The skordalia was inspired not only by the bright green oil, but the abundance of beautiful citrus in my kitchen this month. Recently, Mr K and my father in law went on a little road trip, down past Wollongong, which is about an hours drive out of Sydney. They visited the house, of a very old family friend Aggeliki who was from the Island of Corfu in Greece. Sadly she passed away many years ago. Aggelik's lemon tree still grows and was abundant with large yellow lemons. Mr K bought some home to our kitchen, which was filled with their zesty, fresh scent. The lemons held so much juice, which flowed freely and took little effort to extract. While juicing the lemons, I thought of Aggeliki, who I had never met, planting the lemon tree by her house that overlooked the lake. Together with the oil, garlic and potatoes, the lemons made a very light and fluffily skordalia, full of the peppery bite of the garlic and the first harvest oil. Mr K proclaimed it to be the best skordalia I had made yet and I am sure that Aggeliki, and the lemons from her well loved tree, most certainly had a hand in its success.
Like so many Greek dishes, the variations for skordalia are endless. I use potatoes, as I was shown this recipe by my mother in law, but some people use bread, almonds and in the Ionian islands - walnuts and fish stock. This is a recipe for garlic lovers. It has an incredibly strong taste - especially if combined with the pepperiness of first harvest oil. If you are new to skordalia, I would recommend starting with half of the cloves of garlic listed in the recipe and work your way up in numbers, to taste. Skordalia can be enjoyed just by itself as a dip or spread onto bread. In Greek homes it is commonly served alongside fried salt cod, sardines or whitebait along with a big bowl of wild greens or other vegetables. This dish is a perfect example of how healthy the mediterranean diet is - with the uncooked olive oil and garlic providing a healthy dose of anti-oxidants.
500gr potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
1/2 cup olive oil
8 garlic cloves peeled and mashed
2 lemons, juiced
Salt to taste
Step 1: Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender.
Step 2: While the potatoes are boiling, add the garlic cloves to a mortar and pestle, along with a little salt and make into a smooth garlic paste. Set aside.
Step 3: Drain the potatoes and pass them through a food mill into a bowl.
Step 4: Mix the mashed potatoes with the garlic paste and a little olive oil and lemon juice, alternately and bit by bit to combine until creamy, but also still light and fluffy.
In the same way that lemons are wonderfully abundant this season, so to are onions. Onions are an absolute essential in my kitchen. There is hardly a dish made without them. While I love using red onions, the humble brown onion is a real kitchen warhorse. They add so much flavour and depth to many dishes and I love the hint my mother in law gave me, to use at least one brown and one red onion in dishes that call for onions. Like the garlic and olive olive mentioned above, brown onions are also very rich in anti-oxidants.
In my kitchen this month, I decided to make a traditional Greek winter dish, in which the onion is the real hero. Stifado (στιφάδο) dishes are famous for featuring small brown pickling onions, along with wine and spices such as cinnamon, bay leaves and cloves. You can make vegetarian versions of this dish using cauliflower or you can use rabbit, beef and octopus. For an octopus stifado recipe, please click here. I rarely cook with chicken at home, in fact we rarely eat much meat at all except on special occasions. However, with the winter chill in the air, it was the perfect occasion to indulge in this hearty chicken and onion stew. I served this stifado with some hilopities, a dried Greek pasta but you could use any type of pasta you like or as is common in Greece, fried potatoes, salad, and crusty bread.
4 chicken thighs, left whole on the bone
1 brown onion, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup light red wine
1 kilo of small onions (I use a mix of picking onions and eschalots)
1teaspoon of Greek tomato paste
10 black peppercorns, slightly crushed
3 cinnamon sticks
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
Salt, to taste
Step 1: Peel the small onions, wash them under running water, and drain them. In a large casserole pot, heat a little of the olive oil and cook the baby onions until they are golden and a little caramelised. Cook them gently so that they stay whole. Remove the onions from the pan and set aside on kitchen paper.
Step 2: In the same pot, with the same oil, fry the chicken in batches until lightly golden. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside on kitchen paper.
Step 3: In the same pot, add the remaining olive oil and the chopped onion. When the onion becomes translucent, add the chicken, red wine, vinegar, garlic, tomato paste, bay leaf, cloves, peppercorns and cinnamon. Then top up with boiling water, just to cover. Bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for around half an hour. Then add the small onions and continue to simmer on low heat for around 1 hour more, until the onions are soft. Again, be gentle with the onions so that they remain whole.
In my kitchen this month, it seems like I have moved through a three course meal. So to finish off, in my kitchen this July I also have some beautiful Greek quince paste, called kythonopasto (κυδωνόπαστο) in Greek. It is made with honey instead of sugar and tastes of nutmeg and bay leaves. In Greece you can also sometimes buy it filled with roasted almonds. You can eat it by itself as a sweet, or you can serve it alongside a spicy piece of hard aged sheep's cheese. I went with the latter option, the salty tang of the sheep's cheese contrasted beautifully with the sweet, spicy paste. On the platter, I also added a few slices of the very first blood oranges from my father in law's garden. There should be many more by the time I write my next "IMK" post. As always, big thanks go to Celia at Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for hosting this great monthly feature. Be sure to stop by her blog to see lots more wonderful kitchens from around the world!!