Fáva – a velvety Greek dip

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Fáva is a velvety, smooth dip very popular in the taverns and homes of Greece. Not to be confused with the fava bean or broad bean, it is usually made with yellow split peas. Occasionally it is also made with dried and broken fava beans (κουκιά) but that dish has a light, green colour instead of its usual pale, mustard-yellow. It is usually served cold with chopped onion, lemon juice and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. But mother often fed us warm fava for a filling and nutritious meal – and we loved it. My favourite fáva flavour has a Cretan inspiration. Toasted cumin seeds and fried onion flavour my fáva recipe whilst roasted tomatoes and often caramelised onions are also paired or ‘married’ with it, as the Cretans say. Fáva can be paired beautifully with lamb but also octopus. It is nutritious and filling, and an impressive alternative to Hummus.

Fava (1)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (around 250g) yellow split peas
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 – 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (optional)
  • Pepper (optional)

Preparation

  1. Rinse the yellow split peas well and place in a sieve.
  2. Add enough oil to coat the base of a medium pot (2 to 3 tablespoons).
  3. Add the onion, garlic clove, bay leaf and cumin seeds, and stir fry for around 5 minutes till the onion slightly softens.
  4. Toss in the yellow split peas and coat well in the oil and flavours.
  5. Add the boiling hot stock and bring to a low simmer for up to 40 minutes.
  6. At the beginning the mixture might froth. If this happens remove the froth with a slotted spoon.
  7. Half an hour into cooking check whether the dish requires additional water so that it does not stick to the pan.
  8. When cooked the peas should be getting mushy when mixed and should not have a bite.
  9. Take off the heat, remove the bay leaf, add the lemon juice and cream the mixture with a hand blender.
  10. You can serve mixed in with roasted tomatoes and topped with caramelised onions.

Lia’s notes: 

  • Yellow split peas are not the same as chana daal (yellow split lentils) commonly used in Indian cooking. You can source great quality, British grown, organic peas online through hodmedods.co.uk.
  • Good quality ingredients make a great dip, so as well as using Hodmedods yellow split peas, I recommend you source use good quality extra virgin olive oil for this dip. Some of my  choices include Oliveology, the Olive Press in Ludlow and The Greek Secret olive oils.
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Sudanese Meatballs from Refugee Food Stories

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This summer I am working on a very important project with Oasis Cardiff and Festival of Voice in Wales. It is called Refugee Food Stories. And it is all about recording the recipes of people who work at and are supported by Oasis, and upskilling/mentoring some amazing individuals. These recipes helped create a menu which you can try at the Oasis Food Trailer at the Wales Millennium Centre Hub at Festival of Voice between 7 and 10 June and 15 and 17 June.

sudanese meatballs

This is a recipe from Sudan and most importantly of an amazing lady called Huda who has made Wales her new home. About a year ago I went to one of Oasis’s Cardiff Supper Clubs where Huda showed us how to make and eat these Sudanese meatballs. I left with images of her family feasting in backyards in celebration of their bonds and life. I left feeling a little bit closer to her and with my belly full and happy. This is her recipe, a nourishing and delicious dish. If you have not tried it yet make sure you visit the Oasis Trailer outside the Wales Millennium Centre and between the Pierhead building this weekend. And why not try to make it at home.

Ingredients (yields 5 portions)

Meatballs

  • 500g minced lamb
  • 1 onion (150g), finely grated or minced in a food processor
  • 1tsp ground coriander
  • 1tsp ground pepper
  • 1tsp ground cinnamon
  • 100g breadcrumbs
  • 3 garlic cloves minced
  • 50g parsley finely chopped
  • 1tsp salt
  • Flour (approx. half a cup)
  • 1-2 cups vegetable oil to fry meatballs

Tomato & yoghurt sauce

  • 4 garlic cloves grated
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1lt passata
  • ¼ cup water
  • Up to 250g Greek yoghurt (strained)
  • ½ tsp coriander
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ tsp salt

