Sunday, 20 March 2011

Jasmine tea infused pears

A couple of weeks ago I bought an Australian Woman's Weekly issue (my mother used to buy it too when I was a kid) featuring low fat recipes to give me some inspiration as I went through another "healthy eating" spell.
The section that I liked the most was the desserts one and who wouldn't love an almost guilt-free dessert?
Stewed fruit, sorbets and jellies are actually so refreshing after a meal I might even say I prefer them to chocolate or brownies (pies remain on the top of my list though).
These jasmine tea infused pears are almost fat free (the only sinful ingredient in the recipe is sugar, but it's only 75 grams!)


1 tbsp jasmin tea leaves or 4 jasmine tea bags
75 g firmly packed brown sugar
1 litre boiling water
4 pears
2 cinnamon sticks
2 star anise

-Combine tea leaves (or tea bags), sugar and water in a large heatproof jug and stir until the sugar dissolves. Let it stand for 10 minutes. Strain and discard the leaves (or bags).
-Meanwhile peel, half and core the pears. Combine them with the tea mixture and spices (cinnamon sticks and star anise) in a medium saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat and leave to simmer uncovered, until the pears are tender - about 25 minutes or so.
-Transfer the pears to serving bowls.
-Boil the syrup, uncovered, until reduced by half.
-Serve the pears with the syrup.

Calories: 161 per 400g serving
fat: 0.1g

We had the 2 of them for dessert after the lamb on polenta, on red sauce (see previous post) and I served the other two on top of french toast for breakfast the next morning.

ps: I had another great fruity dessert last Friday night at Mon Plaisir - oranges salad marinated in Sauternes dessert wine, with mint sorbet. Incredible awesomeness! (I have to find out how they made it)

Lamb chops with red sauce and polenta

This weekend was one of those where we have our groceries delivered at home and among them were 8 NZ lamb chops. I was probably craving for lamb when I placed the order.
I combined two recipes I have found from Nigella's website and another food blog and ended up making grilled lamb chops on top of blue cheese polenta, on top of an onion and olive red sauce.

Here is a list of the ingredients I used:

8 lamb chops
2 red onions, sliced
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
400g can of diced tomatoes
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 handful of flat leaf parsley, sliced
50g black olives
200ml water
500ml vegetable stock
120g polenta
120g blue cheese
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

-Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a pan over low heat then add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion starts to colour and become soft.
-Add the tomatoes, rosemary, parsley, olives and water and turn up the heat until the mixture starts to bubble and boil.
-Bring the stock to the boil in a separate saucepan then remove from the heat and gradually add the polenta, stirring as you add it. Stir through the blue cheese and cover with a lid to keep warm.
-Once the tomato mixture has started to boil, turn the heat back down to low and cover and simmer for a futher 5 minutes or until the sauce starts to thicken.
-Brush the lamb chops with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Cook either on a BBQ or under the grill for 10 minutes.
-Serve the chops on top of the tomato sauce and polenta.

Serves two, hungry people.

Sweet dream cookies

Tomorrow we're having a fundraising charity cake sale at work and I offered to make something. To be precise, I offered to make two different things but it turns out that I am going to let people down as my "morning" walk took longer than I had calculated (in addition to the fact that it started very late in the morning) and I hardly had time left to make something basic. I feel a bit guilty, but...ok, I know a lot of people are going to bring lots of stuff anyway, right?
Anyway, I made the "sweet dream" cookies which our Innkeeper in a past trip made and left for us every day on our night stand. That's what she called them, "sweet dream" cookies. They are essentially chocolate chip cookies with ginger, walnuts and cinnamon but I think that by giving them this name (which the Innkeeper gave them) I might have more chances in selling them!

The ingredients are:

1 cup unsalted butter
1 1/2  cups of firmly packed light brown sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour ( I couldn't find unbleached on this occasion, so made them with plain white)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pack semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup icing sugar

Cream butter.
Beat in brown sugar, egg and vanilla. 
Combine flour, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger and salt. 
Blend into butter mixture. 
Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts.
Refrigerate until firm.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. 
Lightly grease baking sheets.  
Break off small pieces of dough; roll between palms into 1 inch rounds.  
Dredge rounds in powered sugar.  
Arrange rounds on prepared sheets, spacing at least 2 inches apart.  
Bake 10 minutes.  

