Thursday, 20 April 2017

Pastitsio - Παστίτσιο

Arguably this is one of the most comforting Greek dishes out there. Its kind of the cottage pie of Greece in levels of comfort. I remember following the smell of it up the stairs to Nona's apartment on a Sunday lunchtime - it was mouthwatering! If pastitsio was on the menu, I knew my cousin would be there for lunch - I 'm not sure he ate much else!

Recently I have been making a conscious effort of cooking more Greek food for the kids, but also telling them what was in it and what it is called in Greek. My eldest has completely fallen for pastitsio. I mean, it is pasta, mince and bechamel - what else could one want?

You will need a specific pasta shape to make this, which I have found in every single Turkish shop I have visited; Pastitsio No 2 - brands such as Misko or Melissa can be found in the UK. These are quite thick, long tubes, and give the dish some volume. You can do it with other pasta, but trust me, it is not the same!

Serves 6-8 (plus leftovers)


for the mince:
1kg beef mince
500g passata
1 large onion, finelly chopped
1 cinnamon stick
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

For the bechamel No1:
150g butter
150g flour
1.5 - 2 litres of milk
fleshly grated nutmeg
1 beaten egg

For the bechamel No2:
70g butter
70g flour
1 littre of milk
50g grated pecorino or greek graviera

1kilo of pastitsio pasta


1. To make the mince, add the oil to a large, heavy base pan. Add the onion and allow to soften on a medium heat for 5 minutes. Add the mince and let it brown, while breaking it up with a spoon to avoid 'clumps' forming. Once meat is thoroughly browned and most of the liquid has evaporated, add the passata and the cinnamon and seasoning and reduce the heat. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

2. To make the bechamel No.1, add the butter to a heavy base pan on a low-medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir throughout. Once fully combined, keep stirring for a further few minutes to cook out the flour. Turn the heat down to low and add the milk gradually while stirring constantly. You should reach a consistency that is quite thick, similar to that of extra thick cream. Once you have the consistency you need, add the beaten egg and the nutmeg and seasoning.

3. While making the bechamel No1, put the pasta on to boil. Once it has boiled and the bechamel is ready, drain the pasta and mix into the bechamel thoroughly. Cover the pan so that it doesn't dry out while you finish compiling the dish.

4. To make the bechamel No2., add the butter to a heavy base pan on a low-medium heat. Once melted, add the flour and stir throughout. Once fully combined, keep stirring for a further few minutes to cook out the flour. Turn the heat down to low and add the milk gradually while stirring constantly. You should reach a consistency that is quite thick, similar to that of extra thick cream. Add the grated pecorino and salt.

5. To compile the dish, you will need a large roasting tray or pyrex dish. You put half of the pasta/bechamel No1 mix in the dish. You then pour all of the mince mixture on top, followed by the rest of the pasta/bechamel No1 mix. Compress with a spoon to make sure there aren't huge gaps among the pasta. You then pour the bechamel No2. on top of the top layer of pasta. You can finish the top off with some grated cheese or breadcrumbs for texture.

6. Bake in the oven at 180 degrees (fan) for 45 minutes, or until pipping hot and browned on top. Serve once it is slightly cooled, with some salad.

Tuesday, 21 February 2017

Kaiserschwarrn - Austrian pancakes

Let's face it; most people book a holiday somewhere to relax and see the sights, right? Well we book a holiday to eat - relaxing isn't so much on the cards, as the kids are with us, but a slower pace is always welcome!

We booked this holiday to Austria, predominantly to visit some friends, months ago. We thought staying a night in Vienna would be an added bonus. We had been there pre-kids for a few days and had done the sights. Well the sights important to us, mainly involving food (ie. Demel, Cafe Central, Gerstner and Hotel Sacher!). Okay, we did go to the opera as well and also went to the Museum of Art. 

The holiday crept up on us. What with Christmas, birthdays and work and daily routines, February came too fast. The only thing we managed to organise and look into before getting there last week was where to have our evening meal in Vienna...! The night before flying we still had no clue what we might do with the kids in the city.

Once there we did our usual routine of working out where to eat for lunch. We had a minor panic when passing past Cafe Central and reading it was shut, but thank goodness re-opening the next day (you can guess where we had lunch the next day).

That evening, after a freezing but lovely walk around town and ride in a horse-drawn carriage (yes, super-tourists!) we wound up at Figlmüller and enjoyed our oversized schnitzel! We were very happy. And then we ordered dessert. My sister-in-law had been raving about this since her last visit to Vienna, so we ordered the Kaiserschwarrn, not really knowing what to expect. It was delicious! Small crisp pieces of fluffy pancake, served with a plum compote. A perfect way to end a meal and our first day in Vienna.

Once home, I found some overripe plums in our fruit basket. I made a spiced plum sauce and then dreamt of the Kaiserschwarrn once more, so attempted to make them. It was surprisingly easy (first time lucky?!) Below is the recipe. 

For the plum compote

6-7 ripe plums
1/2 cup of sugar
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of vanilla extract

Halve the plums and remove the stones. Put in a pan with the rest of the ingredients and add a splash of water. Put on a medium heat and once it has started to bubble, lower the heat and leave to simmer for around 30 minutes. Once it has thickened slightly, but also completely softened you can remove from the heat. Pull off the skin of the plums (it should fall apart easily) and place in a ramekin for serving. It should be served warm with the pancakes.  You can prepare in advance and reheat for when needed. 

