When you read our guest Broadbean Crop Share blog on Global Gardens Website News Section on 10/06/2020 you can read more about our approach to food and culinary exploration. In the past year Lia’s Kitchen has collected over fifty cook books (second hand and donations) for a shared cookbook library. When exploring what we could do with the fresh broad bean crop given to us by Global Gardens Project we turned for inspiration to these books. It was in Genevieve Taylor’s Charred that we learned how to make a dipping sauce with Korean red pepper flakes. We had to adjust the recipe to our ingredients but we want to fully credit this book for the idea and inspiration. Our Broadbean pod fries inspired by Chef Tom Hunt are gorgeous with that sauce. The only problem is you can actually eat too much and be unable to move. Our crop share recipes have taken a Wasteless approach using the whole plan from leaves, pods and beans. Enjoy!
- Discarded pods of 300g fresh broadbeans (used in our crisped mint broad bean crostini or creamed broadbean crostini recipes)
- 6 Tbsp. self-raising flour (GF flour works well too)
- A couple of generous pinches of salt
- 200ml milk
- Vegetable oil for deep frying
Genevieve’s Korean pepper flakes dipping sauce variation
- 3 Tbsp. soya sauce
- 1 Tbsp. Korean chilli red pepper flakes
- 1 Tbsp. sesame oil
- 2 tsp. white wine vinegar
- 1 tsp. mirin sauce
- 1 crushed garlic clove
- 1 tsp. caster sugar
- 1 Tbsp. sesame seed toasted and then ground
- Toast the sesame seeds in a non-stick pan and set aside to cool down.
- Mix all the sauce ingredients in a bowl. When the seeds are cooled grind finely in a pestle and mortar and add to the sauce. Let it sit whilst making the Broadbean pod fries.
- Place three fingers of vegetable oil in a deep pot and turn the heat up placing a lid on.
- Make sure you string the pods well when you are shelling the beans. Use a sharp knife to double string the sides of the split pod again before frying preparation.
- Cut each pod shell in 5cm long pieces.
- Mix the flour and salt well in a bowl.
- Place the milk in another bowl.
- Dust the pod shells in flour lightly on both sides. Shake flour off well.
- Swiftly dunk the floured pods in the milk and return to the flour.
- Dust in flour for the second time.
- By this time the oil should be ready for deep frying.
- Place the pods in the pot but do not cram.
- Reduce the heat and deep dry for around 4 minutes or until golden but not burnt.
- Remove with a slotted spoon
- Drizzle with the sauce or dip each fry in the sauce with every bite you take!
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.
- 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)
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).
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 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
- Olive oil
- 250g goats cheese or feta cheese
Preparation (up to 30min)
- Wash the kale, pull leaves off the harder stalk (if not tender) and drain.
- 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.
- Bring water to the boil for pasta adding salt and oil. And preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
- At the same time you start boiling the pasta, add the kale in the oven after you cover the tray tightly with aluminum foil.
- The kale should bake at least for the duration of your pasta preparation.
- 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.
- Lower the heat and stir fry the garlic till softer – a couple of minutes – taking care not to burn.
- Add the paprika, nutmeg and 1/2 tsp of pepper and stir fry for about half a minute or so.
- Add the spaghetti and a pinch of salt. Toss well to dress in spices.
- Remove the kale from oven, add to pot and stir well.
- Remove dish from heat and add the crumbled cheese.
- For a vegan version add Dukkah or roasted and crushed hazelnuts instead of cheese.
On 14 October 2017 the first and pilot WasteLess dinner took place in the heart of Cardiff at LittleMan Coffee Company Café. It was fun, it was epic, it was inspiring and most importantly it was tasty! But what is WasteLess and why am I telling you about it?
WasteLess is a collaborative pop-up event which involves more than one food businesses in the delivery of a feast using food surplus, food that would have been wasted and food that is produced in a less wasteful manner. The pilot WasteLess feast collected over forty kilos of food that would have been wasted in the week leading up to the event. The food was then safely handled, stored, distributed and cooked by the participating chefs/businesses and volunteers to offer a five-course feast presenting eleven dishes. All participating chefs and cooks contributed ideas to the menu as collections went along. WasteLess tapped into their culinary culture, business practices and the creativity of their teams to bring a wonderful menu together .
