Breakfast at Nairobi (Rum Julep)

Work brought me to Nairobi this month and what a great opportunity to visit friends around the city. It was a sunny Sunday and my friend Panos organized a BBQ to match the beautiful weather and enjoy  the garden of his new place.

Of course we started the day with a refreshing fruity cocktail and lots of laughs.

Shopping List

  • 2 oz/shots White Rum (I prefer Havana Club 3 anos)
  • 1 oz/shot honey syrup (dilute 1 tbs honey in one oz/shot hot water)
  • fresh orange juice
  • 3-4 dashes Angostura or other available orange bitters  (optional)
  • 1 big mint spring
  • 1 slice of pineapple, 1 strawberry, cucumber to garnish
  • ground cinnamon
  • crushed ice

And now what?

In a shaker, mix the rum with the honey syrup , the orange bitters and ground cinnamon. Add a couple of mint leaves and muddle to bring the aroma out from the leaves. Fill a Julep glass preferably with crushed ice , pour in the mixture and top up the glass with fresh orange juice. Add the fruits on top of the crushed ice and finish the garnish with the big mint spring. Make sure you you have filled the glass with a lot of crushed ice. In case the liquid mixture covers the ice add more ice before finishing with the fresh fruits.

Have a sip and smile! All Juleps need a good stirring with a straw, make sure you use your straw to deep and muddle more the mint spring in the crushed ice. You will love the freshness and smells from the cinnamon-mint reaction.

Goodmorning from Nairobi.

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.

The Jazzmin Cheesecake

There are a few places on earth where a tourist will feel like home upon arrival and Jazzmin is one of them. Jazzmin, physically is a beautiful coffee shop, bar and occasionally restaurant in one of the most unique Greek islands, Amorgos,   but more than that is a social hub, a cocoon of love, serenity  and hospitality amidst the picturesque chora  (main town) of Amorgos. The fabulous owners and good friends  Thodoris and Giorgos who are responsible for this little heaven on earth, will  be there to share stories and information about the island or help you find your way in case you are lost!

Jazzmin

We tasted everything we could from the menu or everything we had time to, cause it’s a long menu with recipes and flavours from Asia to Africa and Greece to Latin America. In case you find yourself in the island do not miss the opportunity for a belly-filling, flavour-exploding breakfast.

Snapshots at Jazzmin with friends

On this trip we also had the unexpected opportunity to sneak into Jazzmin’s kitchen and bake together a New York-style cheesecake with an Amorgian goaty kick. One of their signature recipes.

The yummy Jazzmin Cheesecake

Thank you Jazzmin for sharing this yummy recipe with us. We look forward to another one next summer.

Shopping List

Crust

  • 250gr/1 packet of digestive crackers
  • 100gr butter (soft at room temperature)
  • 3tbs/100 gr sugar

Filling

  • 500gr yogurt (preferably Greek  style yogurt, very thick)
  • 500gr non-salted  creamy goat cheese-“ανάλατη μυζήθρα” in Greek (in Jazzmin they will use locally produced fresh goat cheese and this is the little -big secret of the recipe, however you can always use any cream cheese)
  • 70gr/2 tbs all-purpose flour
  • a pinch of salt
  • 5gr/1 teaspoon vanilla powder
  • 400gr/ 1 & 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs

And now what?

Pre-heat oven at 175 Celsius/350 Fahrenheit

Lets start making the crust together with Thodori. Start by finely crumbling the digestive crackers in a bowl. Add the 3tbs of sugar and the butter and mix well with your hands or pestle.

The make of the crust

Place the crust mixture in a round  30cm/9 inches pie pan and press firmly with your hand to fix the base. Place in the oven for 5-10 minutes maximum.

Arranging and baking the crust for 5-10 minutes

In a large mixing bowl add yogurt, goat cheese or cream cheese, vanilla powder, sugar, eggs and salt (all the ingredients for the filling) and use an electric mixer to blend well if available. You can always use a whisk instead.

Theo mixing the ingredients of the filling.

Theo blending the mixture

Pour the filling mixture in the prepared pie pan and bake for 60 min at 175 Celsius/350 Fahrenheit. Chill overnight and enjoy some Jazzmin goodness.

Final steps and our cheesecake is in the oven. Enjoy!

Apricot Spearmint Daiquiri

Daiquiris remain my favourite summer cocktail. The range of fruits you can mix and match is immense making it a playground for mixologists and experimental drinkers. Greek summers are followed by a long list of seasonal fruits and who could resist to a freshly fruity daiquiri by the Aegean. Today we will try sweet apricots and freshly picked spearmint.

Shopping List:

  • 2 fresh apricots without the pit (try a sweet and flavourful variety)
  • 6 big spearmint leaves
  • 2 oz/shots white rum (Havana Club 3 anos preferably)
  • 1/2 oz/shot sugar syrup
  • 1/2 oz/shot fresh lime juice
  • spearmint to garnish
  • crashed ice

Add all ingredients apart the crashed ice in a blender and blend until you get a smooth paste. Add in the crashed ice approximately to cover the paste. This should be around 2 cups of crashed ice. Blend the mix until you get a nice granite. You can adjust the acidity and sweetness at this point by adding more lime or syrup according to your taste preferences Garnish with the spearmint.

Simple sugar syrup

Syrup comes from the Arabic “sharab” and the Latin “syropus”  which means beverage. Simple syrup refers to using equal parts of sugar and water by volume (1 to 1 parts).

Simple syrup is widely used in the cocktail industry as sweetener. It brings balance when it’s mixed with sour juices like lemon or lime juice in most of the 20th century style cocktails. It is easy to make at home and has plenty of uses in the kitchen. I will use it in cooking, cocktail mixing, as a coffee sweetener particularly for cold beverages.

You can easily infuse it with herbs or spices and give a kick to the flavor. You will find thousand of recipes online. Let’s start with the basic simple syrup before going down to spiced paths.

Shopping List (approximately 1 lt of syrup)

  • 1lt water
  • 1kg white sugar

And now what?

Bring the water to boil and reduce to medium heat. Add the sugar and stir until it is all dissolved. Keep boiling in medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes until the mixture is all clear and has a syrup-like texture. Remove from heat and let it sit until it will reach room temperature. Then poor into a glass bottle preferably and keep in refrigerator for up to a month.

In case you want to start experimenting already with spices. You may add a stick of vanilla together with the sugar while it is still boiling. Cut slightly the vanilla stick so as to free the crystals and aroma Keep the vanilla stick in the syrup for days. You can wash the vanilla stick over fresh water and use again.

Chocolate Bramble

Shopping List

  • 2 shots  Gin (preferably Plymouth or Brokers)
  • 1 shot  fresh lemon juice
  • 3/4 shot simple sugar syrup
  • 1/2 shot Creme de Cacao
  • 2-3 dashes of orange bitters
  • Crushed ice
  • nutmeg
  • orange peel and basil leave to garnish

And now what?

Add all ingredients in a shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake well for 10 seconds. Strain in glass with filled with crashed ice. Garnish with basil leave and a twisted orange pill. Grate nutmeg on top.

Cherry Martini

Shopping List:

  • 1 1/2 shots Gin (preferably Plymouth or Hendricks)
  • 6 fresh cherries (remove the pits)
  • 2 tbs sugar syrup (lemon zest & vanilla infused)
  • Cherry and basil leaf to garnish

And now what?

Muddle the sliced fresh cherries in a shaker. Add the sugar syrup, gin and top with cubed ice. Shake well and strain in a Martini glass. Decorate with cherry and basil leave.