Like many food bloggers, I am often asked, why do you have a blog? Why do you write about food? Why is it all about Greek food? The simple answer is, when your Greek father in law gives you a dazzling basket of freshly picked, home grown zucchini blossoms – you need to know what to do with them. So much love and hard work goes into home grown produce and I want to be able to treat it with the respect it deserves.
My father in law is a passionate gardener. As a boy and young man, he learnt much of his fruit and vegetable growing knowledge from his father, living in the Peloponnese. It’s in his roots. I feel extremely lucky to not only share in the spoils of his garden, but also to be able to absorb his knowledge and passion for growing things. And that really is what my blog is all about. Each day I learn a little more about Greek food and culture – and this is my place to record and share it.
There is often so much beauty in simple day to day moments. In my posts, I try to celebrate these small moments. It seems like such a shame to let a moment of beauty - like a dazzling basket of zucchini blossoms - or the bright positivity of my father in law's views on life - and growing vegetables - pass without capturing and celebrating just a little bit of it. Recently, I was so touched to overhear my lovely Mr K say that my discovery of Greek food and culture, through the blog, had made him fall in love with his own culture and food again – after teenage and university years spent unearthing everything from the best clear, spicy and sour tom yum soup in a certain radius of Sydney uni to the best tandoori in Enmore.
While my father in law is the passionate gardener, my mother in law is the passionate cook. Along with my basket of beautiful yellow flowers, I was given counsel from Ma on how to cook the Kolokythoanthoi, as they are called in Greek. Her favourite way to cook the blossoms is to fill them with a mixture of rice, grated fresh tomatoes and herbs - cooked until the rice is soft and the liquid in the pan has just reduced to down a very aromatic oil.
I’ve adapted Ma’s recipe slightly by adding fennel pollen from the flowers blooming in my garden, instead of chopped fennel fronds or dill. I love the subtle, sweet aniseed flavour and aroma of the fennel pollen - I am just a tiny bit infatuated with it at the moment. I've also added some of my other summer garden favourites - purslane, zucchini and a few potatoes (I do have my own Irish roots after all) – all from the summer garden to make this a substantial meal. I have also added a little aggourida, which is basically the same as verjuice. Lemons are not existent in my summer garden and that of my parents and in law’s – so I’ve added the aggourida to give a depth of flavor and a little acidic kick to this dish, in place of lemon juice.
Stuffed zucchini flowers (Λουλούδια κολοκυθιάς γεμιστά)
1 basket of zucchini blossoms
½ cup of karolina rice
½ cup of pilaf rice
1 medium spanish onion, grated
2 medium tomatoes, grated
½ bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped
3 fennel blossoms, rubbed to release the pollen
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
½ cup of olive oil
1 cup of water
¼ cup of aggourida / verjuice / lemon juice
3 potatoes, chopped into thin gondalas
3-4 small zucchini, chopped into thin gondalas
1 small bunch of purslane, chopped.
Rinse the zucchini blossoms individually, removing any external green leaves. Take care not to tear the blossoms. Once rinsed, place the bottom of each blossom into the opening of another to prevent from closing, and set aside to drain thoroughly. Pat dry before using. The pistil and stamen do not need to be removed, but you can take them out if your prefer.
1. Preheat oven to 200C.
2. In a mixing bowl, combine rice, onion, tomatoes, fennel pollen, mint, garlic, and salt and pepper to taste. Add half the olive oil and mix thoroughly.
3. Carefully fill each blossom with a little of the mixture, around 1 teaspoon per blossom. Fold the open end of the blossom inward and turn underneath, and place in a wide pot. Continue until all blossoms are filled, and placed snugly in a single layer in the bottom of an oiled pot or pan, along with pieces of the potato, purslane and zucchini. Place any fennel blossoms on top. Pour over the remaining oil, water and aggourida. Cover the pot with foil or a tight fitting lid and place in the oven and cook for around 30 minutes.
4. Reduce heat to around 160-180C and remove foil or lid from the pot, cook for a further 20-30 minutes, until the liquid cooks down to an aromatic oil. Keep an eye on this dish to make sure it does not start to burn or stick to the bottom of the pot.
5. Best served at room temperature.