And that's it! Easy, huh?

Here's the final result:
Two are missing from the baking tray....
And a close-up:

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Rosemary, sea salt and olive focaccia

To make this recipe of fluffy focaccia you need to bear in mind that at least 4 hours are needed, so better plan ahead. I also advise that you read the recipe through first and then start.
I made this as the main bread that was going to accompany our Christmas Eve dinner and within minutes there was none left. The secret is to really leave the starter rise, and to have a good oven of course! 

330 gr strong white bread flour

1 tsp light brown sugar
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp coarse sea salt
100gr pitted kalamata olives
2 sprigs of rosemary
1 1/2 tsp active dried yeast
420ml bottled still spring water luke warm
330g strong white bread flour

1. To make the starter put the yeast and water in a large bowl and stir until the yeast dissolves. Add the flour and stir until there is a porridge-like consistency. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave somewhere warm (like a radiator) for about two hours or until it has doubled in size.
2. Mix the starter with the flour, sugar and olive oil. Knead for about six minutes, then add the salt and knead further until the salt is mixed through.
3. Brush a large bowl with oil, place the dough in it and brush the surface of the dough with more oil. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and leave in a warm place for one hour or until the dough has again doubled in size.
4. Turn the dough on to a floured bench and stretch and flatten it into a rectangle. Take one of the short ends of the rectangle and fold it into the centre, take the other end and fold it over the first one to form three layers of dough.
5. Brush a heavy baking tray  with oil. Lift the dough on to the tray and flatten it by pressing hard with your hands. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for another hour. During this time check on the dough a couple of times and press it down, spreading it to the edges of the tray.
6. Preheat the oven to 220C. Press the olives and rosemary into the top of the focaccia and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in the oven for 10 mins and then reduce the heat to 190C and continue for 15-20 mins or until golden. When it is out of the oven and still hot brush with plenty of olive oil.

Monday, 7 March 2011

Coffee addiction

Anyone who knows me might know by now that I have become a huge coffee junkie. The problem is, it's so hard to find good coffee in London unless you know some coffee guru..It's understandable, in a place where there is such a huge tea culture but it's hard for caffeine addicts who look for something better than average.
This is why Y. and I have been on a quest lately to discover the best coffee places in London and compare their signature drinks. I can so far say that these trips have been going exceptionally well and there are some amazing gems we have found (along with hundreds of other people I suspect) so I will be very soon posting about exploring all these coffee havens - and of course how we are trying to reach perfection in creating a stumpy at home (apologies to the neighbours for the espresso machine vibration and noise).

Greek cravings part 2 - a vegetarian's paradise

Here is a family recipe for Spanakopita (Spinach and feta pie) which must always and only be made with the freshest ingredients. I especially love the smell coming out of the oven while it is being baked and it's great for vegetarians, as a starter dish or as a main really. I will not specify the amount needed for each ingredient for this one, as it's up to one's taste and it really doesn't matter - just add as much of the freshest herbs as you have, and you're in for something yummy:


Filo pastry (you can make your own, but I opted for ready made due to time restrictions)
Olive oil
Fresh spinach (at least one large bag)
Parsley (at least one large bag)
Dill (at least two small bags)
Leeks (2-3) or spring onions (4-5)
Feta cheese (around 500 gr), crumbled

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
Roll out several layers of the filo pastry on a large baking tray and brush them with olive oil.

Add on top all the chopped wild greens / herbs and the crumbled feta cheese. Sprinkle with plenty of olive oil (always extra virgin).

Cover with another several layers of filo pastry, brushing them again with olive oil.
Tuck in the edges and put in the oven. 

Bake for about 1 hour, or until the pastry is crisp and golden.

We accompanied with some feta cheese and pepper spread: Mix feta with one green chilly pepper and a tbsp of olive oil and beat with an electric mixer. When the mixture is creamy but still chunky, it's ready.
Don't overwork it, it just needs one minute as it shouldn't be too liquid. In any case, putting it in the fridge will firm it up.