For the Kaiserschwarrn

  • 4 eggs, yolks and whites separated
  • 125ml milk
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 125g plain flour
  • 50g butter

Beat the egg whites in a bowl until soft peaks form (not stiff peaks). Beat the egg yolks in a separate bowl until smooth, then mix in the milk, sugar and flour until just moistened. Add a pinch of salt. Fold in the egg whites.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Pour the whole batter into the pan and cook until  the bottom is golden brown. Flip (this can be tricky and I did this by using two fishslices and my ninja speed) and cook until set on the other side, about 1 minute. Tear the kaiserschmarrn into pieces using two forks while still in the pan and continue cooking until golden brown, about 2 minutes. 

Put in a serving dish and sprinkle with icing sugar to garnish and serve with the plum compote.

Monday, 21 November 2016

Kολοκυθόπιτα - Cephalonian Courgette Pie

What is going on in the world right now?! I know this isn't a political blog and I am no political expert, but I don't think I can ignore things completely... First Brexit, now Trump! I feel I don't really recognise the world I live in any more. I have actually cried on various occasions at the thought of where society seems to be going: intolerant, angry, aggressive...

I think some of what is going on is even harder to cope with as a parent of young children, knowing that the world is becoming a more hostile place to live in. I am trying to stay positive, while showing them the importance of inclusiveness and tolerance, though I think they are still too young to openly discuss any of the latest events.

I hope this is just a small blip in our history and we come out of it stronger and fairly unscathed, but we can only do so, if we all make small (or big!) steps towards a better tomorrow and stop idealising a past that was only ever good for small sections of society anyway!

There is no way of introducing a recipe seamlessly after this, so all I will say is that sometimes, in darker more stressful times one needs some comfort food. Well, I guess this is a veggie version of comfort food.

Serves 8-10

for the filling:

750g-1kg courgettes, chopped into small dices (less than 1cm)
1 large potato, chopped into very small matchstick head sized dices
3 medium onions, diced
3 tbs long grain rice
3 eggs
100g gruyere, grated
100g paremsan, grated
100g feta, crumbled
4 tbs breadcrumbs
150ml vegetable stock
7-10 prunes, stoned and sliced into small pieces
130ml olive oil
1 tbs dill, chopped
1 tbs mint, chopped
1 tbs parsley, chopped

You can use any pastry you like for this (shortcrust, puff or filo) though traditionally we would use an olive oil based one (not butter based).

It is best to use a dish of around 2 litres capacity.
Preheat the oven to 170 fan oven.
Fry the chopped vegetables over a moderate heat in a large frying pan with the olive oil for 20 minutes. Add the rice after 15 minutes, for the last 5 minutes. Make sure the vegetables don't brown during this process.
Cool the vegetables and mix with all the remaining ingredients, adding seasoning.
Grease the pie dish and line it with 2/3 of the pastry and add the filling.
Add about 150ml stock and lift the filling gently with a fork, while doing so, to ensure that the stock is equally distributed. The stock should not overflow the dish.
Seal the top with the remaining pastry, egg or milk wash and bake for 1 hour, or until the pastry is golden.

Serve with salad or greens

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Biftekia me patates sto fourno - Meat patties with roast potatoes

This is a classic Greek family pleaser. Comfort food at its best. Or so I am told. I have never really been a great fan of biftekia (Μπιφτέκια - Greek meat patties, normally made of beef) myself. I 'm not sure if its because I never particularly liked meat when I was young, or that at home they were never cooked with potatoes in the dish and therefore they looked a little lonely (and possibly dry), or that I was once promised beef burgers only to discover what was meant was biftekia - which is not the same thing at all, mum! - and which made me see biftekia as the disappointing enemy...

Anyway, despite of all this, I decided to attempt the dish for Sunday lunch last week. I have never made this before, though I now have a good understanding of what it should look and taste like. My brother has become something of a Greek food connoisseur and I have listened to his analysis of various food-stuff and have also tasted his Greek-style roast potatoes.

So, I put together my various bits of knowledge on the dish, researched on the internet and created my version of what the right bifteki with roast potatoes should be; fluffy, flavorsome and comforting. There was general consensus in what I read and have heard that the roast potatoes should be primarily flavoured with lemon. I also knew that some people add milk to biftekia to add moisture, while others add tomato paste. Why not both, I asked myself - so in they went! Herbs are also something you should be generous with in Greek cooking. These should be fresh, unless we are talking oregano, which is the stable dry herb in a Greek kitchen.

To be honest, they came out better than I expected, and though I am still not a massive fan of meat, I did actually enjoy them. The kids loved them - I have never seen my youngest so enthused by potatoes before! She kept saying they were yummy, and I wasn't even prompting her this time! All in all, a perfect family meal for all seasons.

Serves 4

For the biftekia

500g beef mince
500g pork mince
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tbsp bread crumbs (preferably freshly made)
1 egg
1 tbsp fresh mint, finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp tomato puree
4 tbsp fresh milk

For the potatoes

1.5 kg potatoes, cut in long thin wedges (as per picture)
juice of one lemon
1 tbsp mustard (I used Dijon)
1/2 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of water
dried oregano

1. Turn the oven onto 170 (for fan ovens, higher for non fan). Start with preparing the potatoes. Once the potatoes are peeled and cut, in a large bowl mix the lemon juice, mustard, olive oil, water, salt, pepper and a generous sprinkle of dried oregano. Add the potatoes and mix thoroughly. Lay the potatoes out in a large baking dish and drizzle the rest of the juices on top. Put in the oven for 30 minutes.

2. While the potatoes are cooking, place all the ingredients for the biftekia in a large bowl and mix well with your hands. The mixture should be fairly sticky and should hold when made into a ball. Shape into patties (to the size of your liking - though usually around 7 cm in diameter). Once the potatoes have had 30 minutes in the oven, take them out, give them a good stir and add the patties on top.

