Tag Archives: Greek Food

Halloumi Aubergine Wrap

Halloumi Aubergine Wrap

Halloumi Aubergine Wrap: 

I woke up this morning thinking about this delicious wrap.  It was one of my very first recipes, and I haven’t had it for ages.  I went to the computer and searched through my posts thinking of course I would have published it, but no, it was no where to be found.  So, although this is an old favourite of mine, I’m sharing it for the first time – told you I wasn’t good at sharing food.

Ingredients for 2  wraps

2 x Arabic breads (or any thin flat soft bread)
1 x aubergine sliced vertically in thin strips
About 2 x tbsp olive oil
1 x tsp za’tar (or any mix of mediterranean dried herbs)
150gr / 5.3 oz. of Halloumi cheese sliced thinly
4 x tbsp Greek Yogurt
A third cucumber sliced very thinly
Two Kos (Romain) lettuce leaves
1 x small garlic clove, crushed or grated
Handful of fresh mint, chopped finely
One spring onion (scallion chopped finely)
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Mix the yogurt, za’tar, spring onion, cucumber, honey, garlic and mint together, add a pinch of salt, stir through and taste.  Set aside to allow the flavours to marry together.
  2. Rub olive oil into the slices of cheese and aubergine.
  3. Salt and pepper the slices of aubergine on each side.
  4. Heat a grill pan until it is hot and grill the aubergine until it has some nice dark stripes on each side.  The same for the cheese.  The grill pan may smoke a little.  I do the aubergine first.   The
  5. Spread the yogurt mix over one side of both of the Arabic breads.
  6. Lay out the lettuce leaf then the aubergine and cheese over the middle section of the bread.
  7. Fold about one third of one side of the bread towards the centre, then roll the rest of the bread perpendicular to the fold.

Tips and Variations

  • For a spicy version, spread the bread first thinly with some tandoori paste.
  • You can use lots of grilled vegetables for this, peppers and courgettes work best.

Cavolo Nero with Beetroot

Cavolo Nero with Beetroot

Cavolo Nero with Beetroot

Every time I’m lucky enough to travel I still marvel at the creativity other countries have with vegetables.  I can’t believe I was brought up on that British/Scottish and in some ways northern European obsession with boiling the life out of everything green (apart from maybe lettuce).  This recipe is based on a side dish I had on a recent trip to Greece.  Of course, I can’t find the exact greens because the owner of the little taverna grew them on his own plot of land behind the restaurant, but I think the Cavolo Nero comes close.  Cavolo Nero, or black cabbage is a new one for me, but I really like it.  I’m not a huge fan of kale and although I love spinach, sometimes it’s nice to have an alternative.  Although I ate this dish in the warm Greek sunshine, I find it just as compatible with a cold winter’s evening.

Preparation Time:  10 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

Serves 4 to 6 as a side dish
1 x tbsp olive oil
1 x shallot chopped finely
2 x large garlic cloves chopped finely
10  – 12 leaves of cavolo nero Italian cabbage chopped roughly
300gr / 10.5 oz. cooked beetroot chopped in rough bite sized pieces
Juice of a lemon
50gr / 1.7 oz. feta cheese
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a high sided pan and add the shallot and garlic. Cook on a relatively high heat for a minute or so.  Just until the shallot and garlic take on some colour, be careful they don’t burn, especially the garlic.
  2. Add the cabbage, salt and pepper, stir through then cover and cook for about 20 minutes or until the leaves have softened – not too mushy though.
  3. Then add the beetroot to your cavalo neron, mix through just to heat it up a little, add the lemon juice – I do this half at a time, just in case it’s too much. Check the seasoning and adjust if need be.
  4. Serve topped with crumbled feta.

Tips and Variations

  • Try with kale or spinach. Spinach needs much less cooking, only seconds really.
  • You can also add some chili flakes or fresh chili. I do this at the beginning when I’m cooking off the shallot and garlic.  To give it a bit more body, you can fry off some bacon bits too.
  • Instead of feta, other cheeses that work well grated over this dish are pecorino or manchego. If you don’t fancy cheese, drizzle over a little natural or Greek yogurt instead.
  • You can also grate the zest of the lemon over this dish.