Rice

  • 250g basmati rice
  • 500ml water
  • 1 small carrot grated
  • 1 small handful frozen peas
  • 1 heaped Tbsp butter salt (50g)

Yoghurt and tahini dip

  • 125g yoghurt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • Pinch of salt
  • 25g tahini
  • Pinch chili powder
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice 

Preparation (1hr)

  1. Mix all the mince ingredients (apart from the flour) well in bowl with your hands.
  2. In a flat tray place ½ cup of flour and spread thinly.
  3. Place the vegetable oil in a deep-frying pan, cover and heat whilst rolling the meatballs.
  4. Roll the meatballs into small round balls (3-4cm diameter) and place in the floured tray. The recipe should yield around 25 meatballs.
  5. Flour the meatballs well by gently shaking in the baking tray until they are lightly covered in flour.
  6. Fry the meatballs between 6-7 minutes on medium heat, until they are browned. Remove and set aside.
  7. Add two tbsp of vegetable oil in a deep pot, heat, add the minced garlic for the sauce and stir fry for a couple of minutes on low heat.
  8. Add the passata, coriander, cinnamon, pepper, salt and some water and stir well.
  9. Once the sauce starts to bubble add the yoghurt, shake to mix.
  10. Take off the heat and stir quickly before returning to the hob.
  11. Add the meatballs and simmer for 15 minutes on low to medium heat.
  12. To make the yoghurt and tahini drizzle, add all the sauce ingredients and mix well in a bowl.
  13. For the rice: add the rice, water, carrot and frozen peas to the boiling water and simmer slowly for 10 minutes.
  14. Add the butter and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  15. Serve a portion of rice with a ladle of 5 meatballs, a drizzled of the dip and a garnish of parsley (as would Huda).

The Wasteless Skordalia Bread Dip

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This Wasteless dip is inspired by my Greek heritage. Skordalia is a popular dip which can be made with stale bread or potatoes. My favourite is the one using bread. It is a kind of bread sauce, brought to life by walnuts, sharp vinegar flavours, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. It is traditionally served with deep fried salt cod and once you start you can’t stop eating it. At Wasteless suppers we usually serve it with smoked paprika temperate vegetable and cucumber slices.


Ingredients

  • 200g leftover bread, soaked in water and well drained
  • 1 large handful walnuts
  • 3 tbsp. white wine vinegar
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 60 ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. pepper (optional)
  • a generous pinch of grated nutmeg (optional)

Preparation

1.     Soak the bread slices with the crust in some water until soft.
2.     Squeeze out the water well with your hands and place in a food processor.
3.     Add the garlic cloves crushed. You can add more garlic but the longer you leave the dip in the fridge the stronger it becomes.
4.     Top with the walnuts, salt and pepper/nutmeg and olive oil and blitz until lovely and creamy.
5.     Taste to adjust the salt and vinegar levels. The vinegar really makes this dip special so if you feel something is missing add another teaspoon.
6.     This dip is absolutely delicious with raw vegetable, as an accompaniment to salads, with tempura vegetable and fried fish (in the traditional Greek way).

Forgotten Foods – Nettle pie Video

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The resurgence of nettle, wild garlic and other foraged greens cooking is a delight to me. I still think that eating and foraging wild greens is a skill that needs more nurturing to become part of our yearly eating calendar. I don’t mean that you have to see nettles on supermarket isles to be able to say they are back. I am not talking about food trends. I am talking about making wild green habit and seasonal eating more of a habit for life.

This nettle pie is a simple way to connect with wild greens that are available in abundance in your surroundings in Spring. Turn the TV off. Take a stroll into your local forest or park. Pick, cook and taste. Have a look and hopefully be inspired by this video.

The Wasteless diaries #2

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As the dust settles I am finally getting to reflect on the Wasteless Cardiff suppers journey so far. I planned to write a blog for each Wasteless supper we delivered in March 2018 but surprises such as the heavy snow really threw us. The Wasteless team had to work hard and seamlessly to deliver the events against all odds.