3. Return the dish to the oven for a further 40 minutes (turn the patties over half way through cooking), or until the meat patties are cooked through and browned and the potatoes have gone crispy on top. Enjoy with plenty of bread and a salad.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Creamy mushrooms with rainbow chard

I cannot remember if I ever wrote about moving to Catford (I  just checked and I don't think I have written about moving to Catford, which is weird, because it was a big change in our life - owning a house for the first time, new area etc etc...). Anyway, when we first moved to Catford (the Corbett Estate) our eldest was only 2 years old and I was pregnant with our second. It was a completely new area for us and we knew nobody.

It was also quite a change from Nunhead (where we rented until then) - there were not many cafes, no delis and no sourdough pizza places (the horror!). On a more serious note though, I struggled to start with; I didn't know where all the local mums met up; I didn't even know any local mums; It felt like the closest place to go to a cafe was only accessible by car (Crofton Park, Lee or back to Peckham/East Dulwich); and I felt sick for much of the first few months (I think that was due to the pregnancy and not solely because we moved to Catford). All in all, Catford had not made the best of impressions on me.

After having my second daughter and having finished some hardcore refurbishments to the house I started to feel more at home. I started meeting more people at the parks, discovered Hither Green and Manor House Gardens and enjoyed life in Catford a little more. I also found out there was a very active local community in our estate, which is lovely to experience!

A few years on and we now have a couple of rather nice cafes, including Arlo and Moe and their wonderful evening pop ups. We also have a fantastic new deli (Good Food), with organic veg, cheeses from Neal's Yard and a pulse and flour selection that makes me want to cook like mad just to try it all. They also, to my husband's relief, stock craft beer, though my husband is NOT a hipster!!

I went in Good Food yesterday to get some mushrooms for dinner and they also had a bag of beautiful rainbow chard, so I bought that as well. In my head they made a good combination. So that evening I made creamy mushrooms on toast with rainbow chard. It was very satisfying (and partly healthy).

Serves 2 (or 4 as a starter)

300 g of mushrooms, chopped (I used brown mushrooms - use any kind you like)
200 g rainbow chard, washed and roughly chopped
50g butter
1 garlic clove, finelly chopped
150ml white wine
300ml double cream
tbs chopped parsley
salt and pepper

Toasted bread to serve with (doesn't have to be sourdough!)

1. Prepare the veg. Add the butter to a frying pan and out on a medium heat. Once melted add the mushrooms and garlic and allow to brown lightly. Season with salt and pepper.
2. Once the mushrooms are beginning to soften, turn the heat up and add the white wine. Allow to reduce to less than half and add the chard and the double cream.
3. Reduce the heat to low, put a lid on and let the chard wilt for a few minutes. Once it has softened, turn the heat off , stir in the parsley and serve on some warm crusty, toasted bread.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Peach and raspberry cobbler

Since we moved into our new kitchen we have been cooking like maniacs; chicken satay, pastichio, courgette flower fritters, rainbow cakes... Unfortunately we have been too focused on eating the end product, instead of taking pictures, so you just have to take my word for it...

Today, however, I am determined to document my cooking achievements and bring to you a peach and raspberry cobbler. This concoction has mainly come about from trying to use up fruit that has been left uneaten in the fridge (the kids decide they don't like certain fruits occasionally - this is in no way frustrating!), though don't get me wrong, it is a delicious combination! You can do it with most fruits you would use for a crumble, only you add a different topping, called a cobbler. It is more cake-like than a crumble, but can equally be enjoyed with ice cream, cream or custard along side it.

Serves 4-6

300 g fresh raspberries
500 g fresh, ripe peaches, chopped up (preferably peeled)
a pinch of golden caster sugar (I didn't add any, but it depends how sharp you like deserts)

for the cobbler:
100 g self raising flour
50 g butter, cold
50 g golden caster sugar
1 egg, beaten
4 tbs of milk
50 g of chopped or ground almonds (chopped give more texture)

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 C.
2. Butter a baking dish and add the whole raspberries and the chopped peaches (and the sugar, if you are adding any).
3. In a bowl, add the flour and the chopped butter and with your fingers rub together gently, till you get crumbs. Mix in the sugar and then add the milk and the beaten egg and stir into a batter. Add the almonds.
4. Spoon the mixture over the fruit in 'blobs' (it will expand during cooking). It doesn't matter if some fruit is still exposed.
5. Put in the oven and bake for 30 mins, until the top is golden brown.
6. Enjoy with cream, ice cream or custard, while its still warm.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

A pie or not a pie - that is the question

Warning - this is a little of a rant...

Last week I went out for a pub lunch with work. I ordered a steak and ale pie, though before I did, I checked that it came with mash, as only peas were mentioned on the menu. I was reassured that the pie did indeed come with mash - how could it not?! - only to be informed a few minutes later that they did not serve it with mash and had no mash in the kitchen. So I asked for fries, as a half baked (hah, that is also what they tasted like) compromise...

Now the mash vs no mash is one debate (how could you not serve steak pie with mash?!!?), but I would like to discuss the pie itself; it came in a dish with a proud pastry top (shop bought, I assume), with no  pastry surrounding the bottom. Essentially a stew with a pastry top. I will not discuss the merits of this specific pie (it wasn't great!), but I want to discuss the lack of pastry around the rest of the filling! Is that a pie, more specifically a pie you would expect to get in a British pub?!

The worst 'pie' offender I ever came across was a beef stew on a plate served with a separately baked pastry lid placed on its side...! What is that?!

