Wales

October Recipe – An autumn stew delight

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Last week our box from Blaencamel Farm looked like a picture of autumn itself. Whilst new crops like squashes are being harvested some of the summer crops like the last of the tomatoes and chillies are still going. The greens, such as Cavolo Nero, are a darker shade. My seasonal compass is navigated towards deeper flavours, with spice combinations that help us transition seasons comforting us during the first frosts.

This dish I cooked and loved a lot last year. It grew from my fascination with how spices and ingredients fuse and connect culinary cultures. And it uses some of my most loved ingredients. Dill as herb much loved in Northern Greece where I am from but also prolific in Iranian and Ukrainian cuisines. Cumin for us Greeks of the eastern side (just a pinch mind). Caraway, a key spice for the soothing borscht and much Ukrainian cooking. Sour grape powder typical in Iranian cooking. Goji berries instead of the Iranian barberry. Turmeric, ginger, beetroot, pomegranates, tomatoes, parsley… You can see where this is going. It’s a tasty cure on a plate. You can replace some of the fresh turmeric and ginger with powder although I think it is much nicer when fresh is used. I serve this dish with brown rice.

Order your seasonal Blaencamel veg box online www.blanecamelbox.com or by email to Tom Frost (Tom@blaencamelbox.com).  Find out more about Lia’s Kitchen and subscribe on Lia’s newsletters here www.liaskitchen.com

Ingredients (Feeds 6 people)

  • 1 small Hokaido butternut squash
  • 250g beetroot (raw grated or small cubes or pre-cooked and cubed)
  • 200g cherry tomatoes halved or whole (1 Blaencamel punnet –)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic roughly chopped
  • 200-300g of autumn greens, roughly chopped (kale, Cavolo nero or Japanese greens will do as)
  • 1 Hungarian wax chilli (optional)
  • 5cm turmeric chunk grated OR 1tsp. turmeric powder
  • 3cm ginger chunk grated OR ½ tsp ginger powder
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika powder
  • Pinch of cumin or cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp. caraway seeds
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh dill OR 1 tsp dried dill (both heaped)
  • 30g fresh parsley chopped
  • ½ tsp sour cherry powder (optional – available at middle eastern shops)
  • Pinch of oregano
  • 1 small handful of dried goji berries
  • Juice of one lemon or half an orange
  • 1 can pre-cooked beans (recommend borlotti or cannellini but use what you have)
  • Up to 2 cups hot water or vegetable stock(500ml)
  • Pomegranate seeds (optional)
  • 2tsp sea salt

Preparation (approximately one hour)

  1. Place the goji berries in citrus juice for the duration of the preparation.
  2. Peel and grate or cube the beetroot. If using cooked beetroot cook an hour before prep starts.
  3. Halve the squash and remove seeds with a tablespoon. Peel, slice and cube in 5 cm chunks (not too small).
  4. Stir fry the onion, 1 tsp salt and spices (cumin, caraway, paprika, turmeric, ginger and sour cherry &chilly if using) for five minutes on low heat to soften and release aromas.
  5. Add the garlic and oregano stir fry for a couple more minutes.
  6. Add the squash, beetroot and beans and stir well.
  7. Add the softened goji berries with the citrus juice, the chopped dill and parsley. Stir well.
  8. Add the hot water or stock with another tsp of salt.
  9. Stir well, cover and simmer for thirty minutes. Then add the greens and simmer for another fifteen minutes.
  10. Enjoy with a dollop of Greek yoghurt, walnuts and honey and pomegranate seed or apple if you fancy a fruity taste.
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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.

June Recipe – Pea, Broad Bean and Courgette summer risotto

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A good risotto is a great dish to showcase seasonal ingredients from all parts of the world. Lia’s pea, broad bean and courgette summer risotto is inspired by Blaencamel farm’s seasonal, organic vegetable box and a popular Greek blogger video (Cucina Caruso) summing up the correct method for an authentic Italian risotto step by step. The result is a risotto recipe where Greece meets Wales and Italy in one plate. 

Make sure you make time to enjoy the process of your risotto making selecting some nice music and a beautiful crisp white wine. Now more than ever we implore you to make time for the little joys in life and to enjoy the dolce vita. Eat seasonally, be positive and feel happy!

Order your seasonal Blaencamel veg box online http://www.blanecamelbox.com 

Ingredients (for 4 people as a main)

• 1 onion, finely chopped

• 125g butter

• 300g Arborio or other risotto rice

• 400g courgettes, coarsely grated

• 300g fresh peas and broad beans

• 1-1.5 litre vegetable stock

• 15 g fresh mint leaves

• 1 tbsp dry dill or the tips of half a small fresh bunch finely chopped

• 100 ml white wine

• Some extra virgin olive oil

• Salt

• Freshly ground pepper to serve

• Grated parmesan cheese

• Some unwaxed lemon zest

Preparation (40min)

1. Prepare the hot stock and add the herbs to infuse it during the first stages of risotto preparation.

2. Coat the surface of a wide and deep pan with just enough olive oil and add the 50g of butter.

3. Once the butter melts add the onion with a pinch of salt and slowly sauté on low heat until it caramelises.

4. Turn the heat up and stir in the rice. Sauté for a minute making sure that every grain is coated in butter.

5. Pour a ladle of the warm stock and stir whilst the rice slowly absorbs it. Only add another ladle of stock once the previous has been absorbed.

