Fish Pie

 

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My absolute favourite way of cooking is making something up, based on what’s available in my fridge and freezer. Most of the time it works, and I surprise myself with a new dish, which I try to recreate a few times after, in order to perfect it, and ofcourse in order not to forget it!

My new inventions are not always a success ofcourse, but they get eaten anyway, and are certainly a great addition to my “what not to do” list.

This fish pie dish was born this summer. This is my 3rd go at it, and I think I’m happy with it. If you make it, do let me know what you think: additions? Subtractions?

Ingredients:

1 large onion chopped

2 apples peeled and chopped

2 large tsps curry powder

1 cup frozen peas

1 cup sliced sauteed mushrooms

1 cup rice

1 soup cube

1 cup chopped parsley

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400 grs fish filet cut into cubes (I use defrosted perch filet)

1 1/2 cup medium shrimp defrosted & deveined

a piece of ginger grated

1 lemon grated

1 tsp paprika

1tsp turmeric

salt (I used himalyian)

olive oil

split the spices in two and use to marinate the fish and the shrimp separately. Set aside until the rice is cooked

1 sheet puff pastry (defrosted)

Method:

1) The rice:

sautee the onion in a bit of olive oil till soft-ish

add the chopped apples, stir

add the curry and keep stirring

add the sauteed mushrooms

add the rice

add the water (according to the instructions on your rice. I’d add slightly more to allow for the apples & mushrooms)

add the soup cube

cover and simmer till rice almost done

stir in the peas

remove from heat and keep covered for 10 mns

transfer into your pie dish and set aside

2) The fish/shrimp:

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cook your marinated fish in a non stick frying pan, taking care not to stir much so it doesnt break

dont over crowd the pan, just a little at a time

you could deglaze with a little white wine if necessary

then cook your shrimp. Very briefly just to get a colour

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3) Assembling:

 

add the cooked fish/shrimp to your rice

add the chopped parsley

mix loosely with a fork to combine all ingredients

place your defrosted and refrigerated pastry on top

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brush with a beaten egg

decorate

brush the decoration

bake in a preheated 200 centigrade oven for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is cooked and nicely coloured.

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You need to serve immediately.

Enjoy!

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Rice Pudding (Rozz bel-laban)

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This recipe is courtesy of my good friend Lina.

It is plain-old rice pudding ofcourse, common to almost every culture that we know, but this one has got the unmistaken middle eastern touch to it: “mastic” flavour! It is unbelievably delicious, and tastes almost like ice cream, you’ve got to try it.

Some of you will ofcourse ask what on earth is “mastic”??? It is shown in the close-up picture here.

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Translation? The dictionary says: an aromatic resin or gum extracted from a tree grown in the Mediterranean or Middle Eastern region.

I have no clue where you would find it in “your” country, a middle Eastern grocer I would guess. I have no problem finding it in Greece, as it is also common to Greek deserts (especially ice cream!). They also have a “Mastikha” liqueur from the island of Chios; yummy served on ice.

Back to our rice pudding that my husband has been asking me to make, for many days now!!

Ingredients:

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3/4 cup rice

8 cups milk

1 cup sugar

1/2 tsp mastic grounded w/1 tbsp sugar)

1/2 cup chopped pistachios to garnish

Method:

soak rice in 2 cups hot water for 1 hour, then boil for 10mns

add milk and stir almostconstantly for 3/4 hour

(you really need to pay attention to this one, don’t go sit down with a book, or get involved with another dish, milk boiling over, or worse still blackened milk stuck at the bottom of a pan, is not pretty I assure you!)

add sugar, stir, keep for 5 more minutes

add mastic mixture and stir to combine

take off fire and let cool a bit

divide in small glass bowls

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cover with cling film (very close to the surface to prevent milk for forming a skin)

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refrigerate when cooled

sprinkle chopped pistachios on top before serving

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Enjoy!

