Greek cuisine

Carrot & spinach KuKu – A seasonal Frittata

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A recipe inspired by the way Iranians make their open omelette or frittata, known as Kuku. It uses March’s seasonal vegetable like carrots and spinach still abundant at Blaencamel farm and in their weekly organic vegetable boxes. This type of frittata uses a generous quantity of ingredients so don’t be surprised when you see how much vegetable goes in it – it is what sets it apart from other open omelettes.

You can find Blaencamel farm vegetables at both Farmers’ markets in Cardiff, Roath and Riverside, on Saturday and Sunday respectively, but also in Aberystwyth and their own farm shop. Order their boxes here.

Ingredients (4 portions)

  • 250g (3 medium) carrots, coarsely grated
  • 150g spinach, finely chopped
  • 15g (half a small bunch) parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 50g sundried tomatoes or mixed antipasti e.g. peppers and artichokes, finely chopped
  • 30g cashews, chopped
  • 3 Tbsp. Goji berries (optional)
  • Fresh mandarin or orange juice
  • 100g (half a pack) feta cheese, crumbled
  • ½ tsp. ground cumin
  • A generous pinch of smoked or regular sweet paprika
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • 1 generous pinch of saffron strands
  • 2 Tbsp. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 6 eggs
  • 2 generous pinches of salt
  • ½ tsp. sugar
  • Olive oil 

Preparation (30 minutes)

  1. Add enough fresh mandarin or orange juice to cover the goji berries in a small bowl or mug. Infuse whilst prepping.
  2. Add a tablespoon (or two) of olive oil to a 20 to 25cm non-stick pan, and sauté the onion on low heat with a pinch of salt and the sugar until it caramelises (5-10 min).
  3. Pound the saffron in a bowl with a rolling pin, beat in the eggs and allow time for the saffron to infuse in them.
  4. Remove the onions from the pan, add another tablespoon of oil, add the carrots and cumin. Sauté until soft (5 min).
  5. Return the onions to the frying pan, add the goji berries, cashews, sundried tomatoes and antipasti. Mix well.
  6. Add the spinach and parsley little by little so that it slightly wilts. You don’t need to cook your spinach much or at all but you might choose to wilt it a bit of you are using a smaller pan.
  7. Add the flour, pinch of salt, baking powder, paprika and oregano to the eggs and beat until the flour is mixed well and to give the eggs some volume and softness.
  8. Mix into the pan gradually and carefully making sure the beaten egg goes to the bottom of the pan and mixes in well between the abundant ingredients to hold them together. The pan should remain on low heat all this time.
  9. Make sure that the ingredients are spread evenly on the pan and sprinkle the feta cheese on top.
  10. After firming up the frittata on the hob for a couple of minutes, you can cook the frittata in two ways: a) If your pan is heat resistant place it in a preheated oven for about 10-15 minutes at 180-200 degrees –cover with a lid or aluminium foil for half the time, or b) Cover the pan with a lid or plate. Continue cooking on the hob on low heat for 8 to 10 minutes. Then place under a preheated grill for a couple of minutes or until golden and risen.
  11. If using a 20cm pan it should be at least 5cm dip to make a cake like frittata that will rise.
  12. You can choose to omit or include ingredients on this list. It is also very easy to replace them. For example goji berries can be replaced with cranberries or even barberries if you prefer an authentic Iranian taste.

Organic Greek Leek pie

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Most of the people I know in Britain talk about how much they love Greek spanakopita (spinach pie) but my all-time favourite is actually Greek leek pie (prasópita). What best way to bring together my two homes other than in this wholesome, winter recipe?

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Leeks are currently in season and Blaencamel Farm’s boxes and market stalls showcase this wonderful Welsh ingredient. You can make this pie using a couple of organic bunches of leek and one onion. And you will thank me for it as the flavour of Blaencamel’s leeks is special. Every bite will make you feel nourished and shun away the winter blues. Happy pie eating!

You can order Blaencamel Farm’s boxes by contacting emailing Tom Frost mailto:(tom@blaencamelbox.com). For more info click here.

Join Lia’s Kitchen cooking classes on 3 and 10 February to find out more and savour Greek cuisine. Book here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/lias-kitchen-7901836356

Ingredients (4-6 portions or 12 pieces)

  • 2 bunches Blaencamel Farm leeks (around 700g)
  • 1 onion
  • 200g Feta cheese
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 15g fresh dill (optional)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 250g filo pastry (packs available at most supermarkets)
  • Olive oil for cooking and pastry basting

For the glazing

  • 1 espresso cup milk
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds

Preparation (up to an hour)

