Tag Archives: greek

Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad with Pistachio and Parsley

5 Jun

I know it may be a little early in the season for watermelon where you are, or it may even be getting on for winter but I got a baby watermelon in my organic veg box this week. Look how cute it is.

Look, I put it next to a lemon for you so you can see how small it is. Watermelon is one of the ingredients in my favourite summer salad and it is definitely feeling a lot like summer here so this is what I made with it.

Watermelon, Feta & Mint Salad with Pistachio & Parsley

Serves 2, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Nigella Lawson

  • 1/4 small red onion, very finely sliced
  • the juice of half a lemon
  • 400 g watermelon, rind & most of the seeds removed then cut into approx. 4 cm triangles
  • 100g Greek Feta cheese
  • a handful of fresh parsley leaves, left whole
  • 5 or 6 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 8 black or purple olives, halved & stoned
  • black pepper
  • extra virgen olive oil
  •  a handful of shelled pistachios, roughly chopped
  • lemon wedges to serve

Put the finely sliced red onions in a small bowl and cover with the lemon juice. Leave to soak while you make the rest of the salad. This makes the flavour less harsh and turns them a pretty magenta colour.

Place the watermelon triangles in a beautifully random arrangement on your serving dish/plates. Cut or break  the feta into similar sized pieces as the watermelon and scatter them amongst the watermelon. Tear off sprigs/leaves of parsley and do the same. 

Tip the bright pink onions and their juices over the salad, add the olives, drizzle with a little olive oil and top with the chopped pistachios and a grinding of black pepper. Serve with extra wedges of lemon if you like.

This is me sending some much needed sunshine in the form of this beautiful salad to all the people in the UK celebrating the Queen’s Jubilee in the cold and rain.

This is my 93-year-old Grandad at a Jubilee garden party yesterday. He is wearing ski gloves, a shawl and a blanket over his legs. This is the 4th of June by the way, a typically English summer’s day!!

Sending you some sunshine Grandad, Enjoy!!

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Beetroot and Red Wine Risotto with Oregano and Seared Halloumi

10 Mar

This recipe is inspired by our trip to the Holden Manz Wine Estate in Franschhoek. Holden Manz is owned by Gerard Holden and Migo Manz, an artist whose paintings and sculpture decorate the public areas. They took over the existing wine estate about a year and a half ago and have been reinventing it ever since.

There is a beautiful Manor House with luxurious suites that has an exclusive yet unpretentious atmosphere. This could be said of the whole estate. They have a refreshingly modern approach to the business which translates into every area. The spa, guest house, winery and restaurant all have a positivity that comes from the staff being well-trained and excited about what they do and where they work.

You can order a picnic with food fresh from the garden orchard and a lovely bottle of the Holden Manz rose. Wander down to the banks of the river, chose your spot under the oak trees and while away the afternoon. Try some of their award-winning wines, a food and wine pairing or the extremely popular tapas menu.

The Franschhoek Kitchen restaurant has very quickly become a name up there with the heavyweights in the culinary town of Franschhoek. And those are some big names.

The stand out dish, for me, was the Holden Manz shiraz and beetroot risotto with duck prosciutto. I didn’t eat the duck obviously but the sweet beetroot risotto with a hint of peppery spice from the shiraz really was delicious. The Washer Up said it was perfect with the salty, smoky duck. My challenge was to recreate this dish at home and find a suitable replacement for the duck. 

I immediately thought of feta because its salty, sour creaminess would be the perfect contrast to the sweet, dark and earthy beetroot. And this would still be great but halloumi has that slightly chewy, meaty texture that as well as the saltiness that gave it the edge over the feta. The oregano is because we have just bought an oregano plant so it is “new favourite thing” and it goes well with hallloumi for that extra bit of Greek flavour.

You make a beetroot puree to add to the risotto, we made a bit extra to use as a dressing on the plate. It really increases the volume on the beetroot flavour. It’s up to you.

