Zambolis apartments

Zambolis apartments
For your holidays in Chania

Friday 23 November 2007

Fava (Φάβα)

Greece's favourite bean puree is made from crushed dry yellow beans, which look like a cross between a pea and a lentil (but they're not green or brown). Not to be confused with the American meaning of fava, yellow split peas are commonly used to make this puree in Greece, although fava can also be made from the puree of dry broad beans (which is known as foulia in Greek), but it is not as tasty as the yellow split pea. This meal resebles Indian dhal in texture, so it can be used as a tasty dip for vegetables. Although it is extremely easy to cook, it does take a long time. It is not a freezer dish, but it can be stored in the fridge for a few days if it isn't eaten on the same day as it is cooked. And for such a tasty meal, it is economical in terms of cost and time.

You need:
250g split dried yellow peas
1 cup olive oil
3 large onions
salt and pepper
Pour the packet of fava into a pot and cover it with water. Boil the fava for thirty minutes, then drain the water away and let the fava stand for half an hour for the peas to swell a little. Drain them once again, and toss in the roughly chopped onions, oil and seasonings (it's that simple). Cover the ingredients with water, to level up to 1-2cm above the peas. Bring the pot to the boil, place a lid on the pot, turn down the heat to a low simmering point and let the fava boil away until all the water has evaporated and the peas have gone soft and mushy.

At this stage, you can put the mixture into a blender and turn it into a smooth paste, or leave as it is for a crunchier texture (I prefer the latter). Pour the mixture into individual plates, and have ready some thinly sliced onions, olives and and finely chopped parsley. You can also make some carrot and celery sticks to go with this meal, or use any other crunchy vegetable. Most people add more olive oil to their own dish, but that depends on how fanatically devoted to the liquid you are... The best protein to serve with fava is shrimps or calamari, but a good-quality grilled sausage also does the trick. We ate it with fresh whitebait, fried till crisp.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Chili con carne
Lentil stew
Bean soup
String bean stew
Black-eyed beans
Ginat butter beans

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Onion soup (Κρεμμυδόσουπα γαλλική)

It's very cold today; not freezing in European terms, just very cold. Good soup weather, if you ask me, but since we ate fried young cod yesterday with lentil soup, I don't really want fish soup, or traditional Greek meat soup for that matter, which is madein exactly the same way as fish soup, except that fish is replaced with chunks of beef. To make matters worse, Greek beef tends to be tough and stringy - we are a nation of meat-eaters, but we don't raise good meat. Greeks aren't very creative in terms of their soups unfortunately, so I've gone for something French today, my favorite, onion soup. The recipes online (try elise and delia) all use roughly the same ingredients, with the same cooking style: caramelise thinly sliced onions in a saucepan, then add white wine, beef stock and seasonings. Let the soup simmer away till it takes on a golden brown colour. Enjoy it with some crusty bread topped with grated cheese, grilled on top of the soup, and a glass of white wine. A good stomach warmer, and a simple meal.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Pocahed salt cod
Leek and potato soup
Leek pie

Sausages and onions

Saturday 17 November 2007

Spanakorizo (Σπανακόριζο - spinach rice)

Spinach rice is very easy to prepare, and more impotantly, very healthy. It makes a saucy alternative to pilafi rice. You can serve it with a cheese selection, boiled eggs, grilled or fried fish, or roast meat. We like to smear it with strained yoghurt. It makes a filling lunch meal, but it's not party food; it forms part of the staple diet of Cretans (and Greeks alike). You can also freeze it BEFORE the rice is added, for later cooking. I do this regularly, so I always make double the recipe. In fact, I'm defrosting a batch I made a little while ago. Some people substitute cabbage for spinach (appropriately called lahanorizo). I would make it like this if it wasn't for my husband, who doesn't like the smell of cooking cabbage permeating the house.

You need:

1 1/2 cups of rice
half a cup of olive oil
1 onion, chopped small
a few cloves of garlic, minced
half a kilo of spinach
a bunch of parsley and/or fresh mint
half a kilo of fresh pulped tomato
1 teaspoon of tomato paste
salt, pepper and oregano
2 cups of water

Pour the oil in a pan, and sauté the onion and garlic till transparent. Add the well-washed shredded spinach, and saute till it reduces in bulk. Add the chopped parsley and mint, and mix it in with the spinach. Now add the tomato and tomato paste, along with some salt, pepper and oregano. Mix it all in and simmer for about 15 minutes. The spinach won't need much longer. You can also use frozen spinach to make this dish (not if you want to freeze it though!); it tastes just as good. If you're making the fresh spinach version, this is the point where you freeze it. Let the pot cool down, and pour it into small tubs, as large as the amount you want to cook when you defrost it. I find that a 500g tub is enough for a family of four when the spanakorizo is served with something else.

