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Oven roasted mushrooms

There are no mushrooms in the famous painting  ‘The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke’ of the Victorian lunatic Richard Dadd. Given the connotations of mushrooms and their place in folkore or in other Victorians’ eccentric writings, this is somehow unexpected. But we can think that something even stranger happened after the Fairy Feller stroke the chestnut. All  the chestnuts – not just the one he masterly smashed- turned into mushrooms. They spread uniformly like a hypothetical constellation defying the rules of gravity and space-time. Of course they could not be put to use for the construction of Queens Mab’s carriage ( have you ever heard of a carriage made of mushrooms?), so we roasted them with onions. 

Queen Mab aside, this makes a great sidedish or – with the addition of some more greens – a good salad.

The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke, Richard Dadd
The Fairy Feller’s Master-Stroke, Richard Dadd

Serves 4 as a side-dish

  • 500g button mushrooms, washed, trimmed, and halved
  • 250g small shallots, peeled and left whole
  • 1 Tbsp rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 5 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 handful rocket, roughly chopped
  • 2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 220ο C ( fan) .

In a large bowl mix the halved mushrooms, whole shallots, rosemary, garlic, 3 Tbsp of the olive oil and season with 1/2 tsp of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper.

Transfer to a parchment-lined rimmed baking tray and spread into an even layer and roast for about 25 minutes until caramelised and soft. Remove from the oven and let them cool for about 5 minutes.

Transfer to a shallow bowl and toss with the rocket, the remaining 2 Tbsp of olive oil and the lemon juice. Season with some more salt and pepper if needed.

turkey souvlaki

Grilled Turkey souvlaki and a light yogurt sauce

Out of all spices saffron is the one that in mind resembles the melange of the Dune universe. In a sense it has time shifting powers, only not in the future, but in the past.  In the Archeological Museum in Athens you can see a fresco from Akrotiri ( destroyed in the Theran eruption of 1628 BC) depicting two women harvesting crocus – the Greek saffron variety. The taste and smell of saffron remains the same since the artist painted these two priestesses of an ancient world. The figures could easily be characters from Dune – perhaps some pretty Bene Geserit preparing the Water of Life.

Saffron gatherer, Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece
Saffron gatherer, Akrotiri, Santorini, Greece

A more everyday application of saffron is in this recipe of turkey souvlaki. It is on our list of light and very tasty dishes.

This recipe is brought to you by the GBTS project!

Serves 2

For the turkey souvlaki

  • 400g turkey breast, cut in to 2 cm cubes
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 1 generous pinch ground saffron
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika
  • 2 Tbsp parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 wooden skewers

For the light yogurt sauce

  • 200g low fat greek yogurt
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint or 1 Tbsp fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp extra virgin olive oil

Place the turkey breast cubes in a large bowl with the minced onion, ground saffron, sweet paprika, parsley, vinegar, olive oil, sea salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Cover and allow to marinate in the fridge for at least one hour.

Combine all the ingredients for the yogurt sauce in a bowl, cover and refridgirate until needed.

Soak the wooden skewers in water for about 30 minutes. This will prevent them from burning.

Preheat your oven grill to high temperature.

Thread the marinated turkey breast onto the 4 wooden skewers  and place them on a greased rack. (I use a roasting pan with a rack).

Broil them under the hot grill for about 8-10 minutes, turning over half way and drizzling them with olive oil, until they are golden and cooked through. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and serve immediately with the light yogurt sauce and a fresh green salad.

chimichurri

Chimichurri sauce

I dreamed of barbeques in Patagonia, after long treks and under a southern night sky of unfamiliar constellations.  The only sound would be the cracking of the woods in the fire, the weather chilly and the wind fresh. Ah, Patagonia a mythical place, still wild. The names of mountains, lakes,  rivers and water passages  on the maps still not completely absorbed by the place –suited for the imagination of a kid still hoping there are unexplored lands and mystery in the world.

And then I read Bruce Chatwin’s “In Patagonia” and my desire evaporated. Patagonia did not seem that innocent and fresh anymore. It stands out as a place of difficulty, broken wills and  social consequences – not to mention  Butch Cassidy and the Wild Bunch .  I am sure this does not make justice to Patagonia, but, in a time of Covid travel restrictions, what else can we do but armchair traveling and relying on the stories of others who have been there..

