lifestyle

USE-WHAT-YOU-HAVE MOUSSAKÁ

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As a person who grew up in Greece I get asked for Moussaka recipes all the time. Moussaká is really as diverse as each household. Go to http://www.instagram.com/lias_kitchen to read what differentiates Moussaká from other bakes!

Moussaká bake

In this post we want to demystify one of the most popular dishes of modern Greek cooking. My usual béchamel sauce is one where milk is flavoured with mace or nutmeg in advance and then slowly heated whilst you slowly add flour, butter and one egg. Not really a roux method but something we call Kourkoúti. But to make things simple for you we recommend you make a béchamel (or morney) sauce you know how to make and have provided a link to a BBC recipe.

In the past year I have made Moussaka with what I have. I always have uncooked lentils in my store cupboard and love using them for a vegetarian, use-what-you-have version of the dish. Use 300 to 500g of minced beef if that’s what you prefer. The authentic Moussaka in my mum’s kitchen uses two layers of aubergine but potato is just fine particularly when your vegetable box has too many potatoes you need to use up.

Enjoy our delicious recipe below!

What:

⁃ 3/4 to 1 cup or mug uncooked lentils (brown or green or black)

⁃ 1 onion, chopped

⁃ 3 allspice berries, crushed (optional)

⁃ 1/2 cup white wine

⁃ 3 to 4 garlic cloves, finely shopped

⁃ 1 tin chopped tomatoes

⁃ 500ml hot water (2cups)

⁃ 30g chopped parsley

⁃ Bay leaf (optional)

⁃ 1 egg beaten

⁃ 1/2 cup breadcrumbs

⁃ 250g crumbled or greater goat or ewe’s cheese such as feta, Abergavenny goat, manchego, pecorino or graviera.

⁃ Salt

⁃ 1 béchamel portion of your choice

⁃ Mace + bay leaf or just grated nutmeg to flavour

⁃ Half kg potatoes or as many it takes to fill a medium baking tray, sliced in circles of 1.5 to 2cm thickness

⁃ Mix of vegetable and olive oil to shallow fry

What:

1. Soak the lentils for an hour or two (optional).

2. Start with making the lentil filling.

3. Fry the onion in 2tbsp. Olive oil with a pinch of salt for 5min.

4. Add the drained lentils, a pinch of pepper and the crashed allspice berries and fry for a couple of minutes.

5. Add the wine, stir and follow with the tinned tomatoes & hot water.

6. Add another couple of pinches of salt, the bay leaf (if using) and the chopped parsley.

7. Cover and simmer for 30.

8. Whilst the sauce is simmering make a béchamel portion of your choice and fry the potatoes till mostly cooked.

9. Use 2-3 Tbsp. Vegetable oil and 2 Tbsp. Olive oil to fry the potatoes.

10. Make sure to cool down the lentil sauce before adding the beaten egg, cheese or mix of cheeses your choice and breadcrumbs. Taste and season if necessary.

11. In a medium baking tray at least 10cm deep, layer the potatoes, the lentil sauce smoothed across the surface and then the bechamel sauce.

12. If you want sprinkle with some more breadcrumbs and cheese.

13. Bake in an 170 Celsius degree fan oven for 45 min or until golden.

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ANA MARIA & JUAN’S AREPAS DE CHOCLO

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This is a very special recipe shared with us by Ana & Juan, two siblings born in Colombia and now living in different parts of the world. Sharing and making recipes, such as these sweetcorn arepas (arepas de choclo), from places we call home help us feel closer to each other when we are too far to hug. Thank you Ana Maria Millan and Juan for sharing a tasty treat and transporting us to your Mum’s Colombian Kitchen table, in that flat that was bought precisely because it could fit a table large enough to gather friends and family as its focal point of togetherness. Much love and respect to Ana’s wonderful Colombian Mama and all the Mamas many of us miss from afar! Thank you to Ana who shared this recipe and her words, which make up most of this post. Ana was born in Colombia and has been living in the UK for nearly 20 years.

Arepas are a traditional food of Latin America, and they come in many varieties. Some are made with different types of corn (e.g masa harina) or rice flour. They are eaten as part of a meal or as a meal itself. This recipe is made with young sweetcorn (choclo) and a mix of flours.

