Author: Lia Moutselou
My pop-up dinner at Cardiff’s Street Food Circus in August 2016 showcased one of my most favourite menus to date. Food inspired by my homes of Greece and Wales was served under a canvas tent and the leafy trees of Sophia Gardens, in the green heart of the city centre at a pop-up restaurant operated by Milgi Cardiff.
I cannot think of a menu that sums up the Lia’s Kitchen approach to cooking and dishes better. It’s based on how I eat and my adventures in food. I am always on the look-out for fantastic, local and sustainable produce and products from my Greek and Welsh homes to integrate in my cooking. And I always try to showcase producers, flavours and ingredients that you might not have heard or savoured, like for example salepi, the wild orchid powder that flavoured my yoghurt ice-cream desert.
And here’s one other very important thing. I work with people I like and whose business I respect. Their produce/product is as good as their business and working ethos. I love what they do and how they do it. And this is why I believe I should tell you about them. They provide me with daily inspiration and nourishment, and they are or are becoming good friends in the most beautiful, unrushed, organic way.
1.Tom Frost and Blaencamel Farm work tirelessly through the seasons in a fertile valley of West Wales, between river and coastline, and grow vegetable using organic, biodynamic methods. Their land is unadulterated and pristine. The food is nourishing and full of unique flavours. For my August menu I used organic aubergines, tomatoes, chard, cucumbers, beetroot grown and summer salad leaves grown in Wales. Their vegetable is the perfect match for my recipes and some of the great Greek products I have sourced.
2. Marianna and Oliveology are based in London Borough market. She sources her olive products from a small, organic farm in Sparta, Greece. She also sources other organic and wild, foraged goods from the Peloponnese. I swear this is not a sales pitch, they are not paying me – I urge you to try their products for your taste buds’ happiness and your soul’s nourishment! Together with their organic grape molasses and their fantastic Agiorgitiko grape balsamic vinegar, I used their 18 degrees organic, extra virgin olive oil (so aromatic but delicate at the same time) to dress Tom’s fresh salad leaves. I also used their white balsamic vinegar with Greek honey and Oliveology’s flavoured extra virgin olive oil (rosemary, purslane, walnut, oregano) – another product on my menu exceptionally high in Omega 3 – to dress a summer vegetable slaw, made mostly with Tom’s vegetable too. The success of Oliveology’s products is that their quality will not let you down and their flavours are distinct but well balanced. As my one of my diners said: ‘You can taste every single flavour but it doesn’t punch you in the face’. I think Oliveology’s products are an experience you should not miss.
3. Benni Thomas and Cig Lodor Meat are a butcher business based in Carmarthenshire Wales. I eat meat once a week (or less than that) and it is mostly if not exclusively from Benni who supplies both Riverside Farmers’ Markets in Cardiff. Benni supplies me with Dexter Beef which is what I used for my Moussaka main dish. Not only does the grass fed beef taste like no other, it is also contains almost as high Omega 3 as oily fish (for example mackerel). It has a rich and moreish flavour that complements creamy béchamel dishes, a tomato sauce with hints of cinnamon and loves to be cooked with the meaty aubergine! I use it in burgers and stews, and everything I cook really. With such low carbon footprint this beef should satisfy the most environmentally conscious person. So if you live in Wales and you have not tried Benni’s products I think you should definitely put it on your to-eat list.
4. Jacque and CocoCaravan make delicious raw chocolate and hot chocolate drinks. I use the vanilla and cinnamon cocoa powder every day and for my August menu I sprinkled it amply on the Greek yoghurt ice cream served for the last course. I also coated my homemade pasteli (Greek Sesame and pistachio energy bar) in melted CocoCaravan’s raw, dark chocolate. Jacque’s chocolates, which he started making in Wales a few years ago, are creamy and melt in your mouth, their flavour is subtle and the digest incredibly easily (compared to other chocolates) in my opinion. His products are just incredible.