Chimichurri is a sauce for gauchos in the pampa. This version is very dynamic, with all the garlic, onions and chilli it contains. It is great with steaks or grilled fish and a very good alternative to richer sauces if you want to stay on the healthy side.

This recipe is brought to you by the GBTS project!

chimichurri
chimichurri

  • 95g shallots, finely chopped
  • 25g garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 40g fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 375g very ripe tomatoes, deseeded and cut into very small cubes
  • 1 small chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 2 Tbsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh lemon zest
  • 30g sherry vinegar
  • 60g white wine vinegar
  • 300g extra virgin olive oil
  • 150g water

Place the chopped onions, garlic, parsley leaves, tomatoes and chilli in a large bowl. Stir in the dried thyme, oregano, ground cumin,sweet paprika, sea salt and lemon zest. Finish by pouring in both vinegars, olive oil and water.

Spoon the chimichurri sauce into several small jars, then seal tightly and place in the fridge or freezer until needed – it should keep for 15 days in the fridge and up to 6 months in the freezer. Return to room temperature before serving.

chimichurri
chimichurri

The Lockdown GBTS Project

What can you do when in lockdown? Eat well. Ontop, as parents of a child in e-learning, we needed a decent amount of alcohol. I would say that the occupation around food and drink became something of a modest obsession..All that had consequences. When going back to a somewhat more normal routine you notice that clothes don’t quite fit ( I had the impression that my pants upper button would launch and hit somebody in the eye or knock a person dead).  When running the familiar route around the hill I began making concessions to the steep parts, accelerating only when another runner appeared.. So we had to face the simple fact: we gained weight!  For my part I even considered doing nothing about it, and spending the rest of my life with the extra kilos. Then again, perhaps not. I fantasized journeys that you travel easiest when lean and fitting in my wetsuit. 
Our problem is that we don’t like diets (who does..) . Our assumption is that even if we stuck  to a diet for a period, we would slip into the previous habits without thinking much. So we decided to come up with some simple rules, and stopped eating sugar, wheat (mostly) and pasta. This – besides the obvious – had a couple of consequences in our lifestyle: No more cookies with coffee, no extravagant breakfasts, no deserts, no saying yes to the small temptations.. A glass of wine Fridays and Saturdays we allow. You switch to a more calvinistik state of mind and discipline your habits. We have stuck to this for several weeks now, and – in our case – it has worked. We intend to keep it longer on a strict basis, and then relax it with discipline. 
And now the big question: Do we eat well? YES! First of all we even more than before try to source good ingredients: fish, meat, fruit and vegs. Our excess now is the size of fish.. We stacked the pantry with fresh spices. And we now have the recipes for tasty food and (we like to believe ) rather healthy and light food. We intend to share this newfound wisdom and tag recipes as “The lockdown G(etting)B(ack)T(o)S(hape) project”.

Tart with figs, feta, caramelised onions, thyme and pink peppercorns

Pink peppercorns are not really peppercorns; it is a fake identity. They are the berries of Schinus molle, a tree native in South America. They somehow made the journey in the spice business from west to east – not from east to west. The tree now thrives in several lands and can can be found even in Zappeion in the center of Athens, near the ceremonial guard watch, where we used to stroll daily with our son during the covid lockdown. Of course in their native lands by the Andes they had a long association with costumes and rites. It fact they were not used to spice up fig and onion tarts, but people. Yes, they were used by the Incas for producing chicha, a fermented drink. If you were one of the lucky ones to be offered to the gods, you were first rubbed with chicha remains, then buried alive, then force-fed with more of the drink (think ducks and foie gras). So, pink peppercorns only pretend to be nice – in reality they await to be put in good use as they were for ages.

Figs, on the other hand, are much tamer, with the exception of the milky sap that can cause a mild rush. I think it’s effect is more annoying for children, as I remember from the times we climbed the fig trees in summer for their sweet fruit. Our trees in Naxos produce more figs than we or our friends can consume, so we try to use them anyway we can. One summer we cooked lots of chutney with mixed results. Fig salads with goat cheese are a success. This year as we decided to play it covid safe and not travel by boat for holidays we did not visit Naxos, so we must content with the fig donations of our neighbour in Anavyssos.