I co-run WasteLess with Rebecca Clark from Green City Events. And after years of working together on food waste reduction projects through community cook ups with food destined for the bin, roadshows, school lunch clubs and pop up street food stalls, we wanted to set up a platform that helps local businesses tap into their creative and sustainable practices and to showcase elements of Cardiff’s existing and emerging ‘wasteless’ food movement. There are many fantastic businesses already doing great things and many more who could be supported to do more. We want to bring new businesses to the table and to inspire and assist them in taking a wasteless approach.
The fantastic businesses which contributed to the first WasteLess event 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; the Little Man Coffee company, an ethical coffee shop which is a hub of community activity and of course, moi, Lia’s Kitchen. Many more were involved in other ways. The Cheese Pantry donated cheese close to its use by date. TOAST Ale provided the event with beers and ales brewed from bread that would have been wasted, The Bottle Shop Cardiff advised on the sourcing of ethical wines and Get Wonky Juices, donated their delicious juices made from ‘scrap’ fruit and veg.
‘Food waste is bad business practice- akin to throwing money in the bin. It’s unsustainable for future generations, and breeds bad habits in an already throwaway society’, says Melissa from the Penylan Pantry. ‘Being part of Cardiff’s first Wasteless dinner was a huge honour and a very exciting prospect, working with others to help raise awareness, offer support and encourage businesses, and the public to think differently about food waste.’
Anna and Zac from Mezza Luna said, ‘As a food business, we at Mezza Luna believe it is our social responsibility to be at the forefront of the fight against food waste.And by doing so encourage people to have better awareness of food and the environment. Middle Eastern cuisine is a great example of the WasteLess approach. For example, all parts of an animal are used for cooking in different dishes. We strongly believe in this approach and we aim to encourage greater respect for food.’
It is not just the businesses that we worked with that really believe in what we do.
Celine Anouilh from the Chartered Institute of Waste Management in Wales said, ‘ I much enjoyed this first WasteLess dinner raising awareness of food waste. Lia and Rebecca used of the right ingredients to produce a taste meal and an inspiring event: a partnership between enthusiastic and ethical businesses, forgotten food from super markets shelves, great cooking skills, creativity and passion! I ate a delicious meal, met wonderful people. CIWM Cymru wishes every success to this fantastic project and look forward to attending the next dinner’.
The October event was just a test to see if our WasteLess vision is truly possible. We are now ready for the next step. Partly supported by Sainsbury’s Waste Less Save More fund Green City Events and Lia’s Kitchen will help deliver more WasteLess events in 2018.
The first WasteLess dinner entertained thirty guests and raised over £600 for Cystic Fibrosis in memory of Tom Woollam (Better Life Appeal Llandough Hospital).
We would like to thank all businesses who donated prizes to a charity raffle: John Lewis, Snact, Get Wonky, HangFire Southern Kitchen, Milgi Cardiff, Penylan Preserves, Colourfiled, Twin Made, Nelly’s Treasures, Ellicopter Hoops and Sustainable Studio.
Lia Moutselou, 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
Sign up to our mailing list for future WasteLess events or email email@example.com.
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.
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)
- Coat the base of a wide pot with enough olive oil to cover it.
- When the oil is hot add the cubed sausage and sauté until browned.
- Add the onion, peppers, one teaspoon sea salt and sauté until the onion softens.
- Add the tomato paste or grated tomato and fry for a couple of minutes stirring well.
- 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.
- Add the wine and the chopped parsley. Stir well.
- Add half to one tsp of sea salt and enough boiling water to almost cover the veg and meat (but don’t submerge them).
- 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.
- From this point on do not stir so that your vegetable does not fall apart when cooked.
- The dish is ready when the water has reduced but not fully evaporated.
- 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 .
On 21 May 2017 Melissa (Penylan Pantry), Sam and Shauna (Hangfire), Bettina (Brød-The Danish Bakery), Goldie (Samosaco), Ericka Duffy (cocktail and taste expert), Ashli (Spillers Records) and I worked together to deliver a unique night of food, drink and music. What united us, apart from our extremely worthy cause to raise money for Action Against Hunger, is our passion about women leading the way in food business and good, ethical, tasty food. We delivered this event under the banner of Meal Squared, a format that delivers collaborative events and which Melissa set up last year to strengthen Cardiff’s growing independent business community.
The inspiration for Cooking From the Heartland came from the ‘Severn Sisters’ Bristol dinner organised by Romy Gill MBE and Kim Somauroo in autumn 2016. It involved women from different food cultures to create a female feast. ‘We were so inspired by our experience [of attending the event] that we decided to have our own version in Wales. Our feast, ‘Cooking from our heartland’ is inspired by the international drinks, food and music makers we know and love’, say Sam and Shauna. For me and the other women who were approached to participate in this evening there was no doubt that this was going to be our kind of fun.