Cheese pie (w/sundried tomatoes & olives):

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Sometimes I get bored with the same-old same-old, and depending on my mood and what I can find in my fridge, I try to come up with something different.

Today I’m cooking for my nephew Zeyad and his girl friend visiting for a couple of weeks.

I’m making oriental chicken cubes (already posted), rice w/vermicelli & pine nuts (already posted), a greek salad, and a cheese pie. At least some form of a cheese pie.

Sundried tomatoes have been on my mind for a while; yesterday I finally remembered to get some. I also got some really big and plump Kalamata olives. So… that’s what I’ll put in my pie today.

Ingredients:

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250 grs crumbled feta

100 grs grated emmental (to cut the sharpness of the feta a bit)

85 grs sundried tomatoes chopped small

85 grs black olives sliced

1 pkt filo pastry (450grs)

1 stick butter melted

Method:

divide your filo into 2 equal parts: ½ for the bottom and ½ for the top

brush your pan with butter (as well as the sides)

then start layering your filo on it one at a time, brushing with butter in between each sheet

Note: Your sheets are never going be the exact same size as your pan which is fine. Because you want them to overlap on the sides so that later you can fold them over, in order to keep the filling in and prevent it from oozing out the sides of the pan. As I lay each sheet of pastry into the pan, I try to have it fit nicely into 2 sides of the pan and the remaining I drape over the other 2 sides, making sure I covered all 4 sides as I go along. I don’t know how to explain it in words better than that, so you’ll just have to look at the pictures to understand what I mean.

when you’ve used your first half, spread the crumbled feta, the emmmental, the sun-dried tomatoes, and the olives over the whole surface

now start covering with the 2ndhalf of the filo, one at a time, brushing with butter between each layer and ending with brushed butter on top as well

cut your filo into squares before baking. Use a sharp knife and go with an up & down motion (cutting all the way to the bottom). Make sure you hold lightly with the fingers of your other hand to ensure that the sheets remain in place while cutting

bake in a 180centigrade pre heated oven till the pastry puffs up and is golden brown on top (about 30mns)

Enjoy!

 

Stuffed Tomatoes, Peppers & Eggplant

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So … Maggie & her friends went to Santorini for a few days. Before they left I asked her if she would like me to cook for them on their return. “What about Stuffed Tomatoes?” she asked the next morning. “Yes ofcourse!” said the woman living inside my body, who thinks she’s still in her thirties with tons of energy to spare!

So there we all are with two big trays of stuffed veggies and one fairly long preparation process!! And why 2 big trays when one would have been more than enough? Don’t ask, I honestly don’t know! My guess is that having grown up in a fairly large family, my eyes are so used to seeing big quantities that I still can’t judge the correct size of “enough”!

I prepared the veggies one day before, covered the trays well and refrigerated them, ready for stuffing the next day.

So once again, I add the same comment I’ve been making in a lot of my recipes it seems: keep in mind that the quantities below are for 2 large trays (which you see in the pictures) so half or reduce as needed!!!

 

Ingredients:

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9 tomatoes

6 peppers

3 eggplants

6 medium potatoes

2 medium onions or 1 large

3 or 4 garlic cloves

a bunch of parsley

500 grs ground beef

round rice (roughly 1 level tablespoon for each vegetable)

4 tsps tomato paste

2 soup cubes dissolved in 2 cups hot water

olive oil

salt & pepper

 

Method:

first the tomatoes:

wash & dry well, cut the tops off but keep them

scoop out the inside of each tomato (as per picture) & cover it with its own lid

Note 1*

the inside that you scooped out goes into the food processor,

add to it the 4 tsps tomato paste, salt, pepper, a bit of olive oil, and give it a few whirls

put in a bowl and set aside for later.

