greece meets wales
Fasolakia is one of the ultimate summer Greek dishes. The combination of new potato crops, the abundance of parsley, the tender freshness of the fasolakia (french or runner beans) is delightful in a summer stew. When I walked past the farmer market stalls last week I just knew this dish had to return. This meal is fully inspired and sourced at the Roath Farmers’ Market. So for the rest of the Saturdays and Sundays in July, do yourself a favour and head over to Blaencamel Farm’s stall or order their box online. At the moment everything at their stall has an extra special scent and flavour – the flavour of sunshine and summer.
You can make a vegan or vegetarian version of this dish but this time I have included one of my favourite, top quality meats too – dexter beef from Cig Lodor West Walian farm. Like many Greek dishes it is enjoyed in room temperature or even cold straight out of the fridge to cool you down. Get some Riverside Sourdough bread (Malted Wheat & Seeds) or some of Nata’s corn bread with this and you might be having one of your best summer meals yet. Trust me.
Ingredients (for 4 people)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 pack of Cig Lodor cubed beef (400-500g)
- 2 bunches of French or runner beans (fasolakia), stringed, ends chopped off and halved
- 4 small to medium potatoes, peeled and chunky cubed
- 1 large or 2 small courgettes, large cubes so the don’t fall apart when stewed
- 1 bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp. tomato paste or one large tomato grated
- 1.5-2 tsp. sea salt
- 0.5 tsp. ground black pepper
- Olive oil or extra virgin olive oil
Preparation ( 60 min)
- Coat the base of a wide pot with enough olive oil to cover it and a bit more.
- When the oil is hot add the beef and sauté until browned on both sides.
- Then add the onion, one tsp sea salt and sauté until the onion softens.
- Add the tomato paste or grated tomato and pepper and fry for a couple of minutes stirring well.
- Add the chunky cubed potatoes and beans of your choice. Stir fry for a couple of minutes until they are well coated in tomato paste and oil.
- Finally add the cubed courgettes, chopped parsley and 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 45 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.
- This is the biggest secret for this dish! From this point on do not stir so that your vegetable does not fall apart when cooked.
- Cook on low flame or heat for at forty-five minutes or until the water has reduced but not fully evaporated.
- The dish is ready when the meat is really easily cut with a fork (almost falling apart).
- Set aside for 20-30 minutes. Or for a real Greek meal enjoy (cold or in room temperature) the next day.
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
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 …