This is the story of our coming together. It tells you why we chose Action Against Hunger, what ‘Cooking from the Heartland’ means to us and why we think it is so important that women work together…
I would particularly like to thank Oliveology, Blaencamel Farm, Cig Lodor Meat, All Greek Delicatessen, CocoCaravanCocoCaravan for donating ingredients for the mezze platter and dessert I prepared for the event. A massive thanks to all the other women who volunteered and worked hard on the night . And to Kas of Waterloo Tea who gave us access to his amazing restaurant/coffee house in Wyndham Arcade to run the event.
We chose Action Against Hunger because …
‘165 million people suffer from childhood malnutrition. If they joined hands, they could form a complete circle around the earth. I think this says it all.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)
‘When we started Hang Fire, we sofa surfed for the first year, ploughing every penny from the last pop-up back into next. Now that we have a roof over our heads, we think if you have two quid, you have a quid to share. It’s important to always give a something back. Action Against Hunger does amazing work all year round, both at home and further afield. It is our chosen partner charity this year. With everything happening in the world right now, we need to keep looking out for each other and help those who aren’t as fortunate as us.’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)
‘We’re told that we’re living in exciting times of such progress and achievements in the sphere of technological development and medical advancements, yet so many children are going hungry and die of malnutrition. That isn’t right. Thank goodness for Action Against Hunger for making it their business to help those who are less fortunate.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)
‘Nobody is immune to misfortune. People’s lives change overnight through war, unemployment, illness. People go hungry in Wales. Refugees walk thousands of miles to safety, water and food. In Greece people like us bin-dive to find food. Recently, at food community project in Uganda I often drove past international relief lorries transporting food to South Sudan and Yemen on a massive scale. I support Action Against Hunger with all my heart’. (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)
Cooking from our heartland means ….
‘Seasonal, free thinking, creative cooking inspires me. I love nutritious, wholesome ingredients, that are good for your health, soul and mind. My heartland is wherever I happen to fall. I like to cook with local produce from the surrounding area. I feel strongly that the best way to know a new place, is to get stuck into the local food culture.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)
‘We are Celts and experts in the art of slow cooking and smoking. Cooking from our heartland brings those two things together to create our own version of Southern Wales style BBQ using great local produce. We take the best that the UK has to offer and couple it with the cooking techniques we learned in the States all to a soundtrack by Dolly Parton!’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)
‘Baking is an important connection to my birthland. Moving to Wales in 1998, I quickly felt at home but always missed Danish bread. The rubbish Danish Pastries in the UK meant I had to set the record straight. My heartland is with my grandfather (FarFar) who was a baker in central København. My mother, grandmother and I baked to his tales of making bread (brød), pastries and cake. I’ve kept going and now I can do the same for you through Brød.’ (Bettina, Brød)
‘We live in an age where access to “stuff” in unlimited. Every thing’s a commodity. You can hear music from a culture a million miles removed from your own. You have access to ingredients from lands far and wide. Anything goes. This creates an exciting palette for a music fan or food lover. But if something is made with passion, with heart and soul oozing out of it, it hits you in the solar plexus and resonates. That sort of passion is the difference between wholesale, mass produced for the highest margin return and the real deal. I think that the unifying thing about the team bringing this event together is that we are only interested in the real deal. It’s all about passion.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)
‘The Heartland theme meant exploring my connection to Wales which for me revolves around art and literature. My cocktails are inspired by the Davies sisters who contributed much to the artwork and culture that enthrals me about Wales. They bought whole galleries of artwork (Monets, Manets, Rodins). They established Gregynog Hall as a centre of excellence for the arts, crafts and music. Most importantly, the Davies Sisters took in Belgian refugees including the sculptor George Minne, and the painters Valerius de Saedeleer and Gustave van de Woestyne. All three artists were to spend the rest of World War I largely dependent on the Davies family for support. You can visit the Davies Galleries at National Museum of Wales, Cardiff.’ (Ericka Duffy, Cocktail and taste expert)
‘Cooking from the heartland brings you the taste of my Greece whilst mixing it with world food influences, and good Welsh/UK produce I discovered in the past twenty years living away from the birth land. My platter is about ingredients from some of the businesses involved in the collaboration, whilst I introduce you to some of my favourite Greek and Welsh, UK- based businesses. And every dish reminds me of someone I love. My Yaya (Grandma) for the boozy tzatziki, my Mana (Mom) for the meatballs and my Aderfo (brother) for the fava dip.’ (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)
Women should work together …
