Tag Archives: Greek

Tomato Party

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The time we have been waiting for all summer has arrived. The tomatoes have ripened and we are enjoying them with nearly everything. Breakfast, lunch and dinner.

We grew fifteen varieties of tomatoes this year, all selected for their flavour rather than prolific production or uniform size. The names are curious but in fact somehow apt when you see the fruits –  Bottondoro, Mountain Magic, Fandango, Liguria, Ox Heart, Moon Glow….. They’re all shapes and colours,  red, orange, pink, and yellow .

We let the tomatoes ripen on the vine, this guarantees that they are bursting with flavour and not all picked at once. There’s always a bit of a wait for the tomatoes to ripen but we are usually still picking them in moderation well into the autumn

Each variety has merits, the Bottondoro – orange cherry tomatoes are delicious roasted , we’ve been spooning them onto and over things with a dollop of creme fraiche. The Fandangoes, Ox Hearts and Moonglows have been cut into a chunky dice and consumed with just a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of  sherry vinegar and salt. They don’t need any fancy treatment.

We ‘ve also made pasta, stews, soups, risottos and most of all ‘pan con tomate’ the Spanish go to breakfast.

Pan con tomate is toast rubbed with a smidgeon of garlic, a drizzle of olive oil and tomato which is rubbed on the toast or grated.

Grating tomatoes is a very useful kitchen trick.

Simply take a large ripe tomato, cut it in half and grate it flesh side down, over a bowl, on the coarse side of the grater. The result will be a fresh tomato passata in the bowl and a tomato skin in your hand. Just bin the tomato skin and the tomato is ready to use.

Here is a recipe for a Greek dish, using grated tomato.  Prawns with Ouzo and black olives are the original incarnation but Ouzo which is a Greek aniseed flavoured aperitif can be replaced with whatever you have in the drinks cupboard. I use Pernod but brandy or white wine would work too.

This is delicious mopped up with bread or served with basmati rice or pasta for a main course. Fresh prawns would be the ultimate but uncooked frozen prawns will work too just be sure to dry them well before frying.

Serves 6 for a mezze, 3- 4 for a main course

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Prawns with Ouzo and Black olives

 

500g fresh peeled prawns – not already cooked

75mls olive oil

1 small onion

2 cloves garlic

2-3 large ripe tomatoes – about 500g

a good pinch of dried oregano

a small glass of Ouzo or Pernod

1-2 tbs black olives

salt and black pepper.

chopped flat leaf parsley

 

Peel and finely chop the onion

Peel and finely chop the garlic

Cut the tomatoes in half and grate on the coarse side of the grater, holding the skin side. Discard the skins

Dry the prawns on a little kitchen roll.

Heat a small frying pan, add the olive oil then the prawns. Cook for a couple of minutes until the prawns just change colour. Lift out of the pan and put aside.

Fry the onions until they begin to soften then stir in the garlic and cook for a minute or two. Add the grated tomatoes, oregano and the ouzo or Pernod. Let the sauce bubble up and reduce for a few minutes. Stir in the prawns and black olives then cook for anther 3-4 minutes. Take off the heat, season with salt and pepper and garnish with chopped parsley.

 

 

 


Gigantes Plaki – Holiday Memories

We’ve an interesting harvest of beans in the garden this summer.
I went a bit bean crazy in the spring – so confident was I that we were going to have another heatwave.
I had a collection of seed gathered from far and wide. Yin Yang beans, Cannnelini beans, Borlotti beans, French beans, Italian beans, Runner beans and Chickpeas. The results have been quite mixed but apart from the yin yang beans which have gone awol and the Italian beans which really couldn’t handle the climate everything else is having a go.
Any bean that has grown inside has flourished but the outside ones are having a rough ride. The French beans are so cold that instead of growing straight they are growing curly and the outside borlotti and cannelini are looking weatherworn and sad. Luckily the runner beans are super acclimatised to the Irish climate and we had some of all the above growing in the tunnel.
I’m excited about the chickpeas as little pods are finally appearing and the cannelini beans and borlotti beans, which are such a treat, are all harvested and almost eaten.

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So you could imagine we’ve been eating a lot of bean dinners.
Beans and pasta, Bombay beans, beans and courgettes, beans and tomato, beans in salads, and Gigantes Plaki.
I was wondering what to cook next when I remembered this dish. We had eaten it when we were in Syros, Greece. It was made with giant butterbeans and came bubbling in a terracotta casserole to the table with just melted feta on top. Delicious eaten in the sunshine and mopped up with a piece of bread and equally as delicious served with baby spuds at home.

I made ours with our home grown cannelini beans but butterbeans would be more authentic – whatever you fancy and if you don’t have good ripe fresh tomatoes, use a can. Use ewes milk feta if you have a choice, it is better in consistency and flavour.

