Latest Posts

fig salad

Figs, rocket and ‘xinotyri’ salad

When in Naxos we have more figs than we can handle. Just two fig trees produce such quantities than we do not even have to stretch more than where our arms reach to collect whole baskets. We feel somehow obliged not to waste such glorious fruits and we try to come up with new ways to prepare and preserve them. Two years ago we decided to use them for chutney. I do not remember with how many kilos of dubious fig chutney we ended up.

This year we continued to explore. We wanted to combine with other local ingredients. Potatoes, fish and protocyladic art were opted out… but honey and xinotyri    – the local variety of goat cheese – were a hit! We adapted the following salad from Ottolenghi’s ‘The Cookbook’.

fig salad

fig salad

Serves 4

  • 600g figs ( approximately 8 large figs), washed and cut into quarters
  • 200g xinotyri from Naxos ( or any goat’s cheese of your liking), cut into large chunks
  • 100g rocket leaves (preferably wild)
  • handful of basil leaves
  • 2 Tbsp thyme honey (this yea
  • 3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Whisk the honey and olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange the rocket, basil leaves, fig quarters and pecorino on a large plate or shallow salad bowl.

Drizzle over the dressing and some more black pepper.

 

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 20th century.

eggplant

eggplant

Eggplants have been long enough with us to foretell the luck of dreamers. The interpretation in the Mediterranean  dream books are banal (of the sort: be aware young foolish girls) and unexpected (of the sort: be alert managers or civil servants). In Japan if dreamt in Hatsuyume, the first dream of  the new year, they are considered to bring good luck, as  mount Fuji and hawks do.

Now, down to our Mediterranean summer, we prepare this simple recipe alternating the topping sauce with whatever is available in our fridge.

Serves 4 as a main dish, or 8 as a starter

The eggplants

  • 4 eggplants (about 1,2kg)
  • olive oil, for brushing
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

eggplant

eggplant

The Tomato Sauce and Feta topping

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 200g onion, very finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, very finely chopped
  • 1/2 green bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, cut into thin strips
  • 1 kg ripe tomatoes, blanched, peeled and pureed (or chopped canned tomatoes)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (optional, depending on the acidity of the tomatoes)
  • 2 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 120g feta cheese, crumbled

baked eggplants

baked eggplants

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan)  and line a baking tray with baking parchment.

Cut the eggplants in half, lengthwise. Score the flesh in a crisscross manner all over, using a sharp knife. Brush them with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.Place the eggplants cut side up in the prepared baking tray. Bake for 30-40 minutes until cooked through and golden brown and set aside.

To prepare the sauce you need to blanche and peel the tomatoes. Bring a large saucepan filled with water to a boil. Slice a shallow X in the bottom of each tomato.Working in batches, immerse the tomatoes in the boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until the tomato skins split open. Using a slotted spoon, transfer tomatoes to a large bowl of cold water. When the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, use a knife or your fingers to peel the skin off the tomatoes. Working in batches, pulse the tomatoes in the food processor. Add the sugar if using.

Place a large pan on medium heat with the olive oil and cook the onions and peppers for about 7 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes stirring regularly. Add the tomatoes with the sugar, bring to a boil stirring well, then lower the heat and let simmer uncovered. Continue simmering for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Now it’s time to put it all together.

press with the back of a spoon

press with the back of a spoon

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan).

Press the baked eggplants with the back of a spoon to make room for the filling. Spoon the tomato sauce equally on each  eggplant half. Sprinkle the crumbled feta on top of each eggplant, drizzle with some olive oil and bake in the pre-heated oven for about 20 minutes until golden brown.

Allow to cool a little before serving.

Sometimes we like to eat our eggplants with greek yogurt on the side.

You can keep it in the refrigerator well covered for 2-3 days and bring it to room temperature before serving.

eggplants with tomato sauce and feta

eggplants with tomato sauce and feta

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!

