Monthly Archives: December 2015

Nana’s Vol-O-Vent:

Nana's Vol-O-Vent

My mother-in-law was a great lady!

She was thoughtful. She was loving. She was giving.

She had a heart big enough to encompass the entire cosmos, and it did. But mostly, she poured her love back into her family: her children and grand children.

A real lady in every sense of the word, and I was fortunate enough to have shared the same house with her for ten years!

My mother-in-law also loved cooking. Going forward with this blog, you are bound to see a great many of her recipes.

She was “Nana” to her two adoring grand daughters, and since this is for you Maggie & Mona, that’s how we shall refer to her throughout.

Nana’s favourite holiday was Christmas, no wonder she’s been on my mind a lot these days! Almost every dish I think of, pushes her picture to the forefront of my mind. A huge happy smile!

I see you mother-in-law, so lets get cooking shall we?!

 

This very special appetizer, was one of Nana’s favorites. It always appeared on special occasions, and never failed to impress! The light puff pastry case, is very versatile and can be filled with anything really. Chicken, fish, shrimps, vegetables….

In this recipe I used chicken liver, but don’t panic please!! I know many people are not partial to liver, so feel free to substitute with whatever feels right to you.

Ingredients:

Frozen puff pastry (the kind that is already cut into rounds. I used two packets of 10 rounds each, which make 10 vol-o-vent cases)

500 grs liver (or chicken, or shrimp, or fish!)

250 grs mushrooms

1 medium onion

2 cups frozen peas

2 heaped tbsps flour

milk

some cream

Method:

1)Vol-O-Vent cases:

thaw the pastry

arrange 10 rounds on a grease proof paper lined oven tray

brush the 10 rounds with a beaten egg

cut a small circle in the center of the other 10 rounds (half separate/loosen the small circle which will later become your lid)

place the second lot of 10 rounds (with lids) on the first lot of 10 already on your tray

bake in a 180 centigrade pre-heated oven with fan until done (sorry I never time it, I just keep an eye on it and remove when its done. Its safer this way.)

let cool no more than a minute (just to be able to handle without burning your fingers)

loosen the lids with a sharp serrated very pointy knife, handling the pastry really carefully & lightly. Remove any extra bits & pieces (if any) from the inside.

2) Filling:

Cut your filling into small bite-size pieces, cook separately, and keep on the side

slice mushrooms (small-ish slices) and sautee lightly

remove from pan

chop onions fine and sautee in same pan

add the flour and stir (you may need to add more oil (or butter) in order to loosen the mixture)

add the milk and stir using a whisk working your mixture into a light bechamel

add the mushrooms and the frozen peas

continue on low heat

add the cooked filling to the mixture

you may need to add a bit of cream towards the end to adjust the consistency

(you can cook your filling from the day before and just re-heat before serving. But never, EVER, prepare your pastry ahead of time! Not even a couple of hours before. Believe me I’ve tried, and it is best served fresh from the oven. Your guests can wait that extra bit if necessary …)

spoon your filling into the vol-o-vent cases, place the lid on top, et voila! ready for serving.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Chicken Roll with Sausage & Sage Stuffing

chicken roll-finished product
Chicken roll-finished product

So … last night’s dinner went really well in case you’re wondering.

It had me in the kitchen for two days! OK slight exaggeration, it wasn’t all cooking. There was also the shopping, and the thinking. But the kitchen therapy was successful as usual! Between the appetizers, first course, main meal, and dessert I had my hands full, and my heart and head had to go along to help out.

I will only be posting the main dish for now. Believe me, it needs all the attention it can get!

The stuffing I used for this recipe is my traditional turkey stuffing that I have been using for years and years and years. It is super delicious as is, and you can vary it by adding pine nuts to it, or small pieces of chestnuts if you wish. Just please do not add anything sweet to it, like dried cranberries or raisins or whatever. It will totally ruin it, OK?!

This is a bit of a fiddly recipe, so I added as many pictures as I could to aid with the description. As usual just trust your guts and go with whatever feels right.

