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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.

asparagus quiche

Wild Asparagus and Manouri Quiche

For this quiche we use wild asparagus or, if we can get hold of, ovries. Ovries or Avronies (in greek) are the shoots of tamus communis, a plant that is native and grows in the wild in the Mediterranean. They are supposed to be slightly toxic before cooking and the French call them ‘herbe aux femmes battues’ – obviously they were used to treat bruises. Ovries look and taste a bit like wild asparagus, they are however more bitter – the bitterness goes away if cooked in boiling water. They are considered a delicacy, and, like asparagus, go very well with eggs.

Manouri is a greek semi-soft, fresh white cheese made from goat or sheep milk. If you can not get hold of manouri you can substitute it with ricotta. Manouri has a delicate taste (or according to my husband-the food interpreter, bland taste). For a more intense result substitute half of the manouri or ricotta quantity with crumbled feta.

asparagus quiche

asparagus quiche

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 filling

  • 4 eggs
  • 200ml whipping cream
  • 200g strained greek yogurt
  • 40g grated gruyère cheese
  • 200g crumbled manouri cheese
  • 1 Tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tbsp finely chopped fresh mint leaves
  • 15g grated parmesan cheese
  • 200g rinsed wild asparagus, just the upper tender parts

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.

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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 20 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.


Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the asparagus and blanch them for 2 minutes. Remove from water using a perforated spoon and let cool.

For the filling, combine the eggs with the cream and yogurt in a big bowl. Add the lemon zest, the chopped mint leaves, the gruyère cheese and 100g of the crumbled manouri cheese.

Fill the case with the cream mixture and arrange the asparagus on top. Sprinkle with the rest 100g of the manouri cheese and parmesan. Season with freshly ground black pepper and bake for about 25-30 minutes until golden brown.

asparagus quiche

asparagus quiche

nettle omelette

Stinging Nettle Omelette

Nettles are some of the most irritating plants. Tellingly they feature in an early 20th century expressionist opera, where one of the (obviously distressed) protagonists declares that they grow out of her, but is too weak to weed them out.


Grove with nettles

The grove next to our house is full of them during spring, but we are somehow reluctant to pick them. Instead we let some grow in the garden in Anavyssos, and collect the most tender leaves – of course with long sleeves, long pants, boots and gloves. When cooked they become harmless and add an extra aroma to the recipe. They are great in pies and risottos and make delicious omelettes.



Serves 2

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 40g spring onions, the white and tender green parts, chopped
  • 100g young nettle tops, washed, dried and chopped coarsely (Don’t forget to wear rubber gloves when you’re handling them)
  • 30g dill, chopped
  • 4 eggs
  • 15g milk
  • 80g feta cheese, crumbled
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Whisk the eggs  in a mixing bowl with a pinch of salt, a few grinds of black pepper, and the milk. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a non stick frying pan over medium heat and cook the spring onion for about one minute. Add the nettles and cook for 4-5 minutes over low-medium heat until the leaves are wilted and tender. Stir in the chopped dill and cook for one more minute.

Add the whisked eggs and milk mixture. Tilt the frying pan so that the uncooked eggs flow into the open spaces. When the bottom of the omelette is cooked and lightly brown after about 2 minutes, sprinkle the crumbled feta on top and season with some freshly ground black pepper. Fold the omelette in half and cook for 1 more minute. (If the omelette still looks a little underdone to your taste, cover the pan and let cook for about 1 more minute).

nettle omelette

nettle omelette

nettle omelette

nettle omelette

spaghetti with bottarga

Spaghetti with Bottarga

Bottarga either you like or you don’t. As for us, we think it’s unique. The greek version (avgotaraho) is cured grey mullet roe and is produced in the lagoon of Messologi (and nearby Aitoliko) in western Greece, where the romantic poet Lord Byron caught a cold and died in 1824.

The most renowned greek producer is Zafeiris Trikalinos, a man with a vision.  The family business started in 1856, when stories about Lord Byron were probably still told by people who witnessed them first hand. Mr. Trikalinos likes to stress the nutritional benefits of his product, as if anyone needs to be convinced to consume it!

