When I came back from Goma and Georgia from Evros…

It’s been more than a year since I last updated this website and it’s a shame. It’s a shame as a lot of friends all over the world have actually asked me to update it and I haven’t responded.

Nevertheless in the meantime I was pretty lucky to enjoy cooking with/for friends a lot and it was nothing but a pleasure to me. So the important part was done and documented, waiting in my hard drives patiently to be published.

So here am I, back to Greece again to our beloved “Giafka”. I returned from a trip to Goma, DRC just a couple of days ago while Georgia who is now working at Evros supporting  a medical project for immigrants, came back  to Athens for R&R. So we decided to celebrate this with a proper dinner of course.

So the funny part of the story today!

I had prepared almost everything for the soup and I was a step away from blending it when I realized that i was missing the european socket adaptor. Our blender was purchased in Uganda and carries a British outlet. We only had one adaptor at the house and it was Mimi’s (my other roommate). Mimi is actually in Vietnam or Cambodia or somewhere in the area with the “triorofo” gang on holidays. Georgia texted her to ask whether she has the adaptor or she knows where is it. Don’t forget it is a bit late evening, Saturday night and the possibilities of finding a place to buy an adaptor and enjoy our soup were of course minimum. Anyway we got no answer for a while. However we have this mini market shop in the neighborhood, just a across our house, owned by an old sweet guy, Mr Giorgos who just happen to have everything. I actually would like to call his shop “Mr Giorgos wonder store” cause he has managed to fit everything in pretty limited space, one might say. Long story short, Georgia found a universal adaptor at his shop and we managed to blend the soup.

While we were eating our soup  Mimi replied to the text:
” If you want to know about the adaptor so you can use the blender, I am not going to tell you cause tomorrow that I am coming back you will be all wasted and hang over-ed” (referring to a possibility of using the blender to mix cocktails).

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.

Stavros Grandma Garlic dip (or the traditional Skordalia)

In Greek “skordo” means garlic hence the traditional name of this dish “Skordalia”. Usually accompanies a fried hake plate. Stavros, a master of this dip and also my roommate in Athens for the past 10 years learned the recipe from his grandmother and since then is one of our favourite dips in the house.

SERVES 4

Shopping list

5 medium potatoes
6 garlic cloves
2/3 cup olive oil
Sea salt
1/6 cup vinegar

And now what?

Boil the potatoes with the skin until very soft (use a fork to check the softness of the potato). Approximately 30-45 minutes.

In a big mortar you blend ¼ cup olive oil, the garlic cloves and a pinch of sea salt until you have a nice smooth paste.

Stavros getting ready to start his creation...

Remove the skin from potatoes and add in the mortar. You can transfer the mix in a bowl if there is not enough space in the mortar and continue blending the mix until smooth. Keep adding olive oil while blending the ingredients. The olive oil should be totally absorbed by the potatoes.

Add the vinegar and continue mixing. When the mix has absorbed all the liquids is ready.

If needed add salt to taste.

Tips from Stavros?

Ask your friends to clean the garlic for you otherwise your hands will be smelly for a week.

Call your mother to be sure you remember the recipe correctly.

Use extra virgin Kalamata olive oil if possible or the best quality of olive oil you can get.

Stavros Lena and Mimi during preparations and final testing...

Viva la Margarita!

After public demand from friends in Haiti I am urgently posting my favourite cocktail recipe. The Classic Margarita! However pictures will come later cause it’s early morning here in Greece at the moment and I don’t want to start making Margaritas…

The Classic Margarita

1 1/2 oz Tequila (blanco)
1 oz fresh lime (or lemon-I prefer lemon/lime juice mix) juice
1/2 oz Cointreau liqueur (you can substitute it with Triple sec liqueur but Cointreau is the best option)
Salt (for rimming the glass)

Put salt in a flat plate,preferably use freshly grind sea salt . Moisten the rim of the glass with a lime twist and then carefully dip in salt. Add all ingredients in a shaker filled with 4 ice cubes. Shake very very well until shaker is frozen. Strain in the glass with no added ice. However sometimes I might add some ice cubes in my drink at the end if I want  to take it slowly!

Frozen Margarita

The ingredients remain the same. Instead of the shaker you blend Cointreau and lime juice in a blender with a glass of crashed ice until smooth. Place mix in a glass and at the end add the tequila. The reason you are not blending the tequila from the start is to avoid loosing the basic flavor of the drink. Tequila is loosing the aroma when mixed with water in my opinion. If you don’t have an ice crasher you can place a few ice-cubes in a tea towel and then start crashing it with a heavy item or on the wall.

Frozen Strawberry Margarita

1 1/2 oz Tequila (blanco)
1/2 oz fresh lime (or lemon-I prefer lemon/lime juice mix) juice
5 ripe fresh strawberries (preferable frozen-place them in the freezer for a couple of hours before use)
1/2 oz Cointreau liqueur (you can substitute it with Triple sec liqueur but Cointreau is the best option)
Sugar (for rimming the glass)

Dip the rim of the glass in sugar instead of salt this time. Blend all ingredients apart from Tequila with crashed ice in a blender. Place mix in glass and add the Tequila.