Next the eggplant:

if they’re large, cut it in two first, cut a topper for each, level a bit of the bottom (so it can stand in the tray without toppling over), and start scooping out the inside (as per picture)

make sure you have a top for each

Note 2*

the inside that you scooped out goes into the food processor

chop roughly and put it in a frying pan

next put the onions & garlic and process as well

add to the eggplant in the frying pan

salt, pepper, some oil, and saute lightly just to blend well and release the flavours

put the mixture in a large bowl and set aside for later

Next the peppers:

cut off tops, clean out the inside veins, & cover each with its own lid

Now the main work has been done!! you can stop here, cover the lot very well, and keep refrigerated till next day.

Next the potatoes:

peel and cut, put in a tray, salt, pepper, olive oil and mix together.

Set aside.

For the stuffing:

In your large bowl that contains the eggplant/onion/garlic mixture, add the following:

chopped parsley

ground beef

rice

a few tbsps of the tomato mixture in Note 1* above

1 cup prepared broth

salt, pepper, & a bit of olive oil

mix very well with your hands

you might need to add some water if necessary (the mixture should be on the loose side, not firm and packed together like a hamburger).

Now you’re ready to assemble.

Stuff each veggie, leaving a little bit of room at the top (see pictures), cover each with its lid and place in a tray

wedge the potatoes in between the veggies to fill the spaces and to keep the veggies straight up

pour the rest of the sauce in Note 1* above all over the veggies & the potatoes

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Place uncovered in a 200centigrade oven and bake till done. It should take around 1.5 to 2 hours.

Every half hour I get the tray out, and baste each veggie with the liquid that has now formed all around it. A turkey baster does the job perfectly.

I check the sides of some of the veggies with the edge of a sharp knife every now & then to make sure its done. I also taste a smidgen of the stuffing to ensure that the rice is ready.

When the tops are nicely coloured, take the tray out, and cover it well with silver foil to keep warm until you’re ready to serve.

 

Enjoy!

 

 

Kathleen’s Pastichio (Pasta w/ground beef & béchamel)

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Sol’s wife, Kathleen, was my best friend. Ever since we first met in their house in Canada, we took an instant liking to each other. A liking that grew stronger through the years. Fourty of them to be precise.

She decided to up and go as well, less than two years after Sol!

Will there ever be an end to missing all the wonderful people that you got to know and love? The people that affected and shaped your life into an infinitely better version than it would have been without them? Does the missing ever stop? Certainly not. You just learn to live without them, and to carry their memory not only inside your heart, but in your everyday life as well. By remembering them, by talking about them, by cherishing the time that you’ve had together, and by sharing your wonderful memories with others. They may be absent physically, but their spirit & their essence is now part of you. Who you are today is a product of all of them combined.

Now back to the pastichio! And I can’t think pastichio without thinking Kathleen. She certainly wasn’t a big lover of cooking, and tended to steer clear of the kitchen as much as possible, but… she had a few signature dishes that only she could make. Pastichio was one of them.

Pastichio has ofcourse become a universal dish, shared by many nationalities and many countries across the globe. It is a biggy in Greece ofcourse, but doesn’t stop there. Each of us “knows” of a different version, carrying a different name, and made slightly different.

Maggie, my niece and her family & friends, are here visiting. And there is no first day of Maggie in our house without Patischio, greek salad, and tzatziki! I usually make two big trays: one for that day, and another that I stash away in the freezer for her “last” day. This is for you Mag, we are so happy you guys are here!!

This is going to be a sort of a wing-it kind of situation, as I can not give you precise quantities of anything. It really all depends on the size of your baking dish. But not to panic, I assure you that it is simple and easy, just read on and look at the pictures. Believe me you can not go wrong.

P.S. Please keep in mind that quantities below are for 2 large baking dishes!!! so half or reduce as needed!

Ingredients:

penne…

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I never ever measure the pasta! I first decide what dish I’m going to use, then I put in it the uncooked pasta, just to cover one loose layer. No more than one layer (see picture).

ground beef …

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again I just wing it, knowing that I like a lot of meat and sauce in this dish. For instance for these two big dishes, I have used 1kg ground beef.

