Saturday, March 29

French feast: chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

 

There is something so wonderfully cosy and traditional about serving chicken for a Sunday lunch. The idea can sometimes be a bit intimidating, when all you want to do is relax with family and friends. However, there are so many recipes which are seriously easy - and this is one of them.

 

 
I first learnt to make this dish in the French town of Ceret. At the Saturday morning at the market, I was completely seduced by the huge displays of creamy, white garlic with its soft papery skin. Although the 40 cloves in this dish sounds rather overpowering, the final result is not. The garlic is slowly caramelised in its skin as it cooks and becomes sweet and creamy, with no fiery pungency. As the chicken is pot roasted, the chicken is also wonderful juicy - with none of the worries of dryness, that often come with straight out roasting. The added bonus of the dish is also that it will leave your kitchen smelling amazing!
 

 

Chicken with 40 Cloves of Garlic

2 celery stalks, with leaves, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

1 small onion, quartered

1 large free-range chicken

2 bay leaves

40ml (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil

4 sprigs of rosemary

4 sprigs of thyme

4 sprigs of parsley

40 garlic cloves, skin on

300ml white wine

Method

1. Preheat oven to 190C. Cut one celery stalk into small pieces and place in the cavity of the chicken along with the bay leaves and two sprigs each of parsley, thyme and rosemary and 5 cloves of garlic. Tie the legs together with kitchen string to secure, then rub the chicken with the olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

2. In a casserole dish (which will fit the chicken snugly) scatter 10 garlic cloves, remaining herbs, carrot, celery and onion. Place the chicken ontop of the herbs and vegetables. Add the remaining garlic cloves and wine and bring to the boil on the stovetop over medium heat. Cover with a lid and transfer to the oven for 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove lid and roast for a further 10 minutes or until the chicken is golden brown.

3. Carefully remove the chicken from the pot and strain juices into a small saucepan (reserve the garlic cloves). Spoon off the fat and then boil for a few minutes and then turn down the heat and allow to reduce and thicken slightly.

4. Cut the chicken into serving portions, and place on a bed of mashed potato. Pour over some of the sauce and scatter with garlic. Serve along with toasted baguette slices, which are best spread with the soft flesh of the garlic, squeezed from the skins.

 

 

 

Sunday, March 23

Greek inspired brunch

 
The quote, "Saturday mornings are for mimosas and brunch" summed up my weekend perfectly. A catch up with my girlfriends was long, long overdue and the date was set for brunch in my garden, in the Autumn sunshine. To sustain our excited chatter about new houses, dating stories, work successes, family and planned overseas adventures, we had strawberry mimosas and lots of little Greek style mezedes - with a 'breakfasty' twist.

 

Sunday, March 16

Irish Boxty Potato Pancakes

It may be a cliche, but potatoes and Ireland go hand in hand. The humble spud continues to be a staple of the Irish diet and the Irish love of the potato has been carried to many corners of the world with waves of Irish migration.

The Gaelic word “boxty” literally translates to “poor man’s bread,” yet despite this title it has remained a firm favourite for many families, including mine. Boxty hails from the Irish North midlands including Mayo, Sligo, Donegal, Fermanagh, Longford, Leitrim and Cavan. The most common form of Boxty is bread - made with finely grated raw potato and mashed potato mixed together. You can see the recipe here. There are many uniquely Irish versions of potato bread, and you can see another recipe here which omits the grated raw potato and includes chives.

 

Thursday, March 13

Feasting while fasting: Revithosoupa I ρεβιθόσουπα

The Lenten fasting season has started. In our house it was marked by Mr K asking, "do you know how to make fassolada?"

During Greek Orthodox lent, you are supposed to supposed to avoid animal products (meat, dairy, fish) until Easter. The only animal products allowed are shellfish, octopus and calamari. Tahini is used as a source of fat. The traditional fasting rules also do not allow the use of olive oil and wine during the week and only on the weekends one can consume them. As such, many stovetop dishes are cooked, which usually have lots of legumes, wild greens, vegetable and pasta or rice. Hence Mr K's question, about the all important fassolada - a hearty soup with lots of beans and vegetables.


I was a bit confused about where to start with making fassolada. All the books I had read and recipes I had collected on our recent trips to Greece suggested that fassolada was made with white beans. Mr K was fairly insistent that it was made with chickpeas.

