Greek cuisine

Melomakarona and a Happy New Year…

Posted on Updated on

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.
Advertisements

Spetzofái – the last of Blaencamel Farm’s Broad Beans Crop

Posted on

Whilst I may have skipped a month of sharing recipe ideas with you inspired about one of my favourite places in Wales, it seems that the summer crop that has done so well on Blaencamel Farm’s land this summer keeps going strong this first week of September. This year the almighty broad bean has inspired various summer version of one of my favourite Greek dishes, Spetzofai, a stew which hails from beautiful Pelion on the Greek mainland (the land of the Cyclopes).

 

This simple sausage stew requires flavoursome, good quality sausages containing at least leek with a hint of spice, fresh seasonal vegetable and beans. The freshly podded broad beans make for a lighter and quicker version of the dish. To replace the broad beans chose either giant (Lima/Butter) beans or cannellini. As I am always inspired by my Greek heritage, Welsh producers and my local farmers’ market so I recommend you use Charcutier’s Italian fennel or their Thyme sausages for this recipe. The stew follows the same cooking method as the July 2017 Fasolakia dish which is popular in Greek cuisine. You can adapt it to make your own vegan, vegetarian and meat dishes Greek-Stylee. As usual you can source most of the recipes at the Roath and Riverside Farmers’ Market in Cardiff as well as other farmer market locations supplied by the farm in Wales.

Order your seasonal Blaencamel veg box online www.blanecamelbox.com Find out more about Lia’s Kitchen and subscribe on Lia’s newsletters here www.liaskitchen.com

Ingredients (for 4 people)

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pack Charcutier Italian Fennel or Thyme sausages, in chunky cubes (280 g)
  • 1 bag Blaencamel farm broad beans, podded (250g when podded)
  • 2 Blaencamel bell peppers, halved, seeded and sliced
  • ½ Blaencamel Hungarian wax pepper
  • 4 Charlotte potatoes, washed and halved with skin on
  • Optional – half a pack of Blaencamel farm spinach (200g)
  • 1 bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
  • 1 Tbsp. tomato paste or 1 large tomato grated
  • ½ glass white whine
  • 1.5-2 tsp. sea salt
  • 0.5 tsp. ground black pepper
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 3 parmento/all spice berries
  • Olive oil or extra virgin olive oil

Preparation (60 min)

  1. Coat the base of a wide pot with enough olive oil to cover it.
  2. When the oil is hot add the cubed sausage and sauté until browned.
  3. Add the onion, peppers, one teaspoon sea salt and sauté until the onion softens.
  4. Add the tomato paste or grated tomato and fry for a couple of minutes stirring well.
  5. Add the chunky cubed potatoes, beans of your choice and roughly chopped spinach. Stir fry for a couple of minutes until they are well coated in tomato paste and oil.
  6. Add the wine and the chopped parsley. Stir well.
  7. Add half to one tsp of sea salt and enough boiling water to almost cover the veg and meat (but don’t submerge them).
  8. Stir well but before you place the lid on the pot to simmer for around 40 minutes, try to push the meat and potatoes to the bottom of the pot and the beans and courgettes closer to the top so that they steam.
  9. From this point on do not stir so that your vegetable does not fall apart when cooked.
  10. The dish is ready when the water has reduced but not fully evaporated.
  11. Set aside for 20-30 minutes. Or for a real Greek meal enjoy (cold or in room temperature) the next day.

Enjoy with a chilled glass of Greek Agiorgitiko Wine .

May’s Recipe – Vegetarian Mageiritsa, a Greek soup of greens and mushroom

Posted on

img_7081

May is the period of the hungry gap but at Blaencamel Farm where, during this period of summer anticipation , they continue to grow nourishing greens. Gem and pink, and green Battavia lettuce have appeared on the stall. There is spinach, sweetheart cabbage, wild and green garlic. Whilst the seasonal bouquet garni can complement the dill that makes this spring soup so special.

May’s recipe is a Greek traditional Easter soup with a Welsh and clean-eating twist! Mageiritsa is traditionally cooked with lamb’s liver and plenty of greens and salad leaves. This is a vegetarian version and could be made vegan if you choose to not use avgolemono, the egg-lemon sauce typical of many Greek recipes. If you live in Wales what makes this Mageiritsa extra special is using dried kelp from Pembrokeshire. And the final Greek note is the use of the tangy and sharp sea buckthorn berry, which is becoming a staple in my cooking this year.

Visit www.liaskitchen.com for more ideas and monthly seasonal recipes inspired by Blaencamel Farm’s crops.