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Greek Beans – Gigantes Plaki

600g cooked beans – butterbean or cannelini (2 cans)
approx 75mls olive oil
1 onion
2 stems celery
4 cloves garlic
4 big fatty tomatoes or 2 cans
1tsp dried oregano
1tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper
150g feta cheese
chopped parsley

Peel the onion and chop finely. Heat a pan, add enough olive oil to generously cover the bottom and the chopped onion.
Cut the celery sticks into three or four lengthways then chop finely and stir into the onions. Season with a little salt,, and sweat on a medium-low heat for five minutes. Don’t let them brown.
Peel and chop the garlic and stir in, cook for two minutes then add the tomatoes, oregano and cinnamon. Bring to the boil then turn to simmer for at least 30 minutes. Give it the odd stir and keep the pot gently bubbling.
Pre heat the oven 190c
Drain the beans if you have cooked them yourself, or rinse and drain if you are using canned beans.
Tip the beans into a shallow oven-proof dish.
Taste the tomato sauce and season with salt and pepper then pour over the beans. Give the dish a shake so that the sauce slips between the beans then bake for 40 mins. The sauce should be beginning to bubble around the edge. Take the dish out of the oven, crumble the feta into rough chunks over the top and bake for a further ten minutes.
Serve with chopped parsley scattered on top.


Sardines and Sunshine

Some things you just can’t beat.
Sardines and sunshine. I swear they would never taste the same eaten inside in Ireland. It’s some kind of magical combination of Mediterranean sun and sea. There’s no big cooking procedure, just dust the fish with oregano and chuck them on the grill.
Today we ate our lunch in Kino, a small village in Syros, at a restaurant where we could literally step from our table into the sea, another few centimetres and we would have had our feet in the water

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Tempting as that was we stayed seated and enjoyed our lunch.
The sardines were super fresh, grilled and served with wedges of lemon, all washed down with a glass of chilled white wine.

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As soon as we had finished the local cats moved in, ready to eat the skeletal remains.

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Not a morsel was wasted!


Syros – Herb Central

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Walking around Syros is like tramping through a herb garden. We have been exploring the island, driving to the north of island as far as the road goes and then heading off on foot. It’s not only beautiful but smells delicious too. We’re sure all the goats that graze are self marinating!.

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There are swathes of thyme, rosemary, fennel and sage and carpets of camomile with lots of bees buzzing happily about their business. There are plenty of hives dotted around the countryside and the honey is delicious.

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The paths lead down to hidden beaches, it can a bit of a clamber but the destination makes it worth it.Lots of hidden coves that are deserted and clean blue sea. The sea is cold. Too cold for me to enjoy swimming but I keep trying!

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Capers are growing on the rocks. This is all news to me – I have to admit I had never considered where capers did grow, but there you go – little bushes sprout out of craggy rocks with capers on the end of the branches and very funky flowers. Apparently June is the real caper picking and pickling season but they are beginning now. No wonder so many dishes are served with capers here.

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We had delicious basil and caper pesto the other day, drizzled over goats cheese.
Very simple and very delicious. It’s certainly worth a try and I’d say it’s equally delicious served with fish.
Here’s the recipe

Basil and Caper Pesto

1 cup basil
1 cup parsley
zest and juice of 1 lemon
1tsp Dijon mustard
2dsp capers
approx 150mls olive oil

Put everything except the olive oil into a food processor or blender and buzz to a paste then drizzle in the olive oil. Don’t add salt , the capers are salty enough

Eat with whatever you fancy – cheese, pasta, fish……


Feta, Feta, Everywhere!

If Ireland’s the land of green grass, butter and Guinness then Greece has to be the land of feta and ouzo.
We arrived in Athens yesterday evening and took a ferry to the island of Syros this morning. We’re kind of travelling blind – not really knowing very much about Syros – but it came highly recommended by some friends who introduced us to some people that wanted to do a house swop.This was an irresistible idea. The last time I was in Greece was more than thirty years ago and I remember delicious grilled octopus – probably my first -and having to learn how to say coffee without sugar as all the coffee was made in the traditional way with heaps of sugar. It’s the only Greek that I remember – kafé sketo!
The ferries that go between the islands are huge but they’re not crowded in May. It’s a nearly four hour trip, with lots of rough sea which which could hardly feel, as the ferries are so big. At one point it lashed rain but as the boat approached land the sun appeared and we could see the town hugging the harbour with pastel coloured houses climbing up the hill behind.

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Kostas, our host was waiting on the square as pre arranged and we climbed the steps through the town to where we are staying. The house is stunning. Built in 1870 and recently renovated by our new friends. It has everything that we need and a sunny terrace which is where I am sitting whilst I write this.
We dumped our bags and wandered back down the steps in search of lunch – we have been given several recommendations- a very big plus of house exchanging – and soon found ourselves sitting in a little street on a comfortable terrace. It was a little bit tricky establishing whether we had arrived at the correct taverna as everything is written in Greek – naturally enough – and we can’t read Greek but Con dragged out some morsels of knowledge from his youth and we figured we were in the right place so we sat down and looked at the blackboard menu. It was Greek!

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The waitress soon appeared with a bi-lingual menu.
Somehow each dish we chose had an element of feta. All completely different dishes but lots of feta. This is not a complaint, more an observation!
We started off with Greek salad. Very traditional but irresistible when in the land of sun ripened tomatoes and fresh feta. It arrived to the table, a mound of tomatoes, cucumber, onion and olives with slab of feta and capers on top.

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The olive oil and vinegar is on the table so you dress the salad yourself. We polished the salad off then the Giant beans baked in tomato sauce arrived – with feta. These were delicious, the tomato sauce was made with fresh oregano, bay leaves and whole allspice

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And the final course was a stuffed calamari – stuffed with tomato, wild fennel and feta.
After the beans this was bit over the top and it didn’t get as many brownie points but maybe that was because we were already quite full.

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We washed everything down with a carafe of the local white wine and felt very happy sitting there in the sun!

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