In my kitchen July: skordalia σκορδαλιά and chicken stifado στιφάδο



It only seems like it was a few weeks ago that I was indulging the first harvest olive oil of Greece (known as Αγουρέλαιο or Agoureleo) and Italy (known as olio nuovo) (you can read more about that adventure here)... and now it is time to enjoy the Australian offerings. Into my kitchen this month, Mr K proudly bought a beautiful bottle of Cobram Estate ‘First Harvest’, the very first extra virgin olive oil from the 2014 harvest. The olive oil is a vibrant green and has a very rich taste - and left a very, very peppery burn on the back of the throat. It is an absolutely amazing olive oil and full of intensity. I want to use the oil generously, but only where it can really shine and not have to compete with other flavours, or even worse, fade into the background. As such, the oil has featured mainly on small pieces of toasted rustic homemade bread - with just a pinch of Greek 'fleur de sel'. The basic but the best type of "bruschetta" you could ever have. Today, I made one further concession. Adding the lush green oil to make a light, creamy skordalia.

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.


Skordalia (σκορδαλιά)
Serves 4
Ingredients:
500gr potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
1/2 cup olive oil
8 garlic cloves peeled and mashed
2 lemons, juiced
Salt to taste
Method:
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.

Chicken Stifado (κοτόπουλο στιφάδο)
Serves 4
Ingredients:
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
6 cloves
10 black peppercorns, slightly crushed
3 cinnamon sticks
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon of red wine vinegar
Boiling water
Salt, to taste
Method:
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!!

22 comments

  1. Greek cuisine always taps my curiosity :). The dishes seem healthy, tasty and distinct from others. Thanks for sharing!

    Julie
    Gourmet Getaways

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    1. Always a pleasure to share new finds Julie!

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  2. so many lemons this year. it has been great. i have that cobram oil too. i havent opened it yet. but i think i shall very soon. the skordalia looks fab.

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    1. I hope you enjoy the oil Sherry, it is a real standout!!

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  3. Your recipes have me wanting to head straight to the kitchen. That chicken dish looks fantastic in those photos.

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  4. Ella, your skordalia sounds fantastic! What a beautiful, healthy dish and a lovely tribute to your friend. And what a lemon tree! Your IMK posts make me feel like I'm on vacation as I read them. Thank you!

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    1. Thanks so much for your lovely words Kim, it's so great to hear you feel like you are on vacation ; )

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  5. I must find a recipe for the quince paste! I've never tried skordalia but it sounds divine :)

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    1. Hi Tandy, here is a great recipe for Greek quince paste - you can also buy it from Greek delis http://www.dianekochilas.com/in-season-quince-and-homemade-quince-paste/

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  6. G'day! Your chicken looks lovely and can almost smell it from here!
    Thanks for this month's kitchen view also!
    Cheers! Joanne

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  7. I love your kitchen this month... Thank you for sharing... I am always looking for recipes to use up my lemons, so the Skordalia is now on the list! Liz x

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    1. Thanks Elizabeth, the lemons are truly amazing this season. Hope you enjoy the skordalia!

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  8. Ella, I've always wanted to make skordalia, thank you! And the stifado sounds amazing as well! Hasn't it been a fantastic season for lemons! That tree looks amazing! :)

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    1. I agree Celia, the lemons are incredible at the moment! Hope you enjoy the skordalia!!

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  9. Ella, what a lovely and seasonal post. I still can't get over that lemon tree. Your recipes sound so delicious and that olive oil looks gorgeous. Thanks for this little peek into your kitchen! Selma @ Selma's Table

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    1. Thanks for your lovely words Selma!

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  10. Hi Ella! Lovely lemon tree! Thanks for sharing! :)

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  11. I'd never heard of skordalia but now I shall have to try it. I love travelling around the world as I read these IMK posts and finding new foods. Thank you for sharing.

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    1. Thanks Anne, me too! There's nothing like a bit of armchair/ipad/desktop travel!!

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Thank you for your comments, I really appreciate every single one!

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Maira Gall