Beetroot & Red Wine Risotto with Oregano & Seared Halloumi

Serves 3-4, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from The Franschhoek Kitchen recipe

Prep time: about 30 mins if roasting beetroot Cooking Time: 25-35 mins

  • about 160 gr baby beetroots, roasted until soft with olive oil salt & pepper (or you can buy precooked vacuum packed beetroot) but don’t used the pickled stuff in jars.
  • 250 gr arborio rice (we used brown short-grain rice it takes longer to cook and more stock)
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp finely chopped fresh oregano or thyme (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 stalk young celery, finely chopped
  • salt & black pepper
  • 250 ml (or more if using brown rice) red wine (Shiraz/Syrah if possible) something peppery and spicy
  • 250-500 ml veg stock
  • a handful of finely grated manchego (or parmesan) cheese
  • 250 gr pack halloumi cheese, in 1/2 cm slices
  • rocket or watercress to serve
  • some finely diced cooked beetroot for garnish (optional)

Blend the cooked beets with a stick blender to a smooth puree. Reserving some to finely chop for garnish if you like. Taste and season with salt and pepper (if you haven’t already).

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Put the veg stock in a small pan over a low-medium heat and keep hot, not boiling.

Fry the onions and celery in the hot oil until starting to soften (4-5 minutes) then add the garlic and oregano, cook for another minute then add the rice. Stir to coat the rice then add three-quarters of the beetroot puree, stirring again.

Add the wine, in three parts stirring all the time until each lot is absorbed into the rice. Then add the hot stock a ladle full at a time, stirring untill each ladle full is absorbed before adding the next.

Keep adding the stock until the rice is cooked (you may need to add more stock/wine to the small saucepan depending on the rice). Season with salt and black pepper.

Remove from the heat stir through the grated cheese, cover and leave to stand while you cook the halloumi.

Heat a frying/saute pan over a medium-high heat but DON’T add any oil. Dry the slices of halloumi on kitchen paper then put into the hot pan. Cook for a minute or so on each side until browned and slightly crispy.

To serve: spoon the risotto into bowls (or into a chefs ring on a plate) and top with the halloumi slices. Garnish with a smudge of the reserved beetroot puree, the rocket or watercress leaves, chopped beetroot and some baby oregano leaves.

Serve with a nice glass of the red wine you used to cook the risotto. The Holden Manz Shiraz if you’re lucky…..

For more information about the Holden Manz wine estate, visit their website here.

Have a great weekend!!

Savoury Feta and Pomegranate Cheesecake with Pistachio, Mint and Parsley (and a Winner!!)

29 Oct

Having seen Beth Michelle’s beautiful pure white sweet cheesecake bed topped with a generous pile of glistening ruby pomegranate jewels, I knew that I was going to make a cheesecake with the pomegranates that I am now seeing all over the trees here at the moment.

At the restaurant we used to serve a savoury cheesecake with an apricot chutney. It wasn’t baked and I think it was goat’s cheese. Anyway I was thinking of going down a Greek/Middle Eastern road because of the pomegranate, and feta was the obvious cheese choice. Continue reading

Andalucian Stuffed Vine Leaves with Spinach, Raisins and Almonds

4 Sep

I’ve been watching these grapes drying on the vine and turning into raisins. Every day I walk past them and wonder if they are going to pick them today or whether they are just leaving them to rot.

There’s a traditional Andaluz dish called Espinacas con Pasas y Almendras which is Spinach with Raisins & Almonds. I wanted to use this as a filling for stuffed vine leaves because it is similar to the Greek/Middle Eastern filling except they usually contain rice. I wanted to do and Andalucian version but I couldn’t find vine leaves anywhere, they just don’t sell them.

So I decided to pick some and use them, well I got The Washer Up to pick them actually. I read about how to prepare them here. Basically you just wash them, blanch them for a few minutes in boiling water, drain them, leave them to dry and then store them in the fridge or freezer.

Or you could just buy them in a jar and rinse them before using.

When you’ve made the filling you pile a heaped teaspoon onto the vine leaf at the bottom where the stalk has been removed. Then you fold the bottom leaves up over the filling, fold the sides in and roll up like a spring roll.

I only cooked mine for 15 minutes because my filling didn’t contain rice. Most recipes I looked at were cooked over a low heat for about 45 minutes to cook the rice. This is much quicker.

