another link for this) (basically, this is the Greek version of lasagna! There is no greek cook who doesn’t have a recipe of their own for this- which reminds me, I need to add my own version of pastitsio to my blog).
  37. Moussaka (like pastitsio, each Greek has their own version of moussaka, which is a baked aubergine, meat & potato dish. Another delicious version here).
  38. Pasta Flora (not sure if this is actually a traditional Greek dessert…it is however made & eaten often in Greece).
  39. Kritharaki (this is what non-Greeks call ‘orzo’. Often cooked just in tomato sauce for a quick supper- perhaps served with cheese- but mostly cooked with veal & tomato sauce, & is then called giouvetsi- which is number 53 in the list).
  40. Loukoumades (and one more link here) (these are fritters or dumplings which are fried in oil & served with honey, usually for breakfast. They’re quite a faff to make- and not a particularly healthy choice!-, but they’re delicious)
  41. Melitzanes papoutsakia (the literal translation is aubergine shoes! This is a traditional greek / turkish dish, made in the oven)
  42. Melitzanobourekakia (these are delicious little aubergine fritters: I wasn’t actually able to find an online recipe for these…if anyone has one, I’d be glad to see it)
  43. Dakos (and one more version). (This is a simple, healthy Cretan dish, made with ‘dakos’- what Kalofagas calls ‘Greece’s own bruschetta’, a kind of rusk- to which you add fresh tomato, olive oil, oregano, garlic & feta cheese).
  44. Fava (and another version) (a yellow split-pea puree, served with lemon, onion & oregano. The best fava in Greece can be found in Santorini).
  45. Agkinares ala polita (a delicious, traditional way to cook artichokes)
  46. Imam baildi (a stuffed aubergine recipe, this is more a Turkish than a Greek recipe, but is eaten in Greece a lot too)
  47. Briam (a lovely vegetarian dish, made with oven baked vegetables. A wonderful dish for those middle-of-the-week dinners where you’re too tired to cook something more complicated)
  48. Kolokythoanthoi me tyri (a difficult & rarely found meze; but a really delicious one. This is courgette flowers filled with cheese & then fried in a batter).
  49. Kolokythokeftedes (and one more version) (a lovely meze- basically this is courgette fritters-, made in various different ways, & served in tavernas across Greece).
  50. Dolmadakia & lahanodolmades (both are rice, herb & meat mixtures- or just rice & herb mixtures- stuffed into cabbage leaves- lahanodolmades- or vine leaves- dolmadakia. At our home, we usually have lahanodolmades at Christmas).
  51. Bakaliaros tiganitos (fried salt cod, a classic Greek dish which is most often made at home or in tavernas during the Lent period. Usually served with skordalia- see entry number 88)
  52. Mydia (mussels) or Garides (prawns) saganaki (and here’s another interesting version of this) (a classic taverna meze, basically this is mussels or shrimps cooked in a tomato & feta cheese sauce, in a particular type of pot called a ‘saganaki’)
  53. Giouvetsi (a warming dish, made with meat- either beef, veal or chicken- tomato sauce and kritharaki)
  54. Halvas simigdalenios (a wonderful, simple semolina dessert, one of my favourites when I was growing up- and still is!)
  55. Moshari kokkinisto me poure melitzanas (hounkiar begienti) (this is one of my partner’s favourite foods, a turkish-inspired dish- eaten often in Greece, too- made with veal & aubergine puree)
  56. Arnaki fricassee (a meat & greens stew, topped with an avgolemono sauce).
  57. Kydonia psita sto fourno (this is quince baked in the oven, usually served with whipped cream. Really yummy)
  58. Soupia or calamari gemista (squid stuffed with feta cheese)
  59. Patates giahni (a very plain but very moreish everyday dish. Just potatoes, cooked with onion & tomato. Couldn’t track down a recipe for this, any help anyone?)
  60. Stifado (and here’s Maria’s version of rabbit stifado) (I love this meat & tiny-onions dish…but have only made it once. I still remember that day!)
  61. Soutzoukakia smyrneika (commonly found in Greek tavernas, these are oval-shaped meatballs, either served on their own or in a tomato sauce- in which case they’re called ‘smyrneika’)
  62. Kolokythakia gemista (These are courgettes stuffed with meat & rice, served with avgolemono sauce. One of my favourite homemade dishes).
  63. Kotopoulo milaneza (chicken alla milanese). (Strickly speaking this is of course not a Greek recipe. But at my home we used to cook a variation of this- boiled chicken with plain boiled rice & an avgolemono sauce, made with the chicken stock)