Ingredients:

500 grs chicken breast fillets

500 grs chicken legs fillets

and for the Stuffing:

4 fresh butcher sausages, skin removed

(I used 2 beef & 2 chicken because I like to experiment, but usually I use beef. Unfortunately I forgot to weigh before using but they are on the large side. I promise when I make it again I will come back to this recipe and add the weight. )

1 large onion

a good fat bunch of fresh sage (the leaves may look a little small, but it’s fresh from our garden & it smells delicious!!!)

8 ready toasted bread slices (or you can toast your own, just make it crunchy). The weight equivalent is about 100grs

 

Method:

Chop the onion using a food processor, it needs to be on the mushy side

clean the sage discarding all the stems and keeping just the leaves

run the leaves through the food processor

sautee the onions in a little olive oil till soft

add the chopped sage and continue sauteing just a little longer

add some water (or white wine) & half a chicken bouillon cube

stir well

crunch the toast ruffly with your hands till coarse crouton size (as in picture)

add the onion sage mixture (still warm) and mix well with a spoon

add the skinned sausages and work it well with your hands until thoroughly mixed and resembling a hamburger mix

set aside

now the fiddly part!!

cut the chicken breasts into 1/2cm (¼ inch) thick fillets. (if necessary you can pound between 2 grease proof sheets of paper to get the right thickness)

spread open a good size grease proof paper on your counter

arrange the chicken pieces “slightly” overlapping on the paper forming a rectangle

spread half the sausage mixture working delicately in small batches so as not to dislodge the chicken fillets from one another

start from the side near you, and using the grease proof paper as help, start rolling tightly like a swiss roll, pushing from the sides in, and shaping with your fingers (on the paper), making sure it all stays together

now you have a roll that resembles a loaf

lift with the aid of the paper and place in a loaf pan

trim the paper

sprinkle with salt & pepper

add a few pats of butter and you’re ready

repeat with the chicken thighs

bake your two loaf pans in a 180 centigrade pre-heated oven (with fan)

it should take no more than 1 to 1 ½ hours. Check often, draining the liquid & reserving separately for gravy. I drained it a total of 4 times. You will know its enough when you run out of liquid!!!

I rely very much on instinct to judge when its done, be careful to not over cook!

Let cool lightly on the chopping board, then slice with a very sharp knife

serve with roast potatoes on the side and a drizzle of gravy

Enjoy!

 

Minted Couscous Salad With Courgettes & Feta

Couscous Salad-6
Couscous-salad-6

 

I first had this amazing salad at my friend Lina’s house. It was instant love, and it has since been on my “if all else fails cook this” list. And it goes so well with the chicken schnitzel, that I almost always never make the one without the other.

Another super easy & delicious recipe.

Ingredients:

½ a box couscous with lemon & mint (it comes with 2 pouches, so just use one).

1 cup boiling water

2 medium courgettes (Zucchini) cut into small cubes. I used the round ones because that’s what I found, but the regular kind works just as nice.

1 small onion chopped

feta cheese cut into small-ish cubes

some olive oil to drizzle

Method:

put the content of the one pouch of couscous in a small pan, pour on it the boiling water, cover the pan & set aside.

Lightly sautee the courgettes and onions in a frying pan with very little olive oil. Do not over cook as you want the courgettes to still be crunchy.

Fluff your couscous with a fork.

Add your cooled courgettes mixture

add the feta, drizzle some olive oil, mix with fork to combine all.

P.S. If you can not find this particular brand of couscous “with lemon & mint” in your grocery store, just get a plain kind, and add your own mint and lemon.

Enjoy!

 

Turkey Schnitzels

turkey schnitzel-finished product
Turkey Schnitzel-finished product

Its been a rough couple of days! Grief has this funny way of popping its head uninvited, welling up inside, like a big wave slowly gathering momentum. Just when you think you’re getting stronger, that darkness is not as dark anymore, bam, the wave washes over you, threatening to pull you under. … Trying to understand it, trying to reason with yourself, trying to talk yourself out of it; simply does not work! You just have to accept it, feel it, and hope that time will eventually take care of it. And of you.

Today is too cold and windy for another long walk on the beach, some serious kitchen therapy is needed, and big time!!!

I just made a couple of phone calls and scheduled four friends for dinner on Saturday. A full blown cooking marathon: two days from today! They are all excellent cooks. Now, there is a challenge! What’s on the menu? I don’t know yet, I’ll just go shopping and something will pop up. We shall see.