Thanassis Veggos

Thanassis Veggos

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 well a hot summer day if you do not want to spend time in the kitchen.

garlic, open food market, Anavyssos

garlic, local vegetable market, Anavyssos

Serves 4

  • 500g Spaghetti or linguine or any other pasta

For the “salad-sauce”

  • 1kg fresh tomatoes, cut in cubes
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 Tbsp capers (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp Kalamata olives, pitted and sliced (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp basil leaves, finely chopped
  • 200g feta cheese, cubed or crumbled
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
tomatoes, open fruit market

tomatoes, local vegetable market, Anavyssos

Prepare the “salad-sauce”. In a large bowl combine all the salad ingredients.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta according to package instructions. Drain the pasta into a colander.

Add the drained pasta to the salad bowl and toss well to coat.

Summertime Spaghetti

Summertime Spaghetti

 

 

 

 

homemade ketchup

Ketchup for our burgers

Our burgers are a bricolage of Ottolenghi brioche buns, Hawksmoor ketchup and beef from our butcher. To be honest, we are not big ketchup fans, but this is another animal! We feel grateful to the Hawksmoor guys who included the recipe in their cookbook “Hawksmoor at home”, and we can attest that the result tastes as good as the stuff they have in the restaurants. Our touch is that we prepare our own compote instead of using  tinned apples or pears. For the patties we use our butcher’s mix and make brioche buns according to the recipe of Ottolenghi.

ketchup

ketchup

For the tomato ketchup

  • 1 kg tinned or very ripe fresh tomatoes
  • 250g tomato purée
  • 250 g apple compote or tinned apples
  • 50g onion, peeled and cut in half
  • 200g fruit sugar
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled
  • 50 g Maldon sea salt flakes
  • 200ml white wine vinegar
  • 8 whole black peppercorns
  • 1 whole allspice
  • 1 clove
  • 1 whole star anise

For the apple compote

  • 2 apples,  peeled, cored and cut in chunks
  • 25g caster sugar
  • water
ketchup

ketchup

burger

burger

Start with the apple compote. In a saucepan over medium-high heat add the apples, the sugar and enough water to cover them. Bring to a boil and let simmer over medium heat until the apples are tender and the juices are thickened to a thin syrup. Set aside.

Bundle the peppercorns, allspice, clove and star anise in a small piece of muslin and tie with string.

Place the rest of the ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, add the spice bundle, turn the heat down and let simmer for about 2 hours stirring from time to time.

Remove from the heat, remove the spice bundle and pass through a fine sieve.

Spoon the still hot ketchup into sterilized bottles, then seal tightly and place in the fridge until needed – it should keep for one month.

Great served with burgers and triple cooked chips.

ketchup

ketchup

b2

artichoke moussaka

Artichoke Moussaka

The greek moussaka is a true fusion dish, created by Tselementes, a  greek chef and cookbook writer of the begining of the 20th century. Tselementes  has been demonised in the last decades for not being a ‘purist’ and the rest. Although many of his recipes are too rich for todays tastes, with his moussaka he invented a quintessential dish that spawned more ‘purist’ discussions about ingredients, methods e.t.c.

In any case, during this time of year artichokes grow in our garden, and we use them instead of aubergines causing a small scandal in the family. The greek standard is with traditional béchamel, but we prefer the greek yogurt béchamel, according to the recipe of Aglaia Kremezi.

We think the combination tastes great .

artichokes

artichokes

The artichokes

  • lemon juice
  • 10 fresh artichokes (or 10 frozen artichoke hearts)

The potatoes

  • 3 medium potatoes (350g), cut into thin slices
  • olive oil, for brushing the eggplant and

The meat sauce

  • 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 250g onion, finely chopped
  • 70g carrots, grated
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 700g minced beef
  • 3/4 cup dry red wine
  • 1 cup freshly grated tomatoes (or chopped canned tomatoes)
  • 1/2 tsp sugar (optional, depending on the acidity of the tomatoes)
  • 1 pinch ground allspice berries

The greek yogurt “béchamel”

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 4 Tbsp cornflour
  • 2 cups full fat cold milk
  • 1 cup full fat greek yogurt
  • 1 pinch freshly grated nutmeg, or to taste
  • 1/ cup grated feta cheese
  • 1/2 cup grated gruyère cheese
  • sea salt, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese
cretan artichoke

cretan artichoke

Fill a large bowl with cold water. Squeeze a couple lemons into it and drop the lemon halves into the water. I keep one half of a lemon off to the side in case I need it for rubbing on the cut sides of the artichoke as they tend to oxidize quite quickly. Lemon juice retards oxidation.