6. When one third of the way through the stock add the peas and broad beans together with another ladle of stock and stir until the rice absorbs it. To blanch the peas and beans place in in hot water off the hob for 5 minutes. You can skip blanching if you prefer the beans al dente.

7. Two thirds into the stock add the grated courgette, stirring and allowing the vegetable juice to slowly seep out flavouring the risotto.  

8. Then add the wine, stir and when it is absorbed continue adding the stock until you are left with one ladle.

9. Add the last ladle and immediately remove the risotto from the hob.

10. Add the rest of the butter(75g), stir and let the risotto set for a few minutes to create the creamy finish.

11. Serve this delicious risotto with grated parmesan, the grated rind of one lemon and freshly ground pepper.

Enjoy with a chilled glass of Greek Malagouzia/Malvasia or Assyrtiko white wine.

April Recipe – Spinach, chard and leek risotto

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In April return to Greece for culinary inspiration. This month’s recipe is a risotto dish much loved in my homeland and to make it I am using seasonal organic Greens from Blaencamel Farm in West Wales. The key difference of this Greek risotto, called ‘Spanako-rizo’ or ‘Spanakoprasó-rizo’ is that it is less complicated in its cooking process (when compared to its Italian cousin) and it uses a lot of greens as the star ingredient rather than focussing on making a creamy rice. Whilst the rice is also added before the water it does not follow the Italian risotto method and you add all the water at once simmering the rice slowly to complete the dish.

Traditionally this dish is made with a rice called Karolina. In the UK, you can find this in Greek specialty shops, but also on the shelves of many of the Middle Eastern shops where you should seek it as Egyptian Rice. It is a short grain variety which keeps its bite when compared to Arborio. If you cannot find Karolina/Egyptian rice why not try Thai Jasmin rice which I find is a great replacement for many Greek recipes. In fact, as I am not a purist, I recommend that you try this dish with all rice varieties to find your preferred version.

Chard is regarded a wild green in Greece and has traditionally been foraged. Now cultivated widely in farms such as Blaencamel it has become a staple of our diet in the UK. Which is why I am using it together with spinach. Its meatier leaves, organic spinach, delicious Welsh leeks, foraged wild garlic and wonderful onions complete this version of the dish. In fact, Blaencamel farm’s April box will include all the ingredients you need to make your Greek Risotto. A perfect gift of the emerging Spring time and a great dish to help your body detox the heavy flavours of winter!

Ingredients (4 portions)

  • 300g Blaencamel leeks (1 bunch), sliced
  • 450g spinach (1 bag), roughly chopped
  • 450g chard (1 bag), roughly chopped
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 bunch wild garlic
  • ¾ cup of rice
  • Juice of one small lemon
  • 1 tsp. tomato paste
  • Up to 2 tsp. sea salt
  • ½ tsp. black ground pepper
  • 1 tbsp. sea buckthorn berries (optional)
  • 1 finely chopped bunch of dill or 1 tbsp tried dill
  • Extra virgin olive oil

Preparation (30 minutes)
1. Coat the base of a 20cm pot with olive oil and sauté the onion and leeks with one tsp of salt until soft and translucent.
2. Add the tomato paste and stir well.
3. Gradually add the chopped greens (spinach, chard, wild garlic) so that wilt slightly.
4. Add the raw rice and mix well.
5. If using chop the sea buckthorn berries roughly or crush and add to the rice and green.
6. Add the lemon juice, around two cups of boiling water, dill (if adding), another teaspoon of sea salt and the pepper.
7. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed.
8. Serve with more crushed sea buckthorn, some feta cheese and drizzle with raw olive oil.

Organic Greek Leek pie

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Most of the people I know in Britain talk about how much they love Greek spanakopita (spinach pie) but my all-time favourite is actually Greek leek pie (prasópita). What best way to bring together my two homes other than in this wholesome, winter recipe?

wide-shot-leek-pie

Leeks are currently in season and Blaencamel Farm’s boxes and market stalls showcase this wonderful Welsh ingredient. You can make this pie using a couple of organic bunches of leek and one onion. And you will thank me for it as the flavour of Blaencamel’s leeks is special. Every bite will make you feel nourished and shun away the winter blues. Happy pie eating!

You can order Blaencamel Farm’s boxes by contacting emailing Tom Frost mailto:(tom@blaencamelbox.com). For more info click here.

