Lias Kitchen

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.

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.

Blaencamel Farm’s Cima di Rapa & greens in coconut sauce

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Cima di rapa is a star ingredient grown organically in our very own patch by the fantastic Blaencamel Farm this January. It is a broccoli sprouting (Broccoli raab/Rapini) loved in Southern Italian/Puglian cooking, typically in anchovy and butter sauce combinations and served with orecchiette pasta. Together with the other greens offered in Blaencamel vegetable boxes and at farmers’ markets this January, Cima di Rapa has inspired a Lia’s Kitchen dish that takes me back to my Greek – greens – loving roots but also uses coconut milk, an ingredient I have come to love through my travels in India and Cambodia. Good and ample sea salt is essential for your recipe, as Cima di rapa loves a salty kick.

Ingredients (4 portions)

  • 700g mixed Blaencamel farm greens, such as 2 bunches of Cima di Rapa, half a bag of spinach and half a bag of winter sproutings
  • 5-10g peeled ginger (size of the top of your thumb)
  • 1 big peeled garlic clove
  • 1.5 cups of coconut milk for drinks OR 1 tin of coconut milk for cooking (400ml)
  • 4 tbsp. coconut oil, if using coconut milk for drinks OR 1 tbsp. coconut oil, if using tinned coconut milk for cooking
  • 1 heaped tsp. Oliveology’s truffle salt or Pembrokeshire Beach company Seaweed Salt
  • 1 heaped tsp sea salt
  • A pinch of chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp Pembrokeshire Beach Company Kelp Seaweed (optional)

* You can source Pembrokeshire Beach Company products at Penylan Pantry.

Preparation (20 minutes)

  1. Wash all the greens really well. To ensure all dirt is removed leave the greens in a bowl or basin for around 10 minutes after the first wash.
  2. In a big pot add enough boiling water to cover the greens (stalks included) and boil for around 10-15 minutes on low heat, or until the stalks are cooked.
  3. Whilst the greens are cooking, heat the coconut oil and fry the ginger and garlic for a few minutes (roughly chopped in 2-3 three chunks each).
  4. Then add the coconut milk of your choice, the specialty salt and the kelp seaweed salt and chilli flakes if you are using.
  5. Lower the heat and simmer the coconut sauce for 5-10 minutes or until the greens are cooked.
  6. When the greens are ready, drain them keeping the liquid from the boiling process. You can use the liquid to boil pasta or noodles in it (if that’s a serving preference) and you might need a little bit of the liquid to thin the sauce of the dish, particularly if you are using tinned coconut milk.
  7. Return the greens in your big pot and pour the thin coconut sauce over them, simmering for another couple of minutes.
  8. If the coconut sauce has thickened use some of the liquid (kept after draining) to thin it. This is a dish for which you should have a runny, thin sauce to serve the greens in. The end result should be something between a thin soup and a stir fry.
  9. Cool down for 5 minutes and serve with bread or noodles to enjoy the flavoursome and nourishing sauce.

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 …

Poached eggs with avocado and chilli potatoes 

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You don’t need to wait for the weekend for this beautiful dish. It’s a great light midweek dinner or lunch as well as the perfect weekend brunch. 

We live in the age of avocado craze so admittedly this is not the first time you see a recipe like this one. But I was asked to blog the recipe by one of my followers when I posted a photo on social media…and here it is. 

I love using potatoes instead of bread but sourdough or other bread is a great alternative if that’s what you have handy. 

Poached eggs are  an absolute treat for me but if you like scrambled or fried don’t let me stop you. 

And  Dukkah, the Egyptian spice condiment the recipe for which is on my blog,  lifts flavours and as another page follower said ‘makes everything taste better’. So maybe have a go at making it this week. 

I love smoked salmon with avocado but you can easily omit it and replace with anything you fancy, for example sundried tomatoes work really well with this dish, as does chorizo and other spiced sausage if you are a carnivore.

Ingredients 

Feeds 2

  • 2-4 eggs, depending on your hunger
  • 1 avocado, halved and thinly sliced 
  • 170g new potatoes
  • 60g smoked salmon, half a packet 
  • Half a lime
  • 1/4 tsp chilli and garlic paste or 4 drops of Tabasco sauce 
  • A few slices baby plum or cherry tomatoes 
  • Salt
  • Olive oil 
  • White vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp Dukkah spice mix 