I understand that pies come in various forms, pastries and sizes. Some like filo, some like puff and some like shortcrust. Some like gravy filled, some like creamy filled and some like them with no sauce in at all. Some are sweet and some are savory.

Most countries' cuisines have a pie, or something resembling it; pastry on the outside with filling in the middle. Filling in the MIDDLE... which implies to me that there has to be pastry all around, right?!

Hmmm, maybe not, it seems. There are, apparently, pastry top pies, a separate category, which as the name would explain it, only has pastry on the top. There are also the american-style pies, which are pastry cases with fillings, but no pastry top (lemon meringue, key-lime eec). In fact some Greek pies have no pastry at all...!

I guess it is all about context , really... What country are you in? What type of establishment are you in? What are you actually craving? Obviously I was craving a pastry-all-around pie and was, obviously, in the wrong establishment. Next time, I will be more thorough with my pre-order questions!

Rant over!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Roasted cauliflower with chickpeas

I watched Nigella's TV show last year (its a love-hate relationship!) and she made a chickpea and cauliflower salad which sounded rather delicious and fairly easy to do. I followed her recipe (except for the pomegranate) and it turned out pretty good. Her recipes always do. Especially her deserts. (Don't want to go too much off subject, but try her brownies or her chocolate and Guinness cakes!)

... So I have been making it ever since, but changing it slightly to suit ingredients I had at home and my own tastebuds...

Last night I made the best one yet - if I may say so myself. The basic ingredients and processes are similar to Nigella's, with a few tweaks.

the cauliflower and peppers ready for the oven

Serves 2 (plus some leftovers)

2 cans of chickpeas (400gr tins)
one head of cauliflower, seperated into florets
2 green peppers, sliced in chunks
1 red pepper, sliced in chunks
2 tomatoes, quartered
1 tbs fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tbs olive oil
200ml chicken stock (or cube diluted in 200ml of water)
1-2 tablespoons of harissa paste
Greek yogurt to serve

1. Set the oven to 180 (fan). Put the olive oil, cumin, cinnamon and pinch of salt in a large bowl. Mix, then add the cauliflower florets and the chopped pepper and mix again, to make sure they are well coated. Pour in a baking dish and put in the oven for 20 minutes.

2. In the same bowl (now empty), add the drained chickpeas the chicken stock, tomatoes, harissa (to taste) and some salt.

3. Once the cauliflower has had 20 minutes in the oven, add the chickpea mixture to the pan and return to the oven for another 20-30 minutes, while stirring occasionally.

4. Once cooked, remove from the oven, mix in the fresh parsley and serve onto your plate. Add a dollop of Greek yoghurt to the side and enjoy!

Hope you like it.

Thursday, 7 July 2016

New Kitchen

In January 2016 we embarked on a 5 month building project, after a year and a half of planning. This involved living in our house with no boiler (no central heating or hot water - what a good idea to start the works in winter!!!), no access to our kitchen, no washing machine, two children, a massive hole in the back of the house during much of the build, lots of disruption and waaaay too much dust.

The back room as it was before we started

I can't say it has been easy. In fact, it was very difficult! It now seems like a distant memory and we have only had access to our new kitchen for two weeks. I 'm not sure how we managed, looking back; We used a temporary electric shower for hot water; we made a temporary kitchen in our lounge using our dining table as the worktop, with a microwave and a single induction hob on it (no oven and no sink!); and we put an electric heater in each bedroom and the lounge (the hallway and bathroom remained rather cold throughout!).

I don't know what I found the hardest during the whole build; the lack of kitchen; the large amounts of dust throughout the house; the piles of additional furniture in every room to free up the back of the house; or the fact that the build never seemed to end... Despite all the chaos, dust and upheaval, though, our daughters have been extremely patient and happy - I should learn something from them!

Once the extension was built and weatherproof (around 4 months in)

So, finally, 5 months on and we have a beautiful new kitchen, lots of worktop space and access to the garden. I don't think we used the ovens for the fist few days we had the kitchen - it felt like too much pressure! What do you cook for the first time after so long? Surely it has to be something special?! Surely you have to have a grand opening or something?! Our eldest took the pressure off with a suggestion for pastichio (a Greek dish, made with thick pasta, bechamel and meat, baked in the oven) and chocolate cake as our first family meal. So that's what we cooked on our first Saturday. It was delicious! But what was nicer was the fact that we could all sit around the table together again, with the added bonus of opening the doors to the garden for some almost al fresco dining.

On the first night the builders left

So was it worth it?! Yes, I think it was worth it, but funnily enough, not for all the new gadgets and fancy appliances (which are great, don't get me wrong), but for gaining a space that works for our family and that will make living in this house so much more pleasant and enjoyable! I am happy, though I am also a little worried about what silly project I will decide to take on next! I should just take a break...

Friday, 6 March 2015

National Pie Week 2015

So apparently it was National Pie Week this week. (Lets all ignore the fact that I have not posted in a very long time and move on). In honour of this most amazing foodstuff I think all households should make an effort in making a pie this weekend. Could be sweet or savoury, could be British or... Kefalonian - whatever does it for you!

When the weather is warm I can easily go for Greek or Mediterranean version of pies. Spanakopita (spinach pie), courgette pie, saltcod pie - mmmm saltcod pie! But when the weather is like it has been in the UK (rather cold and windy for those that do not live in the UK), then I go for the British style pie, with loads of gravy in it and served with mash.