Meanwhile my husband & I need to eat. I’m thinking something comforting, and easy, and light.

Turkey Schnitzels and Couscous salad. Yum… I can taste it already…

Turkey Schnitzels:

So easy, so quick, and never fails. Its one of those dishes I often fall back on whenever I’m at a loss as to what to cook. I usually do it with chicken breasts fillets, but since turkey breast is what I have in my fridge today, it will work just as nice. I love the combination of the outside crispiness and the inside tenderness.

Unfortunately I do not have measurable quantities for you, so you’ll just have to wing it, and trust that you can be no wrong, except over frying of course!

For your assembly station you will need the following:

a small heap of plain bread crumbs

add a handful of grated Parmesan & some salt

mix well with your fingers

(you can replenish if you run low, using the same proportions as above. It all depends on the quantity of turkey or chicken I guess. I prefer to mix fresh as needed, rather than start with a big quantity and ending up with the remainder in the garbage!)

beat one egg, salt & pepper and a few drops of milk

fillets your turkey or chicken

dip each fillet in the egg mixture, then dredge it in the breadcrumbs making sure it is well covered on both sides. Press well with the palm of your hands applying some pressure to flatten the fillets further if needed, and to also make sure that the breadcrumb mixture has stuck nicely to your schnitzels.

Pan fry in some olive oil, on medium heat, until golden and crisp on both sides. Keep in mind that your schnitzels are thin, so make sure you do not over fry or they will become rubbery.

That’s it, drain on kitchen paper to remove any excess oil. You can serve warm as a main meal, or cold in a sandwich If I have leftovers, I sometimes cut them into small strips and serve them with a sweet chili sauce in the center of the plate. It is great as an appetizer served with drinks.

Enjoy!

 

 

Chicken with Green Olives and Lemons

While I’m still on my olive kick of late, and definitely having way too many olives in my kitchen, I think I will make us: Chicken with Green Olives and Lemons. I’m a sauce freak, and this sauce I tell you is so yummy, you’ll see! On the side? I don’t know yet, maybe Basmati? maybe boiled potatoes? We shall see.

I miss my kitchen!

chicken-wolives-lemons-finished-product
chicken w/olives & lemons-finished product

Ingredients:

2 chicken legs cut into thigh & drumsticks

2 chicken breasts fillets

(I use the breast fillets because my husband does not like to fiddle around w/bones! Since I believe that it is the bones that give the dish its rich taste, I compromise by using both kinds: w/bones and boneless!)

2 medium size tomatoes cut into wedges

1 large onion cut into wedges

1 lemon cut in half and sliced medium thin

1 cup green olives with the pits (again it’s the pits -like bones- that have all the taste!)

½ a cup capers

1 cup white wine

sea salt

pepper corn

coriander

 

 

Method:

Sprinkle the chicken pieces with sea salt, pepper corn, and coriander, and brown on both sides in some olive oil (yes I know, it is the only oil I use!!)

Remove from pan and set aside

in the same pan, add the onion wedges, stirring to loosen the stuck pieces of browned chicken

add the tomato wedges, stir

add the lemon slices, stir

add the capers, olives, and wine

top up with some water

then add your browned chicken pieces, cover, and simmer on medium heat, adding water when necessary, until chicken is tender, and sauce delicious!

Serve with some Basmati, or some boiled potatoes. You may also opt to serve with some crisp French Bread of the side. Anything you fancy, but believe me, you will definitely need to mop up that sauce!!

Enjoy!

Eggplant & Yoghurt

eggplant-wyoghurt-finished-product
eggplant w/yoghurt-finished product

I’ve been spending way too much time trying to figure out the best presentation for my blog, that I’ve been kind of distracted from my kitchen time. At this point, I’m still very much struggling with the indexing of my recipes, but decided to stop obsessing about it, and head to my kitchen instead.

Today I will make one of my husband’s favourite starters:

Eggplant & Yoghurt.

We first tasted this dish a few years back in a local restaurant, but never thought of recreating it until fairly recently. As it turns out, it is extremely easy to prepare, quick, and always a success.