Preparation

30 minutes 

  1. Wash and quarter the new potatoes (skin on) and simmer for 10 minutes, till cooked.
  2. Drain and mix in a bowl with the chilli sauce, a pinch of salt and a careful splash of olive oil. 
  3. Squeeze the lime juice on top of the avocado slices and sprinkle carefully with a bit of sea salt. 
  4. Slice the smoked salmon into thin slices.
  5. To poach the eggs bring a pot of water to the boil.
  6. Add a tablespoon of white vinegar.
  7. With a fork or spoon stir quickly in the middle to create a whirlpool and quickly  crack an egg into its centre.
  8. Simmer for 3-5minutes for a runny poached egg or a bit longer if you like it firmer.
  9. Cook one egg one at a time.
  10. Serve the egg(s) on a bed of potatoes, topped with the salmon strips and the avocados on the side.
  11. Add sliced baby tomatoes on the avocado if that takes your fancy.
  12. Sprinkle the dish with the Dukkah spice mix or a bit of salt.

Lia’s Tips:

  • You can also add more mild chilli sauces of your choice like Cholula or the coriander chilli sauce from Blaencamel market stall in Cardiff.
  • A dollop of yoghurt is mighty fine with this dish too.

Savoury cornmeal cake

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This is a recipe I have been playing with for years and I finalised it recently whilst delivering the Love Food Hate Waste campaign in Roath. I was looking for recipes in my notebook that can help people use their leftovers and what they have in the fridge/freezer. The savoury cake was one our roadshow freebies and was sampled at our last Love Food Haste Waste event on 10 Mach at Cardiff Students’ Union in return for pledges to take action to reduce waste.

It is a delicious recipe that can be adapted to help you use greens and smaller quantities of leftover vegetable. The batter can remain the same and you can be as creative and daring as you like with what flavours you create. You end up with an amazing tasty snack on its own or with some relish or chutney on top and a (gluten-free) substitute to bread which is fantastic with soups or a tin of baked beans.

Cornmeal is a basic ingredient for one of my favourite Greek breads called Bobota. Grated pumpkin and marrow with cornmeal and feta cheese has always been one of my most favourite bakes that my southern Greek Granma Vasiliki used to make for us. And five years ago the lovely Zoe English, of Bird to Market, handed over Nenneh Cherry’s cornbread recipe to me after my excited squeals on tasting it for the first time in my life. So this savoury cake recipe is born from all these influences and is fast becoming one my favourite things to make this spring. I have adapted it to be gluten free – through the use of gluten free plain flour. And with courgette and tomato season approaching and rainbow chard already on the tables at our Farmers’ markets I am very excited for the many versions of the savoury cakes you could be imagining. Enjoy!

 Ingredients (1 Bundt or other round 23-25cm baking tin)

  • 350g Plain flour, preferably gluten free mix
  • 250g Cornmeal (coarse or medium)
  • 4 tsp Baking powder
  • 80g Sugar (caster)
  • 100g Butter melted
  • 2 Eggs
  • 450-480ml Milk
  • 1-2 pinches of salt
  • Some extra butter and flour for lining the baking tin
  • 1 Small bunch fresh basil or other mixed or frozen herbs, including stems (around 30g)
  • 225g Cherry or mini plum tomatoes (up to 300g)
  • 1 Onion
  • 2 medium or 1 large courgette diced OR
  • 1 aubergine diced
  • 1 Medium courgette coarsely grated
  • 150g grated cheese, parmesan and cheddar mixed (or whatever you have available)
  • salt & paper to season

Olive oil for the frying

Preparation (1hr and 15 minutes)

  1. Prepare your vegetable mixture first to allow enough time to cool.
  2. Fry the sliced onion with a pinch of salt, cover and let to nearly caramelise whilst you prepare the rest.
  3. Dice the courgettes or aubergine and halve the cherry or plum tomatoes.
  4. Add the courgette or aubergine with another pinch of salt and fry for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the tomatoes and basil, stir and cover until all ingredients soften- for around 5 minutes.
  6. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat to cool down.
  7. Grate the last courgette and the cheese.
  8. Mix the flour, cornmeal and baking powder.
  9. Add the rest of the dough ingredients and mix well so that there are no lumps.
  10. Add your fried ingredients, raw courgette and cheese.
  11. Pour into a lined baking tin and bake on 180 Celsius for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean.

Lia’s Tips:

  • The batter should be moist but not too runny. You can add 450ml of the milk first and see if you need to add more after you add the tomatoes and vegetable.
  • You can use spinach and other greens such as Kale. Feel free to experiment with various herbs ad ingredients. Use what you have in the fridge and for inspiration on flavours look up focaccia recipes.
  • This is a great recipe for using those herbs that you have in the freezer or the ones that are about to go off in the fridge!
  • For a bread tin and smaller quantity of the cake halve the recipe ingredient.
  • The cake rises quite a lot and it keeps well in the fridge for about a week.