Pizza Dough

Pizza is one of my favourite dishes. It is easy to make and also a good excuse to use any left overs or veggies that are turning bad in your fridge. You can be extremely creative by topping up the dough with whatever you can imagine. My favourite base sauce is canned tomato paste shimmered for a few minutes with onions, loads of garlic, oregano and a bay leaf and sometimes grated fresh tomato. There were times though that I just used ketchup,spicy sauces or even creamy-white cheese sauce. I usually make pizza dough once per week or even once per two weeks and keep it in the fridge.

George handling the pizza before final cut!

MAKES 6 MEDIUM SIZED PIZZAS

Shopping list

4 1/2 cups flour (all purpose flour)
1  tsp salt
1 tsp yeast
1/4 cup virgin olive oil (optional)
1 3/4 cups water, ice cold
additional flour for dusting

And now what?

Stir together the flour, salt and yeast in a large bowl. stir in the oil and cold water with your hands until all the flour is absorbed. Mix for 5-7 minutes until the dough is smooth and sticky. Sprinkle some more flour in as needed.

Transfer the dough to a floured surface and cut into six equal pieces. Line a sheet pan with baking paper and lightly oil it. Sprinkle a bit of flour on the dough and gently shape them into balls.

Place the dough balls on the sheet pan and slip the whole pan into a large ziploc or plastic super market bag. Put the pan in the fridge overnight to rest. They will keep in the fridge for 3 days (or in the freezer for up to 3 months).

My dough-balls resting before refrigeration.

When it is time for pizza remove the dough from the fridge 2 hours before. Dust the counter with flour, place the number of dough balls down you are going to use, and sprinkle with more flour. Gently press them into flat disks (about 1/2 inch thick). sprinkle with a bit more flour and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let rest.

I usually shape the dough with a rolling pin or a big bottle but if you feel like trying the Italian way. Deep your hand into flour and give it a try…

lay it on the pizza peel,pan or straight on baking paper and top lightly with your favorite sauces, cheeses, veggies and meats. Keep in mind that this is a pretty thin crust; so a little topping goes a long way.

Preheat the oven in high temperature, place the pizza close to the bottom of the oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes. The edges will puff a little bit, darken and crisp up. Remove the pizza from the oven and transfer to a cutting board. Wait a few minutes for the toppings to set before slicing and serving.

Looks delicious, isn't it?

Check-Point Chili

The story with the strange-funny names started when I was thinking about writing a cook manual for people working with humanitarian organizations. Being a humanitarian myself as a few of of my friends the decision was taken to match recipe names with our daily life experiences. First recipe was the check point chili and the credits go to George for coming up with the name! Of course the cookbook never happened but some of the names remained at least amongst my friendlings.

I shall only give a piece of advice before you start cooking this recipe. You better have enough time cause it will take you approximately 3 1/2 hours…

SERVES 4

Shopping List

700g beef fillet
5 dried red chilies, deseeded
2 cups beef stock
800gr fresh tomatoes grated (or 3 tbsp tomato paste)
2 large onions finely chopped
3 garlic cloves
3 tbsp olive oil
I tbsp flour
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp sugar
½ tsp oregano
2 tbsp parsley finely chopped
salt and pepper to taste
Parsley (optional)

And now what?

Preheat the oven at 150 C. Cut the beef fillet in small cubes (approximately 3cm) and discard any fat.

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet and sauté the beef cubes until they get a brown colour. If needed add some more olive oil together with boiled water and scratch the skillets bottom until all beef is cooked.

Heat the beef stock in a saucepan and add the chilies. Cover and simmer for 20 min. Strain the stock and keep the soaked chillies aside.

In a blender or if you want to be more traditional in a big mortar mix the tomatoes (or tomato paste), the onions, garlic and soaked chilies and blend until you ‘have a nice and smooth pomade.

In a skillet, roast the ground cumin for 1 minute. Add 2 tbsp olive oil, the flour and oregano and cook for another minute.

Mix the pomade with beef stock adding the sugar. Salt and pepper to taste, then mix with cumin sauce  and simmer for 10 minutes.

Place the beef cubes into a clay pot or pyrex, add the sauce, cover with lid or foil and cook for 2 and ½ hours.

Garnish with fresh parsley and accompany the dish with yogurt and rice .

Ginger, Lemon & Linguine

SERVES 4

Shopping List

500gr (1 pack) Linguine pasta
2 tsp lemon zest, grated
½ cup dry white wine
4 tsp olive oil
5cm piece of fresh ginger
salt and pepper to taste
parsley, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crashed
parmesan (optional)

 

And now what?

In a saucepan heat the wine over medium heat. Add the lemon zest and salt. Cover the saucepan lower heat to medium low and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

In a bowl stir 4 tsp olive oil together with the garlic, parsley and pepper. Strain the wine sauce from the lemon zest and add it in the mix. Leave the sauce to rest for a few minutes.

Bring water to boil and cook the linguine for 8-12 minutes (start timing when the water returns to boil). To be sure if “al dente”, bite into a piece of the pasta. In a big saucepan mix together the linguine with the sauce and fresh grated ginger. Season with extra fresh pepper or salt if needed and garnish with fresh parsley.

I usually add some fresh grated parmesan cheese, but you can also do without it,

Did you know? Linguine means “little tongues” in Italian. A thinner version of linguine is called linguettine