  1. Peel, halve and slice the onion finely.
  2. Rub the salt and sugar in the onion slices with your finger until they are well separated.
  3. Let the onions sweat for ten minutes.
  4. Meanwhile trim the leeks and halve lengthwise. Place in a basin filled with water and rinse well to remove all dirt from between the layers. Repeat at least twice.
  5. Coat the base of a wide pan or pot with enough olive oil and preheat. The pot or pan should have a lid.
  6. Add the onions and slowly fry, covered until they caramelise.
  7. While the onions caramelise slice the leeks finely or roughly.
  8. When the onion is ready add the leeks and stir fry for ten minutes on medium heat until softened.
  9. Remove from heat (and pan if possible) and cool down.
  10. In a big bowl beat the eggs lightly and crumble the feta cheese.
  11. Add the leeks and onion mix to the eggs and feta. Add the pepper and mix well.
  12. Pick a baking tray (around 36cmx40 but can be a bit bigger) and using a brush or your hands oil its base and sides well.
  13. Layer half the filo pastry sheets one by one (6-8 depending on the pack), lightly oiling each sheet with olive oil using a brush or your clean fingers.
  14. Don’t oil the last sheet and pour the leek pie filling spreading it evenly across the tray with the back of a spoon.
  15. Repeat the layering process over the filling.
  16. Heat up the milk and butter in a small pot until the butter melts.
  17. Pour on top of the pie, starting from its edges but making sure that the full surface of the top sheet is also moistened. Tuck the corners in to seal the pie.
  18. Using a sharp knife slice the pie into twelve portions.
  19. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and bake in a medium oven (180 Celsius) for 30-45 minutes until golden.

All you need is love … and chocolate coated, caramel almonds

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Happy St Dwynwen’s Day you lovely people! So proud that in Wales we have a lady patron of love.

Last week the amazing We Are Cardiff blog asked me to develop a recipe for them! And here it is together with the full blog. 

wearecardiff.co.uk/2017/01/23/all-you-need-is-a-love-inspired-recipe-for-saint-dwynwens-day/

Remember to find out more about Greek food join one of Lia’s Kitchen intimate cooking classes on 3 and 10 February. I will be introducing participants to Greek Kitchen basics but will also be sharing Greek flavours and recipes that are not yet widely known in the UK. You can book online here www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/lias-kitchen-7901836356. 
Or contact Lia for more information at lia@liaskitchen.com.

The story of my August dinner

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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.

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Jacques’ CocoCaran Raw Dark Chocolate and Vanilla and CInnamon Raw Cacao5.
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!

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Mel and Jo of the Penylan Pantry

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

Wild garlic foraging and nettle pie

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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 …

Chicken Giouvetsi with Preserved Lemons and Orzo Pasta (Channel 4- The Food Chain)

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Photo by @dangreenphoto, http://www.dangreenphotography.com

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)

  1. 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.
  2. 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).
  3. 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.
  4. Brown the chicken pieces well on all sides taking care not to burn.
  5. 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.
  6. Add the tomato paste stirring well to dissolve, additional garlic, dried oregano, pepper, sugar and finally at least 750ml of the boiling stock.
  7. Cover with the lid and place swiftly in the oven cooking on high heat for ten minutes.
  8. Cook for an additional thirty minutes on medium heat.
  9. Then remove from the oven to add the orzo pasta, stirring in carefully so as not to ‘break’ the chicken flesh.
  10. 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)
  11. Let the dish sit for 15-20 minutes and serve with fresh parsley if you prefer that.

Pumpkin stir fry and savoury pie – November Riverside Market Garden Box Recipes

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It is finally pumpkin and winter quash season! The sweetness of this fantastic vegetable is ideal for moreish, savoury dishes and their salty flavours, which is exactly what I have developed for you this month. The recipes at the end of this blog are inspired by the seasonal ingredients of the November’s Riverside Market Garden vegetable box, such as leeks, fresh onions, sweet and chili peppers, and squash. But also the flavours of sage, mushrooms – currently still popping up in the Welsh forests – and chestnuts, the season of which is beginning.  I really hope you enjoy the recipes, one of which is a quicker stir fry, for days when time is precious, whilst the other allows all you skilful foodies to explore making shortcrust pastry with pumpkin flesh instead of butter!

The trickiest part of cooking pumpkin or winter squash is peeling its tougher skin. Other than this the versatile vegetable cooks easily and quickly. Its flesh roasts in about half an hour (you can leave the skin on), it stir fries in around twenty minutes when diced and much quicker than that when grated. And finally it boils in about fifteen minutes.

The most obvious dish for pumpkin or squash, apart from pie, is soup. The easiest one you can make (and my favourite) does not even really need a recipe. Just roast a medium pumpkin, sliced with the skin, in a bit of olive oil, salt, thyme and 3-4 unpeeled cloves of garlic for half an hour in the oven. When baked place the flesh of the garlic and pumpkin in a pot, add at least 700ml of hot stock (say for 500g squash) and blend with a hand mixed or mash. Your soup is ready and you don’t even need to boil it!