Ingredients (4-6 portions)

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 -2 leeks, finely chopped
  • 1 green garlic or 1 bunch of wild garlic
  • 500-700g finely chopped mixed Blaencamel greens, such as spinach, lettuce and/or sweetheart cabbage
  • 500g mushrooms, Blaencamel farm or chestnut if they are not available
  • 1 punnet of mixed Blaencamel farm herbs (fennel, sage, mint, thyme) (Optional)
  • 1 finely chopped bunch of dill or 1 tbsp. tried dill
  • 2 Tbsp. uncooked rice
  • 1 heaped tsp. Pembrokeshire Beach Company Kelp or other dried/crumbled sea weed (optional)
  • 1 tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. sea buckthorn berries roughly chopped (optional)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Around 2 litres of stock

For the Avgolemono sauce:

  • 1 small egg
  • Juice of one small lemon

Preparation (45 minutes)

  1. Coat the base of a deep pot with olive oil and sauté the onion and leeks with one teaspoon of salt until soft and translucent.
  2. Add the cubed mushrooms (2 -3 cm chunks) and sauté for 2-5 minutes.
  3. Add the finely chopped herbs, wild or fresh garlic and greens, and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Then add the stock, stir well and (if you are using) add the dried kelp or other sea weed, pepper and sea buckthorn berries.
  5. Simmer for about 10 minutes and then add the rice.
  6. After 20 minutes (when the rice has softened and soup has thickened) remove from the hob.
  7. Beat the egg really well until it is fluffy and creamy (around 5 minutes), and whilst you continue whisking gradually add the lemon juice.
  8. Take one ladle of hot stock from the soup, strain through a fine sieve and add the hot stock slowly to the egg-lemon mixture whilst still whisking on low speed or by hand.
  9. Finally add the thinned egg-lemon and stock juice to the hot soup stirring in well to make sure it flavours and thickens all of the soup.
  10. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

April Recipe – Spinach, chard and leek risotto

Posted on Updated on


In April return to Greece for culinary inspiration. This month’s recipe is a risotto dish much loved in my homeland and to make it I am using seasonal organic Greens from Blaencamel Farm in West Wales. The key difference of this Greek risotto, called ‘Spanako-rizo’ or ‘Spanakoprasó-rizo’ is that it is less complicated in its cooking process (when compared to its Italian cousin) and it uses a lot of greens as the star ingredient rather than focussing on making a creamy rice. Whilst the rice is also added before the water it does not follow the Italian risotto method and you add all the water at once simmering the rice slowly to complete the dish.

Traditionally this dish is made with a rice called Karolina. In the UK, you can find this in Greek specialty shops, but also on the shelves of many of the Middle Eastern shops where you should seek it as Egyptian Rice. It is a short grain variety which keeps its bite when compared to Arborio. If you cannot find Karolina/Egyptian rice why not try Thai Jasmin rice which I find is a great replacement for many Greek recipes. In fact, as I am not a purist, I recommend that you try this dish with all rice varieties to find your preferred version.

Chard is regarded a wild green in Greece and has traditionally been foraged. Now cultivated widely in farms such as Blaencamel it has become a staple of our diet in the UK. Which is why I am using it together with spinach. Its meatier leaves, organic spinach, delicious Welsh leeks, foraged wild garlic and wonderful onions complete this version of the dish. In fact, Blaencamel farm’s April box will include all the ingredients you need to make your Greek Risotto. A perfect gift of the emerging Spring time and a great dish to help your body detox the heavy flavours of winter!

Ingredients (4 portions)

  • 300g Blaencamel leeks (1 bunch), sliced
  • 450g spinach (1 bag), roughly chopped
  • 450g chard (1 bag), roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch wild garlic
  • ¾ cup of rice
  • Juice of one small lemon
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste
  • Up to 2 tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. black ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp. sea buckthorn berries (optional)
  • 1 finely chopped bunch of dill or 1 tbsp tried dill
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Preparation (30 minutes)
1. Coat the base of a 20cm pot with olive oil and sauté the onion and leeks with one tsp of salt until soft and translucent.
2. Add the tomato paste and stir well.
3. Gradually add the chopped greens (spinach, chard, wild garlic) so that wilt slightly.
4. Add the raw rice and mix well.
5. If using chop the sea buckthorn berries roughly or crush and add to the rice and green.
6. Add the lemon juice, around two cups of boiling water, dill (if adding), another teaspoon of sea salt and the pepper.
7. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
8. Serve with more crushed sea buckthorn, some feta cheese and drizzle with raw olive oil.

Carrot & spinach KuKu – A seasonal Frittata

Posted on Updated on

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

Posted on

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?

wide-shot-leek-pie

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

Posted on Updated on


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.