I have to say that when I first moved to the UK as a student there was a girl in my halls who used to eat a Fray Bentos pie (basically a pie in a tin) every other day. At least it seemed to me to be every other day. Don't get me wrong, my student diet wasn't anything to be proud of either. But seeing that pie - and that was my first experience of a 'British style' pie - made me wonder why anyone would chose to eat something that looked and smelled like dog food...Since then I have come to love gravy filled pies and my tastes have greatly changed since my late teens - for one I actually enjoy eating meat now. But I never braved a Fray Bentos pie; for all I know I am missing out on an amazing culinary experience. But just the memory of what it looked like all those years ago stops me from braving to even pick one up at the supermarket.

Anyway, obviously a homemade pie bares no resemblance to any ready meal and I highly recommend making and sharing one with your family and friends. We opted for a beef, mushroom and ale pie. Can't really go wrong with that, right? Well, unless you are a vegetarian... Both my daughters loved it, which I was rather surprised about - especially as the eldest one declared that she 'hates' pies before she tried it. But all is well that ends well, and pie week ended well for us!

Serves 4 - 6

For the pastry: (Oh dear, I don't want to start a debate on the right type of pastry for pies and everyone is sooo particular about what they like...So go with what you like! I like rough puff for this pie, though I only had time to make shortcrust on a weeknight, so I will give you both recipes).

300 g flour
150 g cold butter cubed
cold water

Rub the flour and cold butter between your fingers to create a crumb texture. Once all the butter is incorporated, add the cold water slowly (about half a glass), till the dough comes together. You do not want it too wet, nor too crumbly. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Rough puff:
My husband is the one who always makes the rough puff pastry and the last time he used Paul Hollywood's recipe. So click here for that.

For the filling:
500 g braising beef in chunks
a handfull of flour
1 large onion, finely diced
1 large carrot, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
2 large flat mushrooms, roughly chopped
olive oil
250 ml beef stock
330 ml ale (one bottle) - I used IPA, as that is what we had at home and I have to say that though it was fine, it wasn't the best option. A darker ale would suit this dish better.

Pour some oil in a large pan to lightly cover the whole of the bottom of the pan. Turn the heat on high, lightly cover the beef chunks in seasoned flour and add them to the pan. Brown on all sides (do this in batches so you don't 'overcrowd' the pan). Remove the beef once its browned and add the vegetables to the pan and allow to soften for 5-10 minutes. You may need some more oil for this.

Once softened add the ale and deglaze the pan. Add the beef, the stock and seasoning, cover and allow to cook on a low heat for 2-3 hours. Then allow for the filling to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven at 170C (fan oven). Take the pastry out of the fridge and use 1/3 of it for the lid and 2/3 for the bottom. Roll them both out and have them ready. Once the bottom is in the pie dish, spoon the mixture in the dish and cover with the lid. Pinch all around the edges to seal it and cut any excess off. Milk or egg wash and put in the oven immediately to avoid a soggy bottom. Cook for 40 minutes, or until it is nice and golden. Serve with mash and vegetables (we went for cabbage).

Thursday, 27 February 2014

Butternut Squash Risotto

I have kept my promise! I am posting a recipe again! I have to say, cooking family meals is becoming a little trickier at the moment. Our three year old daughter has gone from eating anything to being the pickiest eater! 'Frustrated' is a mild description of how I feel.

Butternut squash risotto was described to her as orange rice. There is no tricking her though... 'What is in it, mama?'. 'Rice, cheese, butter...It is very yummy!' I say. At this stage she has eaten a few mouthfuls and seems to be enjoying it, or at least not hating it. 'What is this orange thing, mama?'. 'There is some butternut squash in the sauce' I reply. 'In the sauce? I am full-up now, mama'... At least she had a few mouthfuls though!

I am told this is a phase many three year olds go through, though a phase can last months or a year. I am not sure I can last that long, but I shall do my best... Anyway, it was delicious. My husband actually cooked this one, as I was stuck on the sofa breastfeeding the baby!

Butternut Squash Risotto

Serves 3

A large cup of risotto rice (arborio)
500ml of chicken or vegetable stock and 500ml water (or a littre of water and stock cube)
half a glass of white wine
1 onion, finely diced
1 tbs olive oil _ some olive oil for roasting the butternut squash
1 small butternut squash
1 handfull toasted pine nuts
30g butter
1 handfull of chopped parsley

Start by peeling the butternut squash and preheat the oven to 170 (fan oven). Cut into small chunks and lay on a baking tray. drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 30 minutes or until soft.

Once cooked, put in the food processor and blitz lightly along with the pine nuts ( i like to leave some chunks in it). Heat a tablespoon of oil in a pan and add the onion. Saute lightly till soft then add the risotto rice. Toast the rice in the pan for a few minutes, the add the white wine. Allow for it to cook down, then start adding the stock (a little at a time).

Keep adding stock until the rice is al dente (if you use up all the stock, continue with the water. You may not need all the water or may need more). At this stage add the butternut squash and pine nut puree. Stir in and then add a generous amount of grated Parmesan and the butter and season to taste. Allow to sit for a minute off the heat with the lid on. Stir in the parsley and serve with a little ore grated Parmesan on top.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

New Year, New Beginnings

It was almost three years ago that I started this blog. I did it to fill my time  and occupy myself while on maternity leave with my first daughter. Three years on I have another daughter. She was born at home on Christmas day - a Christmas day to remember!

I now no longer seem to have any time left to fill. If I get a few minutes spare they are spent tidying, sorting the house (we moved and are still renovating!) or just attempting to have a nap, which inevitably means that one or the other child will need me at that moment!

Having said all that, I do enjoy writing and I do enjoy cooking and so I will make more of an effort to keep this blog going. Especially as people actually seem to read it! I am going to commit myself now. I am cooking butternut squash risotto tonight. The recipe should be up in the next week or so... See you then!

