24 November 2014

Moustalevria (μουσταλευριά) and a visit to Varsos

 

In Greek, the grape harvest is called trygos. During the trygos, from late August to November this traditional pudding, made from moustos (grape must) will be made at home or you can find individual portions in little plastic dishes in bakeries and supermarkets.

 

Moustos is the unfiltered and unfermented juice from freshly pressed grapes. It has many culinary uses in Greece from moustalevria to petimezi - grape molasses syrup, pies, bread and the very popular Moustokoulora, which are grape must cookies.

 

 

 

Moustalevria is a simple, very traditional pudding and the texture sits somewhere between thicked cream and a gelled dessert. It can be made in a variety of ways, in some homes petimezi is used instead of moustos to a sweeter, more concentrated version. The most traditional way involves tying up a small amount of wood ash in cheesecloth and placing it in the boiling moustos to draw out the impurities and clarify the pudding.

 

 
 

The first time I tried Moustalevria was at Varsos in Athens. This grand patisserie is a culinary landmark found in affluent Athenian suburb of Kifisia. I particularly loved Varsos' traditional charm - it looks like it hasn't changed since 1950.

 

Varsos is all starched white uniforms, decorative high ceilings and mosaic floors framed with pink marble. The huge industrial fridges, which look like the original ones, are emblazoned with brand names in gorgeous 1950s fonts. The set up at Varsos, is also very "are you being served?" style. Each staff member is assigned to a particular counter from whipped cream and meringues to tsoureki. The purchasing system is also completely traditional: you order, the server notes the price on a ticket and you pay at the seperate cash register - then you get your treats. What I really loved at Varsos was the fantastically retro greenish-grey serving wear - best Greek coffee cups ever, if you have a penchant for retro.

 

 

 
 

 

At Varsos we tried the Moustalevria, a traditional krema and a piece of galaktobourkeo - they were all extremely delicious. The moustalevria at a Varsos was dark and sweet, with a slight earthiness to it - topped with a thin layer toasted walnuts. The Greek coffee was also perfect with a thick kamaki, and it came with the obligatory tall glass of very chilled water. The delights we tried at Varsos were so good and they are not even Varsos specialities. If you want whipped cream, meringues or Tsoureki in Athens - then this is the place to go.

 

 

The grape juice used in this recipe makes a slightly lighter pudding than the one I tried at Varsos, but it is equally as flavoursome topped with plenty ot toasted sesame seeds and an extra dusting of cinammon.


Moustalevria (μουσταλευριά)

You need:

2 cups freshly made grape juice

1/4 cup very fine semolina

1/4 cup of Greek honey or raw sugar

1 teaspoon of ground cinammon

1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves

Toasted sesame seeds, walnuts and cinnamon to serve.

Method:

Step 1. In a saucepan add the grape juice and honey or sugar and mix well until it dissolves into the juice.

Step 2. Place saucepan on the stove on a low heat and add the semolina a little at a time, stirring with a wooden spoon to blend thoroughly. Stirring continuously, bring to the boil, add the spices and quickly reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Stir constantly until it thickens to a creamy texture.

Step 3. Remove from heat, allow the mixture to cool a little and add it to serving glasses or bowls. Place these in the fridge and allow to chill completely. Serve topped with toasted sesame seeds or walnuts and a dusting of cinammon.

 

 

Varsos Kifissia S.A

Kassaveti 5 Kifissia

145 62, Athens, Greece

www.varsos.gr

Hours: Mon-Fri, 7am - 1am; Sat 7am - 2pm; Sun 7am - midnight

 

 

 

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?

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.