5. Yannos, Stefanos and Maltby and Greek Wines, were introduced to me by Marianna when I was looking for a Greek supplier of two of my favourite grapes of wine Xinomavro and Malagouzia. Not only did they provide me with wine from a great vineyard but they were able to recommend the better wine for my menu. The Xinomavro and Syrah sweeter grape mix they recommended was a much better pairing for the moreish flavours of the menu. For their professionalism and support at a very hard personal time for them I give them ten out of ten – they are so professional and helpful. It is so easy to order their wines online and they don’t let you down. Try shopping from them and you will see what I mean.
6. Mel, Jo and the Penylan Pantry are a sustainable, local corner store/cafe/deli a stone throw’s away from my Cardiff home. These days I only change Blaencamel as my vegetable supplier for the Penylan Pantry, who source organic vegetable ethically from around Wales, UK and Europe. The stepped in to source additional vegetable for the menu as part of their weekly vegetable box scheme. They also have one of the biggest selections of delicious British cheeses I have found in a place in Cardiff and I just love them. And their home is one of the brightest, cosiest cafés in Cardiff. If you have not lounged and shopped there yet, do it soon!
Lia’s Kitchen’s next event is on 8 October 2016 at Slow Food South East Wales’s Dunraven Bay festival. We will be serving Greek pies made with organic chard and foraged nettles from Bleancamel Farm
Yep, that’s right! You can indeed freeze cheese and you can do it safely, in a very tasty way.Not only will you avoid wasting your food and money, but you might also save some time by having handy frozen cheese portions ready to use into quick and easy meals.
Just watch my short video and I bet you will be inspired to make your own #BigCheeseFreeze recipes after that.
This Food Safety Week pledge to join the #BigCheeseFreeze and use the hashtag to show us photos of what you are making with the cheese you freeze. Follow @liaskitchen for inspiration and @FSAWales for more tips on food safety.
Every year between end of March and May, I look forward to the ‘hungry gap’ in Wales, when shaded areas under tall trees fill with wild garlic and tender nettle tops that beckon picking.
It’s nothing like a hungry gap for me. I fill my house and belly with greens and nourish myself in tune with the season. And as my knowledgeable friend Gaby tells me possibly help give my liver a bit of a break…
Being in Wales has not stopped me rediscovering and connecting to my Greek roots all these years. I looked around me to see many good raw ingredients here too. I started being more creative and appreciating what wonderful people produce and offer around me here, creating my own cuisine. And of course I keep bringing many treasures back from Greece when I can…or when I meet amazing people who source quality products from home no 1.
Here’s a video sharing how in my life when Greece meets Wales beautiful things get cooking. Enjoy and come on in my kitchen …
You don’t need to wait for the weekend for this beautiful dish. It’s a great light midweek dinner or lunch as well as the perfect weekend brunch.
We live in the age of avocado craze so admittedly this is not the first time you see a recipe like this one. But I was asked to blog the recipe by one of my followers when I posted a photo on social media…and here it is.
I love using potatoes instead of bread but sourdough or other bread is a great alternative if that’s what you have handy.
Poached eggs are an absolute treat for me but if you like scrambled or fried don’t let me stop you.
And Dukkah, the Egyptian spice condiment the recipe for which is on my blog, lifts flavours and as another page follower said ‘makes everything taste better’. So maybe have a go at making it this week.
I love smoked salmon with avocado but you can easily omit it and replace with anything you fancy, for example sundried tomatoes work really well with this dish, as does chorizo and other spiced sausage if you are a carnivore.
- 2-4 eggs, depending on your hunger
- 1 avocado, halved and thinly sliced
- 170g new potatoes
- 60g smoked salmon, half a packet
- Half a lime
- 1/4 tsp chilli and garlic paste or 4 drops of Tabasco sauce
- A few slices baby plum or cherry tomatoes
- Olive oil
- White vinegar
- 1/2 tsp Dukkah spice mix
- Wash and quarter the new potatoes (skin on) and simmer for 10 minutes, till cooked.
- Drain and mix in a bowl with the chilli sauce, a pinch of salt and a careful splash of olive oil.
- Squeeze the lime juice on top of the avocado slices and sprinkle carefully with a bit of sea salt.
- Slice the smoked salmon into thin slices.
- To poach the eggs bring a pot of water to the boil.
- Add a tablespoon of white vinegar.
- With a fork or spoon stir quickly in the middle to create a whirlpool and quickly crack an egg into its centre.
