greek food

Arakas – peas the Greek Way

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Arakás is a dish ideal for a quick and easy complete vegan meal any day of the week, throughout the year. It is a garden pea, carrot and potato stew with simple, clean flavours and beautiful textures, characterised by the fruity flavour of olive oil and the aromas dill and parsley.

Arakas with Feta Cheese

Arakás belongs to Laderá, a category of dishes which is a staple in the weekly Greek diet and which literally translates to ‘with oil’ or ‘oily’. Rather than cooking vegetables as a side, the vegetable of choice is the main event, with a similar process of preparation for each Ladero dish but different vegetable and herbs starring in each recipe depending on the seasonality and accessibility of vegetables, e.g. Okra, aubergine, green beans, etc.

Modern Greeks still eat copious amounts of Laderá despite their increasing gyros and souvlaki eating habits – they are healthy, affordable and delicious staples of a balanced diet.  And for convenience it is ingenious to have dishes which provide you with a whole meal in a pot making vegan and vegetarian food easily accessible throughout the year. With frozen peas available this dish can help you make the most of small quantities of carrot and potato you have left over. Just bag yourself some dried dill and parsley to use in this recipe in the future so that you don’t have to find fresh herbs each time.

Ingredients

  • 500g frozen garden peas
  • 2 carrots, sliced in thick rings or cubed
  • 1 large potato, peeled and cubed (walnut size cubes)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 200g chopped tomatoes or passata (or 1 large fresh tomato grated or 1 Tbsp. tomato paste)
  • ½-1 small bunch of dill (up to 20g)
  • A few sprigs finely chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp sea salt

Preparation

  1. Coat the bottom of a medium sized pot with the olive oil.
  2. When hot add the chopped onion with a teaspoon of salt and sauté on low heat until translucent.
  3. Add the potatoes, carrots and pepper. Stir well to coat the oil.
  4. Add the frozen peas and stir well until they are also well coated with oil.
  5. Add the tomato of your choice stirring well for a couple minutes to start the cooking process and release the tomato flavour.
  6. Finally add the herbs and up to 1.5 cups boiling water with another teaspoon of salt.
  7. The water should cover the ingredients but should not be too much as you are aiming for a dry stew rather than a soup or saucy dish.
  8. Stir well and when the contents come to the boil simmer the stew for 30 to 45 minutes.
  9. The food is ready when liquid is absorbed.  There should be enough liquid to sponge up with nice slice bread but not so much as the vegetable swim in it. 
  10. Cool down the dish for 10-15 minutes before serving. This dish is delicious in room temperature or reheated up to two days from cooking. It also freezes well.
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Fáva – a velvety Greek dip

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Fáva is a velvety, smooth dip very popular in the taverns and homes of Greece. Not to be confused with the fava bean or broad bean, it is usually made with yellow split peas. Occasionally it is also made with dried and broken fava beans (κουκιά) but that dish has a light, green colour instead of its usual pale, mustard-yellow. It is usually served cold with chopped onion, lemon juice and a generous drizzle of extra virgin olive oil. But mother often fed us warm fava for a filling and nutritious meal – and we loved it. My favourite fáva flavour has a Cretan inspiration. Toasted cumin seeds and fried onion flavour my fáva recipe whilst roasted tomatoes and often caramelised onions are also paired or ‘married’ with it, as the Cretans say. Fáva can be paired beautifully with lamb but also octopus. It is nutritious and filling, and an impressive alternative to Hummus.

Fava (1)

Ingredients

  • 1 cup (around 250g) yellow split peas
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 1 small onion, quartered
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 – 2 tbsp. lemon juice
  • Olive oil
  • Salt (optional)
  • Pepper (optional)

Preparation

  1. Rinse the yellow split peas well and place in a sieve.
  2. Add enough oil to coat the base of a medium pot (2 to 3 tablespoons).
  3. Add the onion, garlic clove, bay leaf and cumin seeds, and stir fry for around 5 minutes till the onion slightly softens.
  4. Toss in the yellow split peas and coat well in the oil and flavours.
  5. Add the boiling hot stock and bring to a low simmer for up to 40 minutes.
  6. At the beginning the mixture might froth. If this happens remove the froth with a slotted spoon.
  7. Half an hour into cooking check whether the dish requires additional water so that it does not stick to the pan.
  8. When cooked the peas should be getting mushy when mixed and should not have a bite.
  9. Take off the heat, remove the bay leaf, add the lemon juice and cream the mixture with a hand blender.
  10. You can serve mixed in with roasted tomatoes and topped with caramelised onions.

Lia’s notes: 

  • Yellow split peas are not the same as chana daal (yellow split lentils) commonly used in Indian cooking. You can source great quality, British grown, organic peas online through hodmedods.co.uk.
  • Good quality ingredients make a great dip, so as well as using Hodmedods yellow split peas, I recommend you source use good quality extra virgin olive oil for this dip. Some of my  choices include Oliveology, the Olive Press in Ludlow and The Greek Secret olive oils.

The Wasteless Skordalia Bread Dip

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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.


Ingredients

  • 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)

Preparation

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).

Forgotten Foods – Nettle pie Video

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The resurgence of nettle, wild garlic and other foraged greens cooking is a delight to me. I still think that eating and foraging wild greens is a skill that needs more nurturing to become part of our yearly eating calendar. I don’t mean that you have to see nettles on supermarket isles to be able to say they are back. I am not talking about food trends. I am talking about making wild green habit and seasonal eating more of a habit for life.

This nettle pie is a simple way to connect with wild greens that are available in abundance in your surroundings in Spring. Turn the TV off. Take a stroll into your local forest or park. Pick, cook and taste. Have a look and hopefully be inspired by this video.

Melomakarona and a Happy New Year…

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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.

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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.

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

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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 .

July Recipe – Fasolákia with Beef

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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.

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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.

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 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)

  1. Coat the base of a wide pot with enough olive oil to cover it and a bit more.
  2. When the oil is hot add the beef and sauté until browned on both sides.
  3. Then add the onion, one tsp sea salt and sauté until the onion softens.
  4. Add the tomato paste or grated tomato and pepper and fry for a couple of minutes stirring well.
  5. 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.
  6. Finally add the cubed courgettes, chopped parsley and 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 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Cook on low flame or heat for at forty-five minutes or until the water has reduced but not fully evaporated.
  11. The dish is ready when the meat is really easily cut with a fork (almost falling apart).
  12. 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 , Gerovasiliou’s Avaton Limnio grade red or a Tsantali organic cabernet.