Join Lia’s Kitchen cooking classes on 3 and 10 February to find out more and savour Greek cuisine. Book here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/o/lias-kitchen-7901836356

Ingredients (4-6 portions or 12 pieces)

  • 2 bunches Blaencamel Farm leeks (around 700g)
  • 1 onion
  • 200g Feta cheese
  • 2 organic eggs
  • 15g fresh dill (optional)
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • 250g filo pastry (packs available at most supermarkets)
  • Olive oil for cooking and pastry basting

For the glazing

  • 1 espresso cup milk
  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1 tbsp. sesame seeds

Preparation (up to an hour)

  1. Peel, halve and slice the onion finely.
  2. Rub the salt and sugar in the onion slices with your finger until they are well separated.
  3. Let the onions sweat for ten minutes.
  4. Meanwhile trim the leeks and halve lengthwise. Place in a basin filled with water and rinse well to remove all dirt from between the layers. Repeat at least twice.
  5. Coat the base of a wide pan or pot with enough olive oil and preheat. The pot or pan should have a lid.
  6. Add the onions and slowly fry, covered until they caramelise.
  7. While the onions caramelise slice the leeks finely or roughly.
  8. When the onion is ready add the leeks and stir fry for ten minutes on medium heat until softened.
  9. Remove from heat (and pan if possible) and cool down.
  10. In a big bowl beat the eggs lightly and crumble the feta cheese.
  11. Add the leeks and onion mix to the eggs and feta. Add the pepper and mix well.
  12. Pick a baking tray (around 36cmx40 but can be a bit bigger) and using a brush or your hands oil its base and sides well.
  13. Layer half the filo pastry sheets one by one (6-8 depending on the pack), lightly oiling each sheet with olive oil using a brush or your clean fingers.
  14. Don’t oil the last sheet and pour the leek pie filling spreading it evenly across the tray with the back of a spoon.
  15. Repeat the layering process over the filling.
  16. Heat up the milk and butter in a small pot until the butter melts.
  17. Pour on top of the pie, starting from its edges but making sure that the full surface of the top sheet is also moistened. Tuck the corners in to seal the pie.
  18. Using a sharp knife slice the pie into twelve portions.
  19. Sprinkle the sesame seeds and bake in a medium oven (180 Celsius) for 30-45 minutes until golden.

My Greek Kitchen

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I am staying in bed today after a terrible night of coughing and keeping the neighborhood up! Poor them…

Rosemary Baron is keeping me company with her book about Greece and its food. I love reading  others’ take on Greek food and this lady being an archaeologist is a very credible, unbiased source of information. She says, ‘the ancient Greeks regarded cooking as both an art and a science and throughput the ancient world Greek chefs were accorded the status and reputation that French chefs now enjoy. The principles and practice of fine cooking and gastronomy as we know it today were first established in the abundantly stocked and highly creative kitchens of Ancient Greece, and modern Greeks still enjoy the foods and tastes that inspired the chefs of antiquity’. 

Rosemary Baron goes on to talk about the height of the Minoan civilization and trade with North Africa, which helped create a small garden of Eden in Crete that influenced Hellenistic cooking. At the height of the Roman civilization Greek chefs and teachers were sought after and employed in the Roman homes and kitchens, and according to Baron it seems under their tutelage the amazing, distinct Italian cuisine developed. Then the Byzantine empire helped the influence of Greek cooking influence travel further. And then during the occupation of the Franks, Venetians, Ottomans eastern and other influences arrived, and tribes like the Vlachs brought spices like my beloved paprika. 

I am certain Greek chefs embraced new ingredients and influences from other cultures. The early Greek diet of olives, wheat, figs, grapes, wild greens, fish and a little meat was enriched with ingredients such as lemons, potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes, spinach, okra introduced by trade, but also war and occupation. 

The silver lining is that even dark times of occupation were still characterized by culinary and cultural diversity. In her book Baron clearly asserts that the hybridity between Greek, eastern and even Balkan cuisine was mostly nurtured during the more peaceful Byzantine times rather than the Ottoman Empire. But I am sure that the Ottomans have helped many dishes travel through Greek chefs to new parts of their Empire where other cultures also embraced and adapted them.

What fascinates me is Baron’s explanation that during Ottoman times Greeks, who were forbidden to speak their own language, were forced to use Turkish names for dishes such as the now famous moussaka, boureki, dolmades, losing the connection of the dishes to their origins. As children we were taught about secret Greek schools during the Ottoman occupation. They were the underground hubs of language that kept Greek alive but I didn’t know that Greek chefs also took refuge in monasteries for their safety and to safeguard centuries of culinary knowledge!!! Apparently there they wore tall white toques which distinguished them from the monks – the toque is now the chef hat and symbol throughout the world.

Food and its love travel well even at the worse of times. It is a beacon of hope and should connect rather than divide. What I know as traditional and modern Greek cuisine is a real testament to that, and it is a lot more diverse than just the delicious feta and tzatziki.

You can now join my 2017 cooking classes telling you the story of my Greek kitchen. Classes include an Introduction to Greek Kitchen Basics; The Greek Flavours no one is telling you about; The Art of Greek Pie; The Magical Art of spice mixing. 

You can book online here or email lia@liaskitchen.com.   

Watch Rick Stein’s programme about Thessaloniki, Greece and its food to find out more about my city of birth and what you might get during our courses: http://bbc.in/2gnRaMQ