And the lovely book by Tessa Kiros..

Greek cravings

I haven't posted anything in such a long time, I have no excuse for it, except for the "I have been busy" factor, but still, it's no excuse. I wish I could be a full-time blogger but for the time being I have a day job that is eating up all my time quite sadly so I need to catch up with posting! All this time I have been thinking of what I'd like to post, I have been taking pictures of everything I've made and I have been considering improving my photographic skills so that the pictures I post here make more justice to the yummy things and present them in a more stylish kind of way. I still haven't made any progress on this though so for the time being we're going to just settle for my regular photography and focus more on the taste.

Being away from home I get homesick quite a lot, every time for different reasons: My family and friends, the weather, expressing my opinions in my mother tongue (they make a lot more sense), the sea. And of course, food! There are times when I really crave for something homemade, and when I say homemade I don't just mean made at home, I mean made at home by mum or grandma, the way they have been making it for many years. Sometimes, it's just anything Greek, something that perhaps I would order if I went to my local taverna there. Anyway, I often try to reconstruct a "Greek kitchen" situation  at home and prepare my favourite dishes and although I must say that I'm doing pretty well, they just never quite taste the same. Maybe it's the climate, the weather over here asks for heavier stuff, like stews or soups (funnily enough ever since moving here I have become an addict to bread, which is turning out to be a very bad thing for me) . Or the ingredients, although I try to buy the best (and I am most grateful for finding almost anything from all over the world, brought to me fresh) but it's just not the same as getting them from your allotment. Finally, the fact they these dishes were born in another country is not a coincidence. They were conceived and created there, so there is where they taste right.

Last week I had one of those days and I started flipping through Tessa Kiros' book "Food from Many Greek Kitchens". I highly recommend the book, especially for non Greeks, as it's a wonderful and colourful mixture of greek recipes with some anecdotes and local wisdom. I'm going to be honest and say that I was sceptical about buying it (or, in fact, buying any greek cookery book written by someone who hasn't actually lived in the country) as I always think "I'm sure I can do better that them" with Greek recipes. But I was pleasantly surprised to see that the recipes are very loyal to the original ones I know, very close to the roots and some of them, well, as if they were dictated by my granny!

Here are a couple of the things I made, I hope you will find some inspiration from them!

Mydopilafo - Mussel Rice (adapted from Tessa Kiros' recipe):

1,5 Kg mussels
6 tbsps olive oil
3 garlic cloves: 1 whole, 2 chopped
2-3 flat leaf parsley stalks with the leaves on
125 ml white wine
180 gr spring onions, chopped
4 tbsps dill, coarsely chopped
3 tbsps ouzo
2 tomatoes, grated on the large holes of a grater (so that the skin stays behind in your hand)
400 gr long grain rice

De-beard the mussels and scrub them under running water. Drain and discard any broken mussels, or those that stay open.

Heat 2 tbsps of the oil in a large pot (large enough to hold the mussels).

Add the whole garlic and after a couple of minutes, add the drained mussels, parsley and white wine.
Put over high heat and cook covered, until the mussels open.

When all the mussels have opened , remove from the heat and strain, keeping the liquid.
When cool enough, remove half of the mussels from their shells. Keep aside.

Heat the rest of the oil in a wide pot. Add the onion and saute on a low heat until soft and golden.
Stir in the chopped garlic cloves and half of the dill and after 1-2 minutes, add the ouzo ( I added more than specified above as I love its anisey flavour on seafood) and cook until it evaporates.

Then add the tomato.

 Increase the heat to medium and simmer for a few minutes, then add the rice, turning it through to coat well.

Make the mussel broth up to 1 litre by adding to it hot water and add to the pot with the rice. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes until a lot of the liquid has been absorbed. Add all the mussels, turn through and simmer for another 5 minutes, making sure that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot.

Remove from the heat, add some more dill and fluff up the rice. Cover the pot with a clean tea-towel and then put the lid back on and leave for another 10 minutes to steam and finish cooking.