Bechamel sauce:

2 litres full fat milk

olive oil

6 tablespoons flour (heaped)

200 grs grated cheddar

200 grs grated emmental

1 soup cube

Method:

boil your pasta al dente, rinse, drain and put in your baking dish

prepare the meat sauce and mix with your pasta. Be generous!

Now your bechamel:

heat the olive oil

add the flour & stir. Don’t be afraid to add more oil if needed. The flour mixture should be loose and not lumped up in a ball (look at the picture)

 

add the milk gradually stirring all the time

add the soup cube for a bit of an extra flavour

keep stirring often, until the mixture thickens. A word of caution here: you do not want your bechamel too thick as it will sit on your pasta in a separate layer and end up looking like a pudding.

Once you’re happy with the consistency (see the picture) add about ¼ of the cheese and stir to incorporate in the bechamel

now back to your pasta & meat sauce already sitting in the dishes:

sprinkle some cheese on the pasta

pour in ½ of the bechamel

at this point I like to pock it with a back of a fork in various places to make sure that the bechamel has gone through and will be present in every bite

add the remaining bechamel to smooth the surface

sprinkle the cheese on top

your pastichio is now ready for baking!!

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Since I almost always make two dishes at a time, at this point I let one of them cool nicely, cover it well, and put it in the freezer for future use.

Pre-heat the oven to 200 Centigrades, bake pastichio until bubbly and nicely coloured on top.

Enjoy!!

 

 

 

Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

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I honestly don’t know one single person who does not love this dish! Absolutely delicious, not to mention healthy, and a great way to get the I-hate-veggie-group to eat their veggies.

Trust the Greeks to make a pie (pita) out of anything they can get their hands on. Wether savory or sweet they always have a new addition up their sleeve to delight and surprise.

I just love my adopted country and its happy people who love their food, their drink, their music, their dancing, and all things jolly!

Ingredients:

400 grs frozen spinach

6 or 8 scallion with their greens (I didn’t have enough scallions, so I also used a half red onion with it)

a good bunch of fresh dill

200-250 grs feta

2 eggs

1 stick of butter melted

1 filo packet (450 grs)

a large baking tray about 35cms x 25cms

Method:

you could defrost your spinach ahead of time and then squeeze the water out of it with your hands,

or

you can go the lazy way: I just open my spinach packet as is out of the freezer, and put it in a large casserole (nothing else on it), and let it sweat on medium heat until it brings out most its water

I then put it in a colander in the sink and let it sit for a little while , then squeeze the water out with my hands

chop your spinach roughly

chop your onions

chop the dill

put together in a bowl

beat the 2 eggs, a bit of salt, a bit of pepper and add to the bowl

mix well with a fork making sure all ingredients are well combined

you can crumble the feta on top of that now & mix,

I prefer to wait till I have spread my filling on half the pastry, then crumble the feta on top of it, spreading it evenly throughout, making sure that every bite will have some cheese in it.

you can now start with the pastry:

divide your filo into 2 equal parts (my packet had 13 sheets in it, so I used 6 for the bottom and 7 for the top

brush your pan with butter (as well as the sides)

then start layering your filo on it one at a time, brushing with butter in between each sheet

when you’ve used your first half, spread the spinach mixture over the whole surface

crumble the feta on top

now start covering with the 2ndhalf of the filo, one at a time, brushing with butter between each layer and ending with brushed butter on top as well

cut your filo into squares before baking. Use a sharp knife and go with an up & down motion (cutting all the way to the bottom). Make sure you hold lightly with the fingers of your other hand to ensure that the sheets remain in place while cutting

bake in a 180centigrade pre heated oven till the pastry puffs up and is golden brown on top (about 30mns)

Important note:

Your sheets are never going be the exact same size as your pan which is fine. Because you want them to overlap on the sides so that later you can fold them over, in order to keep the filling in and prevent it from oozing out the sides of the pan.