This makes quite a lot of filling and I didn’t have that many vine leaves (as I had picked them off somebody elses vine) so I used the rest of the filling to make some empanadas which were lovely too. You can buy ready to use round empanada sheets or make you own pastry from my recipe here.

Just pile  a heaped tablespoon of the filling on one side of the circle, fold the other side over to make a semi-circle and seal the edges with a fork. Brush with olive oil or beaten egg and cook at 200 C for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of your pastry.

Andalucian Stuffed Vine Leaves with Spinach, Raisins & Almonds

makes 24-36 stuffed vine leaves, vegetarian, gluten-free

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 500 gr frozen spinach, defrosted and drained
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded & finely chopped (optional)
  • 75 gr whole toasted almonds, roughly chopped
  • 50 gr raisins
  • freshly grated nutmeg (about 1/4 tsp)
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped plus extra for garnish
  • salt & black pepper
  • 50 gr manchego cheese, grated (or crumbled feta)
  •  a squeeze of lemon juice
  • vine leaves (rinsed if in brine) see how to prepare vine leaves here

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat, add the onions and a pinch of salt and cook for about 5 minutes until softened and translucent. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for another minute.

Add in the nuts, spinach, raisins and nutmeg, season with salt & pepper and cook for another few minutes. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and the grated cheese. Taste for seasoning and drain away any excess liquid from the spinach. transfer to a bowl to cool.

Lay out your rinsed or blanched vine leaves (cut away any stalks) on a clean surface veiny side up. Pile a heaped teaspoon of the filling onto the bottom part of the leaf where the stalk was (see picture above) then fold the bottom leaves up and over the filling. Fold both sides of the leaf in and over the filling, then roll it up like a mini spring roll.

Place all the rolled vine leaves seam side down in a saucepan, squash them together so there’s no gaps. Drizzle with olive oil and then cover with water to about and inch over the vine leaves. Cover them with a heatproof plate (to stop them floating up), bring to the boil then lower the heat to a simmer, cover with lid and cook for about 15 minutes (if your filling doesn’t contain uncooked rice). Keep an eye on them though and try not to burn the bottom of the pan. I may or may not have done this!

Remove with tongs to a plate and leave to cool.

Serve at room temperature sprinkled with fresh parsley and a Greek yoghurt dip. I just mixed some Greek yoghurt with chopped fresh parsley, lemon juice and salt and pepper.

Things That Made Me Smile Today…….

My beautiful, if slightly mental cats……

The gorgeous and terribly aloof Anouschka. Also known as Moomin Mamma (If you don’t know what a Moomin is, they have big staring eyes).

The beautiful Biba, bonkers but very attentive….

And the baby Tallulah, looks evil, scared of everything but loves to be loved….

This is her favourite spot….

Tyrokafteri – A Greek Chilli Cheese Dip with Homemade Goat’s Cheese

24 Aug

I’ve made Middle Eastern yoghurt cheese (labneh) before by straining Greek yoghurt in the fridge overnight but I’d never gone one step back and actually made the yoghurt as well.

I read about it at Chica Andaluza. She made yoghurt from cow’s milk and then drained it for longer to make a soft cheese. I really wanted to try this with goat’s milk to see if I could make my own soft goat’s cheese.

It took a little longer than expected to “turn” which may have had something to do with the unseasonably cloudy weather we had as soon as I decided I wanted to put my milk out in the sun, but it worked. I made soft goat’s cheese from goat’s milk and it was easy.

A litre carton of goat’s milk made about 250 gr goat’s cheese spread, which is the size of a tub of Philadelphia, it’s that sort of texture too.

Now I could get on with making a Greek chilli cheese dip called Tyrokafteri that had been wanting to try for a while. The original recipe is a mixture of feta cheese and ricotta blended with chillis, lemon juice and olive oil. I just replaced those with my soft goat’s cheese.

