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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.