25 June 2015

Fasolatha (φασολάδα): national food of the Greeks

 

You say tomato....I say fasolada, fasolatha, fasoulada or sometimes fasolia. Whichever way you say it, this meat-free soup of dried white beans, olive oil, and vegetables is called the "national food of the Greeks".

A year or so ago, I posted a recipe for 'slow cooker' Fasolatha. In this post, I am sharing the recipe for the traditional stove top and a big pot method.

This dish is said to have originated in ancient Greece and it has a counterpart in Turkish cuisine (kuru fasulye) and can also be found as fasoulia in Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Egypt, Yemen and the Levant. Within Greece, recipes for Fasolatha are regional and considerably different. One thing most recipes share in common is that the soup is enriched with a good amount of olive oil.

This dish is a perfect winter warmer and a great option for a comforting weekend cook-up. Traditionally, pickled hot peppers or vegetables (called toursi), olives (and sometimes a little cheese) are served on the table alongside this soup - along with, of course, a big bottle of extra virgin olive oil - for those who want to add a little more.

 

 

Fasolatha (φασολάδα)

Ingredients

500g dried organic great northern white beans, soaked overnight

2 bay leaves

1/2 cup extra virigin olive oil

1 brown onion, diced

3 carrots, diced

3 celery sticks with young leaves, diced

3 tomatoes, grated

1 teaspoon of Aleppo pepper or crushed dried chilli

salt, to taste

fresh parsley, finely chopped, for garnish

Vegetable pickles (toursi) and olives, to serve (optional)

Method:

1. Drain the soaked beans and place them in a large pot with and enough cold water to just cover. Bring to the boil, for 5 minutes then drain.

2. Again place the beans in a large pot with and enough cold water to just cover. Bring to the boil, for 5 minutes and then turn off the heat. Leave the beans to soak for an hour.

3. Meanwhile, heat olive oil in another large pot over low heat and add the onion, carrots, celery and sauté until softened, but not browned. Then add tomstoes and Aleppo pepper.

4. Drain the beans and add these to the pot with the vegetables. Add enough warm water or chicken stock to just cover. Simmer until the beans have completely softened and the soup is thick to your liking - about 60 - 90 minutes. Add salt to taste just before serving, do not add earlier because it will make the beans tough. Serve with toursi or hot peppers and olives.

 

 

 

 

19 June 2015

Htapodi toursi, pickled octopus with organic thyme (χταπόδι τουρσί)

 

 

Pickled octopus is one of the most common meze, served with ouzo in tavernas all over Greece. It is also something served regularly on the table in Greek homes - simple but delicious fare.

 

 

I love to keep a jar of this meze in the fridge. Along with a little plate of cheese, olives and a little sausage - it makes for the perfect instant meze if you have surprise guests. Just don't forget to serve with some ouzo on ice.

 

 

 

Prepared with just a few ingredients, the success of this dish depends pretty much upon the quality of the octopus. In Australia, some of the best octopus comes from South Australia, where it has been caught after feasting on lobster and crab pots. Wherever your octopus comes from, it needs careful cooking to have that sweet, succulent, slightly chewy texture. The octopus should be cooked for around 45-60 minutes, any longer and it will become gelatinous and mushy - which is no good for pickling.

Dried Greek rigani and thyme are both perfect partners for the rich flavour of the octopus. I am delighted to be using the beautiful organic thyme from Homer St. The organic thyme is wonderfully pungent, hand picked along the Greek Pindos Mountains.

 

 

 

 

Htapodi toursi, pickled octopus with organic thyme (χταπόδι τουρσί)

Ingredients:

1 octopus, about 1.5 kg

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 cup Greek olive oil

3/4 cup of Greek wine vinegar

1 tsp. dried Greek rigani

1 tsp. dried organic wild thyme

A pinch of ground Spanish paprika

salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 – 2 sterilized jars

To serve:

lemon wedges

flat-leaf parsley

Method:

1. To clean the octopus, pull off the tentacles and remove the intestines and ink sac. Cut out the eyes and beak. Remove the skin and rinse well.