Figs, pink peppercorns, onions, thyme and feta (another local produce) work very well in this tart. 

Serves 4-6

For the pastry

  • 230g all purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 100g cold unsalted butter, cubed
  • 25g egg, lightly beaten (approx. 1/2 large egg)
  • 40g cold tap water

For the caramelised onions

  • 2Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 large onions, peeled  and finely sliced
  • 1 tsp finely chopped thyme leaves
  • 1 pinch fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp butter

For the filling

  • 200g grated feta cheese
  • 6-7 fresh figs, ends trimmed and cut into 1cm thick slices
  • 1 tsp pink peppercorns, crushed
  • 1 tsp finely chopped thyme leaves
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the pastry put the flour, salt and butter in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment and combine until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Change to the hook attachment and add the cold water and the egg. Continue mixing until dough comes together to form a ball. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Place the pastry between two sheets of baking parchment and roll out to a thickness of 2mm.

Butter a 24cm fluted tart tin, line with the pastry and gently push it into the base and edges,allowing the excess to hang over the sides. Prick all over the base of the tart with a fork and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Cut a large circle of baking parchment and scrunch it  up a couple of times. Lay it over the pastry base, fill with beans or coins and bake for approximately 15 minutes before removing the beans or coins and parchment. Return the pastry case  to the oven and bake for a further 5-10 minutes, until golden brown. Remove the tart tin from the oven, let cool a little and then, using a sharp knife, cut the excess pastry from around the top of the tart tin.

For the caramelised onions, heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed pan over medium heat. Add the onions with a generous pinch of salt and cook slowly for around 30-40 mins. Stir occasionally to prevent them from sticking or burning until they become soft and a golden caramel colour. Remove from the heat, add the chopped thyme leaves, the butter and toss well.

Combine 1/3 of the grated feta cheese with the onion mixture and spread over the pastry base. Spread another 1/3 of feta cheese over the onion mixture and arrange the fig slices on top.

Sprinkle the rest of the feta cheese, the chopped thyme , the crushed peppercorns and some freshly ground black pepper and bake for about 20 minutes.

fig tree

Arpi’s Chocolate Tart

The lockdown gave rise to a new social group: mothers of kids that had to be homeschooled and kept busy within social acceptable norms. A number of tricks where utilised to keep us mothers relatively sane: memes in social media, zoom chats, cooking, alcohol.

Birthdays were a challenge. We did the best we could. Our son celebrated his over zoom with his classmates. They sung happy birthday, he blew the candles of his cake.  Then, as the lockdown eased, we repeated the process with his grandfather, his godparents and then his grandmother in separate sessions. I am sure he is aware of the absurdity, but, given the presents, he plays along.

As of the cakes, and given that our assembly skills are a little rusty to build the Millennium Falcon or Darth Vader, the two variations we baked was a multi coloured cake so our son could choose the colours (white, brown, red, blue ) and participate in the process, and a chocolate tart.

We first had this chocolate tart from Arpi, a good friend and mother of two with similar challenges. She baked and brought it at a playdate in more care-free times. She was kind enough to give the recipe, and we have to say it is the best chocolate tart we have baked.

For the tart shell

  • 115g unsalted butter, softened
  • 115g unrefined caster sugar
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely grated salt
  • 115g all purpose flour (sifted)
  • 30g unsweetened cocoa powder (sifted)

For the filling

  • 350g whipping cream
  • 350g good quality dark chocolate (55% cocoa solids), roughly chopped
  • 50g unsalted butter, cubed
  • 2 Tbsp brandy (optional)

For the tart shell, combine the butter and unrefined sugar in a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, about 5 minutes until light and creamy. Add the flour, cocoa and salt and mix well until combined. Shape the dough into a disc, wrap in clingfilm and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Remove the pastry from the refrigerator and roll out between two sheets of baking parchment until approximately 3mm thick.

Butter a 23cm fluted tart tin (with removable bottom, if you have one), line with the pastry and gently push it into the base and edges, allowing the excess to hang  by 1cm over the sides. Prick all over the base of the tart with a fork and refrigerate (or even better freeze if there is room in your freezer) for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 170°C.