Now add the rice. If you are using frozen mixture, defrost it in a saucepan and make sure it is completely liquid before you pour in the rice. Add a cup of water for every cup of rice. I sometimes add a little less liquid so that the rice doesn't come out too soggy, in case the sauce was too liquidy, and top up the pan with more water if it needs it. Let the rice cook (white rice needs about a quarter of an hour), adding more water if the liquid seems to run out, or the rice is too gritty. Stir it every now and then to make sure the rice isn't sticking to the bottom of the pan (a sure sign that more water is needed).

When the rice is ready, turn off the heat, let the pot stand for a few minutes to settle the rice grains, and then serve it. If you don't eat it all on the same day, it heats up very well in the microwave.

The lovely Georgia made a Bulgarian version of this dish with vlita (amaranth greens) and a mixture of fresh herbs from the garden. She used lemon juice instead of tomato sauce, a more refreshing alternative in the summer.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.


Simple pilafi rice for children
Dolmades - Dolmadakia
Yemista - ayemista

Sunday 11 November 2007

Freezer clearout (Ξεκαθάρισμα καταψύκτη - Τηγανίτες)

When the deep freeze is over-used, and in our house, so much of summer goodness is used to store winter nutrition, it does suffer from being defrosted infrequently. To speed things up, today's meals - starting from breakfast - were all concocted with a near-future freezer cleanout in mind. We started the day with frozen croissants for breakfasts, something I had bought on impulse from the supermarket, but would never buy again. On being cooked, the croissants were tasteless, and went hard almost as soon as they were cold. They needed 20 minutes cooking time, and as a treat, I cut them open and filled them with the Greek-brand Merenda chocolate-hazelnut cream (the well-known European equivalent of Nutella), which I noticed, had gone quite stiff at the bottom of the jar, a sign of its going bad. It's not just freezer foods that are forgotten about. Apart fromt he freezer, if you look into your larder, pantry, fridge, biscuit tin, breadbox and kitchen benchtop, where you might store little jars of various seasonings, as well as pickled peppers picked from your own garden, you'll find a number of items that need to be eaten or thrown out because they were not used before their expiry date, or they have taken on a stale appearance, making them completely unappetising.

For lunch, we enjoyed a "healthy" fry-up of food that would normally be classified as home-made fast food: stuff we buy from the supermarket to try out and forget to do so, lone frankfurters, stranded sausages, supermarket spring rolls (I won't be buying that brand again) and Cypriot meaty sausages (they were quite tasty), accompanied by a pan of fried potatoes. I added some stuffed aubergines (papoutsakia) that had strayed from their original tin, and pulped a couple of soft garden tomatoes with some olive oil to make a light sauce. The tin went into the oven. We washed this down with a couple of beers and a lettuce salad (from our own garden).

Dinner was more entertaining. I was clearing out the CD and DVD racks on my shelves - newspapers come these days with so much junk in them - when I came across a couple of UNICEF cookbooks for little chefs, and gave them to the kids. They found a recipe in one that showed them (pictorially) how to make chocolate-walnut pancakes (the book stated that the recipe came from Hungary). So they asked to cook it themselves! The pancakes cleared my fridge racks of cooking chocolate, butter and eggs, products whose expiry dates I don't always check on a regular basis, a good excuse to buy some fresh stuff!. To make the pancakes, you need to mix together 225g flour, 40 ml milk, 2 tablespoons water, 3 eggs, and 100 grams sugar. Let the mixture rest for an hour to make smooth pancakes. Now grind 100g walnuts and mix in 50g double cream and 2 tablespoons sugar. I used Greek yoghurt instead of cream. Set this mixture aside.

