Category Archives: Vegetarian

Strawberry Pie

Stawberry pie

Strawberry pie goodness

So here I am back to Goma after a good break back in Athens and other places. This time the strawberry pie story starts with myself crossing the borders from Rwanda to DRCongo. Waiting for my passport to get stamped across the DRC side a couple of young ladies with huge baskets full of freshly picked strawberries started harassing me to buy some. My travelling adventure and the 3 pieces of luggage I was carrying full with training materials for a workshop I had to facilitate in Goma didn’t allow much space for more shopping at the time. However here I am a day later asking from our house lady to spot some strawberries for me. Still no thoughts about strawberry pie. An hour later she comes back with a plastic bag and a couple of kilos of tiny freshly picked strawberries that smelled like heaven. Childhood memories popped up when I was spending my summers at summer camp up to Taigetos mountain and part of our Sunday activities included picking wild strawberries to cook giant baking pans of strawberry pies. So here is the puzzle of events and a recipe of strawberry pie. With love from Goma.

P1130515

Breakfast at Goma. Strawberry pie, sage tea and some fine tunes to go along with the sunny Sunday morning.

… and in case you are looking for those fine tunes to accompany your Sunday morning breakfast. Check out  Sleepy Bedtime Mix For Young Ones by Henry Chinaski at Pinchy & Friends website

 Shopping List

For the dough I looked at a fantastic friend’s website My Easy Gourmet for some tips and a pie dough recipe

  • 330gr/2 cups of flour
  • 220gr of butter (I used vegetable shortening as I had difficulties locating unsalted butter in Goma)
  • 110gr/1 glass cold water (I used a couple of ice cubes to drop the temperature down)

For the filling

  • approximately 1 1/2 kg of strawberries hulled and quartered if they are big  (mine were tiny)
  • juice from 1 lime
  • 1/2 cup caster sugar preferably  (but whatever sugar should work as well)

And now what?

Start with preparing the filling. In a heavy bottom sauce pan add the strawberries and the lime juice. Cook, stirring occasionally in very low heat for 40-45 minutes. This will bring out juices from the strawberries.

Add the caster sugar and bring to boil over high heat. Stir frequently. At this stage is better you stay on top of the pan and keep an eye while stirring for 15 minutes. Reduce hit if you feel your strawberries are burning. All you need a syrup-liked mixture. Set aside to cool down to room temperature.

In a bowl add the dough ingredients and mix with your hands. You may also use a food processor. Then cover in cling or baking sheet and put aside in the freezer for 30 minutes. I didn’t have either so I used a super market bag instead that worked well.

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Remove dough from freezer and use 2 baking sheets or 2 pieces of plastic bag in my occasion to roll the dough. You will need approximately a 2cm thick dough layer for your base. If your dough feels sticky you can place back in the freezer for another 10 minutes before removing from the baking sheet or plastic bag.

Place the dough in a 22cm round baking pan. This is only a guide so be creative about the pan. This time I used a small size square pyrex baking pan for example, which is what we had in the kitchen. Trim the edges with a knife and prick the dough with a fork several times. Place the remaining dough in the freezer again.

Bake the base for 20 minutes or until lightly golden. While baking pay attention and use a spoon to push down any rising dough or instead put a baking sheet and add some uncooked rice on top to keep the dough from rising. If you use rice remove after 15 minutes so you allow your pie to get crispy.

Remove the remaining dough from the freezer and using the same technic as before roll it to a 1cm thick layer. Then cut to 1cm wide strips with a cold knife.

Add the filling in the base and place the strips on top of the filling. Bake again at the preheated oven to 200 C for 25 minutes. When ready put the pie aside to cool down a little bit before cutting into pieces. YOu can remove from baking pan and let it cool down on a oven rack. This will keep your pie crispy until next morning.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Bon apettit.

Zucchini Basil Soup (… or the sick zucch soup)

What do you do when you wake up and your little sister is sick with fever? You cook a nutritious soup delivered to her bed with some remedies.

The zucchini basil soup

Shopping List

  • 1 kg zucchini chopped in big chunks
  • 2 red onions finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 leek cut in strips
  • 3 cups vegetable broth (2 bio vegetable cubes, 2 bay leaves, sage or other aromatic herbs to spice up your broth)
  • 1/3 cups sweet basil leaves chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil

And now what?

Remove the skin from half of the zucchinis with a slicer and then cut the skin in thin stripes. Sprinkle 1/2 tablespoon  of salt and put the skin in a sieve for 20 minutes. Preparing the zucchini skin to top up your soup at the end is optional but it definitely adds a kick in the final presentation and taste. Coarsely chop the zucchinis and put aside.

Chop the veggies

Add 3 cups of water in a sauce pan and add 2 vegetable broth cubes, 2 bay leaves, 1 small piece of sage or other aromatic herbs you would like to taste in your broth. Bring to boil and then keep simmering for 10 minutes.

Prepare the broth and the zucchini skin stripes

Drizzle some olive oil in a heavy bottom pan and saute the onions  in medium heat until they get translucent and soft. Add the garlic then the leek and finally the zucchinis. Keep stirring the vegetables and take care for the onion and garlic not to get burn, if need you may add a few additional drops of olive oil.