Monday, 5 August 2013

Tiganopsomo - Cheesebread

This is a difficult one to post about. I am not sure this is the actual recipe for tiganopsomo (directly translated as fried bread), but this is what I had as a child and this is what we called it. (By the way, I am completely ignoring the fact that I have not posted for over 6 months, OK?). It is basically a bread dough stuffed with feta and then fried instead of baked. Mmm, fried bread!Apparently there are lots of different types of tiganopsomo depending on which part of Greece and which family you talk to. This is one version.

I was walking through Peckham a few months ago, on my way to pick up my daughter after work (my work, not hers, before you start judging!) and I smelt the most amazing thing; someone was cooking tiganopsomo! Well, I m not sure that they were, but it smelt like it! So I called my brother for the recipe, but he couldn't remember it, so I then asked my mum, who wasn't quite sure either. I then went to a friend, whose father first introduced me and my family to the dish. Nona, who in the meantime had heard I was looking for the recipe, ad my friend got back to me within the same hour! Happy days - I finally had the recipe! What was the recipe I was given? First step; get ready made bread dough from your local bakery! Hah! In London! Oh well. I made my own. I am still not quite sure whether the dough should be used before or after the proving stage but here is what I attempted and it worked out fairly well.

Serves 4

For the Bread Dough:
250g strong bread flour
5g dried yeast
5g salt
20ml olive oil, plus extra for kneading
120ml warm water

For the filling:
200g feta
100g soft goats cheese, or any other cheese you fancy (cheddar, Gruyere etc)
a good pinch of oregano (dried or fresh) or other fresh herbs like basil or dill - whatever you like best, really
a good grind of pepper

Put all the dried ingredients for the dough in a bowl (according to a load of baking shows I saw recently, you shouldn't put the salt near the yeast,as this will kill the yeast). Make a well in the middle, add the olive oil and the water and mix. The lay out on an oiled surface and knead for a good 5-10 minutes.

Return to a bowl and let it rise (covered) for at least 30 minutes. Once risen spread it out into a long, flat shape (about 20cm wide by 50cm long). This doesn't need to be too thin, but not too thick either. If there is dough in excess, you can always make another small tiganopsomo, or bake it as a bread roll!

Crumble and mix the cheeses together with the herbs the place in the centre of the dough. Close the dough up so that the edges from the short ends meet and you end up with a long roll of dough. You then roll the dough around itself (like a snake) and place in a large frying pan with a little olive oil over a low-medium heat for 20 minutes each side (take care not to burn the dough).

Enjoy with a  nice tomato salad. 

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

My 100th Post!

I can't believe I have written 100 posts! I must admit I have waited a little longer for this one in order to give you a slightly more special recipe (well, special to me anyway). My daughter's 2nd birthday! I have a 2 year old toddler - how absolutely mad! I still feel a little like a child myself, how can it be possible that I am a mother?! The last two years have gone surprisingly fast - probably due to some lack of sleep and a constant rush to get back in time for whatever needs doing. But an occasional 'I love you, mummy. I missed you.' makes it all well worth it!

Anyway, it was her birthday last week and we had family over to celebrate with some nibbles and  most importantly; cake! Not just any cake - a bunny cake! A fluffy, white bunny cake! I found a great and easy template on-line, then decided that desiccated coconut would be a good option for making the bunny look fluffy. I was then trying to work out what would work well with coconut and thought lime would be an interesting option. So we decided to make a Victoria sponge with a lime frosting, sprinkled with desiccated coconut.

Serves a small party

for the sponge
350 unsalted butter, softened
350 caster sugar
350 self raising flour, sifted
6 eggs, beaten

for the icing
300g cream cheese
175g icing sugar
125ml double cream
juice of half a lime
zest of a whole lime
a good sprinkling of desiccated coconut

Preheat a fan oven at 170 and lightly butter 2 tins of 20cm diameter. Cream together the softened butter and the sugar, till you have a light and fluffy mixture. Slowly add the beaten eggs (make sure they are at room temperature and not cold, so that the mixture doesn't split). Fold in the sifted flour and spoon the mixture into the greased cake tins. Bake for 25 minutes, or until golden brown and a skewer is coming out clean. Allow to cool and then remove from the tins.

Once the sponges are cool, whip the cream cheese, until smooth. Add the sifted icing sugar and beat together. Add the cream, the juice of half a lime and the zest of a whole lime. Taste and add some more lime zest if needed.

Follow the template for cutting the shape of the bunny: Leave one cake whole and cut two ears out of the other (leaving the middle bit for the bow-tie). Place the shaped sponges on a plate and cover with icing. You can use smarties for the eyes. I tinted some desiccated coconut with one drop of red food dye for the inner ear and nose. You can use melted chocolate for the whiskers.

Happy Birthday my little monkey - I love you!

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Soupa Avgolemono - Egg and Lemon Soup

OK, I know the English translation doesn't sound very appealing, but bear with me. This is one of my favourite soups. It has been since I was a little kid - and I am sure my mother would confirm that I wasn't the easiest of children when it came to food. I seem to remember eating a variety of things (though not too much meat), but I just didn't eat much of anything, other than gallons of milk. And it wasn't even fresh milk I drank (we didn't get much good fresh milk in Greece in the 80's). I drank evaporated milk, often undiluted, because I liked it so much! Yuck!

Having just described my milk habits as a child, I am not sure I would trust my sense of taste in regards to this soup either, but it does work! The principle of avgolemono (egg/lemon) is very common in Greece and is also used as a sauce for meatballs, stuffed vegetables and other things. The lemon gives the flavour and the egg acts like a thickening agent.