  Cavolo Nero with Beetroot

Pumpkin and Spinach Spanakopita

Pumpkin and Spinach Spanakopita

Pumpkin and Spinach Spanakopita

I’m a bit of a pie fiend.  If left to my own devices I’d eat them any chance I get, so I have to exercise self discipline when it comes to lots of flavour wrapped in a buttery, crispy pastry.  Saying that, spanakopita isn’t a total calorie bomb.  Filo is lighter, and we don’t use so much of it here, not that I’m trying to justify my greed, oh no, I’ waaay past that.  Just hoping you’ll give this one a go.

Preparation Time:  40 minutes
Cooking Time: 20 to 25 minutes
Roasting Tin Measurements: 34cm / 13in. x 20cm / 8in.

Serves 4 to 6
For the Pumpkin
1kg / 2.2lb of pumpkin flesh chopped into cubes of about 2cm/ 1in.
2 x tbsp of olive oil
A good pinch of salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper

For the Spinach
250gr / 0.5 lb of chopped frozen spinach, defrosted and excess water drained off.
2 x eggs, lightly beaten
6 x spring onions (scallions), chopped finely
3 x garlic cloves, chopped finely
150gr / 5.3 oz. feta
½ tsp ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the Pastry
About 4 x sheets of filo pastry.  I buy frozen and let it defrost, but try to keep it chilled and work quickly because it gets quite fiddly to work with if warm.  The sheets of pastry I buy are about 34cm / 13in. x 45 cm 17.5in.
About 50ml / 1.7 fl. oz. olive oil
50gr / 1.7 oz. grated pecorino cheese

Method

  1. Place the pumpkin in a roasting tray, drizzle over the oil, sprinkle over the salt and pepper, mix through to cover with your hands and roast it for 20 to 25 minutes at 200°C (pre-heated oven) or until it has softened, still retains its shape and has taken on some colour.
  2. Whilst you are waiting on the pumpkin roasting, you can get on with the rest of the filling. Mix the spinach, eggs, feta, spring onions (scallions), garlic, nutmeg and salt and pepper together in a large mixing bowl.
  3. When the pumpkin is ready, remove it from the oven, but leave the oven on. Mix the pumpkin through the spinach mixture and taste to check for seasoning.
  4. Brush an oven proof dish lightly with olive oil and lay in a couple of your sheets of filo. You want it to come up the sides of the tray and if it is larger than that, just let it flop over the outside for now.
  5. Spoon in the pumpkin filling and cover with any excess filo. Then lay over your other sheets of filo, brushing each layer with a little olive oil.
  6. Sprinkle over the pecorino cheese and place in the oven. Bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or until the filo is golden brown and crispy and the pecorino cheese has melted.

Tips and Variations

  • Don’t worry if your filo isn’t all neat, just scrunch it and lay it casually. If it’s too tidy you won’t get all those crispy edges.
  • Normally, spanakopita is made with only spinach, but pumpkin makes a nice seasonal addition as well as giving a more hearty result.
  • You can eat this pie hot or cold, works great as a leftover with some simple green salad.

Pumpkin and Spinach Spanakopita

Gyros at Glystra Beach

Gyros at Glystra Beach
Gyros at Glystra Beach

We’ve all done it.  I’ve done it.  I’ve rolled my eyes and shaken my head, sometimes in irritation, sometimes in sympathy and sometimes in disbelief at what’s been going on with European finance and especially with Greek finance.  The thing is, sometimes it can be easy for us to forget or ignore what it’s like for the typical Greek, who is just trying to earn a living, look after their family, get an education, be healthy and happy.

You might have guessed by now this is not one of my usual posts.  I was moved to write it by my usual motivation though – eating.

Gyros at Glystra Beach

I’ve just come back from a break on the island of Rhodes, Greece, where we found a fantastic little beach.  Simple and quiet, tucked away in a corner out of the reach of most tourists.  When I saw it I knew it was going to be perfect.  I’m not really one for ‘wild’ beaches, I mean, I like the idea of them, but to be honest, I like my creature comforts.  So Glystra with its little parasols and very simple ‘kantina’ was right up my street.

After all that sunbathing and swimming, of course it wouldn’t be long before I got hungry so I went in search of food.  The catering available at this beach is a food truck selling some basic sandwiches, salads and of course the classic Greek gyros with pita bread.  This was my first choice, and it was so delicious that I had one every day.