Cut a large circle of baking parchment and scrunch it  up a couple of times. Lay it over the pastry base, fill with beans or coins and bake for approximately 10 minutes before removing the beans or coins and parchment. Return the pastry case  to the oven and bake for a further 5 minutes. Remove the tart tin from the oven, let cool a little and then, using a sharp knife, cut the excess pastry from around the top of the tart tin and set aside.

For the ganache, place the chopped chocolate into a bowl.

Heat the cream in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn’t scorch. The cream is ready when it reaches 90°C, right below the boiling point or you can tell the cream is warm when it just begins to bubble and is hot to the touch.

Pour the warm cream over the chopped chocolate, and whisk until smooth. Add the butter (and the brandy if using) and keep stirring until shiny.

Pour into the tart shell and refrigerate for 2-3 hours to allow the ganache to set.

Quarantine Pathways

What we are realizing as we are slowly stepping out of the lockdown is that we followed rigid routines: reading, cooking, wandering in the city and in nature, watching the daily announcement of the civil protection and the chief epidemiologist.  In a sense we were walking on pathways that we deepened everyday. The first pathway was through nature, literary on the hill around the corner from where we live, or a little further away before and after the strict lockdown. We discovered new paths and took joy every time we saw wildlife (not the bears and wolves our son anticipated), but birds we had never seen before, swarms of butterflies and the usual turtles. We were walking mainly silently.

The Erlkönig caught up in daylight

The second pathway was through the city. We strolled past the Tsoladies (the ceremonial presidential guard), down to Zappeion. Our son had a precise map on his head with the optimal routes for his roller scooter, down to the level of pavement material variations. Of course the stroll was bizarre, passing through sites that were now empty – an opportunity to focus on the architecture. On the edge of Zappeion we discovered a spot that looks old: perhaps a small theatre of late antiquity or the yard of a villa. We still have not figured out what the site is (was). A friend suggested a pun: A circular launch pad in front of a Frank Zappa statue. Our son called it ‘our hideaway’, ran on the circular marble line, watched ants in and out their nests between the cracks of the old mosaic and imagined moles living in under-earth tunnels (he spotted the entrance of such a tunnel). Another daily stop was at  the pool with the water turtles: there are 63 of them and the gentleman who takes care of them confined that they grab the occasional pigeon from his leg disembowel and eat it. To the great disappointment of my son we did not witness such a scene. At the end and after hard thinking he concluded that the ‘animals are neither good or bad’.On the way back to our house I served as the engine of his scooter and pushed or pulled all the way uphill.

Animal Planet – observing some pigeon- eating turtles

The third pathway was food. We feel grateful to the local shops that they did not stop their delivery even for one day (thank you Nora, Nataly and everyone at Ideal Fresh). We cooked almost every day. The connotation that comes to my mind whenever I hear of daily emphasis on food is the overindulgence scenes in the dinning room of the “Zauberberg’, but we tried to stick to healthy and ‘Mediterranean’ cooking. We explored old and new cookbooks (between them Ottolenghi’s NOPI and Salt-Fat-Acid-Heat of Samin Nosrat) and discovered recipes that we will include in our repertoire. Our supply of Popi’s olive oil and Naxos’ cheese, honey and capers was interrupted. I guess you call this supply chain regional – so it is already partly restored.

The fourth pathway was reading. I managed to finish ‘Life and Fate’ of Grossman. The title sounds corny but it lives up to its aspirations! As with great Russian novels, I get so much involved and get identified with some of the characters, that I find it hard to keep on reading. I then moved to MacFarlane’s “The Wild Places” and Lino Politis’ Anthology of Poems Part 2, ‘After the Fall’. The highlight of the last is the ‘Tale of the Donkey, Wolf and Fox’. “ Damned Donkey and thrice- cursed/ heretic and and mean, filthy dog/ you ate that leaf of cabbage without vinegar/How comes we did not drown on this journey!”, says the Fox.

Watching the daily announcements of the Civil Protection and the Chief Epidemiologist became an obsession. Tsiodras (the Chief Epidemiologist) had nothing to do with the usual clowns. I think the guy is the last spark of the reaction of science coming together with the tradition of Christian orthodoxy and he seems like an answer to non-compatibility problems endemic to non-Catholic and non-Lutheran traditions. I have the suspicion that some of what he says can be traced back to 8th century solved disputes.