Start by pulling off the outermost dark green leaves to expose the more tender, lighter ones within. Once you’ve gotten most of the leaves trimmed, you can slice through the top portion of the remaining centre leaves. It should look like a closed rosebud. Trim the stem, using a paring knife to remove all the tough green exterior. If you have large thorny artichokes with a full choke in the centre, you will have to remove that too by scooping it out with a spoon.  As each artichoke is done, drop it in your bowl of cold lemon water. Repeat with your remaining artichokes.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Boil the artichokes for about 10 minutes until tender. Remove from the water using a perforated spoon and let cool. When cool enough to handle cut the artichokes in slices.

Preheat your oven grill to high temperature.

Place the potato slices in a single layer on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Brush each slice on both sides with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and grill about 10-12 minutes, turning once and rotating pan halfway through, until soft and golden brown on each side. Transfer to a plate and set aside.

In the meantime prepare the meat sauce. Place a large pan over medium heat with 3 Tbsp of the olive oil and cook the onions and carrots for about 7 minutes, add the garlic and cook for 2 more minutes stirring regularly. Add the minced meat, breaking it into small pieces with a wooden spoon, cook, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 10 minutes. Deglaze with the red wine and wait 1-2 minutes to evaporate. Stir in the tomatoes, the sugar (if using), the remaining olive oil, a pinch of ground allspice and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil, turn the heat down and simmer covered for about 40-50 minutes, until most of the juices have evaporated.

For the greek yogurt béchamel whisk the olive oil and the cornflour together in a saucepan over medium heat until the mixture starts to froth, for about one minute. Remove from the heat and whisk for 2-3 minutes. Add the milk whisking constantly and then the yogurt.Cook over moderate heat, whisking constantly, and don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled, it’ll smooth out once it is boiled and thickened. Add the nutmeg, the feta cheese, sea salt to taste and continue to stir until the sauce thickens. Set aside.

Now it’s time to put it all together and bake our moussaka.

arrange the artichoke slices

arrange the artichoke slices

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan).

In a lightly greased oven proofed dish (mine was 24x34cm) place the potatoes in a single layer. Cover with half of the meat sauce. Arrange the artichoke slices and cover with the remaining  meat sauce. Top with the greek yogurt béchamel sauce and sprinkle with the gruyère and parmesan cheese.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden brown.

Allow to cool a little before serving.

artichoke moussaka

artichoke moussaka

happy easter

The bad conscience of a meat eater

Seht ihn! – Wie? – als wie ein Lamm. (Behold Him! – How? – As a Lamb.) -BWV 244 ,’Matthäus-Passion’

On Easter Sunday Greeks roast a lamb. That is, a whole lamb is skewered on a spit and roasted over charcoal. The spit usually pierces the scull of the animal or appears though the teeth, next to the prolonged tongue, in pure gore fashion. 

Family and friends gather around the spectacle and celebrate Easter, preferably in gardens and yards in the countryside, among poppies, chamomile and daisies.

Jesus is associated with the innocent lamb, scarified during Easter. What perverse association established the custom of lamb eating on that very day I do not know. Perhaps a suppressed kurgan inclination managed to resurface in the most sacred of celebrations to mock the orderly Christians, betting on the carnivore within.

Or, even more bizarre, it has to do with something much more sinister and ancient: cannibalism. We have not completely lost the association to the living young lambs, sweet and innocent, recipients of our affection. Nevertheless we eat them, teaching our children to do the same. No harm done.

I personally do not like lamb, I prefer a young goat in the oven.