- Simmer for 3-5minutes for a runny poached egg or a bit longer if you like it firmer.
- Cook one egg one at a time.
- Serve the egg(s) on a bed of potatoes, topped with the salmon strips and the avocados on the side.
- Add sliced baby tomatoes on the avocado if that takes your fancy.
- Sprinkle the dish with the Dukkah spice mix or a bit of salt.
- You can also add more mild chilli sauces of your choice like Cholula or the coriander chilli sauce from Blaencamel market stall in Cardiff.
- A dollop of yoghurt is mighty fine with this dish too.
MDuring Love Food Hate Waste Project 2016 (roadshows and workshops included) there was one soup that definitely stole everyone’s heart both in terms of taste and simplicity of preparation.
An easy recipe to help you use that bag of carrots you bought when you really only needed a couple. Nutritious, warming and satisfying it is versatile in its use of pulses, I actually make it with yellow split peas more often than with red lentils, but if you are in a rush lentils are a better option. If you do not have ras-el-hanout spice mixture you can increase the cumin dose, add some paprika, ground coriander, a pinch of chilli powder and a squeese of lemon. Fresh coriander or spinach complements the recipe very well. The use of almond milk is in my opinion what really makes this soup (use sweetened). And if you serve with toasted almonds it and coriander pesto you have a luxury version to indulge in.
Makes 2.5lt soup or 6 portions for main
- 700g carrots
- 350g red lentils or split yellow peas
- 2.5 litres stock
- 250ml almond milk
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 pinch chilli flakes
- 1.5 tsp Ras El Hanout spice mix
- Olive oil
- Fresh coriander or spinach (Optional)
- Wash carrots well with a vegetable brush and chop finely.
- Coat the bottom of a pot with enough olive oil.
- When hot add the cumin seeds and chilli flakes and fry for a few
- Add the carrots, with a couple of pinches of salt and stir fry for
- Add the lentils and Ras El Hanout and stir well until well coated
- Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Remove from the heat, add the almond milk and blend to a creamy
- Add the chopped spinach and/or coriander for a soup that will make you as strong as Popeye!
Lia’s Tips: Mix parsnips or potatoes with carrots to use up leftover vegetable. This soup is great with split yellow peas. Served with pesto and nuts it is a very filling meal. Serve with savoury muffins or toasted stale bread or croutons.
As far as cities go Berlin has got it sorted. Easy access and transport, great pedestrian and cycling routes, a bustling multicultural vibe, music, art, performance and delicious, good quality food from all over the globe. If you are planning to visit it, it comes highly recommended.
Before I tuck into your ten-course food adventure some non-food related destinations are worth a mention. Ballhaus Berlin one of Berlin’s many ballrooms (near the Museum of Natural History Ubahn stop) hosts the fantastic Omniversal Orkestra every Monday – don’t miss it if you are there. For a relaxing day I recommend a midday or evening visit to the Neukölln City baths for a swim and sauna in a beautifully opulent setting – the baths are open till 10pm. Next to it is an art space/café called Prachtwerk which showcases great art work on its vast walls, and offers good coffee and food, as well as events such as an open stage night. And finally, make time for bars which Berlin does in one of the best ways a city can – I recommend tracing down independent small bars such as Art + Weisse bar but also the ZigZag Jazz bar which offers amazing music from well known artist from around the world for a free entry.
Most of the places mentioned below are in the Kreuzberg-Neukölln areas where I would return to stay without hesitation because of their relaxed city vibe. The link through the bold text (name of the place) take you to a google map so that you can trace them easily. Enjoy your trip!
- Café Blume, Fontanestrasse 32, 12045, closest U-Bahn stop Boddinstrasse, http://cafe-blume-berlin.de/
Next to the Volks Hassenheide park, in fact next to one of its entrances, is Café Blume. Simple and unpretentious, with great sunshine on a springtime afternoon bathing its outdoor sitting area, this café offers delicious cakes as well as a satisfactory selection of food. I had the best vegan banana and peanut ‘cheesecake’ there. Then have a stroll to watch the beautiful Berlin sky sunset colours amongst the leafy trees in Hasseinheide park. Bliss… Recommended for families as it has a large indoor playing area.
