Monday, 7 March 2011

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.

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