Author: the other food interpreter

My Greek Shakshuka

My greek shakshuka

‘Strange days have found us’, as the old song goes. And it goes on : ‘They’re going to destroy / Our casual joys’… we try not! . We stay at home, stroll in the near-by hill, telework, homeschool and cook something nice. We try to keep the calories balance under control and enjoy what we eat, so why not a greek-style shakshuka? We hope that you have some good eggs stocked! The egg is a frequent occurrence in cosmological myths, probably not only because it bears life, but also because of its shape and nutritional value. Out of the primeval forces that created the world according to the orphic cosmogony the cosmic egg is the first mention of something edible. In order to appreciate its importance, consider the forces: Chaos, Earth, Heaven, Ocean, Time and Water. In a sense the Egg is excelled to the sphere of theological, cosmological and philosophical contemplation. Our recipe is more related to a more peasant and medieval association of the egg to the supernatural: the Italian ‘Uova in Purgatorio’, …

sesame breadrings

Greek Sesame Bread Rings

The greek name for the sesame bread ring is ‘Koulouri’. It is still the most commonly available street food in Greece – even more than souvlaki and is sold everywhere, in bakeries or in small stands on the streets. It is usually in a simple ring form but you may also find it twisted or braided. Our son likes them a lot, so we decided to start exploring recipes, different shapes and coatings. We ended up in the following variant, which is simple and very tasty.  500g all purpose flour 2Tbsp sugar 1tsp sea salt 16g dry yeast  dissolved in 4 Tbsp of lukewarm water 1,5 cups water (or more if necessary) To coat 1,5 cups sesame seeds (you can also use black sesame seeds or poppy seeds or mix them together) 2 Tbsp of grape molasses (or 2 Tbsp sugar) 1 cup of water Add the sugar to the dissolved yeast and stir. Set aside for about 10 minutes until frothy. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour with the salt. Make a …

Whole Wheat Raisin Bread

This is a somehow primitive recipe compared to other raisin breads like panetone or stolen, but the raisins combine with the whole wheat flour to an austere and delicious result.  You can have it as a power breakfast with butter and marmalade (and then perhaps set off for a long trek to Rohan), or just a plain slice of it with tea. For the yeast mixture 20g fresh yeast, dissolved in 1/2 cup lukewarm milk 1 tsp caster sugar For the dough 540g whole wheat flour 1,5 cups lukewarm milk 80g melted butter (plus some extra melted butter for brushing the braid) 80g caster sugar 1/2 tsp sea salt zest of 1 lemon 1 cup raisins Add the sugar to the dissolved yeast and stir. Set aside for about 10 minutes until frothy. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the flour with the salt, sugar and lemon zest. Make a well in the middle and add the milk, melted butter, raisins and the yeast mixture. Using the hook attachment mix on low speed for about 3 -4minutes …

Soutzoukakia Smyrneika

Both Food Interpreters have at least one grandparent that arrived from Asia Minor. The refugees did not carry with them much (they were refugees, not expats) but they had a very strong culinary culture that enriched the cuisine of mainland Greece. In a sense the food they ate, influenced from Easter Mediterranean, Asia, Ottoman cooking and – for the ex-residents of Smyrna – France, was better than that of their established co-patriots.   The women were adamant about the recipes they brought with them. Deviations from the ‘original’  recipes were not an option, and, in case a poor individual strayed away from the path of culinary righteousness was looked down with contempt.  The Soutzoukakia we are presenting here are  such a faux pax: They are are baked and not fried, they are bigger than they should, are less spicy and in general terms lighter. Nevertheless we think they are great comfort food and certainly more suited for children.  Serves 4 hungry people For the soutzoukakia 600g minced beef 220g onion, very finely chopped 2 garlic gloves, minced 150g …

Briam

Briam, a vegan extravaganza

This briam is made with the last vegetables and the first olive oil of the season. Nikos, who has the best stall with greens and vegetables in the Friday open market, said that those were the last zucchinis of the year (he meant not grown in a greenhouse). Briam is 90% of times boring – to say the least. Vegetables cut in big slices, undercooked, not the best quality of olive oil… Any of that can ruin a dish that depends on the quality of the raw materials and on attention to detail during preparation. We like our briam crunchy and thinly sliced. Serves 4 as main dish, 8 as starter 600g small eggplants, halved lengthways and cut into 1cm slices 300g zucchinis, thinly sliced 350g onions, peeled and thinly sliced 200g red and yellow bell peppers, cut into 1,5cm slices 100g green bell peppers, cut into 1,5cm slices 250g potatoes, peeled and cut into thin wedges 100g small okra, ends trimmed, (optional) 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped 250g very ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled and pureed (or chopped …

eggplants with tomato sauce and feta

‘Mad apples’ with tomato sauce and feta

Eggplants are a staple food of the Mediterranean summer. At the same time they never got rid of an air of mystery. First, the name. The Greeks call them ‘melintzana’, which is a strange sounding word for such a familiar crop. It is a byzantine combination of the Arab ‘bāḏinjān’ and the Greek ‘melas’ – black. The Italians call it melanzana , which sounds close to  mela insana – ‘mad apple’, echoing the origin of the crop from the toxic nightshade species. Then, the origin of the cultivated specie: is it India, China or SE Asia? Perhaps it was domesticated more than once, reminding us of the debate of origin of the homo sapiens. Did we play for eggplants the role nature played on us on our way out of Africa, combining different evolutionary trails, still not fully understood? Then it is the colour of the black variety, unlikely to anything other fruit: black and shiny, ready for interpretation by an oracle – or like a missed opportunity to inspire an Italian art nouveau movement in the early …

Summertime Spaghetti

Tomato, garlic, basil and feta pasta

In a hot summer day, we sometimes want something that is easy and fast to prepare. The first idea is pasta with fresh tomatoes, feta cheese, basil and garlic. And talking about garlic, Thannasis Veggos comes to mind, my favourite of all the Greek actors and comedians. He was the archetype of the poor working man in hard times, dignified and humane, always in a hurry, never giving up and trying to come into terms with social roles and en-vogue fashion.In one of his masterpieces of the 60s he is a detective, looking up to James Bond. In an assignment he has to mingle in a hippy – flower power community. Part of his disguise, and instead of a necklace of flowers around his neck, is a string of garlics, like the one you find in the open markets or old school groceries. What great art! So garlic, besides everything else, reminds me of Veggos. And there is plenty of garlic in this easy, summertime pasta. It is not even a recipe, but it suits …