As I lay each sheet of pastry into the pan, I try to have it fit nicely into 2 sides of the pan and the remaining I drape over the other 2 sides, making sure I covered all 4 sides as I go along. I don’t know how to explain it in words better than that, so you’ll just have to look at the pictures to understand what I mean.

Enjoy!

 

 

Pasta with Chicken & Bechamel

 

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I made this dish using the boiled chicken that I had when I made the chicken ginger soup.

Unfortunately I can not tell you the quantity of pasta, as I forgot to weigh it before I started! Sorry! But what I usually do is decide first which oven dish I’m going to use, then fill it with one layer of uncooked pasta. Just one layer no more, it will be more than enough.

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Cook the pasta till aldente, drain and put in your dish

sprinkle a layer of grated Parmesan over the pasta

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arrange the chicken pieces above it

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make your bechamel:

roughly I used 3 heaped soup spoons of flour to 1 litre of milk.

Cook the flour in some olive oil (I never use butter for cooking only for baking). The secret to a good bechamel is the ratio of flour to fat. While you’re cooking your flour, it should look “loose” in the pan, not lumpy

add the milk gradually, salt, pepper and keep whisking till you get the right thickness

add some grated cheese, whisk some more

pour about ¾ of your bechamel over the pasta & chicken, poke a few holes here & there with the back of a spoon to ensure that the bechamel goes down through all the layers and not just sit on top

add the remaining bechamel

sprinkle some more cheese

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Bake in a 200C pre-heated oven for about ¾ of an hour until the top is the right colour.

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I know this was a quicky bechamel recipe, I’m sorry. But I was rushing to make it while I also had the soup going, so I forgot to take enough pictures to show the various stages. I promise to make up for it when I post my Pastichio recipe. When? Only God knows. Just bare with me, this woman cooks by “whim”!!!

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Enjoy!

 

 

Chicken ginger soup

 

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My first experience with this soup was in my friend Lina’s house. It was love at first “taste”, and I haven’t stopped making it and remaking it ever since. This delicious soup has its origin in the Philippines, but through years of my remaking it, over and over and over again, I am sure that it has now become my “butchered-up” version of the original one.

Nevertheless it is unbelievably good, and for me rates high on the comfort-food scale. It especially appears on my radar whenever my husband or I have a cold. And what better for a cold than a good old fashioned home made chicken soup. Especially when it has tons of fresh ginger in it! I absolutely swear by ginger. It’s my very own version of antibiotics, which I steer clear from if I can help it.

Step one: the broth

1 medium onion

1 medium potato (or 2 small)

2 carrots

2 cardamon seeds

2 bay leaves

a bunch of sage leaves

salt

pepper

1 whole chicken (about 2kgs) I always ask the butcher to remove the skin and to cut it in 4 pieces so it can fit nicely in the pot.

Put all ingredients (except the chicken) in a large pot filled 1/2 with water.

When the water comes to a boil, add the chicken. Simmer until the chicken is tender.

Remove the chicken & vegetables on a separate dish & keep aside.

Strain the broth and keep aside.

Step two: what goes in that broth!!!

1 medium onion chopped fine

1/2 cup round rice

1 two-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

In a frying pan: put chopped onion & rice, add a bit of olive oil, and keep stirring until mixture looks dryer & begins to separate. Don’t leave this on the stove and do something else, as it will burn before you know it! Just keep stirring. When its ready, remove from the burner & stir some more as it tends to keep cooking with the heat left in the pan even after removal.

Add the chopped ginger.

Add above mixture to your strained broth, and return to the stove.

Meanwhile clean your chicken and save the biggish peaces for another meal (see pasta w/chicken & bechamel which I will post after this.)

Take all the small pieces and add to your soup pot.

Keep cooking until the rice is done. Remove from the heat immediately (or else the rice will keep cooking and become too mushy). And keep the lid OFF until its cool.