For those of you who might not have heard about Wasteless in Cardiff it is a collaborative platform which involves more than one food businesses in the delivery of a pop-up feast using food surplus, food that would have been wasted and food that is produced in a less wasteful manner. I have been running it for the last ten months with Rebecca Clark from Green City Events. It is our brainchild as Ruth Molaski recently wrote in her Western Mail article. Wasteless has taken most of my ‘food work’ time in 2018. And we both really care about it.

We held our pilot Wasteless in October 2017. And in March we got together to deliver two additional events partly supported by the Sainsbury Waste Less Save More fund. The talented Jane of Hungry City Hippy wrote a fantastic review about the early March event too.

Who is Wasteless for?

Bringing new businesses to the table to inspire and be inspired by them in taking a wasteless approach remains one of the key objectives of Wasteless suppers trials. We wanted and continue to aim to showcase our local chefs and food businesses, and how they do ‘wasteless’ food.

Wasteless also aims to bring crowds to the table educating them about the potential of food they may waste and informing them about ways to be savvier at home. The events are much more than a meal, with guests really engaging in discussions about their footprint and impact, leaving more empowered after having shared knowledge and ideas on their journey to becoming wasteless.

Our choice to go from potential food waste to fine dining is deliberate. I am very keen that we make the point that a menu you are likely to have paid two or three times the price of a Wasteless supper ticket can be actually made from ingredients that we as consumers and the retail process most commonly waste. I hope this stark antithesis between food destined for the bin turning into gourmet dishes really sticks with our guests and those who read about Wasteless.

Our choice to do Wasteless and yours to attend the events also sends an important message to food retailers, who can see that we care more about what may perish – they are willing to work with all of us and they are listening. They have people like you and me working for them who care as much about reducing food waste. This has been one of the most encouraging messages of the project. We are in it together!

How many?

To date three Wasteless suppers have taken place in the Welsh capital of Cardiff.  The WasteLess suppers preserved, pickled, cooked and served around 261 kilos[1] of the food collected in the weeks leading to the events.  The food was then safely handled, stored, distributed and cooked by the participating chefs/businesses to offer five-course feasts.

There were eighteen participating food businesses with different practices and business models, who prepared and donated food, and hosted the suppers – a number that has by far exceeded our expectations. In fact, when we wrote our project plan we thought we might attract around fifty people to our table at this stage of the process. But the food collected ended up feeding 135 guests (and another twenty people who volunteered to help deliver the events).

What was served at Wasteless…

The creativity of the chefs we have worked with is humbling.  Dishes such as sourdough flavoured ice cream from Cocorico Patisserie who then used the bread again to make tartelettes for the canapes serving the cheese donated by the Cheese Pantry were a massive hit. Laurian’s recipes were conceived during the heavy snowfall when bread and vegetable was in shortage, and many of our guests had already started to think about food as a precious commodity. The fact that we already had over 80 kg food collected at that time propelled us into action to ensure that Wasteless supper happened regardless of the snow. The response was amazing and most of our guests turned up on the evening – many quite hungry for vegetable and bread at the time.

Also for Wasteless supper #2, our preservation master, the beloved Eira of Inner City Pickle created a delicious aubergine, tomato and chilli relish and a banana jam which we used in our menu. The amazing Laura of Tidy Kitchen company laboriously sliced and minced different cuts of chicken and pork to make scotch eggs and terrines for our guests. Laura came on the team just ten days before the event. And she blew our guests away with her dishes’s presentation as well as the flavour. You must give her food a try and support her newly established independent business.

At Wasteless #3 Chef Jan’s (Anna Loka) recipe of mixed vegetable rostis with a butternut squash sauce and crisp fried greens (a great use for wilted greens) inspired a lot of our diners to go home and look at their vegetable draw twice before clearing it. Melissa’s (Penylan Pantry) starter balls mixing various vegetable, fish and meat into delicious bites showed people you don’t need much to create an impressive party platter. Beca Lyne Pirkis’s trio dessert using tens of kilos of bananas, mandarins and frozen berries in a sticky mandarin cake, jam doughnuts and the most delicious banana fool I have ever tasted was spectacular and gave us ideas on how to use ripened fruit.