Avgotaraho is not cheep, nevertheless in the following recipe we advocate that more is better!

Serves 4

  • 500g spaghetti
  • 8 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 200g leeks, white and tender green parts, finely chopped
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • bottarga, 32 very thin slices
  • zest of one lemon

Mix the bottarga slices with the lemon juice and 4 table spoons of the olive oil in a small bowl and set aside.

Heat 4 table spoons of the olive oil in a large  saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped leeks and cook for 5 minutes stirring constantly. Add the spring onions and cook for 4-5 more minutes. Add the garlic and stir for one more minute. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Meanwhile, bring a very large saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta and cook for 8-12 minutes according to the instructions on the package. Save about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Drain the pasta well and immediately add it to the leek and onion mixture. Add the parsley and the lemon zest. Save about 1/2 cup of the cooking water. Toss to coat the strands of spaghetti. If strands are sticking together and you need to loosen or help the ingredients add some of the reserved pasta water. Stir in half of the bottarga slices with their lemon and olive oil sauce.

Divide between the plates, arrange the remaining bottarga slices on top, season with lots of freshly ground black pepper and serve immediately.





Before food globalisation lahmajoun existed on the fringes of food choices in Greece. You could find it mostly in Armenian restaurants and did not even feature in culinary choices of the part of my family that arrived from Asia Minor. Nowadays it is very much in vogue, and some of the best street food in Athens.

This healthy pizza alternative (without the chilli flakes) is a great dinner idea for kids.

lahmajoun dough

lahmajoun dough

For the dough

  • 620g all purpose flour
  • 2 tsp sea salt
  • 300g milk
  • 45g olive oil
  • 9g dried yeast dissolved in 3 Tbsp lukewarm water
  • 1 tsp caster sugar

For the topping

  • 580g minced beef (or lamb or a mixture of both)
  • 140g onion
  • 80g red bell pepper
  • 2 plum tomatoes, deseeded (you can use canned tomatoes)
  • 1 clove of garlic (optional)
  • 20g parsley leaves
  • 40g olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 2tsp sweet paprika
  • 2tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried chilli flakes (optional)
  • 1 tsp sea salt


Start with the dough. 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 well in the middle and add the milk, olive oil and the yeast mixture. Using the hook attachment mix on low speed for about 3 -4minutes until a dough forms. Add some more lukewarm water or flour  if necessary. Cover with a tea towel and let it rise in a warm place for about 1 hour until it doubles in size.

To make the topping process the onion, pepper, deseeded plum tomatoes, garlic (if using) and parsley leaves in a food processor until everything is well ground but not pureed. Strain through a sieve and discard any excess liquid. Add the ground vegetables, the olive oil, tomato paste and the spices to the minced beef and  mix with your hands until everything is mixed thoroughly.

Place the pizza stone on the bottom rack of a cold oven and turn the oven to 200°C .

Divide the risen dough into 16 balls. Lightly flour your work surface and roll each ball into a thin disc, about 2mm thick and 18-20cm in diameter.

Place the discs, one at a time, on a very well floured moveable, slick cutting board to help you transfer the lahmajoun to the hot pizza stone once it is topped.  Divide the topping into 16 portions and spread the topping evenly with your fingers to the edge of the discs.

spread the topping evenly with your fingers to the edge of the discs

spread the topping evenly with your fingers to the edge of the discs

Transfer one lahmajoun at a time to the pizza stone (this can be tricky, you may need the help of a spatula to guide the crust onto the heated stone) and bake for about 4- 5 minutes, or until meat is cooked and dough is golden around the edges.Since oven temperatures vary, watch closely.

If you do not use a pizza stone, preheat the oven to 200ºC, place the lahmajouns on a baking tray lined with baking parchment and bake for about 10-15 minutes.

Repeat with remaining dough and topping.

Serve warm.You can roll them and eat them plain, or topped with  chopped parsley and a drizzle of lemon juice.

Once cool, lahmajouns freeze very well with clingfilm between each one, sealed in plastic freezer bags for several weeks.