26 July 2015

Braised octopus with short pasta (χταπόδι μακαρονάδα)

 

 

It may still be winter in Sydney, but with two long warm sunny days - it is beginning to feel like spring is just around the corner. When the days start getting longer and warmer, I have an overwhelming urge to eat outside, accompanied by the fragrance of jasmine starting to bloom on the neighbour's fence. Seafood just has to be on the menu also, as a little reminder that soon enough the days will be hot and spent at the beach.

 

 

 

 

 

This dish is Greek lent / fasting classic (handy that Greek lent falls during springtime in Greece!!). It is also a family favourite all year round, a kind of Greek 'comfort food'. When cooking the octopus at step one, don't be tempted to add any extra liquid to the pot. The octopus will release all its lovely salty juices, becoming tender and mouth-watering. These juices will, in turn, make the most delicious sauce for the short pasta, along with fresh tomatoes and a little hint of chilli. Indeed, the octopus itself is not really the star of this dish - it is just there to flavour of the sauce for the pasta, so much so that this dish is probably best described as pasta in an octopus sauce, rather than 'braised octopus'. In terms of the pasta itself - don't go throwing any spaghetti in here. It is traditional to use a short pasta called 'koftaki' or 'kofto miso' in Greek - try the Helios, Melissa or Misko range which you can buy from grocers here in Australia.

 

 

 

Braised octopus with short pasta (χταπόδι μακαρονάδα)

1 large octopus (about 1.5 kilos), cleaned

½ cup extra-virgin Greek olive oil

1 medium red onion, finely chopped

1 medium brown onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 cups peeled, seeded, chopped fresh Roma tomatoes

1 cup dry red wine (such as a Greek xinomavro)

500 g short pasta, such as kofto miso or koftaki.

Pinch of Aleppo pepper or dried chilli flakes

150-200 ml boiling water

Method:

  1. Place some of the olive oil in a wide, heavy pot over medium heat, add the onions and sauté until transparent but not browned, then add the octopus whole. Cover and cook over very low heat, until the octopus exudes its juices and turns deep pink, and the onion is very tender, about 15-20 minutes. Remove the octopus and cut into pieces.
  2. Add the garlic to the pot and stir over medium heat. Then put the octopus pieces back in the pot, together with the tomatoes. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the wine. Reduce heat and simmer for another 25 minutes over medium – low heat, or until the sauce is thick.
  3. Add the dried pasta to the same pot, ontop of the sauce. Start by adding around 150mls of boiling water to the pot and stir well, allowing the pasta to cook. You need to stir every couple of minutes to ensure the pasta does not stick to the bottom of the pot. You may add to need more boiling water as you go, check the pasta by tasting it. Then serve immediately - the rest of your bottle of xinomavro will match nicely and you can also serve some feta and olives on the side.

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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.