16 November 2014

Black-eyed pea salad (Φασόλια Μαυρομάτικα Σαλάτα)




Legumes have such a proud and prominent place on the Greek table. Mainly due to the rules of fasting in the Greek Orthodox faith - but their use goes all the way back to Ancient Greece. Heard of the saying, "to spill the beans"? The folk etymology of this saying, meaning to give away a secret, derives from the electing of a council member in ancient Greece. Each council member would vote with either a white bean (yes) or a brown bean (no), and these would secretly be put into a pottery jar, so that no one would know which way the members voted. However, if the jar was knocked over causing the beans to spill out, the proportion of yes and no votes would be seen. Perhaps voting with a black eye pea that is both white and brown was hedging a bet each way?



Black-eyed peas are so easy to cook and packed with nutriton. I love their wonderful, nutty flavor. There are so may regional specialties in Greece for black-eyed peas, quite often they are stewed with wild greens and fennel or added to soups. My favourite way of cooking them is to add them to this simple salad. It makes a wonderful side dish paired with lemonata style fish baked in the oven or vegetarian main course. I prefer not to soak the beans overnight and use the method set out below, it gives the beans a fresher taste and it helps it retain the nutty flavour. I also only salt the water that the beans cook in, rather than the final dish itself. You can also double the quantities below if you are cooking for a larger group.




Black-eyed pea salad (Φασόλια Μαυρομάτικα Σαλάτα)

Serves 4, as a side dish or 2 as a main

1/2 cup dried black-eyed peas

1 teaspoon of sea salt (for dried peas)

5 cups of water (for dried peas)

1 medium onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon of fresh fennel fronds, finely chopped

1 tablespoon of fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1/2 cup celery, finely diced

1 & 1/2 tablespoons of good Greek rose wine vinegar

3-4 tablespoons of Greek extra virgin olive oil

Kalamata olives & edible flowers to garnish


Step 1. Wash beans well. Place in a saucepan and add 2 & 1/2 cups of water. Bring the peas slowly to a boil and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and leave until plump - about 1 hour.

Step 2. In a seperate bowl, add vinegar and onion. Mix well and leave to soak.

Step 3. Drain and rinse the peas. Place in a saucepan and add another 2 & 1/2 cups of water. Return to the boil and simmer gentley for 1 hour. Add salt to taste and simmer for another 30 minutes until tender. Drain and add to salad bowl with onion and vinegar. Toss with remaining ingredients and garnish with olives and edible flowers.




15 November 2014

Oven baked octopus with potatoes (Χταπόδι φούρνου με πατάτες)


Where once I would have always chosen sea bass, a red snapper or another whole fish, since marrying into a beautiful Greek family my everyday seafood has become kalamari, anchovies, sardines, whiting, mussels and for extra special days, octopus.

13 November 2014

Braised greens - vlita, purslane and zucchini in tomato (τσιγαριστά χόρτα)


I could barley contain my delight, when at the market this week, I found some vlita (βλήτα) (otherwise known as amaranth). It is my absolute favourite wild green, closely followed by glistrida (γλιστρίδα) (otherwise known as purslane). And guess what? There was some of this too at the market.

These two beautiful greens always take me straight to summers spent in Greece, where my lovely husband first introduced me to the delights of these greens. We would puchase them at the morning market and serve them for the evening meal, outdoors in the warm summer night air, on a table under a fresh green grapevine trellis. Simply boiled and served with local olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice, they made a feast with homemade ladotyri cheese, home cured olives with plenty of lemon and rigani, rustic bread from the local baker and glasses of chilled homemade rose wine.

4 November 2014

Goat Frikase (Κατσίκι φρικασέ)




Following hot on the heels of Ma's stuffed artichokes, in this post I am sharing with you another traditional dish, which is a spring favourite in Greek homes - goat frikase (Κατσίκι φρικασέ).

Goat frikase is also one of my father in law's favourite dishes. In the same way that my mother in law will always opt for small fish, fava and Horta on a taverna menu - Ba will always go for the frikase – a super tender lamb or goat dish that is cooked up with wild greens and sometimes lettuce, then swirled with a rich egg lemon sauce.

Frikase is a very traditional dish and there are many versions and interpretations of this dish throughout Greece - depending on what produce is more readily available. Wild greens or lettuce are most typical, but in Northern Greece leeks are used - whereas in Crete the other great spring favourite artichokes are used. In my parents in law 's garden in Sydney's inner west there is an abundance of beautiful spring greens, hence they feature prominently my mother in law's recipe for frikase.

1 November 2014

Ma's artichokes stuffed with rice and herbs (Αγκινάρες γεμιστές με ρύζι)


Quite frankly, I am in love with artichokes. They are so beautiful to look at that I am prone to putting them in vases and then capturing them on paper in watercolours. While I adore their thistle-like beauty, it is their complex flavour and texture that I really love. Artichoke hearts are dense and velvety, and their green flavour profile sits somewhere between a mushroomy broccoli stalk with a hint of asparagus. When they come into their season in spring - I just want to eat them every single day.