  64. Tzigerosarmades (this is a hard to make, quite heavy meat dish, usually cooked at Easter)
  65. Babas (not really a Greek dish at all! This is the french dessert ‘baba au rhum’…but I include it in my list of Greek recipes, just because it was my absolute favourite dessert when I was growing up, & still remains one of my very favourite).
  66. Kantaifi & Ekmek kantaifi (A turkish inspired dessert, made with lots of syrup. There’s 2 versions- one with cream (ekmek kantaifi) & one without).
  67. Ellinikos (Greek) or tourkikos (Turkish) cafes (coffee) (there is an issue of whether this is most properly called ‘greek’ or ‘turkish’ coffee- or indeed ‘arabian’ coffee. Whatever, it really doesn’t matter. Personally, I call it ‘turkish’ coffee just because that’s what I’m used to. Many Greeks start their day with this).
  68. Kokoras krasatos (red wine chicken) with hilopites (hilopites are small, square pasta shapes, usually cooked in greece either with chicken in a red wine sauce, or with beef / veal. There needs to be myzithra cheese or kefalotyri grated on top).
  69. Karydopita (a wonderful, fragrant walnut cake. And another version here)
  70. Horiatiki salata (this is the classic, very simple greek salad, which in Greece we actually call ‘village salad’)
  71. Kalamarakia tiganita (squid fried in batter, a meze commonly found in Greek tavernas)
  72. Kefalotyri (a hard, salty cheese; the Greek version of parmesan, maybe!)
  73. Baklavas (this is obviously not just a Greek dessert. It can be found in beautiful versions in Turkish cuisine as well. But we do eat it a lot in Greece. And here’s a non-authentic, chocolate version, if you want to be adventurous!)
  74. Myzithra & xinomyzithra (a wonderful Greek cheese- the latter version, xinomyzithra, can mostly be found in Greek islands, e.g. Milos)
  75. Strapatsada (the Greek version of scrambled eggs).
  76. Horiatika loukanika (Greek ‘village’ sausages; basically these are lovely, spicy sausages)
  77. Spetzofai (a hearty, spicy dish, made with horiatika loukanika- see number 76- peppers & tomato)
  78. Trahanas (a mild, warming & easy to make pasta soup)
  79. Astakomakaronada (a luxurious dish: lobster spaggheti)
  80. Htapodaki sti shara (a classic seafood meze: grilled octopus. Ideally it has to be charcoal grilled)
  81. Graviera Naxou / Graviera Kritis (2 varieties of gruyere cheese, one from the island Naxos, and one from Crete.  Both delicious)
  82. Anthotyro (very mild, even- one could say- ‘watery’ white cheese)
  83. Ouzo (everyone knows what ouzo is…an aniseed alcoholic drink, served most often with mezedes. Personally, I hate it; but most Greeks love it).
  84. Tigania (fried pieces of pork, with oregano. Really delicious easy dish).
  85. Patsavouropita (very very simple dessert)
  86. Makedonikos halvas (a different  type of halva- this one tahini based, & not semolina based-, mostly found in Northern Greece)
  87. Revythokeftedes (chick pea fritters, really lovely meze)
  88. skordalia (not one of my favourites, but nevertheless, a classic garlic based dip)
  89. Gauros marinatos (a meze that goes with ouzo, this is marinated fish)
  90. kakavia (a delicious fish soup)
  91. Saganaki me tyri (basically, this is fried cheese in a batter- usually kefalotyri or kaseri. Can be found as part of a mezedes meal in tavernas, but people often make it at home as part of a light (light??!!) supper. Usually served with a lemon wedge).
  92. Retsina (like ouzo, this is a classic Greek alcoholic drink, served most often with mezedes)
  93. Kaseri (a semi-hard, very popular cheese)
  94. Moustaleuria (this is absolutely delicious, and if you have the chance, please do try it).
  95. Anitho (aka dill. Probably the most widely used herb in Greece- perhaps together with parsley).
  96. Koulouri Thessalonikis (these are types of sesame bread rolls, sold in the street in Thessaloniki, & eaten by everyone on the go, or as an easy, quick breakfast. No way can you find a recipe for these, as they’re purely street food, but I’ve linked to a picture & description)
  97. Paximadia (kind of similar to italian biscotti…)
  98. Amygdalota (and here’s another lovely version of these) (there are countless variations of these almond cookies, mostly found in Greek islands. I love them but unfortunately don’t eat them that often).
  99. Kariokes & pourakia (chocolate sweets, mainly found in Thessaloniki patisseries. Link, anyone?)
  100. Merenda! (basically this is the Greek version of Nutella. Can be eaten with crepes or just with bread for breakfast).