Serves 4

2.5 litres of light chicken or fish stock (this shouldn't be a heavily reduced stock - it should still be watery, but with good flavour of fish or chicken)
1 small cup of rice, long grain (this varies according to your preference for the thickness of the soup - the more rice, the thicker the soup)
2 eggs
juice of 2 lemons

To make the stock from scratch you add 1-2 carrots, 1-2 onions, a bay leaf, peppercorns and some fish or chicken bones to 2.5 litres of water and simmer for 30min -2 hours (the more the better). Add seasoning.

Once the stock is prepared, add the rice to the stock and simmer for around 15 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. You then whisk the eggs in a bowl thoroughly and with a ladle add some of the hot soup to the egg. Add the liquid slowly and whisk continuously, so that the egg doesn't split. Keep adding liquid slowly, until you have about 5-6 ladle-fulls added to the eggs. You then add the egg mixture to the soup (again, slowly, while continuously stirring, so that the soup doesn't split). Turn the heat off and add the lemon juice gradually, while tasting it. It should have a strong lemony flavour, but not be overpowering.

Serve with bread and enjoy.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Winter is fast approaching!

Wow - Its been almost 3 months since I last blogged! That is bad, bad, bad! It puts a load of pressure on what this blog post should be about. I don't really know what to write about, is the thing. I mean, I am still cooking at home and have made a fair amount of quite delicious things, but there are not many pictures to record them.

I have also been lucky enough to have eaten out a fair amount in the last few months too - birthday here, anniversary there; they add up. In fact just last Saturday I went to 10 Greek Street with my husband for lunch. I hadn't heard too much about it, so didn't really know what to expect. The ambiance was lovely, the service was excellent and the food was good. It wasn't amazing, but it was very good and definitely worth the money. My date pudding, though, was amazing! Perfect for a freezing Saturday in London.

I do love Autumn - so many of my family's birthdays, anniversaries and occasions are in Autumn. That means that lots of cakes are consumed in Autumn. It is also the build up to Christmas, with the excitement, lights and hot chocolate and without the actually stress of the day. Autumn is just the perfect time for good quality snuggles on the sofa, while watching crappy films and the cold wind is hissing outside.

Talking of cold weather, I am having a little trouble deciding on things to cook and eat on rainy, cold, windy days in Nunhead... I basically just want to eat fatty, carby comfort food - mash, pasta, red meat and the like. I have no issue with eating all that, other than that I can't help but notice the lack in nutrients such a diet might offer me (I am becoming more conscious of the the fact I should be more careful now I am a mother - I am getting old!).

How do you get vitamins in during winter? I don't want to eat green salads this time of year, nor do I find them filling enough to be honest. I have come up with broccoli/cauliflower macaroni and cheese and the odd stir fry, but I have completely run out of ideas and inspiration about what else we could cook at home. Soup is also fine once a week or so, but it hardly fills me up either.

I think vitamin supplements will have to be my backup plan until the sun returns again in March 2013, unless you can suggest something?

Happy Winter!

Peckham Rye as captured by


Friday, 10 August 2012

Still cooking

Yes, yes, I know. It has been aaaages again. I believe I have yet another excuse for you though; I am now working full time. For many reasons, mainly financial, I decided to stop cooking part-time at the Dish and the Spoon (though I learnt sooo much while I was there - mainly about baking!) and move to a full time position with Design Council. So I moved from one area I love; Food, to another; Design.

Going back full time has been easier than I expected in some ways, though I am starting to cumulatively miss my pickle! She is getting to a rather cute age at the moment too. Well, at least the time she is not having a strop for one reason or another! No, really, she is lovely! Lots of kisses and cuddles initiated by her - I am loving it.

Amongst all the changes, I now get less time to cook in the evenings. We still do quite a bit of cooking, but it is all fairly simple and time restricted. Last night we made Pissaladiere, following Rick Stein's recipe. My husband made the dough and everything! It was delicious, despite the fact that we only had one tin of anchovies and after tasting it we both decided that it needed a bit more of a hit. Pissaladiere is a southern French dish, similar to a pizza, in that it has a dough base, but then its covered in loads of lightly browned softened onions, anchovies (and anchovy paste according to the recipe, which we didn't have) and black olives. It is absolutely delicious, especially as a summer day's snack. I can imagine sitting on the veranda in Kefalonia eating this and sipping a nice cold beer. Sigh...

I am going to keep posting recipes, or at least attempting to. I may also start writing a bit more about random thoughts I have. I get to commute now, you see, which means I get much more time to think! It is rather nice, though a little overwhelming some times. I think too much!

I hope you are all having a great summer!

A picture of Kefalonia - what I am missing out on at the moment :(

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Mushroom and Herb Tart

I am finding it quite difficult to write nice things about tarts, without making it sound rude or cheesy (there, I did it again!). Anyway, I ll have a go. I like tarts! A lot! It is my first choice for lunch when I go to a cafe. I can usually tell by the look if I am going to like it or not. Firstly I prefer veggie tarts, as I find them lighter. I also like them warm or room temperature - not cold. Finally I like crispy pastry, I mean who likes a soggy bottom?!

I have avoided making tarts for many years, because I was always daunted by making pastry and making sure the filling would set etc. I started making tarts and quiche around 5-6 years ago, but with bought pastry. That way I was eliminating the one issue I was worries about. A few years ago my husband started making pastry (his flaky pastry is delicious!), so then I was still avoiding the pastry making, but was getting better results, due to my husband's expert pastry making skills. Then I got more experience and confidence making pastry and tarts at The Dish and The Spoon.