2. Place the body and tentacles of the octopus in a large saucepan without any liquid. Cover and simmer the octopus in its own juices over low heat until it turns deep pink and is tender (about 45–60 minutes).

3. Drain the octopus. When cool enough to handle, cut the head and tentacles into bite-sized pieces and place in a bowl.

4. Add the Greek wine vinegar into a small pot and add bring to the boil over medium heat. Turn the heat off, add the garlic, thyme, rigani, paprika and olive oil and stir well to combine.

5. Place pieces of octopus in the jars and then pour the dressing into the jars (ensure the octopus is covered). Leave to marinate in the refrigerator for 12 hours before using. Stir occasionally. Store in your fridge for up to 1 month.

6. To serve, lift the octopus out of the marinade, pile into a dish and garnish with lemon wedges and plenty of finely chopped parsley (I like to stir this through before serving). Don't worry if the marinade seems a little thick after it has been in the fridge. It will become more liquid when the oil returns to room temperature.

 

 

16 June 2015

Fasolakia Lathera (φασολάκια λαδερά) - braised green beans

 

 

Lathera dishes are a wonderful genre. Plenty of vegetables slow cooked in olive oil and tomato with lots of herbs. Lathera are normally made with seasonal vegetables like green beans or okra in summer and in winter, I would ordinarily make this type of dish with cauliflower or peas (see the recipe here) but as the season has been so mild - I couldn't resist the green beans and fresh green garlic at my local market.

 

Fasolakia (the Greek word for beans) is eaten in our house as a main dish, with a little whole wheat bread or barley rusks, olives and of course, feta cheese. This is such a delicious way to get a big intake of vegetables. You are not aiming for crunchy green beans in the dish - but ones that simply melt when you eat them. I'm fairly sure that lathera dishes are the secret of the Greek-Mediterranean diet. My husband was raised on them and it made his love of consuming lots of vegetables effortless. You simply don't need meat with this type of dish because it is so rich and filling by itself - and you cover off about four servings of vegetables in one sitting! This dish is rich in fiber, antioxidants, good fats and plenty of vitamins.

 

 

A word of advice - don't skimp on the olive oil, you really do need a quarter to half a cup. After all, "Lathera" means "the dishes with the oil". The oil brings out all of the flavours in the dish - and brings together all of those antioxidants and vitamins - magnifying their nutritional value, by increasing their absorption. You can add a few potatoes to this dish to fill it out a little, or you can have it without, lowering the carbohydrates.

 

 

Fasolakia Lathera (φασολάκια λαδερά) - braised green beans

At least 1/4 cup good Greek olive oil (my mother in law recommends 1/2 a cup)

1 red onion, finely chopped

2-3 heads & green stems of fresh green garlic (or 4-5 cloves of garlic)

1/2 kg fresh green beans

4 medium tomatoes, grated

1 bunch fresh parsley, finely chopped

2 cinammon quills

A pinch of Greek sea salt (feta will add salt later)

A pinch of sugar (if tomstoes are not fully 'high summer' ripe)

A good teaspoon of Aleppo pepper

Method:

1. Sauté the onions for a few minutes in medium pot with the oil. Add the garlic and sauté for a few minutes more.

2. Add the tomatoes, salt, sugar, Aleppo pepper, cinnamon and half the parsley and let it come to a boil.

3. Add the green beans and lower the heat and let them simmer until soft and tender about an hour.

4. Serve a room temperature (it is also great the following day) topped with crumbled feta and the remaining parsley.

 

 

 

9 June 2015

In my kitchen June: crab apples, quince, chestnuts and jerusalem artichokes


Winter's harvest has arrived in my kitchen this June and it has bought some of my favourite cool weather ingredients: crab apples, quinces, chestnuts, pine (or saffron milk cap) mushrooms and Jerusalem artichokes.