- Zitröne, Diffenbach Strasse 56 (corner of Diffenbach and Grafestrasse), 10967, U-Bahn Stop SchonleinStrasse, http://www.zitrone-restaurant.de
Spacious, comfortable and elegant, Zitröne café offered us a relaxing space to eat, read and chat without a rush. With ample seating it is a good option for busy brunch days, although I can only imagine it being even more popular than the Thursday lunchtime when we came across it. The menu offerings are great and range from well-thought breakfast choices, to hearty omelettes, daily lunch and dinner specials and attractive pasta dishes. I thoroughly enjoyed the vegetarian Bauernomelette, a German specialty with potatoes, filled with vegetables and served with soft cheese, salad and warm baguette. Dan also enjoyed a German sausage and mash dish, with a thin sausage, creamy mash and sauerkraut. I definitely recommend the comfortable environment Zitrone has to offer, set in an old German building restored tastefully whilst retaining a fuss-free, classic elegance.
- Floor’s Cafe, Schonleinstrasse very close to the U-Bahn Stop SchonleinStrasse, https://www.facebook.com/floorsberlin
I have not been drinking coffee for a long while now but at Floor’s I broke my rule. They simply make a wicked and creamy cappuccino, which was a delight to sip. This small cafe is buzzing with calm and welcoming energy. We enjoyed delicious smoked salmon scrambled eggs served with nice bread. We also tasted another wonderful breakfast platter with a selection of cheeses and cured hams – a breakfast which seems to be quite the norm in Berlin on most menus. Their croissants where generously filled with chocolate spread and freshly baked. Aim for a spot by the window to watch the world go by on Schonleinstrasse, a passage to many destinations.
- The Sudanese Café, corner or Reuterstrasse (56) and Weserstrasse, U-Bahn Stop Hermanplatz
There are a lot of Sudanese places to eat at in Berlin, possible evidence of its growing Sudanese population perhaps? This eatery is simple with tasty and filling offerings, which are great value for money. Try one of the affordable kofte or chicken or veggie platters which come with falafel, grilled halloumi, salad and Arabic bread all drizzled with a delicious peanut butter and tahini sauce. Even cheaper are their falafel and haloumi sandwiches. We are so pleased Yoli took us there.
- Chay Village Vietnamese Vegatarian and Vegan Café, Niederbarnimstraße 10, 10249, closest U-Bahn Stop Samariterstrase (U1), but also in Kreuzberg Eisenacher Straße 40, 10781
This is another place that was recommended to us by our friend Gareth. We sought out the place in Friedrichstein because we wanted to walk around a different neighbourhood. Niederbarnimstraße where you can find Chay Village is full of eateries inspired by Asia (Indian, Pakistani, Vietnamese) and there is a nice atmosphere there too. The food is absolutely wonderful. You feel it is healing and nurturing you with every bite you take. I tasted the Dau Phu Nam dish (No.30 on the menu) and its lemongrass and coconut notes were so well-balanced I did not want my dish to finish. The food is mostly vegan and it will change the mind of even the most hardcore carnivore. Just try it please. I really wish that we had a place like this in Cardiff. Authentic Vietnamese food that offers healthy eating that dazzles your taste buds!
- Berlin Food Markets
Mauerpark Sunday Market, Bernauer Straße 63, 10435, U-Bahn Station Eberwor. Strasse (U2)
The largest flea market in Berlin with the feel of a small festival is open every Sunday from 9am to 6pm. There are numerous food stalls and excellent choice which extends to delicious vegan offerings such as the mustard flavour vegan quiche we had from a South American food stall. There are also stalls offering Japanese, Uruguayan, British, Greek and so many other foods. And the flea market stalls are worth a visit too if you are in a shopping mood. Shop to the soundtrack of great music from the various buskers and performers.
The Turkish Market, Maybachufer street 1099 by the Landwehr Canal, closest U-Bahn stop Schönlein Strasse (U8)
This market is open 11am-8pm on Fridays and Tuesdays and it anything but just Turkish. There is a great range of food to eat and shop on offer as well as various shopping stalls with jewellery, clothes and antiques. On a sunny day it is heaving. Grab your food of choice and head to the riverside. It is also a great place to shop for a nice picnic or stay at home dinner with a selection of cheeses, wurzte and salumi and a nice bottle of Riesling wine.
