Showing posts with label Gluten free. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Gluten free. Show all posts

Homemade yogurt and poached quince

Nov 19, 2015

     In Greece there are three different types of yogurt, depending on the milk (goat, sheep or cow) used to make it. 
     Yogurt made from cows’ milk is the most popular because of its mildness; it has a less sour taste compared with yogurt made from the milk of goats or sheep.
     In Greece we call yogurt ‘’strained ‘’ if it has undergone a straining process after it has been created. As a result it has far less whey than plain yogurt. Its dense silky texture makes it ideal for cooking too. 
     If you are lucky enough to have access to fresh milk from local farms, you should definitely try at some point to make yogurt at home and experience its wonderful taste. If you have kids, they will be fascinated by the process that magically turns milk into yogurt.
     We make yogurt at home when we have extra milk that is close to its expiry date; this way we give it at least an extra week of shelf life. To be honest, we don’t always strain it to turn it into the so-called ‘’Greek yogurt’’ but you should try straining it at least once and see what works best for you.
     The process is very easy. You only need two tablespoons of plain yogurt per liter of milk. A cooking thermometer too would be ideal to be sure about the right temperatures. Many home cooks claim that within 3-4 hours yogurt has set and it is ready to eat, but I always let it ferment overnight and by the next morning it is ready for breakfast.
     I like to eat yogurt with honey, fresh or poached seasonal fruits, and in many desserts and savory dishes that you can find on my ‘’recipes page’’ on the main menu. Here I also offer the recipe for poached quinces that are in season as I write this.

Homemade yogurt

1litre milk
2Tbsps plain yogurt (not one containing gelatin)

In a pot over medium heat, heat up the milk and, as soon as it reaches 80 C, remove it from the heat.  Then let the temperature of the milk drop to 45 C.
In a small bowl mix the 2 tablespoons of yogurt with a few tablespoons of the warm milk in order to warm and dilute the cold yogurt. Then pour the yogurt mixture into the pot with the warm milk and mix to incorporate. Cover with cling film and place the pot in an isothermal bag like the one you keep your beers cold in at a picnic. If you don’t have an isothermal bag, wrap the pot in a blanket. Let it stand undisturbed overnight. On the following morning the yogurt is ready to eat or to put in the refrigerator.  
If you want to make Greek strained yogurt, place the yogurt in a very fine sieve or a sieve lined with a cheese cloth and place it over a bowl to collect the liquids. If the weather is hot put the bowl with the sieve in the fridge. Let the yogurt strain until it reaches the desired thickness. This might take several hours. Discard the liquid collected in the bowl.
Keep in mind that straining will reduce the amount of yogurt by more than 30%. 

Poached quince

600gr peeled and seeded quince wedges
300gr granulated sugar
500gr (0,5litre) water
1tsp liquid vanilla 

In a cooking pot over medium heat add water and sugar and bring to a boil. Add quince wedges and vanilla and cook for 15min. Let cool and serve with yogurt. You can keep quince refrigerated for a week. 

Zucchini flowers, stuffed with rice, summer veggies, and herbs

Aug 31, 2015


     Searching the Internet for some info on edible flowers, I saw some beautiful pictures of cakes and other fancy desserts decorated with, among other exotica, small blue and yellow pansies and chrysanthemum flowers. Did we always eat pansies on our cakes and in colorful salads or is it one more innovation from Noma (with its inventive kitchen) that has been immediately adopted by all of us?  
     Well, in fact, dried flowers have been used for thousands of years as spices in cooking or in herbal teas for medicinal purposes. Their use in modern cooking today as decorative edible ingredients is really a rebirth of this very old tradition.  Roses and zucchini- squash flowers have never stopped being used in cooking. 
     In Greece we make rose petal jam and we use zucchini flowers in different savory recipes.  When I was a child, whenever my mother made stuffed tomatoes, there would always be some space left in the baking pan for some zucchini flowers to be stuffed especially for me. Stuffing them with rice and summer veggies is still the most popular recipe.
     Today we make entire pans full of stuffed zucchini flowers for the restaurant; it is our most popular summer dish. In order to have as many flowers as possible available every day, we have planted zucchini plants of a climbing variety which can be counted on to produce the greatest number of flowers all across our garden fence. 
     They have to be picked early in the morning when they bloom, almost magically, for only a few hours. If you don’t have a vegetable garden of your own, you can look for them at your local farmer’s market. 

