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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.

pepers1

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 canned tomatoes)
  • 1 tsp sugar (optional, depending on the acidity of the tomatoes)
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 2-3 pinches sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups warm water (or more if needed)
thin potato wedges

thin potato wedges

onions1

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (fan).

Place the sliced eggplants, zucchinis, onions, red and green peppers, okra (if using), garlic and parsley in a large baking pan. Add the pureed tomatoes with the sugar, the dried chilli flakes (if using), the salt (you can always add some more later if needed), 3/4 of the olive oil and 2 cups of warm water. Toss everything together.

Bake uncovered for 30 minutes and turn over with the aid of a large spatula. Bake for another 30 minutes before turning over once more. At this point add 1 more cup of warm water. Continue baking for about 20 minutes and then turn your oven grill to high temperature. Add the rest of the olive oil, some freshly ground black pepper, more salt to taste if needed and the last cup of water.  Turn over for a last time and broil under the hot oven grill for 5-10 minutes if you like your briam crunchy on the top like we do!

Serve  in room temperature with feta cheese or tyrokafteri (spicy feta cheese spread) or taramosalata  on the side and lots of fresh crusty bread.

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

 

 

Canapé Gaudi

Nothing prepares you for the sight of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona. You have seen pictures and documentaries about this unfinished cathedral, but the scale of its surreality hits you in the face, no matter the sheer number of tourists flocking to take their selfies. It is surreal in the sense of Salvador Dali, but on a giant scale, an extravaganza of architectural components, not unlike exotic fruits, that somehow fit together to something bigger than the parts.

gaudi2

And what a great introduction to the Spanish cuisine. At its best is it not a combination of heterogeneous ingredients exploding in the palate? Inspired from tapas based on tinned seafood served in Quimet & Quimet, here is a not so obvious canapé.

gaudi4

Greek strained yogurt and thinly sliced smoked salmon on top of your preferred crackers, drizzled with truffled honey and glazed balsamic vinegar. Enjoy with a glass of sauvignon blanc!

gaudi3

 

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

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