Another idea if you don’t have much time is to scrub the skin of the pumpkin clean, cut it in half, scoop the seeds and stringy bits out with a spoon, drizzle it with olive oil and bake for forty minutes. When baked you can scoop out the flesh, mash it with a generous amount of grated cheese and herbs, and if you like some cooked lentils. Refill the pumpkin or squash halves and grill for another 10 minutes until golden!

I literally could go on forever about the numerous savoury bakes and sweet pies you can make with pumpkin but why not start by trying the two recipes below first. And if you need more inspiration come back to me. We are definitely not done with the squash season just yet.

Sunny autumn Cretan stir fry

pumpkin stir fry

Ingredients (4-6 portions)

  • 500g diced pumpkin or squash (up to)
  • 4 spring onions or 3 leeks or 1 dry onion
  • 2 peppers (red or green)
  • Half a garlic bulb
  • ½ chilli pepper finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp sundried tomato paste (optional)
  • 200g pre-cooked chestnuts
  • 100g pitted black olives
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 100g couscous
  • 1 cup white wine or vegetable stock
  • One small bunch of parsley (30 gr)
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Preparation (45 minutes)

  1. Peel and dice the pumpkin or squash in small cubes (2cm).
  2. Chop the spring onion (or leek/onion) and peppers.
  3. Stir fry in 3 tablespoons of olive oil, the bay leaves and thyme with a pinch of salt for 3 minutes.
  4. Stir in the sundried tomato paste, pumpkin, chestnuts, olives, garlic with the skin on, a pinch of salt and some more olive oil.
  5. Stir fry, cover and cook for up to 30 minutes until the pumpkin is (no need to add water).
  6. Once the pumpkin is soft, add the wine or stock and bring to the boil.
  7. Remove from heat, add the couscous, cover and set aside for 5 minutes.
  8. Season to taste, sprinkle with chopped parsley and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil.

Lia’s Tips:

  • If you don’t have access to chestnuts why not use 200g of mushrooms instead, dice and stir fry at the same time as the squash.
  • You can use plain tomato paste if you don’t have access to sundried tomato paste.
  • If the pumpkin is particularly tough you could add a couple of tablespoons of water to help it cook quicker

Savoury pumpkin and mushroom pie

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Ingredients (4-6 portions)

For the dough

  • 200g pumpkin (diced)
  • 300g plain flour
  • 1 eggs +1 egg yolk beaten

For the filling

  • 200g pumpkin (diced)
  • 50g dried mushrooms
  • 4 spring onions or 3 leeks or 1 dry onion
  • 2 bay leaves (optional)
  • 1 small bunch sage (leaves only)
  • 50g of butter
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 30g grated parmesan
  • 100g grated cheddar
  • 100ml double cream or Greek yoghurt
  • 1 egg beaten
  • Melted butter for the pastry
  • 1 tsp of the beaten egg for the glazing
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • Some olive oil to cook the pumpkin

 Preparation (1.5hrs)

  1. Peel and dice the pumpkin or squash (all 400g for both the dough and the filling) in 2cm cubes.
  2. Bake or stir fry for 30 minutes or until soft after dressing in olive oil and adding a pinch of salt.
  3. Soak the dried mushrooms in hot water for 30 minutes to reconstitute. Alternatively use 300g fresh mushrooms stir fried in butter with a pinch of salt.
  4. Slice the spring onions and fry in half the butter (25g) with the bay leaves and thyme.
  5. Add the mushrooms, a pinch of salt and pepper, and stir fry until coated in the buttery glaze.
  6. Melt the rest of the butter in a separate frying pan and fry the sage leaves until crispy (set aside).
  7. Separate the pumpkin in half, add 200g to the mushroom filling and mash the rest.
  8. Add the cream, egg and parmesan to the cooled mushroom filling, remove the bay leaves and season to taste.
  9. Mix the mashed pumpkin, the beaten egg and yolk, a pinch of salt and the flour. Knead for five minutes into a shortcrust dough.
  10. Separate the dough into two equal balls.
  11. Roll out two dough sheets (3cm) on a lightly floured surface in the shape of your baking tray (20cm round).
  12. Line the baking tray with some melted butter and the one dough sheet.
  13. Sprinkle with the grated cheddar and the fried sage leaves.
  14. Add the filling and spread evenly.
  15. Add the second dough sheet, pressing the corners with your finger tips to bind the two dough sheets together and to create a nice finish for the rim of the pie.
  16. Brush with some melted butter and a teaspoon of beaten egg you have kept aside.
  17. Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until the top is golden.

Lia’s Tips:

  • If you don’t have some of the ingredients feel free to improvise. For example, use yoghurt if you don’t have cream, an extra pinch of salt if you don’t have parmesan which you can replace with other cheese.
  • If the dough is too crumbly to roll you can press it down flat with your fingers. And you can crumble the top sheet for a savoury crumble dish. If you do this add some crushed nuts or seeds.
  • This pie is delicious with gluten free flour too.