‘Women make up 43% of the agricultural labor force in developing countries, and account for about two-thirds of the world’s 600 million livestock keepers. Still to this day millions of women and girls around the world are discriminated against simply because they are born female. Events like International women’s day send a message of unity, solidarity and compassion. I hope MealSq Menywod sends out the same message on a smaller scale. Gender discrimination should not be accepted in this day and age.’ (Mel, Penylan Pantry)
‘We have always championed the idea of bridging the gender gap in any industry, and the hospitality industry is no different. We’re surrounded by talented, courageous women who are a daily inspiration to us. It’s a great privilege to come together and produce an event that is not only authentic but heartfelt from some incredible women truly passionate about what they do.’ (Sam & Shauna, Hangfire)
‘In the words of Poly Styrene “Some people think little girls should be seen and not heard. But I think “oh bondage, up yours!”. Being a go-getting female with a lot of knowledge in your field, you often have to play down your expertise and shrink below your ambitions. With politics at the forefront of many people’s minds at the moment, it’s important to remember that not so long ago women were denied the basic human right to have our say. But let’s not forget we are the lucky ones. Many women worldwide still do not have the right to exercise their own choice. In the face of regressive steps the world has taken lately we must continue to fight for our rights and demand equality.’ (Ashli, Spillers Records)
‘I like working with inspirational people, both men and women. But I think this is an event that shows how we women can support each other in business.’ (Bettina, Brød)
‘This meal presents females who work in flavour and taste – each of us in traditionally male-dominated fields. Between our different skillsets, point-of-view, and aesthetics there is a collaboration occurring – from baking, Greek cuisine, smoking, cheese pairing, cocktail mixing, and the music selection by the World’s Oldest Record shop.’ (Ericka Duffy, Cocktail and taste expert)
‘I have had fun and struggles being a female immigrant claiming my place in Britain! As a Greek girl, I was often stereotyped to suit the service industry just fine but some people were shocked I was also a law graduate, a young lecturer or that I chose to start my own food venture. I have had many lives. I refuse to be pigeonholed. And women should fight together against prejudice. Antagonism is not a female trait so it’s time to resist being turned into alpha-males. Our global village relies on running it together. There is space for everyone. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.’ (Lia, Lia’s Kitchen)
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)
- 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.
- Add the cubed mushrooms (2 -3 cm chunks) and sauté for 2-5 minutes.
- Add the finely chopped herbs, wild or fresh garlic and greens, and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
- Then add the stock, stir well and (if you are using) add the dried kelp or other sea weed, pepper and sea buckthorn berries.
- Simmer for about 10 minutes and then add the rice.
- After 20 minutes (when the rice has softened and soup has thickened) remove from the hob.
- Beat the egg really well until it is fluffy and creamy (around 5 minutes), and whilst you continue whisking gradually add the lemon juice.
- 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.
- 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.
- Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.
Rosemary Baron is keeping me company with her book about Greece and its food. I love reading others’ take on Greek food and this lady being an archaeologist is a very credible, unbiased source of information. She says, ‘the ancient Greeks regarded cooking as both an art and a science and throughput the ancient world Greek chefs were accorded the status and reputation that French chefs now enjoy. The principles and practice of fine cooking and gastronomy as we know it today were first established in the abundantly stocked and highly creative kitchens of Ancient Greece, and modern Greeks still enjoy the foods and tastes that inspired the chefs of antiquity’.
Rosemary Baron goes on to talk about the height of the Minoan civilization and trade with North Africa, which helped create a small garden of Eden in Crete that influenced Hellenistic cooking. At the height of the Roman civilization Greek chefs and teachers were sought after and employed in the Roman homes and kitchens, and according to Baron it seems under their tutelage the amazing, distinct Italian cuisine developed. Then the Byzantine empire helped the influence of Greek cooking influence travel further. And then during the occupation of the Franks, Venetians, Ottomans eastern and other influences arrived, and tribes like the Vlachs brought spices like my beloved paprika.
I am certain Greek chefs embraced new ingredients and influences from other cultures. The early Greek diet of olives, wheat, figs, grapes, wild greens, fish and a little meat was enriched with ingredients such as lemons, potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes, spinach, okra introduced by trade, but also war and occupation.
The silver lining is that even dark times of occupation were still characterized by culinary and cultural diversity. In her book Baron clearly asserts that the hybridity between Greek, eastern and even Balkan cuisine was mostly nurtured during the more peaceful Byzantine times rather than the Ottoman Empire. But I am sure that the Ottomans have helped many dishes travel through Greek chefs to new parts of their Empire where other cultures also embraced and adapted them.