Saute the onion, garlic, leek and zucchinis

Add the vegetable broth to the vegetables, salt to your taste, partially cover with a lid and boil for 15 minutes or until your zucchinis turn soft. You can test with a fork the tenderness.

Boil the vegetables for 15 minutes approximately

Remove from heat and start adding the mixture in your blender carefully and in batches. Take care when you are mixing hot liquids in the blender, they can explode! Add the fresh basil leaves in the blender and keep puree the mixture until you have a smooth veloute soup.

To prepare the zucchini skins, boil a cup of water and add them in for 1 minute until they get tender.

Ready to serve.

When you serve the hot soup add freshly grounded pepper, some basil leaves and some tenderized zucchini skin stripes.

Αστακομακαρονάδα The Greek (Lobster Pasta)

Αστακομακαρονάδα (pronounced Astakomakaronada) is a must-taste gourmet plate if you ever find yourself in a Greek island. It is also a favourite for  Kitchen in a Suitcase so I will gladly cook it anywhere a fresh Lobster can be found nearby. You should definitely try it!

First thing first, so let’s take a minute to make sure we know about  fresh lobster. In most of the places I cooked this recipe I was very close to the source.  In Haiti for example I would look at a trusted fisherman to deliver the lobster alive the same day in a bucket with sea water when possible. Lobsters tend to eat themselves when out of their natural habitat until they starve to death so you need to cook them immediately if you want all the flavour to come out. I know it sounds a bit cruel but if you make sure you don’t buy baby -sized lobsters or from areas of extinction and you are not a dedicated veagan then you will survive and most probably forget about it the moment you take the first bite. So here are some tips on buying supermarket lobster. You can also try here for some extra information online.

Fresh lobsters fished the same day in Amorgos island

SERVES 6

Shopping List

  • 1,5 to 2 kg fresh lobsters (alive preferably, medium to big size)
  • 1kg/2 packets spaghetti or linguini (or other pasta depending on your preferences)
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 big red onions finely sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves finely sliced
  • 1kg/6-7 tomatoes (preferably plum tomatoes, freshly grated, remove the skin)
  • 1tbs tomato paste
  • 150gr/1 cup white dry wine
  • 1 cup fresh chopped parsley
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • salt & freshly grated pepper to taste

Chopping the parsley while our good friend Angeliki takes notes for the recipe.

And now what?

In a big heavy-bottom pan with a lid  boil water. Add the lobsters and boil with the lid. Be extremely careful as pipping hot steam will escape. Depending on the size of the lobsters I will usually cook for 10-20min maximum. Usually 15 min should  be enough but you can also pay attention to your lobsters changing colour. They should have a shiny lively orangish colour by now.

Boiling the lobsters

Carefully remove lobsters from boiling water and put aside in a strainer. Keep the water in the pan as we will use it later to boil our pasta right before our sauce is ready for serving so we can keep the texture al dente. Here are some tips for cooking pasta. Clean the surface of the  boiling water from any foamy or greasy lobster extracts with a spoon. Keep also a cup of this lobster broth separately  for your sauce.

If you have more than one lobsters separate half and remove the meat from the shell and claws. If you have a big one cut in half and keep half aside.

The making of the sauce and preparing the lobster meat.

Next step is preparing the sauce. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil in a big sauce pan and saute the sliced onion in medium heat until translucent, add the sliced garlic and stir for 2 more minutes. Add the freshly grated tomatoes, turn the heat to maximum until the mixture reaches boiling point. When boiling add the wine, cook for 3min approximately in high heat and then turn down to low heat. Add half cup of the lobster broth and keep the other half to add progressively as needed. Add the tomato paste, bay leaves, cloves, sugar, salt and pepper, stir and let it boil for 10-15 minutes.

If need, add more from the lobster broth to keep a nice sauce texture (not too watery not too thick). Then add the lobster meat and boil for another 5 minutes. Always pay attention to your sauce to avoid burning. When the sauce is ready turn the heat off and put aside.

Boil you pasta in the broth according to package specifications, you can add some salt in your broth if you’ld like. Strain pasta, remove the heavy bottom pan from heat and discard any remaining broth. Put the pasta back in the pan, add the sauce and stir vigorously until sauce has covered all pasta nicely. Add the chopped parsley more freshly grated pepper and drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on top to moisture your pasta.

Serve hot immediately with the whole (or half) lobsters and parmesan cheese  on the side.

Ready to serve.

Let me know how this tasted my friends!

Enjoying the food with good friends is what cooking is all about. Here we are, ready for a delicious dinner in Amorgos islands on summer holidays.

Rainbow salad with roasted peppers

Shopping List:

  • 2 green peppers
  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 yellow peppers
  • 1 orange pepper
  • 4tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves sliced
  • 2tbs vinegar
  • 1 finely chopped big tomato
  • ½ cup parsley or coriander finely chopped
  • 5-6 fresh mint leaves finely chopped
  • 1 pinch of sugar
  • Salt and pepper to taste

And now what?