Tyrokafteri Chilli Cheese Dip/Sauce Recipe

Makes about 300 ml, vegetarian, gluten-free. Adapted from Epicurious

  • 4 red & 4 green chillis, I used birds eye chillis (use 20 gr if using the larger mild chillies)
  • 250 gr soft goat’s cheese (or 165 gr feta & 85 gr ricotta)
  • 1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 35 ml extra virgen olive oil
  • salt & black pepper

Wash the chillis, remove the stalks, cut them in half lengthways and remove the seeds and membrane. Wear gloves or your hands will sting for ages and don’t touch your eyes.

Boil them in a small pan of boiling water for 15 minutes. Remove with a slotted spoon and peel off the skin (if using larger chillies) using gloves. If you used small chillies no need to peel. Boiling them takes away some of the heat but not the flavour.

Put the rest of the ingredients and  in a blender/processor and blend together well. I added my chillies two at a time because I was worried about it being too hot, and blended again. Taste and add more chillies until you are happy with the heat. I added all eight in the end and it was perfect. Blend until smooth and season with salt & black pepper. If  you are using feta you may not need any salt.

Pour into a serving bowl and refrigerate until using. It tastes even better the next day.

Serve with toasted pita bread or crudites for dipping or drizzle over roasted or chargrilled Mediterranean vegetables. It’s addictive. I served mine with some baked zucchini fries and I will be posting the recipe tomorrow…

Things That Made Me Smile Today……

I love these flowers, they look like a multi-layered gerbera…..

The bees seem pretty taken with them too….

Hasta Manana!

Greek Style Tomato and Bean Soup with lemon, mint and parsley

16 Feb

 Lemons are one of my kitchen staples. I couldn’t cook without them. Their juice adds a zing to any curry that lifts all the other flavours. A squeeze of lemon juice and a drizzle of good olive oil is all you need for the best salad dressing. The zest gives a brightness to cakes and cookies that could otherwise be too sweet. And no paella (vegetarian or not) would be complete without those sunny little wedges to spritz over as you serve.

If you taste a dish just before serving and think that there’s something missing, that it’s not quite right. Squeeze over some fresh lemon juice, add a pinch more salt and taste it again. The dish will come alive.

I always make sure I have a bowl of lemons in my kitchen, it makes me feel safe and the aroma of freshly squeezed or zested lemons makes the kitchen smell fresh and clean.  Lemons are best friends with another of my kitchen staples, fresh herbs. If you have lemons and fresh parsley, coriander, mint or basil you are seconds away from making an okay dish into an outstanding one. An uninspiring bowl of pasta with tomato sauce can be transformed with the last-minute addition of lemon juice and fresh basil. Any curry, South East Asian, Caribbean or Indian, would be dreadfully incomplete without the final squeezing over of fresh lemon juice (or it’s more exotic cousin, the lime) and a large handful of fresh coriander.

Lemon, mint and parsley are the stars of this Greek style soup. Mint and parsley are widely used in Greek and Middle Eastern cooking. The freshness of mint with the saltiness of a Greek Feta or Cypriot Halloumi cheese is a match made in heaven, squeeze over some fresh lemon juice and you have arrived…..

Greek Style Tomato & Bean Soup with Lemon, Mint & Parsley

serves 4 – 6, vegetarian/ vegan without the Feta

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 leek, cut in half lengthways, rinsed and sliced (you can use a small onion)
  • 1 stick celery, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • salt & black pepper
  • 1/4 or 1/2 head cabbage, shredded
  • 1 jar/tin cooked butter beans about 400 gr
  • 1/2 jar/tin kidney beans 200 gr
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes 400 gr
  • 1 lemon
  • a splash of white wine (optional)
  • 3 or 4 tbsp tomato puree (tomate frito)
  • about a litre of veg stock 
  • 10 squares of frozen spinach or 1 bag of fresh (about 300 gr)
  • 100 gr quinoa (or orzo, rice, small pasta)
  • 75 gr Greek Feta cheese
  • 10 or 12 fresh mint leaves, chopped
  • a handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • a handful of black olives (if you like them, I don’t)

Heat the olive oil over a medium heat in a large deep saucepan. Add the onions/leeks, celery, fennel seeds, coriander seeds, chilli flakes and dried oregano. Season with salt & black pepper and cook until softened about 4 or 5 minutes. Then add in the garlic and cook for another minute. Add a splash of wine and stir in the shredded cabbage, butter beans, kidney beans and tinned tomatoes. Zest the lemon, add it to pot with half of the juice and the tomato puree. Add the veg stock, season well with salt & black pepper and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down & simmer, covered for 10 minutes. Add in the quinoa or pasta, olives and the frozen spinach (if using fresh stir it through a couple of minutes before serving just to wilt). Cook for another 10 – 15 minutes until the quinoa/pasta/rice is cooked.