Saturday, March 8

In my kitchen: March



The intense heat of summer is slowly fading. The cooling of the air, in the late evening and early morning, signals the start of my favourite season, Autumn. One of the reasons why I love March, is because the rich brightly coloured summer produce is at its best. Tomatoes, eggplants and zucchini are bursting with the warmth of a long, hot summer. Lush, ripe figs are just starting to fill the market, along with dark, velvety black currants. The olive oil and wine harvest is on the horizon, only a few short months away. The leaves haven't fallen from the trees yet, but they are just starting to turn. When they do, the market will be filled with similar hues in the form of plump squashes and pumpkins



In my kitchen this March...
...there are many, many jars filled with fresh passata. At the very end of Feburary, the long eggplant shaped roma tomatoes were at their best and it was time for tomato day. This year, Madame Zen joined in the fun - now we both have a stock of 'summer in a bottle' for the winter months ahead. Inspired by my recent Italian travels, I would have loved to have been able to use traditional San Marzano tomatoes for our passata. I have vowed to use them next year and I have the seeds ready to plant when early Spring visits, later in the year. I did however get to use the 'Emanuel 3 il passatutto, food mill, which I bought back from our travels in Puglia, to help purée the tomatoes. It was magnificent.

In my kitchen this March...
...there are also some jars filled with 'druken figs'. Using my grandmother's old recipe, we will have a stock of figs - soaking away in white port - for chilly winter days, when fig season has long passed.



In my kitchen this March...

...there are loaves of homemade olive bread, called eliopsomo in Greek. I was given the recipe for this bread on our recent trip to Lefkada. It is filled with dill, onion and of course, Greek black olives. I used the last of some of the olives we bottled at the end of Autumn last year to fill the dough, before rolling it into a spiral. The dough itself is very simple, just self raising flour, good Greek olive oil and beer. The recipe can be found on my Instagram account @mrs_mulberry.





Sunday, February 16

Greek vanilla cream pudding I κρέμα βανίλια



Nearly every culture has its own version of a vanilla cream or custard. In Greece, it is called a 'krema' and is usually heavily dusted with layers of cinnamon. It is a standard in all Greek homes and is a favourite childhood dessert, along with rizogalo, a rich and creamy rice pudding flavoured with orange zest. It can also be used a a filling for many Greek pastries, like the delectable morning breakfast pastry, bougatsa.


The first time I tried this pudding was during our honeymoon, on the Island of Lefkada. It had been many years since Mr K had tried a krema. The traditional milk shops, which can be found in the streets and winding alleyways of Lefkas Town, sold them in little teracotta and white plastic tubs, for 1euro each along with complimentary dustings of cinnamon. This sort of traditional shop has long died out in Australia. Even the 1950s style milk bar and corner store is close to extinction. On every trip back to Lefkas, I am always happy to see the milk shops are still there and selling the delectable krema and rizogalo! The stores are a beautiful window of history and it is heartening to see that they are still a part of everyday life - frequented by many customers.

The basis of the pudding is cornflour (or cornstarch) and it is incredibly versatile. You can serve it alongside fruit, with the traditional layers of cinnamon and a little nutmeg. For big kids, you can add chocolate and a splash of hazelnut liqueur.


Sunday, February 9

In my kitchen February

 

 

One of the things I miss so much after returning from our trip to Greece this year are the fresh wild greens, which grow in abudance and are served in just about every taverna. You can see some we ordered in Kefalonia, here. Lucky for me, my beautiful father in law planted some Green Amaranth or Vlita (as they are called in Greek) in early spring. Today he presented me with a gorgeous green bouquet and so it is that this month, my kitchen is blooming with these delicious greens.

 

Tuesday, February 4

More summer fare: Greek herb and zucchini fritters

 

 

These lovely little herb and zucchini fritters are called "Kolokithokeftedes" in Greek. Mr K enjoyed these fritters only ever 'now and again' while he was growing up. On our first few trips to Greece, Mr K introduced me to these delicious mezedes, when we ordered them at various tavernas throughout Greece.

 

The key to making very flavorful Kolokithokeftedes is to be generous with the herbs! I use plenty of dill, as I love the classic fresh flavour it brings to many Greek dishes and lots and lots of mint. At the moment our garden is abundant with a variety of mint types as well as zucchini. These little fritters are such a perfect edible emblem for summer produce. The kefelograveria cheese also gives the sweet zucchini and fresh herbs a lovely salty edge. Use more or less cheese to suit your palate.

Monday, February 3

Greek style stuffed zucchini blossoms

 

Zucchini blossoms would have to be one of the true blessings of summer. The old saying, that you eat with your eyes first, is so apt for these beauties. The warm colour and soft, tissue-paper texture of the zucchini blossoms makes them so inviting to cook with. I love having them in my kitchen during summer and early autumn.

 

In Australia, zucchini blossoms fall into that group of specialty produce. However, they are becoming much easier to find. You can get them at most farmers markets during summer and early autumn. This is such a contrast to Greece, where the zucchini blossoms are commonplace fare - found even in the smallest of fruit and vegetable stands and with the sellers who drive around from village to village. This is because any display of zucchini always has the flowers attached, as a tell tale sign of the freshness of the produce. It is such a shame that we don't have the same practice here in Australia, although the specially grown zucchini flowers that you can by here are absolutley wonderful.