I like to eat this soup with some toasted village bread.

P.S. This will make a huge pot of chicken ginger soup so you should have plenty of leftover. When you come to re-heat the left over next day, the rice may have swelled up some more and the soup may have thickened. Just dilute with some ready chicken broth, or some water & chicken flavoured Bouillon if needed).

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Enjoy!

 

 

Zucchini Pie-no crust

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Alright already, I hear you loud & clear! Lets have a break from this seafood obsession of late, shall we? What about some vegetables for a change.

I have this no-fail recipe for parties & big gatherings, it is delicious, always successful, and best of all an absolute no-fail. Ever! A favourite of Jiji’s, and a favourite of Jacob’s my grand nephew, he calls them “zucchini brownies”!

Ingredients:

4 cups grated zucchini

4 green onions sliced

1 clove garlic

4 tbsp fresh dill

Salt & pepper

 

4 eggs

½ cup cream

1 cup grated gruyere

1 cup grated cheddar

Method:

Place the grated zucchini in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and set it on a bowl to drain for a couple of hours. Squeeze it dry every time you pass by. You want the zucchini to release a lot of its liquid otherwise your pie will not set.

Place your drained zucchini in a frying pan, add the green onion, garlic, and dill. Saute together lightly, just to combine.

Spread the mixture into a baking pan

add the grated cheese and mix well with your hands to combine zucchini & cheese uniformly throughout

Beat the eggs & cream and add to the vegetable/cheese mixture

Bake in pre heated 190 centigrade oven for 30mns. Should be golden and puffed up.

Let it cool down, cut it into squares, and transfer it to your serving dish.

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So easy, so quick… Absolutely delicioushot or cold. Try it, you will not be sorry!

Seafood salad

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I know, I know … I’ve been over dosing on seafood lately, but it is the “period” for it. Also, we’ve been going to way-too-many parties lately. Health food you say? absolutely not! delicious food? yes, alcohol? plenty, and deserts? galore. I kind of like to make up for it the next few days by sticking to “healthy” food. Doesn’t always work, but I try. Yesterday’s salmon recipe, was on one such health-oriented-promise-to-be-good day.

But, talk about parties, here is a seafood salad that is absolutely delicious and a great & welcome contribution to any party invitation.

Again, no specific quantities or weights please, just use your own imagination.

Ingredients:

1 frozen squid

1 small onion chopped

1 bay leaf

1/4 white wine

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2 handfuls frozen shrimps (medium to small)

some paprika

pepper flakes

 

2 handfuls frozen mussels

1 small onion chopped

1 bay leaf

1/4 white wine

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2 boiled potatoes cut into small cubes

1 small red onion chopped

½ red pepper chopped small-ish

some chopped parsley

Method:

Defrost all your seafood.

Start with the mussels:

saute the chopped onion is some olive oil, add the mussels, the bay leaf, and stir a bit, then add the wine and simmer until the mussels are tender

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in a big salad bowl:

put your cooked mussels

put your cut potatoes & the chopped onion

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set aside and start your squid

chop the squid up into small bite size squares, also cut the tentacles into smallish pieces

saute the chopped onion is some olive oil, add the cut up squid, the bay leaf, and stir a bit till the squid starts shrinking, then add the wine and simmer until squid is tender

add to your salad bowl

now the shrimps:

put in a frying pan, a tiny bit of olive oil, paprika, pepper flakes, and stir around till the shrimp becomes pink and firm-ish. You need to try a couple so as to not over cook (sometimes I feel like I’ve already eaten, with all the tasting I do!)

add to your salad bowl

add the chopped pepper and the chopped parsley, some lemon juice, some olive oil (a few drops of Tabasco if you wish), mix well with your hands, and set it aside till its cool.

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Taste in order to adjust the flavours to your liking, then cover and put it in the fridge.

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Beyond yummy!!!!!!!