A more conventional, covered market hall with a fantastic selection of produce and much organic choice (which seems to be the norm in Berlin!). There is a great selection of eateries in periphery of the market stalls too (inside the building). It all seems good and interesting but I would discourage you from the Breton Gallette stall for the rudeness and unwillingness to replace one ingredient with another. The finished item was not that great either so I would recommend you spend your euros somewhere else.
Part of the hip street food market worldwide phenomenon this market will not disappoint you if you like that kind of thing as it throws a street food Thursday event with different food stall holders every week. It reminded my very much of a smaller version of the Papiroen Island market in Kopenhagen but it was too packed on the Thursday that we visited. The food offerings are very interesting and will cater for everyone’s taste but I personally preferred the smaller markets where I have more space to stand or even sit down. Apart from Thursdays the market canteen is also open for breakfast and lunch every day, with longer opening hours on Saturday and Sunday. Worth a visit.
- The Three Sisters restaurant at Künstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, Mariannenplatz 2, 10997, U-Bahn Stop Kottbuser TOR, Gorlitzer Bahnhoff (U1), http://3schwestern-berlin.de/ and for a visit to the art centre see http://www.kunstraumkreuzberg.de/
Inside this old nunnery, currently an exhibition/ artist studio/creative space, hides a wonderful restaurant with the best atmosphere of all the places we visited this time, called the Three Sisters (3 Schwestern). The lighting, the music, the temperature of this large old building are all faultless. The positive experience starts as soon as you walk in. The service was professional and immaculate. The menu offered us well-executed, authentic German cuisine with a modern twist in generous and tasty portions. I recommend going there with friends so you can share different dishes from the menu as we did. My favourite starters were the Homemade Leberkaes, a pork and sesame loaf and the Alpine onion tart, and the Hazelnut cheese tart. From the mains I was particularly impressed by the Pork Roast of organic “Havelland Apple Pig” with Bavarian Style Coleslaw and Bread Dumplings, which I could not finish due to its size (!) and the Beef main with capers and lemon butter. As we could not stomach much more we all shared the most wonderful Strudel we tried in Berlin with homemade real vanilla cream. This was our most expensive meal in Berlin at around 40 EUROS a person including a delightful bottle of Riesling. But I would return there tomorrow if I could and I think there is something everyone would enjoy on this menu. It did German cuisine very proud. The restaurant is very close to the Street Food market so you can go there if there is no place for you to stand or sit at the Street Food event. And it is at the end of Marianenstrasse which is full with interesting cafes and bars to also stop at. In the summer it hosts an open air cinema.
Right across one of the entrances of Viktoria Park (on the top of which you have a wonderful view of Berlin to take in), and close to Meirheineke Markthalle, we found PiuTrentaNove. It was a sunny afternoon and we felt a bit peckish after another long walk. In true Italian fashion we parked ourselves in the sun facing the park, and ordered apperitivos and one of the most authentic, tasty pizza margeritas I have eaten outside southern Italy. The perfect crustiness of its thin rim, firm and perfect thickness of its main body topped with a generous but not heavy serving of melted mozzarella made it just perfect for me. There I made one of my favourite memories in Berlin, in the sun, with a perfect drink (in the way that only Italians know how to do it) and the perfect pizza. It was only when we peaked inside that we realised this is one of the most popular Italian restaurants in Berlin and its pizza has been voted the best for many years. So if you are planning to eat there I would recommend you book a table.
- La Femme Breakfast & Lunch, Kottbusser Damm 77, 10967, U-Bahn Stop, Kottbusser Damm, http://www.lafemmebreakfast.de
The place is always packed with Turkish people enjoying one of the most impressive breakfast and lunch menus I have seen. There are over ten Turkish scrambled eggs options to choose from, savoury pastry pies, crumbly shortbread biscuits with nuts and warming Turkish tea. We savoured the delectable Menemen eggs with sucuk (a spicy Turkish sausage) and Simit (or Koulouri as we call in in the north of Greece, a sesame bread ring). I strongly recommend you make time for this. It will keep you going for at least your dinner and with many locations of this mini chain across Berlin you have no excuse to miss it. And you will join one of the strongest communities in Berlin, the Turkish, in one of its favourite pastimes.