Pre-heat the oven, at 200 degrees C (approximately 400 degrees F).

Wash the peppers and towel dry. Place them in an oven tray and roast for 30 minutes or until they start getting a black skin. Turn the peppers and roast for another 20 minutes the other side.

When they are ready, place them hot in a zip-lock plastic bag . Keep them zipped in the bag for approximately 10 minutes to get moisture. This will help you remove easily the skin later.

In a heavy bottom frying pan heat the olive oil in medium heat. Add the sliced garlic until it will start turning brown. Then remove from olive oil and add the onion. Sauté onion until they will get translucent (approximately 4-5 minutes in medium heat). Sprinkle the sugar over the onion and add the vinegar.

Add the tomato and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

In the meantime remove the skin from the peppers with a knife, remove the seeds and cut in big slices. Add the sliced peppers in the frying pan together with the other materials . Turn off the heat, place in a bowl, add salt and pepper to taste and add the parsley or coriander.

You can enjoy this salad cold or hot!

Fotini’s homemade lemonade (Concentrate)

Fotini's homemade lemonade

Summer came scorching in Athens and it’s time for some Granny’s homemade lemonade. We had Fotini my super-grandmother visiting us in Athens this weekend and we decided to pick her brain and little hidden secrets for a fresh homemade lemonade. This is an easy to make lemonade syrup that you may keep in the fridge for days. You can dissolve with water each time you want and enjoy fabulous lemonade. You can also use in cocktails.

Shopping List
  • 2 glasses and a tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 glasses fresh lemon juice (no pulp)
  • 2 and 1/3 glasses water
  • a lemon cup (discard the pulp)

Tip: Always use the same glass or cup or any other mean of measurement.

And now what?

Add the sugar, water and the lemon cup in a pot, bring to boil and shimmer for 5 minutes until sugar is dissolved and the lemon cup is bringing out smells and flavours. Put aside to cool down to a temperature that your finger can hold inside the liquid for 10 seconds (this is a practice they used the old times in Greece to check the right temperature to add the yeast in the yogurt), this is approximately the body temperature so if you actually have a thermometer you can measure it precisely. We prefer the old trick! Then you add the fresh lemon juice and stir to blend. At this stage you can taste and add more sugar or lemon juice depending on your preferences. Put in bottles and refrigerate.

Put ice, fresh lemonade concentrate and water in a glass and enjoy. I usually dissolve 1 to 1 part. I sometimes decorate with fresh mint leaves and a slice of lime.

Fotini emptying the lemon cup from the pulp

The lemon cup ready to boil with the syrup

Fotini giving instruction to Georgia

Boiling the sugar syrup with the lemon cup.

Mixing the fresh lemon juice with the sugar syrup, after discarding the lemon cup.

Chil-lic Paste

This is a very basic chili-garlic paste that you may use for cooking or as a side on the table to spice up a meal as you like. You can keep it refrigerated for a month. I use it as a topping for pizza most of the time. My favourite combination would be pizza with goat cheese, chilic paste and caramelized onions. A combination I discovered in Haiti.

So let’s make some chil-lic.

Shopping List:

The procedure is as basic as the materials. This time I will leave the pictures to guide you. Enjoy!

  • 8 chilies (red and green)
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • Extra virgin olive oil

And now what?

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

R&R vegetable soup with a spicy kick

Today Georgia my roommate came to Athens for a short R&R break. This soup is dedicated to her and to coming-back-home-from-the-field  moments in life. I guess we have a lot of them in our house. Enjoy!

SERVES 6

Shopping list
olive oil
2 medium onions cut in big chunks
2 tbs garlic paste
2 zucchinis cut in big chunks
5 medium carrots cut in big chunks
5cm pc  ginger grated
1 tomato grated
salt & pepper

For the broth:
6-7 cups of water
1 chicken broth cube
1 vegetable broth cube
2 bay leaves
4 cardamom seeds
2 dried chillies

And now what?
So let’s start by heating 4 tbs of olive oil in a big saucepan in medium heat. Saute the onions until they get tender and translucent. Add the garlic and continue stirring for 2 more minutes. Now it’s time to add the remaining vegetables and simmer for 10 more minutes.

Meanwhile  start preparing the broth. Bring to boil the water in a pan and add all the ingredients. Reduce the heat, cover and boil for 15 minutes.

When broth is ready, strain it into the vegetables. Keep aside the 2 chillies to use later. Add salt and pepper. Cover and boil for 20 minutes or until the carrots are tender.

Use a blender or a food processor to whizz until smooth. Start blending the vegetables first and keep the liquid part for the end so you can control the density of the soup. Remove the seeds from the chillies and blend them together with the mix to get the spicy kick!

Extras:
I love garlic croutons with most of the soups. In a frying pan add olive oil and 2 tbs garlic paste in medium heat. Cut some bread in big chunks/cubes and fry them until they will turn gold while you stir frequently.

I also like adding some saute mushrooms in this soup. Finish with a few drops of sour cream and balsamic cream.