Gyros at Glystra Beach

As we sat in the shade of the awning in front of the truck, I watched and listened to the two ladies who ran it.  So kind and friendly with everyone, helpful and caring.  I listened into conversations and I caught the gist of some issues they had been having with the local council.  After a few days I felt like enough of a regular to ask how business had been this season and they told me their story.

The businesses on the beach, such as they are, are owned and run by 5 Greek families.  These businesses consist of renting out sunbeds and of course selling food.  The ladies in the truck are two sisters.  Their father, along with the other families started working there 33 years ago.  On their own initiative, they cleared and cleaned up the beach and set up their businesses.  Each year they pay for their licences as required to operate, they keep to the rules and fulfil all their responsibilities.  Things went well until the crisis.  Taxes (VAT) went from 16% to 23%, the extended family has lost jobs and so many more people are relying solely on these seasonal beach businesses.   The local schools have no money and parents have to pay extra for cleaners and ancillary services (if the children are lucky enough to have teachers).  Doctors send you a bill for each treatment (even if you are insured it is no longer covered).  Pensions have gone down from 1100 Euro per month to 700 Euro.  The police force has all but vanished from the island,

Gyros at Glystra Beach

Panic has set in.  The local authorities turned up at the beach at the beginning of the season, 1st of May, and shut the girls down because they said that they didn’t have the correct license to operate and they would need to buy another one.  Much to-ing and fro-ing ensued, the ladies drove back and forward to Rhodes town trying to arrange the licence and open their business so that they could have income.  They got it, they opened their doors hoping for a busy season that would cover their losses.  Not to be.  They have been hassled all summer, constant threats – even prison –  the local authorities have been holding them to ransom.  Turning up every second day, saying that the license they purchased a couple of days ago is no longer valid and they need to pay more, more, more.   Symbika told me as she dusted the photo of their father who passed away last year, that she doesn’t know if they will be there next year, they just can’t afford to operate like this, let alone the stress.

I know we can say, and I met Greeks who told me this, that they have made their bed and they have to lie in it – but like this?

I hope, if you are in Rhodes, you will head for Glystra, not only for the fantastic Gyros, the sun and the sand, but for some of the warmest smiles you will ever see.

Gyros at Glystra Beach

Crete Tomato Salad

Crete Tomato Salad
Crete Tomato Salad

There’s been a couple of Greek influences on my life recently.  I went on holiday to Crete in June, last week I visited my old pal Caterina at her Greek Deli, Olivity last week and, it looks like I’ll be travelling to Greece again in a couple of months.

Since my visit to Crete, I’ve been obsessing about making some of their classics, this is my first, a simple but delicious tomato salad.  Don’t get scared about all the olive oil – that’s how they roll in Crete – they are the biggest consumers of the stuff in the world, could it be a coincidence that they have the lowest level of heart disease?

If you are in Amsterdam and you are looking for some really tasty authentic Greek treats and hospitality, pay a visit to Caterina, I love her orange cake, it’s just soooo luscious, one slice is never enough.  And of course that’s where I picked up the ‘dakos’ (Cretan rusks) for this salad.  The Cretans eat their dakos with practically every meal and it is a great crunchy accompaniment to salads and I love it with tzatziki.

 

Crete Tomato Salad

Preparation Time: Less than 10 minutes
Serves: 4

8 to 10 medium sized, ripe, good quality tomatoes chopped quite finely
100m / 3.5 fl. oz.  extra virgin olive oil (best is from Crete or other Greek olive oil)
100gr / 3.5 oz. feta cheese
A handful of chopped, fresh oregano (or about a tbsp of dried)
4 to 6 pieces of Cretan rusks – ‘Dakos’ ( or Swedish style crisp rolls if you can’t get the Greek ones, or you can use whole meal Dutch beschuit – crisp bakes)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Method

  1. Place your tomatoes in a serving bowl, pour over the oil, stir in the oregano salt and pepper and serve with the feta crumbled over the top and the rusks on the side of the dish.

Tips and Variations

  • This salad is all about the quality of the ingredients, of course it is, it is so simple that you really have to make sure you use the best – no point in doing this with winter tomatoes.

Crete Tomato Salad