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A short while ago my friend N. and I made a cheese & mushroom tart but had some left-over shortcrust pastry. We quickly dismissed the possibility of throwing out the pastry, & decided to improvise & make little cheese pies (tyropitakia, in greek). This is what we did:

We mixed up some feta cheese with a bit of greek yoghurt, added some dried mint, some fresh parsley, chopped up, & some olive oil (not too much). We then cut up the shortcrust pastry in 5 squares, put some of the mixture in each, & shaped them loosely (as you can see in the picture, our little cheese pies were by no means shaped in a brilliant or professional looking way!) We then baked them at around 180-200 degrees celcius, until they looked ready (can’t give you an exact amount of time!)

The result? We both agreed that these were even more delicious than our cheese & mushroom tart, & we concluded that improvisation is always the way to go… Will surely be making these again!

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If you ask any Greek person what is one of the most basic dishes that is cooked at Greek homes all the time- perhaps even every week- they’ll probably answer: ‘Fakes’. Fakes is the Greek name for lentils, and when Greeks refer to this, they don’t mean lentils in general, they mean a particular lentil soup.

Here are the steps we use when we cook it at home. I won’t give a recipe per se, because it’s one of those dishes where recipes are not followed, and which slightly changes from time to time, according to taste & what we have in the flat.

Greek lentil soup

  • Rinse the lentils (about 500 gr., preferably brown or green ones) ) well with water, put them in a pan, cover them with water & bring them to the boil. When the water has boiled, drain it & give the lentils a good rinse again
  • Chop an onion very finely (if you want, add some celery & garlic too. I personally don’t like celery or garlic with lentil soup, but it’s up to you)
  • Sautee the onion in olive oil until it’s soft & mushy
  • When it’s soft, I like to add some red wine, or even some marsala
  • Add the lentils you’ve already pre-boiled & mix them up for a minute with the oniony-oily base so that they’re well coated
  • At this stage, if you want add a couple of sliced carrots (I omit or add these, according to mood)
  • Add water, enough to cover the lentils generously (the amount is really according to taste, we don’t like our lentil soup watery)
  • Also add some tomato passata or chopped tomatoes, usually about half a bottle of passata or one small can of chopped tomatoes. You could also have your lentil soup with no tomatoes
  • Finally, add 2 bay leaves, some dried oregano & if you want some dried thyme, too
  • Bring to the boil, and after that partly cover your pan & let the lentil soup simmer for a while. It’ll take about an hour to cook, but that really depends on the type of lentils you’re using, so keep an eye on the soup, add water if you feel it’s running out, & make sure you stop cooking the soup when the lentils are soft & cooked through.
  • Leave to cool to room temperature & eat with crusty bread, perhaps some olives or anchovies, and a bit of red wine vinegar (if you want) to go with.

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When I was a child, if anyone asked me ‘what’s your favourite food’ I would invariably answer ‘chicken with potatoes in the oven’. This is the food that my mother would cook for me when she wanted to please me- e.g. when I had done well at an exam, when I had my birthday, etc. It always made me so happy and ‘at home’ eating chicken with potatoes in the oven… This is not such an original choice, I know. And this recipe is far from an original dish, but since we make it & eat it so often at home, I couldn’t leave it out of my blog. After all, this blog- among other things- is meant as a kind of diary of what I cook at home in the normal course of events. So it’s definitely not just what I cook when friends come for dinner, in which case I sometimes try to be a bit ‘original’ (which is always a misguided idea!)

The method I use is a combination of the Greek way of roasting chicken- mainly, adding lots of lemon, and roasting the potatoes in the same pan as the chicken- and Nigella Lawson’s version of ‘basic roast chicken’. The Greek method- or at least the method used at my home back in Greece- results in the chicken-y and lemon-y juices infusing and flavouring the potatoes. Nigella’s way makes sure the chicken comes out perfectly cooked, without giving you a headache thinking ‘how long should I cook it for’.