Ana says, ‘I like it because it is sweet, and also because it helps me bring together some of the components of my multi-cultural family: a Colombian recipe with Dutch cheese. My husband is Dutch so we try to make the most of both worlds. Although I only started making arepas after moving to the UK, this recipe takes me home, to my mum’s kitchen. The ideal way to have these is with Colombian hot chocolate, with cheese inside (but that’s another story).’

‘For us sharing food is very important. Growing up we always had dinner together – it was the time of the day when we would sit together and talk about our day and anything that was happening. And, that is something that I do with my family too – dinnertime is family time.’

Arepas De Choclo

What (feeds 2)

  • 2 cups or 340g sweet corn kernels (use defrosted or tinned + drained)
  • ½ cup or 110g flour – use either masa harina OR gluten free flour OR a mix of gluten free and fine cornmeal ground furtner in a stone pestle or mortar
  • 1 teaspoon of softened butter or coconut oil
  • 4 Tbsp. or around 60ml milk (dairy or vegetable)
  • Pinch of sugar

How (30min)

  1. Place the sweetcorn in a food processor until it is mushy, but not smooth. Some kernels should be visible.
  2. Heat the milk and melt the butter of choice.
  3. Add the flours and sugar to the blender and blend till smooth.
  4. The batter should look like thick porridge but it should not be too stodgy. If it is too thick, dilute it with some more milk.
  5. Use a large non-stick pan to fit many small pancakes or a smaller to make 2-4 large ones.
  6. Heat a little bit of butter until melted. Pour the mixture in small or larger circle shapes. Flatten to about 1cm thickness (not too thin but a little bit more like an American or blueberry pancake).
  7. Cook on low heat until it is nice and golden for about 3-5 minutes.
  8. Flip over carefully so it doesn’t break. Put the sliced or grated cheese on top and cook for another 3-4 minutes. You can fold in half and flip over to melt cheese further.
  9. Serve and enjoy.

Lia’s Tips

  • My perfect Ana & Juan arepas used a mix of gluten free flour and fine cornmeal (used for cornbread) ground down further in a stone pestle and mortar.
  • Gluten free flour arepas were the second best.
  • Heating up the milk to melt the butter worked really well.
  • After my third attempt, I realised that the best way to blend the mix well was to add all the ingredients to the blender after first blending the corn kernels
  • I used round metal moulds/cooking rings to make my round arepas. It helped my shape them and spread them thinner but they were mostly 2cm thick. I made mine about 10cm wide so the recipe quantity yielded between 8-10 small arepas.
  • I LOVED using oat milk and coconut oil in my arepas. Ana is right it enhances the arepa sweetness
  • I LOVED Ana’s Colombian/Dutch family tradition of using Edam cheese for the filling. It’s saltiness counterbalanced the arepa sweetness perfectly.
  • Torn shreds of mozzarella was the second best cheese to use.
  • I didn’t always fold the arepa as mine were mostly small.
  • I loved serving with vegan or crisped up real bacon. Yum!
  • Yes, I did the full Colombian thing and had chocolate with those. However, sweetened milky coffee was amazing too.

May’s Recipe – Vegetarian Mageiritsa, a Greek soup of greens and mushroom

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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)

  1. 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.
  2. Add the cubed mushrooms (2 -3 cm chunks) and sauté for 2-5 minutes.
  3. Add the finely chopped herbs, wild or fresh garlic and greens, and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Then add the stock, stir well and (if you are using) add the dried kelp or other sea weed, pepper and sea buckthorn berries.
  5. Simmer for about 10 minutes and then add the rice.
  6. After 20 minutes (when the rice has softened and soup has thickened) remove from the hob.
  7. Beat the egg really well until it is fluffy and creamy (around 5 minutes), and whilst you continue whisking gradually add the lemon juice.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Pancake heaven

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Shrove Tuesday is now gone but I’d like to think that pancakes can return to Lia’s kitchen before the next one in 2014.

Pancakes don’t always have to be overindulgent naughty treats. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

I hope this post becomes a quick and easy pancake recipe reference and an inspiration for an alternative savoury filling.

This recipe was given to me by Dan Green who, hat’s off to him, makes the best pancakes I have ever had-he flips them and all that! I just followed his instructions to make the batter, made a filling with what we had in the fridge and watched him put the pancakes together skilfully for us.