Beca, who is one of the baker’s dozen in the 4th series of The Great British Bake Off and now cook, food writer and TV presenter, said, “The issue of food waste is something that concerns me, and helping to raise awareness around it by being part of Wasteless is one way of inspiring others to make better use of leftovers as well as drawing attention to the volume of surplus food that happens weekly in Cardiff. I’m honoured to be asked to play a small part in helping the cause.”

Phil’s (Dusty Knuckle) mushroom ketchup, pickled apples, daikon slaw and slow cooked meat was a dish that required much labour and ingenuity in using everything that was made available to him – it had so many layers of flavour and texture and nothing was wasted. And I hope that my own new-found, personal obsession with dehydration, pickles and pickling methods from around the globe gave people at our table more ideas on how to make the most of seasonal resources.

Clare Williams of Penylan Preserves who created three different relishes for Wasteless supper #3 says, “I am extremely humbled to be part of the #Wastelesssupper team. Preserving is a great way of ‘keeping food’ for longer and I couldn’t believe how good the food was that was going to be thrown out!! I am a great believer in using my senses on when food needs to be thrown NOT a best before date on the packaging!”

The Purple Poppadom team transformed frozen chicken, most of it a by-product of the Wasted suppers at Selfridges last year into a delicious curry produced to us by the fantastic Illtud of Charcutier. ‘We are great believers in the work of the Wasteless team. Chef is very excited to have contributed a Purple Poppadom Nadan Kozhi chicken curry, showing how ingredients that would otherwise be thrown away too early, can be so tasty.’

The future is bright for Wasteless food events. As well as being a finalist for the Cardiff Life Awards in the first six months of its life, it has received much attention from the public and media platforms.

The question we keep getting is, ‘When is the next Wasteless happening?’ With the encouragement and support we have received from all of you and businesses in Cardiff and across Wales wanting to be part of Wasteless, there is a lot more that we can do to spread the message by inviting people to a wasteless table, and maybe a more wasteless lifestyle.

We would like to thank all the volunteers who have worked hard to make Wasteless happen. Most notably Dai Tilbert (Punk Bikes Cardiff), Laura Sorvala (Auralab) and Dan Barnett worked tirelessly on the events through collections, deliveries, preparation and on the night.

Great thanks go to Oasis Cardiff, the refugee charity who let us use their fridges and freezers for the vast amount of food that we used for Wasteless. Any fresh or frozen food we did not use was left at Oasis for the use of their daily lunches.

The fantastic businesses which contributed to WasteLess include Penylan Pantry, a sustainable café and grocery store which implements the low-waste approach in its practices; Mezza Luna, an award winning, independent, Middle Eastern restaurant; Anna Loka, the first 100% vegan café in Cardiff; the Tidy Kitchen Company, a dynamic, fine dining catering company run by chef Laura Graham; Dusty Knuckle, the best UK pizzeria according to the Guardian, a promoter of slow food and Wasteless menus; the award winning Purple Poppadom;  the Cheese Pantry; Cocorico Patisserie and deliciously creative dishes; Penylan Preserves and Inner City Pickle chutneys, relishes and jams; the talented Beca Lyne Pirkis; Oriel Jones’s fine Welsh mutton meat. Wasteless Suppers have been hosted by the Little Man Coffee company, an ethical coffee shop which is a hub of community activity; Illtud of Charcutier who has been involved in WastED at Selfridges and is a talented food businessman in Wales; Caffi Sio, the sister company of Chapter Arts in Cardiff Bay and The Old Library Milk & Sugar.

