Category Archives: courgette

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.

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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 There aren’t many donkeys these days, they seem to have been replaced by Suzuki Jimneys and similar little vehicles which are the only way to get down to many of the hamlets.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

water

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!

 

 

 


Courgettes on the Grill

I’m sitting here writing this surrounded by buckets of courgettes.

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The sunshine, followed by an intense blast of rain, has sped up the growth and todays picking produced an interesting assortment of different shapes and colours.. Some are huge – it’s amazing how much a courgette grows each day if the conditions are good.

The weather definitely affects their production. The plants need a good amount of water and love sunshine. They are better cared for when we have a heat wave as I’m all up for an all over tanning opportunity. Standing in the garden spraying water is on my list of relaxing jobs. The days when it’s overcast and looks like rain are the worst because the watering doesn’t happen. Somehow my brain equates sunshine with watering, not clouds.

As the summer moves on so do the plants. They get bigger and begin to sprawl. We have eaten the first flush and are no longer hovering over the plants waiting for them to grow as there are other exciting vegetables maturing and sneaking into first place. This means that quite a few pass under the radar and get very big.

This all brings us to the annual courgette conundrum. We have been enjoying a variety of recipes – soups, salads, stews, pizzas, cakes etc.

I particularly like this salad of grilled courgettes. Very simple and easy to make and size doesn’t matter. Big, small and medium courgettes are all fine.

I use a cast iron grill pan for grilling which leaves funky looking griddle marks but a barbecue or regular grill would do the job too. The important thing is the heat. It must be hot. Whichever method you use it’s important to pre heat to sizzling.

Grilled Courgettes and Halloumi

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4-6 medium courgettes

200g halloumi

2tb sunflower seeds

2tbs pumpkin seeds

a big handful of mint, chopped

1 lemon, washed well

approx 150mls olive oil

salt and pepper

 

Cut the courgettes in half lengthwise and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.. Sprinkle over a little salt and put into a bowl. Toss gently then leave for 20- 30 minutes. The salt will draw out some of the excess water. Put the courgettes onto a clean t-towel and pat dry. Wipe out the bowl and return the courgettes and toss with a little olive oil.

Heat the grill to very hot, griddle pan to very hot or have good barbie on the go.

Put the courgette halves on the pan/grill etc. Don’t overcrowd. Best to do in a couple of batches. Cook for 4-5 minutes each side. Less if it looks like it’s burning rather than a light char.

Put the cooked courgettes in a large clean bowl and leave to cool

Slice the halloumi – medium/thick slices – and rub a very little olive oil over them – too much and the cheese will burn.. Grill for a minute or two each side, until lightly golden. Put aside to cool.

Heat a dry frying pan then stir in the sunflower and pumpkin seeds, toast on a medium heat. Keep tossing the seeds so they cook evenly until lightly golden. Take off the heat, tip into a small bowl and leave to cool.

Slice the grilled courgettes on the diagonal into strips.

Slice the halloumi on the diagonal into strips

Put the courgettes and halloumi into a large bowl together with the zest of the lemon, juice of half, the chopped mint and a good glug of olive oil.

Grind a little black pepper over then toss everything together with your hands.

Taste. Add some salt if you think the flavour is a bit dull or more lemon juice if you think it needs further brightening up.

Eat warm or room temperature.