Greek yogurt macaron, with a honey core

Apr 23, 2015

I often wonder what could be characterized as a typical Greek flavor in pastry; and I usually come to the conclusion that yogurt and honey make a pair that many could consider as a classically Greek. So if I make a panna cotta with Greek yogurt and honey, would people think that this Italian dessert has a Greek twist? I can’t judge but it definitely tasted good. Since I have started this ‘alchemy’ of turning famous desserts into Greek with the addition of yogurt and honey, I have discovered that French macarons lend themselves to the treatment!
The first time I ever saw macaron was five or six years ago when I started reading food blogs and came across the blog Tartelette. I remember how beautiful they looked in the pictures. Then I tried them in a pastry shop in Athens and was sure I should try making them myself. My research on the internet showed that macarons are more or less the ‘’Holy Grail’’ of every avid food blogger and I decided I needed one more cooking book, this time one specializing  on the  macaron. Pierre Herme’s ''Macarons'' proved the ideal master class on macarons since he is world famous for all those incredible and unique flavors. Pierre Herme uses the Italian meringue method which has proven to be almost foolproof in my case. 
Now I had to create a Greek yogurt ganache since I couldn’t find any reference on the internet and it turned out that it was a very good idea. The sweetness of the white chocolate is balanced by the mild sour taste of yogurt, creating a very interesting ganache but, this time, with a Greek character.

Black eyed peas stewed with greens

Jan 7, 2015

This post was especially written for Pretty Greek Villas, a site owned by my friends Marie- Louise and Ben. If you are thinking Greece this summer, take a look,for some of the most beautiful villas in the country.

Peloponnesian cuisine is influenced by its sea-girt mountainous topography. Olive oil, wine, grains, pulses, herbs, wild greens, fish, goat and sheep meat, cheese and honey have been staples in local pantries for millenia.  Though olive trees do not flourish at its highest altitudes, still one third of the country’s entire production comes from here because of the quality of the soil and the mild climate. In fact, Peloponnesian cuisine could be described as an olive oil cuisine since generous amounts of olive oil (often added towards the end of cooking) are poured over greens, beans, and all sorts of stews. 
The Northern Peloponnese cuisine has also been influenced by migrations over its long history and so it comprises elements of both the mainland and the islands,.  Most of the dishes fall into the category of one-pot meals in which ingredients are matched wisely to give nutritious and filling dishes, - all based on seasonal production. A characteristic autumn dish in our area is made with beans from the valley of ancient Feneos and greens found in every garden. It is a humble but flavorful dish, elegant in its simplicity. 

Savory cheese flan, with walnuts and pomegranate sauce

Dec 17, 2014


  Have you ever wondered what ancient Greek cooking would taste like? If ancient Greeks could have known that people in the future would be interested in their cuisine, they would most certainly have written down everything about their art of cooking. 

During what we now call the ‘classical period’ ancient Greek civilization reached its peak. Tragic plays and Aristophanes’ comedies describe daily life including scenes around a table. Deipnosophists (from deipnon- dinner and sofos- wise) writing about the philosophic discussions taking place in rich people’s houses during gastronomic feasts described the menus in great detail. These sources inform us that Athenians had three daily meals out of which ‘’deipnon’’, late in the evening, was the last and most rich meal of the day. Dinner in modern Greece is still called ‘’deipno’’.

 Their diet consisted of a great variety of fish, meat from both game and stock farming, grains such as barley and wheat and, of course  vegetables, legumes and wild greens. Olive oil played the most important role in every aspect of their daily life, religious, pharmaceutical, cultural, or alimentary. Wine, a genuine Greek product, was consumed daily. Honey, initially collected from tree cavities before beekeeping methods were developed, was their sweetener. Ancient Greeks preferred a rather sweet cuisine similar to Chinese and Far East cooking today. 
Of course many of  the ingredients mentioned above were seasonal and accessed according to the economic and social status of citizens. I have read a few books about the ancient Greek diet and I thought that this Christmas, my inspiration should come from the flavors of our ancient cuisine.

  This savory cheese flan would be an ideal first course for the Christmas season, combining flavors and textures with festive symbolism. It has a mousse-like texture that nicely compliments the crunchiness of the walnuts and the sweet and sour taste of the pomegranate sauce. Pomegranates symbolize fertility and prosperity and have always been connected with New Year’s festivities in Greece. At the moment the New Year arrives, we break open a pomegranate onto the door step for good luck throughout the year. 

I wish a Merry Christmas to all of you.   

Apples cooked in vanilla syrup

Dec 1, 2014


 An urge to search for traditional recipes with apples resulted because of a walk we took last week near our cottage. We came across a familiar old apple tree still standing next to the ruins of a house. It has never stopped producing apples yearly for more than six decades now as my mother remembers, with no gardener’s care -  just running water from a spring on the property. We hadn’t explored this corner of the village for a couple of years and we were pleased to find that the tree was still productive and that there were still some apples left for us by the birds who had already taken their share. I love that sense of déjà vu under a tree like this, imagining the repeated ritual of harvesting its fruits. 