The last pathway was of course technology – the big conceptual network that defines our lives and extends our perception, in a sense the triumph of science and engineering.

Now we are gradually stepping out of the confinement and reconnecting with friends and family, after relentless home schooling, teleworking, having celebrated birthdays, anniversaries, Easter and National Day at home. To what expend is it over? We hope that we will survive until science triumphs again!

oven baked fries

Oven Baked Fries

Fried Potatoes! We used to have them when I was a kid. Especially in the summer, during our holidays on the island, my mother prepared them with fried eggs! Then she became an advocate of healthy food, and the fried potatoes drifted into oblivion. Years later, on a trip to Madrid I had fried potatoes and eggs in an upscale tapas restaurant. This was my madeleine  moment! And then, again, I lost the fried potatoes thread for more years. Now we sometimes have them as a treat for our son ( I mean how can he grow up without knowing what real fried potatoes are? ).  Nevertheless, we always feel that we are pushing the envelope of what is acceptable a little too far.

After rigorous research we concluded that we found a very good alternative. They taste really good. 

Besides the default way to prepare them, we suggest another three alternatives : with feta, garlic (optional) and oregano, with paprika and garlic and with truffle oil and parmesan.

Sometimes we go for a oven baked fries extravaganza and make all 4 alternatives. It’s fun to taste and compare. Of course you can choose just one version and go with that, or even improvise.

Serves 4 as a side dish

6 large potatoes (1,2kg) skin on (you can peel them if you prefer), cut into 1,5 cm wide fries

For the default oven baked fries

  • 15ml olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp fine semolina
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper

For the feta cheese and oregano oven baked fries

  • 15 ml olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp fine semolina
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

For the paprika oven baked fries

  • 15 ml olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp fine semolina
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp sweet paprika

For the truffle oil and parmesan oven baked fries

  • 15ml olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp fine semolina
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp truffle oil
  • 2 Tbsp parmesan cheese,  finely grated

Preheat the oven to 220ºC (fan).

Place a large saucepan of salted water over a high heat. Bring to a boil, add the potatoes and boil for 5 minutes.

Drain and set aside to dry out for 5 minutes. Divide into 4 batches and transfer into 4 different bowls.

For the default baked fries, mix all the ingredients gently together and set aside.

For the feta cheese and oregano baked fries mix the olive oil, semolina, sea salt, black pepper, minced garlic and dried oregano and set aside.

For the paprika baked fries mix all the ingredients gently together and set aside.

For the truffle oil fries mix the olive oil, semolina, sea salt, black pepper and set aside.

Prepare two large baking trays by dividing each of them into two compartments with foil and line each compartment with baking parchment.

Spread each batch out onto a parchment lined baking tray compartment. Take care to spread the potatoes in a single layer, evenly spaced so that the potatoes are not touching each other. 

Bake for about 30-35 minutes, turning once halfway through, until golden brown and crisp.

Take the cooked fries out of the oven and place each batch into a separate bowl.

For the truffle fries, sprinkle with the truffle oil and the grated parmesan cheese.

For the feta cheese fries, add the crumbled feta ontop.

Serve immediately as a side dish or as finger food with our homemade ketchup.

oven baked fries
oven baked fries
ketchup
ketchup

French Toast… à la grecque

The Tsoureki is the typical Easter Sweet Bread of Greeks. It contains mahaleb, a spice made from the seeds of the Prunus mahaleb tree, grown in the Middle East. Prunus mahaleb is mentioned in the Epic of Gilgamesh. Its’ wood is hard enough for use in carpentry. We learn that the goddess Ishtar herself had planted a tree in order to make a bed and chair from its’ wood.
The problem was that, after ten years and when the tree was fully frown and ready to be lodged, it was infested with nasties. Untypical for her notorious fame, Ishtar had to call for help, and it was Gilgamesh who killed the immune-to-spells snake, expelled the storm bird and drived away the succubus demon.

