Monthly Archives: September 2016

Up the Pumpkins!


We went on holiday for ten days and when we got back I could have sworn the grass had grown by 10 inches! As always in this beautiful fertile island the grass keeps growing. The drop in temperature doesn’t mean that everything else is as keen to keep growing though. The spinach and chard are now on a go-slow and even the kale production has slowed down. Mind you they all get picked so hard for the kitchen at the shop that it’s hardly surprising that they need a break.

Luckily the pumpkins are ready to harvest. We grow the Crown Prince and Queensland Blue varieties.. They aren’t huge this year but they’re not going to grow any more now – in fact pumpkins don’t like the temperature to be below 18c so it’s a wonder that they grow at all.

For us it is a precious crop. Pumpkins store very well and are very versatile, we make them into pies, soups, cakes, hummus, curries, with pasta, pilafs…. The options are endless.

They also have many nutritional benefits, being high in antioxidants, vitamins and fibre.

Each 100g of pumpkin provides 26 calories, no saturated fat or cholesterol, plenty of vitamin A – great for eyesight, vitamin C and B

So all in all it’s a great vegetable to include in your diet.

It’s delicious simply roasted as a side vegetable but it’s also the beginning part of many recipes, which transform it into something more substantial.

To celebrate the pumpkin harvest and with Halloween arriving at the end of this month here’s a pumpkin recipe. This recipe for filo pie is inspired by our recent holiday in Greece where the bakers are the masters of filo pies.

Filo is very easy to use. Just go to your local shop or supermarket and pick up a packet and follow the instructions below. Don’t worry if it breaks up a bit , just patch it up. It’s quite forgiving.

This recipe is for the dense orange flesh type pumpkin. Halloween pumpkins are too watery for this recipe so if you can’t find the hard skinned blue/grey variety it’s best to substitute a butternut squash.


Pumpkin Filo Pie


750g pumpkin flesh

2 onions

200g feta cheese

2 eggs

half tsp ground cinnamon

about 200mls olive oil

salt and pepper

a packet of filo pastry – defrosted


Pre heat the oven to 180c.

Peel the pumpkin, remove the seeds and cut the flesh into roughly 2cm cubes. Put the pumpkin onto a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle over the cinnamon and season with a little salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, or until the pumpkin is tender. It doesn’t need to brown nor go crispy. Leave aside to cool .


Peel and chop the onions. Sautee gently in a little olive oil, until they soften and becomes translucent.

Crumble the feta onto the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together.

Stir in the cooked pumpkin and onion, giving it a bit of a mash as you go. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Oil a baking tray that is 20cm x 30xm and has about a 5cm rim. If you don’t have one of these try a large cake tin.


Open the packet of filo and carefully unroll it. Take the first sheet and lay it in the tin leaving the excess to hang over the edge of the tin. Brush with olive oil. Turn the tin and lay the next sheet so that the overhang is on the other side.


Brush with oil Repeat this 3 times – there will now be 6 layers of filo.


Spread the pumpkin mix over the filo then cover with 4-5 sheets on top, brushing with olive oil between each sheet and tucking in some of the overhang as you go .


This will make rough parcel. Brush the top with olive oil. Score the top of the pie down the middle with a sharp knife then cut each half into 4. This will ensure the tart can be sliced once baked.


Cook in a pre-heated oven 180c for 40- 60 minutes or until golden on top. Allow to cool for fifteen minutes before eating..


Revithnos from Sifnos

Sifnos is one of the Cycladic islands in the Aegean Sea, it’s about 25kms long and 15kms wide and very hilly. It takes bit of effort to get there which is  why this beautiful spot is not a mass tourist destination. The main town, Apollonia is in the centre of the island and the roads run down from there to little villages, fishing ports and deserted beaches.


The island also has plenty of tracks linking everywhere together which formerly would have been used by donkeys. There aren’t many donkeys these days, they seem to have been replaced by Suzuki Jimneys and similar little vehicles which are the only way to get down to many of the hamlets.


Sifnos tourism has a walking trail initiative, there are lots of way marked tracks to beautiful places. It’s mostly a case of what goes down, must come up – challenging trails with spectacular views.


We walked out from the village that we stayed in crunching almonds underfoot and feasting on ripe pomegranates, figs and prickly pears. There are trees laden with lemons, olives and quince waiting to be harvested.


The views are spectacular and with the glorious autumn weather, a very comfortable 25c-30c – it’s a great way to get an all over tan.


The friendly people who are happy to have visitors are famous for their traditional Greek food, lots of vegetable mezze, grilled fish and meat. Bakeries  produce pastries of all sorts of shapes and sizes filled with different cheeses or cheese and spinach and these make great portable emergency rations.

Chickpeas are one of the crops grown on the island. It’s crop that doesn’t require watering which on an island where it mightn’t rain for eight months is a good thing. I now realise  why my chickpea growing experiment failed so miserably in Ireland,as not only is there a very high humidity  I watered them to boot. No wonder they weren’t happy!

The recipe that the island is most famous for is Revithnos – a chickpea soup – one of these ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes. It’s cooked slowly in the oven using just a few key ingredients – chickpeas, onion, olive oil, lemon and bay leaves. It’s traditionally served on a Sunday with bowl of olives and fresh bread. The chickpeas are soaked overnight on Friday then  rinsed and cooked in a ceramic pot  called a tsoukali. Formerly everyone took their pots to the bakers who loaded up the ovens and left  them overnight to be collected for lunch after church on Sunday. The slow cooking makes the chickpeas velvety soft in an emulsion of olive oil and onion which is brightened up with a squeeze of lemon juice. It’s another one of these dishes that isn’t going to win a beauty contest but will healthily sustain body and soul.


Cooking something in the oven for 4-5 hours is probably off putting  for most of us and  we don’t have friendly bakers with wood fired ovens around here so it’s probably best to cook the chickpeas slowly on top in a heavy pot with a good lid then finish up for an hour or so in the oven. If you own an Aga or range you’re in business. Just pop the pot in the slow oven and go to bed!

Revithnos – Chickpea Soup

350g chickpeas

150mls olive oil

2 large onions

2-4 cloves garlic

1 -2 bay leaves

lemon juice

salt and pepper


a handful of parsley


Soak the chickpeas over night then drain well.

Peel the onions and garlic and chop finely.

Put the olive oil into a heavy pot and heat gently. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onions melt down but don’t let them brown. Stir in the chopped garlic and cook for a further two minutes then add the chickpeas and bay leaf. Stir everything together for a few minutes then add enough water to cover everything by 2-3cm. Bring to the boil, reduce to a low simmer and cover with a tight fitting lid. Cook for one to one and a half hours or until the chickpeas are soft.

Stir in the juice of a lemon , add a little more water if it looks like it’s getting dry and season with a little salt. Pop the pot into a low oven , 150c, oven for an hour.

Serve with a little chopped parsley on top, lemon wedges and fresh bread and olives on the side.

A glass of red wine goes down well with this too!