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...

A week in, and still plenty of decorating to do!

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 bears 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.