Though apples have been cultivated in Greece for many centuries yet, as far as I know, there are no recipes in Greek traditional cuisine like pies and cakes, which call for apples. They have always been the most popular year round fruit in every house pantry, but have been appreciated uncooked as a tasty fruit and a healthy snack.

 Firikia (φιρίκια) a local variety of small, oval shaped apples with an intoxicating, sweet aroma and wonderful taste are the only exception to this rule. Firikia are peeled, halved and seeded, and then slow cooked in vanilla syrup with blanched almonds. This way their taste and aromas get richer and more intense. I love them as a quick dessert, paired with yogurt which balances their sweetness.     

Greek yogurt panna cotta, and baked figs with honey and walnuts

Sep 11, 2014


   My grandfather planted a fig tree in the garden of our cottage that, despite its age, has never stopped producing fruits year after year. Fig trees, like olive trees, live long. They are commonly found in the Greek country side next to old houses or ruins, still in perfect shape and full of fruits every August, as if time for them is an endless youth.
     I’m sure you have had that ‘feeling’ when visiting an older relative’s house after many years, a sense that you remember it being bigger and suddenly you realize that houses usually keep their shape and that it is you who, like Alice in Wonderland, grew larger. I had that sense the other day with the fig tree in our garden. As a child I used to climb on its branches to pick more figs and back then I used to think it was huge.
      Our figs are yellow, the variety used for sun dried figs. Every August my grandmother would lay them on thatch on the terrace under the hot summer sun to dry and after the sunset every evening we would help her to carry them into the house to protect them against humidity. That ritual would be repeated for as many days as needed until the figs would dry out and be ready for storage. My grandmother stored them in cookie boxes layered with laurel leaves as a preserving agent.     
      Figs are usually consumed fresh, but in Greece we make a wonderful emerald sweet preserve in June with unripe figs, and of course as I said before, some varieties can be dried and used all year in other confections.   

Lemonáto - Lemon flavored chicken stew

Jul 30, 2014


   Lemon flavored casserole stews, or lemonáta (λεμονάτα) as we call them in Greek, are very popular because of the refreshing and slightly sour taste that the lemon juice and peel give to these dishes. Although lemon flavored dishes are cooked all year long, summer is the most popular season for lemonáta. Hot weather calls for light flavors! Poultry and beef are the most popular meat choices for this dish. 
Lemonáto can be served with pasta, rice or most preferably with homemade fried potatoes.

Visináda - Sour cherries refreshing beverage

Jun 26, 2014


 Visináda (βυσσινάδα) is one of the favorite beverages in Greece. It is made with the juice of sour cherries and sugar, cooked until it’s concentrated into a thick, deep purple syrup. Though sour cherries are not usually eaten raw, they taste just wonderful when cooked with sugar. 

In my little village we have only wild sour cherry trees; I never found out who first cultivated them here but they must have loved this place. And even if you plant only one tree, in a few years you end up with a small wild sour cherry forest because they tend to expand like crazy. Though you need to pit twice the amount of the wild fruit for a recipe compared to cultivated sour cherries, the wild variety has a superb taste. Sour cherries can be found in farmer’s markets at the end of June and early July in Greece; in July and even August in more northern countries.

To enjoy visináda, pour in a glass, one part of syrup and four parts of ice cold water or club soda and fill with ice. Sour cherry syrup can also be used over ice cream and desserts or in cocktails for color and taste.

Amygdalotá - almond meal, gluten free cookies

Mar 1, 2014


  Almond based confections or amygdalotá (αμυγδαλωτά) as we call them are found all over Greece in endless versions. They can be shaped like pears, balls, or little logs and are usually flavored with scented flower blossom water,  a liquor or, less often, with vanilla.  They are often sold filled with jam or chocolate ganache  and resemble French macarons.
Amygdalotá in many Aegean islands are a special little treat symbolizing happiness and prosperity  and offered to guests  at weddings and Christenings,. 
The version of amygdalotá I made today is found in pastry shops all over the country. They are plainer than the filled versions and made with a higher ratio of almond meal.