In Greece, one of the more common ways if cooking zucchini flowers is by filling them with herbs and rice, and then slow cooking them in the oven in a light tomato and olive oil sauce. If you are interested in trying zucchini blossoms this way, you can find the recipe here from my recent travels in Kefalonia.

 

 

Back at home in my Australian kitchen, I was inspired to use my beautiful zucchini blossoms in more of a mezedes style, rather than the traditional Greek baked version. The blossoms were filled with a mix of kefelograveria cheese and ricotta ( in Greece I would probably use a fresh mizyithra cheese instead), the classic Greek flavour - dill and a little anchovy to add a salty balance.

Saturday, January 11

Greek stuffed tomatoes with spinach rice

 

Hello lovely friends. Welcome to 2014!! In the last few days I have been reflecting on the positive experiences of the year that has passed. I feel very blessed to have celebrated a 'significant' birthday for my mother in law, mother and Mr K. Also, a significant wedding anniversary for my parents. There were many special times with family and good friends. The arrival of new lives and the joining of beautiful souls in marriage. There was also the exciting discoveries that came with a 'first time' visit to New York, New Caledonia, Puglia in Southern Italy - and of course, new places in Greece!

 

 

2014, will hopefully be even more wonderful, than the year that has passed. New Year's Eve presented a great omen for the coming year when, while I was making a dark chocolate Venetian rice torte, I cracked open an egg to find - a double yolk! Certainly, my garden has lived up to this expectation and it is bursting with bright summer goodness. The heritage Australian and Italian varieties of tomatoes have been particularly abundant - and beautiful.

Monday, December 30

Party food: crab cakes, noodle salad and lemon ice tea



Have you ever been to one of those cocktail parties, where it seems the cocktails were prioritised over the food? You know the scene, guest start loitering near the kitchen doors and pounce on the trays as they are ready. These are two of my favourite nibbles, perfect for new years eve cocktail parties - and guaranteed to have guests pouncing for another bite, simply because the beautiful flavours, not because they are utterly starving. The crab cakes themselves are wonderfully light - and the noodle salad provides something with a little substance, as well as being largely vegetarian friendly. The lemon iced tea, filled with colourful summer flowers from the garden also provides a nice alternative to the usual soft drinks and mocktails for those (unfortunate few) who have to be the designated driver!



Saturday, December 28

Christmas bread from Zakynthos


Hello, lovely friends. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas celebration, filled with all manner of delicious things! I thought I would share with you, one particular treat, which featured on our Christmas table this year - and also a new tradition. Like many families, we spent half of Christmas day at the homes of both of our parents. In the morning, we started Christmas day with delicate little glasses of Metaxa brandy, on ice, and delicious slices of home made hortopita (wild greens pie) that had been lovingly made by my mother-in-law. In the afternoon, we headed down to my parents home to share Christmas evening with them and my gorgeous cousins and aunt - as well as an uncle who had surprised us on Christmas eve and was visiting all the way from far North Queensland.

Not having our families altogether this year (we hosted one big combined Christmas in the first year we were married), I wanted to bring something to both Christmas tables, to be shared by our families - across Sydney. On our recent trip back to Greece, I had been inspired by a recipe I was given for "Christopsomo", a Greek Christmas bread. The recipe was similar to an Italian panettone and was baked into a large round loaf - again similar to panettone. Like many countries in Europe, Greece also has its regional specialities. I was told that in Zakynthos, the home island of my mother-in-law and her family, the Christopsomo is made a little differently to the rest of Greece. It includes the famous Zakynthian currants, for which the Island is famous and instead of the Christopsomo being baked into a big, high round loaf - it is shaped into a large ring.





On Christmas eve, I made one large bread for each family. The recipe makes HUGE breads - and I probably made not only enough for each of our families, but also my mother-in-law's village in Zakynthos! On Christmas day, at my parents home, I asked my dad, as the eldest member of the family at our table to carry out a Greek Christmas tradition, involving the Christopsomo. The eldest family member pours a little sprinkle of olive oil - and sometimes also a little wine - over the bread before cutting it and making a Christmas blessing for the family. Slices are then passed around to all those gathered at the table. A coin is hidden in the bread and it is supposed to bring good luck throughout the coming year to the one who finds it - I added a cleaned euro coin!! It was a lovely way to start our Christmas feast and it was also a beautiful way to bind together the traditions of both our families. My dad then added his own twist to the tradition, by opening a bottle of French champagne to enjoy with the bread - instead of the customary red wine.  This beautiful bread, rich with spices and red wine is also lovely toasted the next day! We continued our Christmas celebrations this morning, by toasting some slices of the bread and topping with grilled fresh peaches and a little ricotta sweetened with Greek honey. I think this touching tradition and beautiful bread will be part of our family Christmas for many years to come!!