Lia Moutselou of  Lia’s Kitchen and Rebecca Clark from Green City Events co-design and co-run Wasteless. Our partnership on food waste and ethical ventures is well established. Over the three years we joined forces to deliver a series of food waste projects and initiatives in Cardiff, in collaboration with Love Food Hate Waste campaigns and other local organisations and businesses. From community cook ups with food destined for the bin, to roadshows, school lunch clubs and pop up street food stalls, we have inspired, engaged and educated to encourage action and behaviour change relating to food waste.

Lia’s Kitchen is an ethical food venture inspired by sustainability, Greek cuisine and world flavours: www.liaskitchen.com. Green City is a not-for-profit Community Interest Company based in Cardiff, hosting a range of exciting and inspiring environmental and sustainability events and workshops: www.greencityevent.co.uk

Special thank to Suzie Larke Photography for covering our Wasteless #3 supper and to Dan Green Photography for covering Wasteless #1. The rest of the phots are from Green City Events and Lia’s Kitchen. 

Follow the links to view the menus of Wasteless #1,Wasteless #2 and Wasteless #3

Wasteless 2018 smaller size

Wasteless has received some queries about why this food waste was not used for the homeless and charitable purposes. Both Lia’s Kitchen, Green City events and many of the businesses we worked give support in kind and otherwise to many projects supporting charitable causes. In fact the profits of the pilot Wasteless supported the Cystic Fibrosis Better Life Appeal at Llandough Hospital. However, using food surplus to feed the homeless is not the purpose of Wasteless. For those concerned please rest assured that there is plenty of food waste at the disposal of charities, organisations and projects to support the homeless or otherwise less fortunate – Wasteless collected from just one supermarket location in Cardiff and we are sure many retail outlets would be happy to partner with charities. We are happy to share our experience if this helps anyone wanting to set up a project. The positive experience our supermarket retailer is having with Wasteless may provide them and other retailers with reassurance which might facilitate more agreements and projects in the future. Through our previous food waste reduction work we have facilitated partnerships. But often the limited resources of charities or such projects and the hard work required for the collections has been an obstacle to their long-term sustainability. Nonetheless there are fantastic projects in Cardiff, elsewhere in Wales and all around the UK that do charitable and stellar community work successfully either through their own collections or a subscription to Fairshare and we are sure that many more will continue to flourish.

#VegPower! Quick Kale spaghetti

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Getting down your greens is a very important step of keeping healthy during winter! Kale is a member of the brassica family and has great nutritional value. From high levels of iron, vitamin K, C and A, to anti inflammatory benefits it’s a food both accessible, locally grown and often organic.

Kale with spaghetti and red elfcup mushrooms

Kale can help you increase your greens intake in easy and tasty ways. Make a pledge now to eat more veg any time of the year. Follow the #vegpower campaign for inspiration.

Here’s an easy recipe to get you started – Kale with spaghetti. When Zöe Rozellar walked into our kitchen with this idea of cooking kale it opened so many possibilities! You can also enjoy the kale as a side, for breakfast with egg (Zöe’s favourite) or with rice/couscous/quinoa. You may also add raw or cooked mushrooms to this dish – the red elf cup mushrooms from Blaencamel market stalls were a treat with this dish.

Ingredients (2-4 portions depending on starter or main size)

  • 300g organic kale
  • 1Tbsp. Sesame seeds
  • 250g spaghetti
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 tsp. Paprika
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground nutmeg or more
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 250g goats cheese or feta cheese

Preparation (up to 30min)

  1. Wash the kale, pull leaves off the harder stalk (if not tender) and drain.
  2. In a big baking tray dress in 1/2 tsp salt, the sesame and a couple of generous lugs of olive oil. Massage well so that oil and salt dress all leaves.
  3. Bring water to the boil for pasta adding salt and oil. And preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  4. At the same time you start boiling the pasta, add the kale in the oven after you cover the tray tightly with aluminum foil.
  5. The kale should bake at least for the duration of your pasta preparation.
  6. Once the pasta boils and is in the colander, return the pot to heat, cover its base with olive oil and add the two cloves of garlic roughly chopped.
  7. Lower the heat and stir fry the garlic till softer – a couple of minutes – taking care not to burn.
  8. Add the paprika, nutmeg and 1/2 tsp of pepper and stir fry for about half a minute or so.
  9. Add the spaghetti and a pinch of salt. Toss well to dress in spices.
  10. Remove the kale from oven, add to pot and stir well.
  11. Remove dish from heat and add the crumbled cheese.
  12. For a vegan version add Dukkah or roasted and crushed hazelnuts instead of cheese.