Feta and sundried tomato balls in oregano and chili flavored olive oil

Feb 13, 2014


What might characterize our family meals in Greece is the variety of dishes served. Housewives rarely cook only one dish for the family and, even when they do, three or more side dishes are usually served as well. We love little bites of this and that, what we call mezedes; they are most often cheese, olives, pickles, all sorts of savory spreads,and flaky pies with fillings that vary according to the season of the year. Preparing them at home demands some effort but they cost less and offer flavorful snacksevery day.
 Meze bites are also served when you want to have a snack with your wine, beer or ouzo but not eat an actual meal. In Greece there are restaurants that serve only meze dishes from an endless list; these places are called ‘’mezedopolia’’ (μεζεδοπωλεία).
 Feta balls are a wonderful meze to prepare ahead and can be served straight from the jar to the table or spread on slices of bread. Toasting the bread with feta under the grill for a few minutes provides a filling and impressive warm meze.

Patzarosaláta - Beetroot, Greek yogurt and walnut salad

Dec 5, 2013

Tsatziki may be an all time classic for Greeks but, when we had guests at home, my mother always thought it was too garlicky for everyone’s taste. Of course you can use less garlic but then it wouldn’t be a tsatziki!
 Beetroot salad (patzarosaláta, παντζάροσαλάτα) is a wonderful alternative side dish.  With just an idea of garlic and an impressive light purple color when mixed, it is ideal for any occasion.  It compliments both vegetable and meat stews, as well as barbecued and oven baked dishes.
Greek yogurt with its thick consistency holds the ingredients in the salad together, giving a silky texture to the final dish. You can use low fat yogurt but since this dish is very healthy and balanced, why not use full fat yogurt to contribute to a rich taste?  Walnuts match really well with the other ingredients and provide a light nutty flavor. 

Karitháta - Super healthy walnut, honey and oat treats

Nov 19, 2013

 These treats have always been our family’s way to celebrate the new walnut (Greek-καρύδια) crop. I remember my grandmother preparing them for the celebration of the Archangels Gabriel and Michael on the 8th of November. Their tiny chapel is in a village next to ours and, on the day, everyone would bring homemade cakes, treats, or hot coffee and tea to be shared in the chapel’s yard after the service. As a kid it was the only time I really looked forward to going to church because I could sample so many sweets in one morning. At the end of spring, before they could spoil and became tangy from the summer heat, my grandmother would use the remaining walnuts to make a final batch.
    I thought I’d try a healthier version of this treat using honey and oats instead of the sugar and grated wheat rusks the original recipe called for, and I’m happy it really worked.

Krema vanilia - traditional vanilla pudding

Nov 3, 2013

Vanilla cream is one of those archetypical and international recipes people have followed since they discovered that by combining milk with egg and flour; you can make a very nutritious and hearty food. In international pastry circles, this cream is called a ‘’pudding’’ and it is also used as a filling for pastries; when in Greece we call it ’krema” and, dusted with cinnamon, it can be found both in  super markets and traditional milk shops.
 Vanilla cream reminds me of my childhood probably because I ate so many bowls of it back then. It’s been a long time since I last had some, and now that the weather is a bit chilly, I thought it would be a good idea to revive these post-school afternoon vanilla creams. 

Lamb fricassee with wild greens and avgolémono sauce

Oct 16, 2013


    The French term fricassee refers to meat cooked by a method somewhere between a sauté and a stew and served with a white sauce. It is a mystery how this term came to define a totally different thing in Greek cuisine. We Greeks call fricassee (φρικασέ) any meat or even fish, that is cooked with greens and thickened with avgolémono (egg and lemon) sauce. The most popular Greek fricassee calls for lamb with wild greens and herbs. In Greece we love wild greens which are collected in the country side, from September to May, and most often cooked in plenty of water and served as a salad seasoned with olive oil and lemon juice. Of course all kinds of greens such as kale, chicory or even lettuce can be used in a fricassee.

Authentic sun dried tomatoes

Sep 9, 2013

Everyone loves the wonderful taste of sun dried tomatoes. When you pick a small jar of them in the super market it is hard to imagine just how many ripe tomatoes needed to dry out, in order to fill this small jar. Tomatoes are more than 90% water by weight. The prospect of reducing them is one of the reasons why some people seem to find store bought ones easier to use although the truth is that homemade sun dried tomatoes are tastier by far.

At the end of August till late September we usually harvest many ripe tomatoes. They are at the peak of their season and although we use them in salads and give them away to friends, they are always too many to consume while perfect and ripe. This year we made ketchup, sauce for pasta and, of course, our favorite meze: sun dried tomatoes. The weather was hot (33 C) with low moisture so it only took 2 days for the tomato fillets to dry out. We only had the classic round tomatoes to work with so we cut four fillets from each tomato (you need skin-on slices). If you are not lucky enough to grow your own tomatoes, you can find wonderful tomatoes at the farmers’ markets at this time of the year at very reasonable prices. Even if the weather is not that hot in your country you can always make your own ‘’sun dried’’ style tomatoes in the oven. You can even choose how dry you prefer your tomatoes, but keep in mind that the less you dry them the faster you should consume them. 