Ingredients:

1 large eggplant

one large ripe tomatoes

2 green onions

1 1/2 cups thick Greek Yoghurt

some parsley for garnish

eggplant w:yoghurt-1
Eggplant and Yoghurt-1
eggplant-wyoghurt-finished-product
eggplant w/yoghurt-finished product

Method:

slice eggplant into 1cm-thick rounds (¼ of an inch)

fry in vegetable oil on both sides until golden brown

drain on kitchen paper

(At this point you can arrange your eggplant into stacks of 3, starting with a large slice, a smaller one on top of it, and a smaller one on top of that. With one large eggplant, I usually end up with 4 stacks of 3, which are enough for 4 starters of 1 stack each, or 2 main dishes of 2 stacks each).

cut tomato into small cubes

slice the green onions

place tomatoes & onions in pan, sprinkle with sea salt, add some olive oil. Sautee (not for too long) until thick-ish

place yoghurt in a bowl, add salt to taste, some olive oil, and mix well with a spoon until smooth.

That’s all the work, the rest is just assembling!

Place one slice eggplant, smear it with one soup spoon sauce, repeat with the 2nd and 3rd slice. Top the 3rd slice, with one soup spoon yoghurt. Sprinkle some chopped parsley on top.

Enjoy!

Magdi’s Pickled Olives

Magdi's pickled olives
Magdi’s Pickled Olives

The olive picking season is now nearing its end in our beautiful island. And I am so happy and grateful to now have super yummy thick & delicious olive oil, to last us until the next season rolls around.

As for the actual olives, meaning the eating-kind, we just buy them in the super markets and grocery stores. It is not worth the trouble of actually making them, as there is a wide variety of olives from all over Greece, readily available throughout the year.

Because of this blog however, and its main purpose of honoring our family heritage in the kitchen, I got inspired this year and decided to pickle some olives!

By the time I got around to picking the one and only tree that hadn’t been “milked” for oil, the olives on it were half black already. Never mind that the actual recipe is for green olives, I have no doubt that this lot will turn out just as delicious. Maybe even more so, in their unique half green half black self.

The recipe I will share is from my brother-in-law Magdi. He was the king of pickling! Any vegetable, of any sort, be sure that Magdi pickled it and alchemy-ed it into a spicy pick me up form, to delight (and sometimes shock!) your taste buds.

Over thirty years ago, my mother-in-law was seriously ill in the hospital. Those stressful weeks, naturally headed me towards the kitchen, in what I now recognise as a life-time habit of seeking relief through cooking. One Saturday morning, I called my sister long distance and asked her to please ask her husband for his recipe for pickled olives. My ever so diplomatic sister, delicately covered the phone with her hand and told her husband in a very worried voice: “Magdi, I think the girl has lost it! Her mother-in-law is in hospital and she wants to pickle olives!”

That story had become a classic that my sister loved recounting for years to come whenever we got together.

Needless to say I did get that recipe, and I did pickle those olives.

So here it is, for those of you who are inspired to pickle olives:

Magdi’s Pickled Olives!!

Ingredients:

3 pickling jars of 750ml each (the ones that have a rubber thingy around the lid – see picture)

2 kgs olives

3 lemons (one for each jar)

6 large garlic cloves (two for each jar)

1 lemon for juicing

4 cups boiling water

1 ½ cups salt

 

Method:

with a sharp knife put a slit in each olive (to allow the bitterness to escape)

soak the slit olives in water for 3-5 days, making sure to rinse and change the water once or twice/day.

P.S. Don’t skimp on those first two steps or you will end up with bitter olives almost impossible to eat.

Divide your olives in three separate bowls. To each bowl you will add 2 garlic cloves slit in half, and one lemon cut into thin-ish wedges. Mix well, and put the content of each bowl in a jar.

Combine the boiling water, the salt, and the juice of one lemon, stir well until salt is dissolved.

Divide the brine between the 3 jars. Make sure you leave enough space to be able to close the lid well. You may end up with some extra brine, just discard.

Push the olives lightly with your fingers to make sure that they’re all covered with the brine. Cover with a layer of oil, and seal the lids tightly.

Store your jars in a dry place. I also cover them with a dark towel to prevent exposure to the light.

Now for the hard part: do not be tempted to open before at least 3 months! You may leave them longer if you wish, they can stay for as long as a year or more. Let your taste buds be your guide.

Enjoy!