Melomakarona and a Happy New Year…

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Well I hope you are having the most wonderful time this festive period! Whether you are resting, working, travelling (to, from and) at faraway places, having some precious time alone or sharing precious time with your loved ones, you deserve every single moment of the rest or adventure you get.

melomakarona 1.jpg

The most precious time of the winter holidays for me is between Christmas and the New Year. In Greece, our Santa Claus traditionally visited on New Year’s eve (Agio Vasili). By that time our religious or traditional fasting had finished so we could eat whatever we wanted. On New Year’s eve our grandma enchanted us with stories of the little Kalikantzaroi elves, naughty mythical creatures that hid things and played pranks on us and each other. We were allowed to stay up past midnight and often dance into the night at family or communal parties. So, I love these next few days and their promise of renewal and light. So I wanted to remind everyone that the fun is not over.

Celebrating the year that is gone, with all its ups and downs, and welcoming the year ahead is a wonderful process. It is our life that we are talking about after all. I hope you reflect but also rejoice in the thought of all times ahead.

My gift to you is my ‘Melomakárona’ recipe, the Greek Christmas biscuit, the ‘honey-macaroon’ which when baking fills your home with festive scents of cinnamon, orange and clove, and when eaten melts into your mouth in sweet delight.

Take some time to make these for yourself. And indulge in them with a nice glass of hot coffee, mulled cider and a nice red wine.

May you have a wonderful 2018 and happy times ahead!

Melomakarona recipe

Ingredients (make 30-40 biscuits)

  • 500g plain flour
  • 2tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 175ml olive oil
  • Zest of half an organic orange or one clementine
  • Juice of one orange and one clementine
  • ¾ tsp. ground cloves
  • ¾ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 100g sugar
  • 60ml cognac
  • A generous handful of coarsely ground walnuts

For the syrup:

  • 300ml water
  • 250ml honey
  • 100g sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick

Preparation (45 minutes depending on the size of your oven)

  1. Sieve the flour and mix in the baking powder.
  2. Beat the oil, sugar, baking soda, spices, citrus fruit zest, cognac and sugar well together until combined.
  3. Add the liquid mixture to the flour and mix well with clean hands until you have a soft, pliable dough (about 5 minutes).
  4. Use two non- stick baking sheets or line baking trays with baking parchment.
  5. To shape the biscuits use a tablespoon of dough (max) and roll into a 5-8cm long tube about 3cm wide.
  6. Place on the baking sheet allowing at least 3cm between biscuits. This will allow the biscuits to expand when baking.
  7. Before you add to a preheated oven (175 centigrade) press the middle of the biscuit tube down lightly with the back of a fork. You should be left with an oval, oblong dough shape with the markings of the fork clear on it.
  8. Bake for 20-30minutes in 170 centigrade or until they are firm on both sides but not too hard. This often depends on your own preference so try a couple of different baking styles to decide what you like best. I prefer my melomakarona on the softer side so that they can absorb more syrup. My cousin prefers them dry with no syrup.
  9. Whilst the biscuits are baking place all the syrup ingredients in a pot and bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.
  10. As soon as the biscuits are ready throw in the syrup, soak and turn.
  11. Remove almost immediately or maximum after a minute if your cookies have baked too hard. The biscuits should absorb enough liquid but should not be falling apart when your remove them with a spatula.
  12. Place on a serving plate and sprinkle with the walnuts.
  13. Cool down and even refrigerate. The biscuits are better the next day.