Revitháda - slow baked chick peas stew with tomato and oregano

Aug 27, 2013

In Aegean islands like Sifnos and Kalimnos chick pea stews are a favorite dish all year long. Housewives there place their chick peas (revithia in Greek) in clay cooking pots specially made from local ceramists and bring them to the village bakery shop late in the afternoon where the stews are slow cooked overnight in the oven that is still hot from baking bread.

 Slow baking is what makes chick peas really tender, so tasty, and easy to digest. I remember a friend who visited the island of Milos telling me of the cooking method a tavern there was using for their chick peas. Milos is a volcanic island and there are hot springs as well as areas where the ground itself  is still very hot. There, by the beach, a local tavern owner had dig a deep hole in the hot volcanic soil and in it had placed a few clay pots with his chick pea specialty and left them to cook naturally for several hours. Amazing! 

You don’t need a special clay pot or even a volcano to make delicious chick peas at home, - just a heat proof casserole dish, an oven, and a little patience. It is simple and worth trying.

Greek frozen yogurt with honey and walnuts

Jul 26, 2013

    Yogurt and honey has always  been a favorite combination for Greeks. Ancient Greeks used to make a thick milk product that was called piriáti (Greek- πυριάτη). It was served as a dessert with nuts fruits and honey 
    Greek yogurt (γιαούρτι - yaoúrti) has become very popular worldwide because of its delicate balanced sourness, full taste and, of course, its thickness, something that makes it easy to use in many recipes, sweet or savory, as a replacement for double cream or other milk creams rich in fat. It's most visible characteristic compared to ordinary yogurt is its density, a result of it being double-strained. If you can't find Greek yogurt, you can strain thinner yogurt at home to thicken it and use it in recipes that call for Greek yogurt. To strain yogurt, place a colander lined with cheesecloth over a large bowl (to catch the liquid) and empty two cups of plain yogurt into the colander; leave it to drain for 2-3 hours. Two cups of plain yogurt will obtain about 1 cup of thick strained yogurt. If the weather is very hot, let it drain in the fridge.

    Frozen yogurt is not a Greek invention but it really is healthier than any other frozen style dessert. You can make frozen yogurt in an ice-cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions or just mix the ingredients by hand -as I did- and freeze them until serving time.

Fondant a la Grec - a delicious sugar Submarine

Jun 26, 2013

As a kid there were three sweets that I loved most, all of them made with sugar and water: cotton candy usually found on during festivals, lemon flavored candies found just about everywhere, and  a vanilla soft fondant served on a teaspoon dipped in a glass of ice cold water. Because it was submerged in water, we called it submarine (ipovrichio in Greek).

Summers in Greece are hot, so it is quite usual to take a nap for an hour after lunch until the hottest part of the day has passed. I never liked sleeping during the day, especially during school holidays when free time is plentiful but never enough. The only thing that could keep me in bed for an hour was the promise of sweets when the adults would have their coffee after the siesta. There were no ice creams in the little village where our cottage was so unless mom made chocolate mosaico for me, submarine was my favorite alternative..
This sweet was always store bought and it came in vanilla or mastic flavor; I had never heard of anyone actually making it at home. A few days ago when I found myself missing the taste of  ''submarine'' I did some research on the internet and  looked in my cooking books for a recipe and I found two versions, one with  corn syrup  and one with honey, and I tried both. I used fresh strawberry juice as a natural flavoring. When I tasted them, it all came back to me: childhood mid summer afternoons!

Dolmades - stuffed vine leaves with rice and herbs

Jun 15, 2013

  Vines are probably the only plants in Greece where every part of the plant except the roots are used in cooking.  In May fresh stems are pickled and used in salads or served as a meze and the vine leaves themselves are stuffed with rice (dolmádes), meat or fish.  Juice from unripe grapes is used in mountainous regions as a seasoning early in summer when lemons are not available and, of course wine, is a classic ingredient in cooking everywhere. In February and March, the season of pruning, some of the dry vine branches are collected and are used all year long in a special cooking technique: the dry vine branches are arranged in a layer at the bottom of a baking pan, and the lamb meat is set on them, so that during cooking the juices don't come in contact with the meat. This way the meat browns all over.
     Here I present the recipe for classic dolmádes (ντολμάδες), stuffed vine leaves with rice and herbs, a dish cooked in spring with fresh vine leaves or all year long with preserved ones which can be found in any store selling Mediterranean food products. Dolmádes can be served as a first or a main course or a as a meze.