What fascinates me is Baron’s explanation that during Ottoman times Greeks, who were forbidden to speak their own language, were forced to use Turkish names for dishes such as the now famous moussaka, boureki, dolmades, losing the connection of the dishes to their origins. As children we were taught about secret Greek schools during the Ottoman occupation. They were the underground hubs of language that kept Greek alive but I didn’t know that Greek chefs also took refuge in monasteries for their safety and to safeguard centuries of culinary knowledge!!! Apparently there they wore tall white toques which distinguished them from the monks – the toque is now the chef hat and symbol throughout the world.
Food and its love travel well even at the worse of times. It is a beacon of hope and should connect rather than divide. What I know as traditional and modern Greek cuisine is a real testament to that, and it is a lot more diverse than just the delicious feta and tzatziki.
You can now join my 2017 cooking classes telling you the story of my Greek kitchen. Classes include an Introduction to Greek Kitchen Basics; The Greek Flavours no one is telling you about; The Art of Greek Pie; The Magical Art of spice mixing.
Watch Rick Stein’s programme about Thessaloniki, Greece and its food to find out more about my city of birth and what you might get during our courses: http://bbc.in/2gnRaMQ.
This morning I thought I had missed call from someone I have worked during the last two very intense years of my water related job (which takes up most of my time during the week). He has accepted a job in a faraway warm rich place and I had sent him a farewell card. I called him back to wish him well, thinking it was his last day at work. At this stage of our testing professional relationship, having been through intense challenges, trials and tribulations, we could just be human, and focus on the person immigrating to a different country, leaving their home behind, regardless of whether this is done happily or sadly. So it was to my surprise that at the end of the conversation he chose to say something awkward. It aimed to question the role of the hard working organisation I spend almost all of my working week at to protect the interests of the public in a private UK water industry. Still I obliged him. It was not personal, he’s a good guy, it was probably his way of joking and he was making small talk whilst I was calling to wish him good luck from the bottom of my heart.
Straight after that I went to Oasis, a refugee charity in Cardiff, where hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers, migrants or immigrants, receive support and food every week. I found myself in the kitchen with women from Ghana, India, Uganda, Zambia, Albania whilst they were cooking a meal for ninety odd people who will have lunch at Oasis today. I met them for the first time. They all probably have interesting stories, perhaps some of these stories are harrowing. Some of them have their children at their home country whilst they work here. Still they opened their mind and their arms to me as soon as I walked in. You know that sense of that we are all in it together? That’s what I felt.
This morning I felt relieved as I was putting the phone down, being thankful for the bad signal that interrupted the awkward final bit of my discussion with a newly appointed ex-pat . And as I was leaving Oasis I felt grateful to Reynette and the women in the Oasis kitchen for opening their door to me, to cook, to share & record their recipes and listen to their experiences. As a human.
I think I know for good which conversation I’d rather be in.
Quinoa with sweet potato is becoming a real favourite at Lia’s Kitchen both when we are receiving guests but also when we are touring. This is an easy to make but very nutritious dish. It was on our September supperclub menu and last night this was a side dish at our dinner table when our Braunton family visited.
I am writing down this recipe for Miss Lyra May, or more accurately for her mom Beth, because she promised me that if her mommy cooks this recipe for her she will keep eating quinoa.
Now I know that this nearly four year old lady is a smart negotiator but , my dear Beth, I still think it is worth giving this a go. After all Miss Lyra’s one year old brother never objected at all to eating the quinoa.
1 cup red , mixed or plain quinoa
2 cups vegetable stock
1 large sweet potato coarsely grated
1 large onion finely chopped
1 (fresh) bay leaf
1/2 t mixed spices of cinnamon, cloves, pepper or a small pinch of each (optional)
1 garlic clove mashed (optional)
150 gr mince quorn (optional)
a couple of squeezes lime or lemon (optional)
1 small bunch parsley finely chopped
Boil two cups water and make vegetable stock.
Simmer the quinoa for up to twenty minutes, until cooked but not sticky.
Add enough olive oil to cover the base of a frying pan.
Add the onion and the bay leaf and sauté for a couple of minutes.
Add a pinch of salt.
Add the sweet potato and stir fry until soft -5 to 10 minutes.
Add the quinoa , parsley and if you need to some more olive oil.
Taste and season is necessary.
If you are using citrus juice add last.
Stir well and enjoy.