As those of you who follow this blog may know, I’m in the process of cooking all recipes from Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to eat’… so roasting this chicken ticks off one more recipe from that list. But this is a bit of a fraud, first, because I’ve followed Nigella’s guidelines (mainly, how much time it takes for the chicken to roast) countless times. So making this is definitely not a first. And second, because I never follow her further suggestions, which include adding roasted garlics & shallots to the chicken pan.

In the end, here is how I always do this:

  • I smear some salt, black pepper & extra virgin olive oil onto the chicken, and place it in a large pyrex dish (you can also use a roasting pan, of course)
  • I peel & cut up the potatoes in small cubes & place them in the same pan, around the chicken
  • I put a whole lemon, cut up in 2-3 pieces, up the chicken’s bottom
  • I then add salt, pepper, more olive oil & lots of lemon juice (according to taste) to the potatoes & mix them up. I also add quite bit of dried oregano, and nowadays, some dried thyme too
  • My partner likes to add a bit of water too, so that the potatoes don’t stick

I then follow these guidelines concerning time, taken from Nigella’s book. They always work perfectly, and the chicken comes out moist & succulent:

  • Cook in a preheated oven at 200 degrees celcius (gas mark 6)
  • Give the food 20 minutes per 500 gr. (of chicken), plus 30 minutes
  • I cook the chicken breast-side down, which Nigella suggests for the first hour. But I leave it like that all along. It makes the meat- especially the breast- really moist & tasty.

That’s it! Ahhh… make sure though, as a basic first step, that your chicken is a good quality one!

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Since I discovered De.li.cious I’ve been an avid hoarder of recipes from food-blogs (well ok, when I’m being good I also tag and save news articles that are relevant to my PhD research!) If you haven’t already discovered De.li.cious, please do check it out, it’s the best way to save those recipes that you keep finding & copying for future use.

This recipe is one I’d saved ages ago, and I decided to finally try it, as part of my ‘cooking from blogs’ goal (number 154). It was a great success, I’m happy to say. This was originally created by Pille at ‘Nami Nami’, a wonderful Estonian blog which I’ve been following for years. As Pille, rightly, says, ‘every Greek cook has their special moussaka recipe’. So I was pleasantly surprised (and my partner too) to discover a different way to serve moussaka to the one we’re used to… as Pille’s title suggests, this recipe, in a way, ‘deconstructs’ moussaka. It doesn’t use bechamel, making it much lighter and easier to make as a quick, everyday supper. Here’s my own version of Pille’s deconstruction. In a way, this is a… deconstruction of a deconstruction!

Ingredients:

  • 2 tbsps olive oil (I used extra-virgin)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped / minced
  • 2 minced garlic cloves (I skipped these, due to my partner’s dislike of garlic)
  • 500 gr. ground-lamb
  • 400 gr. chopped tomatoes (I skipped these & just used diluted tomato puree instead)
  • 3-4 tbsps tomato puree, diluted with water (Pille suggests only 2 tbsps puree, since she uses the chopped tomatoes too)
  • 2 tsp cinnamon (I skipped this, feel free to use it if you like)
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine (my addition)
  • 200-300 gr. roasted-in-olive-oil aubergine pieces, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano (my addition)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme (my addition, too)
  • salt & pepper

To garnish:

  • 200 gr. Greek feta cheese, crumbled in small pieces
  • some fresh mint

Method:

  • Roast the aubergines, sliced & chopped in pieces, in some olive oil, at a very hot oven
  • Heat the olive oil on a big saucepan
  • Add onion and garlic (if using) and fry gently, until soft
  • Add the ground-lamb and fry until the meat is browned. Add a bit of water if you think it’s needed
  • When the lamb is fried, add the white wine
  • Add the chopped tomatoes (if using) and tomato pure (in my case, I diluted the puree in quite a bit of water), season with cinnamon (if using), with oregano & thyme, and generously with salt and pepper
  • Simmer on a low heat for about 20 minutes, adding the prepared aubergines, cut in smallish pieces, half way through
  • To serve, sprinkle with feta and mint

This is really delicious, aromatic, and warming. However, it’s not too heavy, making it perfect as an easy dish for this time of year. I served it with some mashed potatoes as a side dish, keeping with the Greek tradition of including potatoes in a moussaka dish.

If you’re interested in other recipes of moussaka, here are a few that I found online:

Thanks to Pille for a fantastic recipe!

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