Aubergine and fenugreek pancake filling ingredients

1 small aubergine, cubed in 2cm pieces
Half an onion finely chopped
Half a tin of chopped tomatoes
Pinch of cinnamon powder
3-4 handful fresh fenugreek leaves roughly chopped
100gr or more grated cheddar

Filling preparation

Stir fry the aubergine, onion and a pinch of salt for five minutes.

Add the chopped tomatoes and cinnamon, stir and cook for five to ten minutes on low heat until soft and cooked.

Season with some salt and pepper (2-3 pinches of salt suggested).

When nearly ready add the fresh fenugreek.

Add the cheese when filling the pancake in the pan and whilst the second side is cooking.

You can optionally add some fresh baby spinach leaves when filling the pancake.

This is enough filling for four small pancakes.

Pancake Batter ingredients

125gr Spelt or whole meal flour
300 ml milk
1 egg
A pinch of salt
Knob of butter from frying

Pancake preparation

Add all ingredients (not the butter) and whisk to mix well.

Let the batter sit in the fridge for 20 minutes or until you prepare your fillings.

Heat a non stick frying pan on high heat.

Melt enough butter to coat the pan’s surface.

Add about a ladle full of batter in your pan.

Lift and swirl until the batter evenly covers all the surface and almost ‘licks’ its sides upwards. [1]

Lower the heat and cook for a minute or until ready-that’s when it’s easy to flip.

Flip and whilst the pancake is cooking fill with preferred filling and cheese , or fruit and chocolate.

Fold in four in the pan.

This amount of batter should give you six small pancakes and plenty for two people.

Enjoy whilst hot!

[1] This should help you flip the pancake easier.

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Oh sweet grain of Halva

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My mother was here until last Monday, and I kid you not, she made the best halva of her mother career for us. It was one small little change in the simple foolproof recipe that she has been using all her life- she used lime instead of lemon and oh my was that a wonderful deviation.

The halva recipe follows the simple 1-2-3-4 rule, which is fool proof and depending on your unit of measure allows you to make more or less portions of halva. If you use a cup as a unit of measurement you should have enough desert for about six people.

Remember to allow some time for the halva to cool down slightly so that you can mould it into your chosen shape or individual portions.

This desert is easy, quick, cheap and everybody loves it. And the recipe is vegetarian, vegan and dairy free.

Here is how we do Halva in the Moutselou clan although admittedly I prefer to brown the halva a bit more than mom because of the toasted grain smell it releases in the house.

Ingredients

1 measure of olive oil
2 measures of coarse semolina
3 measures of sugar (you can easily reduce that to 2 or even replace with honey)

Peel of half or whole lime or lemon
1 cinnamon stick
A big handful of chopped walnuts
Some finely chopped walnuts for dusting and decoration
Some cinnamon powder for decoration

Preparation

Prepare a syrup adding the boiled water, the sugar, a cinnamon stick and lime or lemon peel to a heat proof bowl or pan.

Stir the sugar until dissolved, cover and let it sit long enough to unleash the lime and cinnamon flavours[i].

Heat the olive oil in a pan (preferably non stick) until it’s almost sizzling.

Add the semolina to the pan and brown, stirring continuously and until it reaches your preferred shade of semolina brown[ii].

Add a big handful of coarsely chopped walnuts halfway through your browning action.

Remove the lemon/lime peel, stir the syrup in the pan of browned semolina and either remove from heat or lower to minimum whilst you continue stirring.

Remove from heat and discard the cinnamon stick.

Let the halva mixture cool down for five minutes or more.

Mould either in a bundt cake tin or a loaf tin or in individual moulds of your choice, e.g. Greek coffee cups for smaller portions.

Dust with cinnamon powder and decorate with finely ground walnuts and.

Let the halva cool down before serving. The halva is delicious cold when left in the fridge overnight.

If you wish serve with grapes and decorate with single (soya) cream


Suggestions

[i] The longer you leave your syrup to sit the more flavoursome it will be but if you are in a rush you can just let it sit whilst you go through the next few steps.

[ii] Many people like to toast the semolina very slightly and until it absorbs the oil- if you prefer this your halva can look very pale and almost beige and could be very light. I love to brown the semolina to a heavier complexion but I would recommend a light tan for most beginners.

[iii] You will see the semolina expand.

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!