Besides the tree’s qualities that made it suitable for carpentry, its’ fruit was also esteemed. The seeds of the tree occur in Mesopotamian incantations from the 22nd century BC, in lists to be used for the mixing of potions and medicine. What a long journey for the mahleb, from the haze of of the temples in Nippur four thousand years ago, to the local patisseries and bakeries! Nowadays in Greece, everybody knows an establishment where they produce a good Tsoureki – usually a founder from Konstantinoupoli ( Istanbul) is involved!

Tsoureki is consumed traditionally on Easter Sunday morning after Easter fasting. I think that a good Tsoureki pairs exceptionally with chèvre, roquefort or gruyere cheese, not to mention the more mainstream way, butter and jam. Or, you can also try it for this french toast à la grecque (inspired from a recipe of NOPI by Ottolenghi and Scully) which is great for a festive breakfast or brunch. You can substitute the Tsoureki with brioche, challah or even panettone.

Tsoureki French toast

Serves 2

For the French toast

  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml full fat milk
  • 200g Greek Easter Bread (tsoureki), ends trimmed and cut into 3cm thick slices
  • 40g cold unsalted butter, cut into 2cm cubes

For the star anise sugar

  • 4 whole star anise, blitzed in a spice grinder into a fine powder
  • 25g caster sugar

For the Strawberry compote and yogurt

  • 150g fresh strawberries
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • 100g greek yogurt

Place the strawberries in a medium saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice over medium-high heat and cook for about 6 minutes, stirring from time to time, until the sugar has dissolved and the compote thickens slightly. Remove from the heat and let it cool to room temperature, about an hour.

Mix together the ground star anise and caster sugar, then spread out on a plate, ready for the toast to get dusted and set aside.

Whisk the eggs in a medium bowl until pale and airy and then slowly add the milk while whisking continuously. Transfer the egg and milk mixture to a dish that is large enough to fit the 4 slices of tsoureki in a single layer. Add the tsoureki slices and let them soak for about 5 minutes, turning them carefully once or twice.

Preheat the oven to 220°C (fan)

Place 20g of butter in a large non-stick pan over medium-high heat. When it starts to foam, place in the 4 slices of the soaked tsoureki and fry for about 2 minutes. Flip them over, add another 20g of butter and continue to fry for another 1-2 minutes, until golden brown.

Transfer the cooked tsoureki slices on a baking sheet and bake for 4 minutes, until all slices puff up and get deep, golden brown.

Remove from the oven and dip each slice in the star anise sugar one at a time, flipping so that both sides get coated.

Serve immediately with the greek yogurt and the strawberry compote.

Tsoureki French toast
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’, a napoletanian version of the shakshuka, in which case the eggs represent souls surrounded by flames in the Purgatory. It sounds macabre, but wait until you delve into the details of the bizarre ‘Cult of the dead’, an 17th century spin-off of the catholic faith that inspired the name of the dish and numerous shrines in the street of Naples.


Our other reference is to the ‘kayianna’, a rural version of scrambled eggs with tomatoes from western Greece.


We think that in our recipe we stroke a good balance of the ingredients – needless to say that their quality can make or brake this simple and very delicious dish. Of course you can experiment and use whatever is of the season or available in the fridge, as we did when a friend (thank you Katerina) supplied us with several kilos of zucchini from her vegetable garden in Nemea.

Serves 2 as a main dish, or 4 as a starter

  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and finely sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely sliced
  • 1 red bell pepper, finely sliced
  • 1/2-1 tsp dried chilli flakes (depending on your spice tolerance)
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 230g cherry tomatoes (about 20-23), finely sliced
  • 80g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 Tbsp capers
  • 4 eggs
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp chopped parsley or basil leaves or 1 pinch dried oregano

Place a large pan on medium heat with the olive oil and cook the onions and peppers for about 8-10 minutes, add the garlic (and the chilli flakes-if using) and cook for 2 more minutes stirring regularly. Add the sliced cherry tomatoes, bring to a boil stirring carefully, then lower the heat and let simmer covered for about 10 minutes.

Remove the lid, stir in the chopped parsley leaves ( or basil leaves or dried oregano) and season with a pinch of sea salt, then add the crumbled feta and the capers.

Make 4 wells with the back of a spoon, crack in the eggs, cover the pan and cook the eggs until the egg whites are set but the yolks are still running.

Sprinkle the top of the eggs with some sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve with fresh sourdough bread.