Just before serving squeeze  the rest of the lemon juice into the pot or serve some wedges on the side. Serve the soup in warmed bowls topped with some crumbled Feta, sprinkle over the chopped mint & parsley and finish with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil…….

You can make this soup with whatever beans you have in your cupboard. White beans and chickpeas would be good. I had some cooked quinoa in the fridge so I added it in. It may not be authentic but the texture worked and it’s high in protein which is great for vegetarian dishes. Just make sure you use the dried oregano (a key Greek seasoning) as well as the fresh mint, parsley, lemon juice and Greek Feta and it will be delicious………….

My Big Fat Greek Salad with Grilled Halloumi

11 Jan

If you’ve never tried Halloumi cheese before, buy some. I promise you its delicious. It’s a Cypriot sheep’s milk cheese and I would go as far as to say it is my favourite cheese. Even saying that makes me feel bad about Feta. I love Feta too it’s just that Halloumi is more difficult to get over here. So, when I do see some, I buy 3 blocks because I know they will sell out quickly and not get any back in for weeks. I think it’s a case of “absence makes the heart grow fonder“. Does that apply to cheese too? I think Feta suffers from being slightly more (dare I say it) common. Now I feel really awful.

The best thing about Halloumi is it doesn’t melt, it cooks. This means you can grill it on a dry pan or griddle and serve it as you would chicken like the Grilled Halloumi Sandwich  that I have posted before. The texture is actually quite meaty when it’s cooked and its salty flavour stands up really well to loads of fresh herbs & lemon juice. This salad is the perfect backdrop from which your Halloumi can shine. In the interest of fairness and equality Foil Baked Feta would be a great alternative if you can’t get hold of any Halloumi…..

Greek Salad with Grilled Halloumi

serves 2 vegetarian

  • 1 pack halloumi 240gr sliced into 1/2cm slices
  • 1 big tomato chopped
  • 1/2 cucumber diced
  • 1/2 shallot finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • a handful of black olives (I left them out because I don’t like them)
  • a handful of rocket
  • 1 little gem lettuce heart, cut into quarters, lengthways
  • sea salt
  • 1 lemon
  • a handful of chopped coriander or parsley. Stalks as well.
  • a handful of chopped mint
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 red chilli (deseeded & chopped) optional
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp sumac
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • coriander/parsley leaves for garnish

Put the little gem wedges on the plate, drizzle with a little olive oil, lemon juice & a little sea salt. Put the tomatoes, cucumber, shallot, olives, oregano & half the fresh herbs in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil &  a good squeeze of lemon juice, season with salt & pepper and set aside. In a shallow dish large enough to hold the Halloumi slices mix together about 4 tbsp olive oil the juice of half the lemon, cumin, sumac, chilli, black pepper and the rest of the fresh herbs.

Heat a non stick frying pan or griddle to hot. (Don’t add any oil). Put the Halloumi slices in the pan and cook until golden brown on both sides. When the halloumi is browned put the slices into the dish with the marinade and cover it in the marinade. (You may need to add more oil/lemon juice). When all of the Halloumi is in the marinade add the rocket to the tomato salad and toss together with you hands. Pile this on top of the little gem wedges then arrange your Halloumi slices on top and around the salad. Pour over the remaining marinade and serve garnished with the coriander/parsley leaves.

You could also serve some toasted pita wedges on the side to soak up the delicious marinade juices. This is a dish you could serve to hardened meat eaters and they wouldn’t notice it was vegetarian. It’s so good, please try it!

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