Cook the pancakes, one by one, by melting a dab of butter in a small pan, and pouring two large tablespoons of the runny egg mixture into the pan. They need a high heat and constant watching over the element so as not to burn. Aftr you cook them on both sides, take them out of the pan, and place a tablespoon of walnut mixture on one side of each pancake. Fold the pancake in half so that it sticks to the other side with the walnut cream. Melt 100 grams of cooking chocolate in 120ml of milk. When the milk and chocolate have blended together well, pour over the finished pancakes. These pancakes can be eaten for breakfast the next day, heated up a little in the microwave (and just how safe that is is anyone's guess).

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Banana cake
Pizza carbonara
Chicken pie
Cottage pie
Chocolate balls
Stir-fry noodles

Thursday 8 November 2007

Psarosoupa (Ψαρόσουπα - fish soup)

We still have NOT turned the heating on in Hania, but we DID have our first thunderstorm for the season this week - a fantastic display of roars and flashes reminded us that winter is finally here. It's not very cold yet, but even so, the sun still shines enough to turn a cold dawn into a humid morning. This cold weather is a good reason to make fish soup, an easy but somewhat demanding meal, containing such a variety of ingredients that it will suit everyone's tastes. It's not a meal that can be frozen, but it provides two completely different kinds of dishes, which compensates for the extra effort required to make this meal.

I use frozen fish to make this meal, although fresh fish can be used - but it's too expensive in Hania. A family of four could need 25 euro worth of fresh fish to make a decent fish soup - no thanks, not for my purse. Choose a fish species that has lots of thick meat on it. I like the taste and texture of red mullet. I also used another large plump fish which we call fangri in Greece. The more variety, the more delicious the soup will taste. You also need a variety of winter vegetables. The traditional Greek ones for this soup are carrot, onion, celery, courgettes and potatoes. I hate using courgettes in the winter, as they can only be grown in a greenhouse (these are my husband's choice); my 'foreign' additions include broccoli and brussel sprouts, but I would also add any other firm green vegetable that is in season. By the way, the ingredients and the method for making this soup are exactly the same as for meat soup, except that you use chunks of beef instead of fish (of course, ha, ha, ha).

I like to use five pieces of fish for this meal, and any amount of vegetables that I have available. The boiled veges make a wonderful hot or cold salad, with the traditional Greek olive oil-lemon-and-salt dressing. When preparing the vegetables and fish, clean them and leave everything whole. In a large pot, place the vegetables that need the most cooking to become tender, eg carrots. At the top of the pot, place the vegetables that need the least cooking, eg celery. Let the pot boil away until the veges are done. Then carefully lift them out and place them on a large dish, each kind heaped on its own. It will look beautiful. Now place the fish, slightly thawed with as few scales as possible in the pot and let them cook till done (when the flesh is tender); it doesn't need a long time. Lift the fish out of the pot when done and remove the skin, bones and innards, and place it on top of the veges or on the side in its own mound. It doesn't matter if it breaks up. Put the fish and vege platter aside. At this point, you can choose to serve the platter on its own, or make the soup and serve that on its own or accompanied by the fish and veges. We usually eat the platter contents in one meal, and I make the soup for the evening meal, to warm us up on a cold winter's night.

Now take the wonderfully aromatic stock you have just created with the fish and vegetables, and strain it through a colander into another pot; at this point, you are probably wondering how many items of crockery and kitchen utensils you will have lightly scented with the smell of the sea. Don't worry, you're almost there... Take a small piece of fish, half a potato, half a carrot, a bit of onion, a few leaves of brussel srpouts and a bit of courgette (which I wouldn't use myself) and blend them to a soft pulp with two large fresh tomatoes. If they don't blend well, add some stock to help in the liquidisation. Pour the pulp into the stock, and heat it up. When it is warm, add just enough rice to turn the stock into a soup (and not a pilau rice dish). Season the soup with salt and pepper, and add some olive oil so that the soup is not watery. The soup must be served immediately. Serve it in soup plates, and set a small plate for each diner to allow them to help themselves to the warmed-up platter of fish and vegetables. There should be lemon halves, salt and a bottle of olive oil on the table to allow each person to dress the fish and veges to their liking. If you serve it on its own, it can also be accompanied by a variety of cheeses. Don't forget the crunchy sourdough bread and a good glass of white wine!

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Bakaliaros (cod)
Bakaliaros - bakaliaraki
Octopus stew
Shrimp in lemon
Squid stew
Squid fried
Mussels sauce

Chicken stock
Poached fish soup
Fennel soup
Leek and potato potage
Lentil soup
Bean soup
Black-eyed bean soup
French onion soup
Pumpkin soup