- The Turkish bakeries on Kottbusser Damm and all around Neukolln
When we arrived the first thing that caught my eye was the availability of Koulouri (Simit), a sesame bread ring that is sold in the streets of Thessaloniki. Every other shop on KarlMarx Strasse and Kottbusse Damm seemed to be a Turkish bakery that offered Koulouri and savoury pastries. Then I noticed the abundance of Touloumpakia, mini deep-fried doughnuts with a crunchy exterior and a spongy interior dipped in thick syrup, another specialty sold in Thessaloniki. Testament to the hybridity of some of the Greek/Turkish cuisine one of the bakeries I stocked up on supplies for my return is called Senguloglu with a mystery Greek mobile phone number of the card. Delicious offerings that you should definitely not miss out on as there is so much good quality from those bakeries on offer. Save time to make your purchases before you have to go back to the airport. The savoury pies were so great to eat on the way back to Bristol and Cardiff.
One late autumn Friday afternoon, as I was writing recipes inspired by Welsh ingredients and my Greek home, I received a call from a lovely man called Jonathan, asking very specifically about my preserved lemons recipe. ‘Would you be willing to be filmed preparing preserved for our TV programme?’ he asked, ‘And what about sharing a recipe that uses preserved lemons?’ My answer of course was YES! And tonight, on 21 March 2016, you can see me do that at 8.30pm on Channel 4 when the first episode of The Food Chain kicks off starting with the ingredients of Apple & Salt, grown and produced in the UK and travelling to your plate through our stories and recipes.
It would suffice to say that coming from Greece I use only sea salt for cooking! So it has been a great relief that there are still some great businesses in the UK that produce fantastic sea salt for us. Using sea salt definitely adds to the flavour of food and I believe that its health benefits are much greater for all of us. So now you know what ingredient I will be using!
For those keen cooks who would like to try the recipe on the Food Chain Programme, you can find my preserved lemons recipe here, and below is an adapted version of my Παππού/Pappou’s (Grandad in Greek) Giouvetsi recipe which uses preserved lemon and my beloved spice of cinnamon.
Enjoy! And Καλή Όρεξη/Kalee Oreksi!
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Ingredients (feeds 4-6)
- 1kg chicken thighs and drumsticks (skin on)
- 2 onions, finely chopped
- ½ preserved lemon, flesh removed and finely chopped
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1-2 tsp sea salt
- 1-2 cinnamon sticks
- 500g orzo pasta/κριθαράκι
- 5 whole allspice or pimento berries
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 heaped tsp oregano
- ½ tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp sugar
- Up to 1lt stock
- Additional sea salt to taste
- Extra virgin olive oil
- Fresh, chopped parsley (optional)
Preparation (1.5hrs in total)
- Place the chicken, preserved lemons, paprika and half of the garlic crushed in a bowl with a couple of glugs of olive oil and 2 tsp of salt.
- Mix well, cover and leave aside to marinade for at least half an hour (or overnight in the fridge if you prepare the day before for extra flavour).
- In a casserole dish or oven tray with a lid, which is suitable for oven use, preheat olive oil on the hob, enough to coat its surface.
- Brown the chicken pieces well on all sides taking care not to burn.
- Before the process finishes add the finely chopped onions, the cinnamon stick and the pimento/all spice berries and sauté with the chicken for flavour and until just soft.
- Add the tomato paste stirring well to dissolve, additional garlic, dried oregano, pepper, sugar and finally at least 750ml of the boiling stock.
- Cover with the lid and place swiftly in the oven cooking on high heat for ten minutes.
- Cook for an additional thirty minutes on medium heat.
- Then remove from the oven to add the orzo pasta, stirring in carefully so as not to ‘break’ the chicken flesh.
- Return to the oven and cook on medium heat for another 20 minutes checking whether you need to add an additional 250ml of stock for the past to cook (particularly if the pasta has ‘drunk’ most of the water and is still quite tough)
- Let the dish sit for 15-20 minutes and serve with fresh parsley if you prefer that.