23 May 2015

Name day celebrations: Fried sardines with rigani, capers & lemon (σαρδέλες τηγανητές)



This week saw the name day of my dearest Mr K, who was named after his paternal grandfather, Konstantinos. In Greek culture, name days are much anticipated and more significant than birthdays. Name days originate from the Greek Orthodox Church's calendar of Saints - people celebrate on their particular saint’s day with a special feast or party. Traditionally, the person celebrating their name day offers sweets or drinks to family members, friends and work colleagues and in return they are given the blessing of 'Hronia Polla' meaning ‘many happy years’.


3 May 2015

Apple picking & Greek Apple Pie - Milopita (μηλόπιτα)



Sometimes what I need more than anything is a little time away in the country - even if that means actually only just a short 40 minute drive away home. And that is how I came to find myself, with Mr K and the Zen's, at Glenbernie Orchard at Darkes Forest on a bright crisp autumn day, picking apples.


30 April 2015

South Coast Oyster (and olive oil) Odyssey

 

 

Oysters. You either love them or hate them. As I am a new fan – and Mr K is a long-standing, dedicated fan, we headed to the NSW mid-South coast to explore the ‘oyster trail’ and discover where, the oysters we love, come from.

23 April 2015

ANZAC Biscuits: a recipe for remembrance


 
ANZAC biscuits were probably one of the very first recipes I made with my mum, when I was very little. My mum had learnt the recipe from her mother who had, in turn, learnt the recipe from her mother. During World War I, my great grandmother made these biscuits and sent them to her brothers who served overseas with the Australian Army during World War I, like so many other Australian mothers, wives, girlfriends and sisters. My paternal grandmother also used to make them regularly too - ever since the 1940s when she would prepare the biscuits and send them to my grandfather, while he was serving overseas in the Australian Army during World War II. The recipes from either side of my family are fairly similar, the only difference bring the addition of some desiccated coconut by my Grandmother.

21 April 2015

Greek style cheesecake with petimezi syrup (Γλυκιά μυζηθρόπιτα)



The end of Lent calls for a little dairy indulgence. This Greek style cheesecake called a 'myzithropita' (μυζηθρόπιτα) is the perfect way to indulge after abstaing from dairy and eggs for over 40 days. Best of all, it contains very little added sugar and is not overly sweet - so it doesn't leave you feeling too guilty if you happen to have a second slice!


19 April 2015

At look back at Greek Easter '15




Easter is the most important celebration for my Greek family. It just inches ahead of Christmas and it holds a very special place in my heart. I love the traditions of colourful dyed eggs, tsoureki, the Easter biscuits - Koulourakia, spit-roast of lamb and the "lambathes" decorated candles. The Easter rituals of the Orthodox Church are rich and spiritual. Even though it falls during the start of Autumn in Australia, there is still that feeling of energy and renewal that often comes with the start of spring.

6 April 2015

In my kitchen April '15




Καλό μήνα lovely readers and welcome to April!! If you are wondering what Καλό μήνα (Kalo Mina) means - it literally means "good month" and it is a Greek greeting given every first day of each month. It is the Greek way of wishing friends and family a good month ahead of them - a way of wishing you, lovely reader, well.


3 April 2015

Ma's kalamari yemista: calamari stuffed with leeks, currants and pine nuts (καλαμαράκια γεμιστά)





When I first got married, I was fascinated by the way my mother in law expertly cleaned calamari. Nearly five years on, nothing has changed. Where Ma may use a toothbrush to painstakingly clean fish for her family, she often uses a knitting needle to ensure the inside of the calamari tube is immaculately clean. Having grown up on a Greek island, her skill in cooking all types of seafood and her knowledge of how it should be treated and used is truly impressive. Ma's "salty" island blood and passion for seafood has been passed on to her children - certainly my Mr K, so it was early in my marriage that I got to grips with cleaning calamari and octopus - and selecting it at the market.