26 October 2014

Pavlidis Ygeias Dark Chocolate Semifreddo & ouzo soaked strawberries

I have a very dear friend who is a serious chocoholic. A few weeks ago, my lovely friend was joining us for lunch and I knew I had to make something with chocolate and as the weather was becoming much warmer, it had to be my homemade chocolate semifreddo.

25 October 2014

Simple mezedes: slow cooked florina peppers

Brilliantly versatile, punchy and sweet - I love florina peppers and their intense flavour. This simple meze dish is one of the most luscious things you can make from a few humble ingredients. You simply slow cook red onions - and plenty of garlic and then add the peppers until you have a meltingly rich sauce.

11 October 2014

Kefalonian Hortopita (χορτόπιτα)

A few weeks ago, I posted a recipe for one my favourite Greek dishes, Hortopita (χορτόπιτα) or wild greens pie. In that recipe I used some store bought phyllo and I promised a follow up recipe for homemade pastry. I am still to get a lesson from my lovely mother in law - but in the interim, I have a recipe to share from my travels in Kefalonia.

5 October 2014

In my kitchen October 2014

Welcome to another month in my kitchen. Thank you so much to the very lovely Celia of Fig Jam and Lime Cordial for continuing to host this wonderful and inspiring series. I am such a stickybeak - I love seeing what is on offer in kitchens in Australia and around the world.

This time last year I was in beautiful Greece - and collecting lots of inspiration for my 'in my kitchen' posts. I am (sadly) not in Greece this month, but the gorgeous unfolding Sydney springtime is truly delightful. This month, I thought I would share with you just a few of the staples that I always have on hand in my kitchen in Sydney - which mean that the flavours of Greece are just a step (and not a 24 hour flight) away.

In my kitchen this month, I have got over my fear of frozen vegetables. I have never been a fan - always preferring fresh and making an exception only for peas. Plus the range of frozen vegetables on offer in Australia are always just so plain dull. In Greece, there is such a better and varied range of frozen vegetables - and two of them have made their way to my Sydney kitchen - okra and artichoke hearts.

4 October 2014

Top 5 Broad Bean (κουκιά) Recipes

Broad beans have to be one of my favourite spring time gifts from the garden, they are full of protein and iron - so excellent for those who prefer a more vegetarian diet.
They are also a good source of B vitamins, including thiamin (vitamin B1), riboflavin (vitamin B2) and niacin (vitamin B3) and vitamin C. Most importantly of all, the are absolutely delicious, I love their fresh raw-grassy flavour.

While in Australia we refer to "broad beans" in the US they are referred to as "fava beans". This causes some confusion - as in Greece, "fava" is the term used to describe a beautifully creamy dish made from yellow split peas. So in Greek, if you are talking about broad beans they are called "koukia" (κουκιά).

In Greece, fresh broad beans are a real culinary highlight and springtime favourite, especially during Lent. Sometimes they are boiled and added to horta to make a warm salad or they can be eaten raw in in a fresh salad, sprinkled with a little olive oil and some nice big chunks of salty Kefalograviera cheese. Out of the Lenten season the flavour of broad beans goes very well with meat, particularly spring lamb.

26 September 2014

Discovering the heart of Greek Melbourne

Have you ever heard the saying, that people make a place? This is certainly true of the suburb of Oakleigh, Melbourne's real "little Greece." It is just 25 minutes from the CBD and home to many Greek families. It is an evolving suburb that is home to waves of Greek migrants, from the 1950s, 60s and 70s - until today's post-economic migrants. Melbourne is well known as one of the largest Greek-speaking cities outside Greece. While 'Greek Melbourne' still has its roots in Brunswick, Northcote and Richmond, it's true centre is now the vibrant suburb of Oakleigh.

Oakleigh is all about 'real food'. It has the best produce from Australia (and Greece) and it's provodores and restaurateurs are focused on time honoured, home style cooking. Victoria Kyriakopoulos, our guide for the day tells us how at Greek Easter, the centre of Oakleigh - which is peppered with delis, cake shops, fishmongers, souvlaki bars, butchers and the odd christening shop (with big frothy white gowns on display) - is a colourful bustling parade. Whole lambs and baby goats are carried up and down the streets and placed in car boots and the shop windows are filled with beautiful displays of decorated Easter candles called "lambathes" and traditional Easter syrup pastries and biscuits.

30 August 2014

Aegina inspired pistachio & almond semolina cake with cinnamon syrup

It is birthday cake time in our house again, this time it was Mr K choice as to which cake he preferred. Even though I knew what the answer was going to be, I still asked the question and it was, as expected, semolina cake. Since I married Mr K, I have been on the search for the perfect semolina cake, or one that matches up to Mr K's childhood memories of his lovely Theia Katina's syrupy semolina cake. However, this time Mr K's request for a semolina cake came with a twist, "a pistachio semolina cake would be nice", he said.