Lias Kitchen

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 …

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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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photo 1

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.

Caramelised Onion, Leek and Spinach Pie

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A favourite pie with a sweat and creamy twist. Makes 12 pieces.

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Two cabbage roll recipes

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The two recipes for cabbage rolls (lachanontolmades or sarmades) adjusted from the Greek edition Christmas issue of Olive magazine

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For our New Year’s Eve dinner we had a varied spread including a spinach Quiche, the recipe for which I gave you two weeks ago, a butternut squash pie made by Elpida, vegetatian lasagne made by Valentina Brioschi and finally cabbage rolls, lachanontolmades or sarmades.

Cabbage rolls are an ideal party dish but you can also prepare it as a main course. I think it is an fantastic dinner dish for the post-Christmas healthy eating time when all of us are looking for light but tasty treats. It is possible to diet with flavoursome and light dishes, no need to torture yourself.

I got the idea to cook these very different cabbage rolls recipes from the Christmas Greek edition of Olive magazine. The recipes were provided by Simona Kafiri and Georgia Kofina. I adapted the simplified version of the traditional Greek cabbage rolls to my liking, and a tested a new spicier version with a red sauce that uses diced pork instead of minced meat. Both are fantastic. I also discovered that you can use iceberg lettuce to make a lighter but extremely tasty version of the dish. So here is my innovation!

The recipes below can feed 6 people and take nearly 2 hours to prepare and cook.

Thanks to Dan Green for photos.

Two cabbage roll recipes: one traditional and one spicy

Preparation of cabbage, the basic ingredient, 30min

1 large or two medium white cabbages
1 iceberg lettuce

This is the first step of your preparation. But you can also start with the preparation of the spicy filling as it needs to simmer and cool down before the cabbage leaves are stuffed.

It is impossible to fill and roll cabbage without blanching or slightly boiling it. Remove outer cabbage leaves that might be scarred but keep for layering the base of your pots before cooking.

Cut around the base of the cabbage with a sharp knife and remove the stem of the cabbage(s).

Place the cabbage in a large deep pot with boiling water and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove and cool down before peeling the leaves and preparing them for filling and rolling.

As I started to peel the leaves I realised that I did not have enough cabbage for all my filling. I was pushed for time so I decided to experiment with iceberg lettuce as an alternative. Iceberg lettuce leaves are quite firm compared to other lettuce varieties, so I peeled and dipped them in the hot, but no longer boiling water, for 30seconds to a minute to soften. Iceberg lettuce rolls are absolutely amazing and surprisingly worked really well, particularly with the traditional recipe.

For the new spicy filling of Georgia Kofina, 20 min:

300 gr pork fillet or chops, finely diced
¼ cup rice (either Carolina variety or Thai rice) – the rice you have will do
½ large onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove
2 Tbspns finely chopped parsley
1/6 cup olive oil or about 4 Tbspns
1 cup stock (either home-made or bouillon meat stock)
¼ glass white wine
½ tspn paprika and cayenne pepper

Sautee the onion in the olive and then add the garlic.

Once translucent add the white wine and then add the meat, rice, parsley, paprika and cayenne pepper, and finally, add the stock and season.

Cover and simmer at very low heat until the rice absorbs all liquid.

Then remove from the heat and set aside to cool down before the rolling begins.

For the sauce of the spicy version of Georgia Kofina, 5 min:

3 celery sticks thickly diced
1 carrot, peeled and roughly diced
200 gr finely diced ripe tomatoes
¼ cup olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

Prepare all your ingredients for the sauce. You don’t need to do anything else at this stage as all ingredients are added to the cooking pot after you laid your rolls.

For the traditional filling adapted from Simona Kafiri’s recipe:

175 gr minced pork
150 gr minced beef
1 large onion, grated
½ cup of finely chopped parsley
½ green pepper finely diced
¼ cup grated ripe tomatoes (1 or 2 tomatoes)
1 ½ flat tsbns salt
Freshly ground pepper
¼ cup rice (either carolina variety or Thai rice) – the rice you have will do
½ tspn ground cloves
½ tspn ground cinnamon

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl with your hands and set aside for filling.

Filling, rolling and cooking, 1.5 hrs:

2 separate pots, 25cm circumference or at least 20cm

The red sauce ingredients you have prepped for the new and spicy version.

2 Tbspn olive oil or butter (for the traditional recipe)
1 ½ cup stock (either home-made or bouillon meat stock) (for the traditional recipe)

Add a little bit of olive oil at the bottom of each pot. If you have kept the outer leaves of the cabbage layer the pot with these/ Remove the thick end (vein) of each cabbage leaf by making an (upside down) V shaped incision. This way you will be able to roll the leaf more easily.

Add enough filling in the middle and roll the cabbage leaf, by folding its outer sides in and then rolling so that you can have the top of the leaf facing your cooking surface. You should then place the roll in the pot, with the top of the leaf facing the bottom of the pan, this way your rolls will not unfold and open whilst cooking. It is a lot easier to roll with the iceberg lettuce leaves.

Use all cabbage leafs and layer the rolls in the pot close and tight to each other. I made to layers of rolls in each pot. If you are using iceberg lettuce roll too, you can place those on the second layer as they will cook faster.

For the new spicy version, spread the celery and carrots over the rolls, evenly pour the tomato and olive oil and add some salt and pepper. I had to add some more stock to the pot, just a couple of tablespoon. Simmer on low heat for 45 minutes.

For the traditional recipe, add the olive oil and stock in the pot. Cover and simmer for 1 hr. Don’t throw away the liquid.

Once the rolls are cooked, set aside for cooling and serve on long platters garnished with the sauces you have prepare.

For the traditional recipe sauce, Avgolemono, 10 minutes:

1 Tbspn Corn flour
1 Tbspn butter
¼ cup lemon juice
1 egg yolk
Some paprika (optional)

You might prefer to have the traditional cabbage rolls as they are. But this avgolemono, lemon and egg, traditional sauce is the perfect accompaniment to this dish. Simona’s recipe of avgolemono is simple and delicious: I had never made it before but it was very easy to deliver.

Remember the sauce preparation must happen really quickly so have all your ingredients within easy reach. There should be about a cup of juices left in your pot from cooking and you will need all of it for your sauce.

Melt the butter in a small pot and mix in the flour well so that you have no lumps.

Then remove from the heat and mix in your egg yolk swiftly. Aim for a creamy mixture.

Immediately stir in the warm juices from the pot, little by little, constantly stirring on very low heat. Keep mixing until your sauce has thickened to the consistency of double cream.

Pour over your traditional cabbage rolls and enjoy!