This specific recipe is a half improvisation trying to use up tarragon and mushrooms. I like using creme fraiche in the filling, because it makes it fluffier and richer in my opinion. I am sure you can change the actual flavouring ingredients to what you like - just keep the creme and egg quantities as they are. Enjoy with some side salad and a cold glass of white wine.

For the pastry:
300g flour
150g cold butter
cold water

For the filling:
3 medium eggs
200ml double cream
200ml creme fraiche
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
8-10 cup mushrooms, sliced
2 tbs finely chopped parsley
1 tbs finely chopped tarragon

To make the pastry, sift the flour into a bowl and add the cold butter, in cubes. Rub between your fingers, until you have a crumb mixture (don't work the mixture too hard). Add some cold water (about half a glass), slowly, until the mixture comes together nicely, but not too wet and sticky. Wrap in cling film and cool in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Turn the oven on at 160 fan oven. Roll out the pastry to fit a 25cm loose bottomed tart dish. Allow to rest for a further 30 minutes in the fridge. Take out of the fridge and prick lightly with a fork. Lay some greaseproof paper on top and cover with baking beans. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Once a light crust has formed on the bottom of the pastry, remove from the oven. Remove the beans and egg-wash. Return to the oven for 15 minutes, until lightly coloured.

In the meantime, fry off the onions and the mushrooms in butter. Fry lightly, so not to colour and then drain off any excess liquid. Beat the 3 eggs and mix with the cream and creme fraiche. Add the tarragon and parsley to the cream mixture and season well with salt and pepper.

Once the pastry has coloured remove from the oven. You can trim the excess pastry at this stage (or you could trim the pastry when you first put it in the dish, but it may shrink and the filling can overflow). Place the mushroom and onion mixture evenly on the bottom of the pastry and then pour the cream mixture on top. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until nicely coloured and set.

Allow to cool for 5 minutes, before serving.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

The Best Souvlaki?

I just spent the last week or so in Greece and specifically in Lixouri - one of my favourite places in the world. It is definitely a sentimental thing, as its not really the prettiest town since it was struck by an earthquake in 1953... I usually go to Lixouri in late July/August, but this year the whole family descended there earlier for a lovely event; my brothers wedding!

The wedding itself was beautiful and there was plenty of food and drink to be had. It was actually my first 'proper' Greek wedding as an adult (my wedding was definitely not very Greek at all!). The setting was amazing, by the sea at dusk and the occasion made all the nicer.

The first dance - and what a dance!

Of course being in Lixouri also meant that I could pig-out on one of my favourite meals ever; Souvlaki at Adonis! In my opinion (and also my husband's, my younger brother's and a variety of other friends' and relatives') this is the best souvlaki to be had! I was in Kefalonia for 5.5 days and had souvlaki from Adonis 3 times...

First of all, they make their own pita! You don't get that in many places, so that alone makes it special. In fact, every time I order souvlaki, I also ask for a few plain pita's to go too. They are generous with the tzatziki, which adds moisture to the whole thing. And you will find a good helping of parsley in the souvlaki too, just to make it that bit fresher.

Pita with chicken and a side of fries and a pork kalamaki

I always order their pita with chicken gyro and the full works - 'gyro kotopoulo ap'ola, parakalo'! Adonis does pork gyro, but he doesn't actually do chicken gyro. Which means that what he does do instead is a grilled piece of chicken, chopped up finely. Just the thought of in is making me want to book a flight out. The full works in Kefalonia - every area has their own version - is pita, tzatziki, onions, tomatoes, meat (only pork or chicken, NOT lamb!) and fries.

When I was a teenager, before Adonis took over and it was called Sotiris, I used to order and eat 3 of these... I can now just about manage one and a bit. Shameful, but I am working on expanding my stomach just to be able to eat at least two of these in one go next summer! I know that many people with disagree with my opinion on the best souvlaki declaration- fair enough, really. But you should only do so if you have actually tried Adonis' souvlaki!

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Briam - Greek Vegetable Bake

I have to say that as a family we are guilty of not eating enough vegetables. My daughter eats a fair amount, although fruit goes down much better. She loves fruit, which makes my life easier too, as it means there is less cooking and prepping involved; peel the banana/pear and we are done! This, in turn, means that I don't make that much of an effort to cook vegetables for us either.

There are some days though, when I really feel like eating veg. Not just a salad, but a 'meal' of vegetables. That's when my Greek roots really come in handy. Greek food is mostly known for its meat (lamb to be precise), but vegetarian food is just as popular in the daily diet, if not more so. Greek seasonal vegetable dishes are a fantastic and untapped resource for vegetarians worldwide.

In the comments of my 'Lahanorizo' post, Cathy asked me about Briam. This recipe is a summer dish, as it uses vegetables such as courgettes and aubergines. At home it was always served with a load of bread and big chunks of feta cheese. Obviously a fresh salad on the side is also recommended if you want to get it as Greek as you can!

Serves 4

1/2 kilo of potatoes, peeled and cut in 2.5cm thick chunks or cubes
1/2 kilo of courgettes in 2.5cm chunks
1 or 2 aubergines, in 2.5cm chunks
1 or 2 green peppers, cut into squares
1 large onion, in chunks
500ml of passata, tinned chopped tomatoes or fresh chopped tomatoes
100ml of olive oil
2-3 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

Cut all the vegetables and add them to a large baking dish. Pour the olive oil and tomatoes over the vegetables and add the parsley. Mix it all in the baking dish, along with some salt and pepper. Bake in a preheated oven at 150 C (fan oven) for 1.5 hours. Do not cover the dish, but check it and mix it every 20 minutes and add some water if it dries out. Kali orexi!