I’ve been reading a lot about health & nutrition these past couple of years, and I don’t mind saying that at the end of the day, it can get pretty confusing! So much “contradictory” advice out there about what’s good and what’s not, and each argument pretty convincing in its own way, and backed up by its own research. Which to follow? I believe my own body is quite capable of telling me what suits it and what doesn’t!
In summary, the big culprits out there are: sugar, flour, and processed & refined products of any kind. Fine. I got it. Most of us got it I think. Not to forget the big back-and-forth about fat! Keto vs. plant-based diets? Butter vs. olive oil? Or no fat at all? What about the no dairy of any kind? Frankly it can be quite exhausting, and I do hate “extremes” of any kind.
Having said all that, I do try to cook healthy for the most part. And for me – “most part”- is plenty good enough….
Here is a super healthy dish, with no added fat of any kind, except for the salmon itself ofcourse. No measurements mentioned, nor quantities, just use your imagination.
2 portions salmon filets
broccoli (cut into fairly uniform flowerets)
carrots (peeled & cut diagonally)
a piece of ginger (sliced thin)
Mix all the veggies together, add a bit of apple cider vinegar, some sea salt, a smidgen of olive oil (maybe a teaspoon at most), mix well with your hands and place on the paper (you could also add some soya sauce if you wish)
place the salmon filets on top of the veggies
sprinkle with sea salt and coarse ground pepper
close the paper well, tucking the edges in on both sides
Bake in pre-heated 200C oven for 30-40mns? it depends on the thickness of your filets. I open and peak in after 20mns to ensure I don’t overcook.
Talk about the abundance of seafood these days, here is a recipe that always pops up on my “lazy days”. Any time of year. It is incredibly easy, and incredibly fast. Not to mention healthy, and always delicious.
It is also great for last minute company. All you need is maybe some roast potatoes, a nice big green salad, and you’ve got dinner for four!
1 kg fish filet (I always use frozen perch filet since that’s what’s readily available in the frozen section of our supermarket. It is also not very fish-y if you know what I mean. But any thisck-ish fish filet will do just as nicely).
1 red pepper cut in large wedges
1 lemon sliced
cut the fish into fairly decent portions and place in a baking tray
sprinkle salt, cumin seeds, and drizzle some olive oil
place the lemon slices on top of the fish
place the pepper wedges in between
bake in 200C pre-heated oven until its done
(I honestly never timed it, just look at the colour, and test the fish for done-ness)
OK guys, no uhh and eehh please. Octopus is absolutely delicious! And its not that you’ve never seen it before, anyone who’s been to a Greek island has seen tons of octopus hanging out to dry in front of almost every restaurant and taverna by the sea. Chances are you’ve taken many pictures with it and sent back home to your friends & family to see. And if you are courageous and adventurous, chances are you’ve even tried it. At least once.
I’m not sure however that you’ve liked it, if its not cooked right it can be chewy and rubbery. But I can assure you that it doesn’t have to be. Just trust me on this, and try it if you’ve got the chance. You will not regret it!
These Lent days you’re surrounded by seafood from every possible direction; in supermarkets, in restaurants, in mezze places, even on television. You just cant escape it. And I’m not sure that I’d want to. It is all super healthy and so… yummy. Not to mention a refreshing change from the traditional beef, pork, lamb, or chicken.
Jiji, I hope your octopus salad was successful the other day??
My sister-in-law Kathleen, was a huge octopus fan. She used to eat big hunks of it as I was cleaning and chopping it. Its a wonder I was left with any to add to the chopped veggies! After a few times, I learned to use 2 octopus instead of one whenever she was around! I miss you girl!
I always use frozen octopus, as I don’t know how to cook the fresh one; it always ends up rubbery. I’m sure there is a clever way to cook it in order to avoid that, I just don’t know it.
1 frozen octopus
2 bay leaves
¾ cup white wine
2 boiled potatoes
1 red pepper
1 red onion
some chopped parsley
place in pressure cooker
add bay leaves & oregano
add white wine
Close lid well and cook for 45 mns.
While the octopus is cooking chop your veggies and place in a large mixing bowl. Add some salt, lots of lemon, and some olive oil. Mix well & set aside.
When you’re satisfied that the octopus is tender: place a sharp knife through the thick part, if it goes in easily, then your octopus is cooked.
Place your cooked octopus on a chopping board, separate legs, take away as much as you can of the loose skin and tentacles with your hands, chop the rest in fairly decent size bites and add to your mixed veggies. Adjust seasoning: salt, oil, vinegar, maybe some Tabasco, mix well, put in a clean bowl and serve.
I do hope you like it. Be adventurous and try it: it is really delicious!
Recently someone gave us a whole bunch of beautiful fresh lemons right off their tree. As they sat in the fruit bowl on my kitchen counter, the smell was absolutely heavenly for days on end. I have been agonising since as to what I can do with all those lemons, screaming to be used every time I passed them by!
From the very start “Lemon Squares” popped in my mind, but I’ve been resisting since. I knew that I would be the one to end up “inhaling” the whole lot myself, ingesting all this flour and sugar and butter.. I know, guilt is not a very pretty thing, I’ve been reading way too many articles on health and nutrition lately!
Tonight we’re invited to our friends Paola & Vincenzo’s house for dinner. As soon as she asked us, I voluntered desert, please? Lemon Squares. Delicious. Let me make them?
1tsp baking powder
142 grs sugar
142 grs butter
Mix above ingredients, knead lightly, roll onto a rectangle & lay on a baking sheet. After mixing the dough, I layed it in pieces on the baking sheet, and used my fingers to smooth it out. I made a slight indentation around the edges to prevent the filling from s[pilling out.
1) Bake in a 225C pre-heated oven for 10mns. Set aside to cool
1/4 cup corn starch
1 1/4 cups water
1)Blend together in a saucepan & cook gently until thickened.
58 grs butter
115 grs sugar
2 egg yolks
peel from 2 lemons
juice from 2 lemons
Add ingredients to thickened corn starch in the order indicated above.
2) Let thicken lightly and pour on cooled pastry
192 grs flour
225 grs sugar
170 grs butter
3) Rub with fingers and sprinkle on top of lemon filling
4) bake in 200C pre-heated oven for 30mns.
Let it cool a while, then cut into squares and transfer onto a serving dish.
Will I sneak a few squares away and keep them in my freezer? You bet! For the days when “being good” just isn’t good enough, and a “sweet” is the only thing that will put your mind at rest.
This past Monday was “Kathara Deftera” (Clean Monday), the start of the 40-day fast preceding the Greek Orthodox Easter.
That’s when my favourite bread finally shows up: the Greek Lagana bread. Made only once a year. Only on that day! (I talked about it briefly a couple of years back … you’ll find it in the “Appetizers” section).
On that day, along with that delicious bread, they also serve a wonderful feast of non-meat foods, special to the pre-Easter fast. Its typically an outdoor day, usually beautiful, sunny, and warm. Nature almost always cooperates, and this year was no exception! Everyone is out in the open air, eating, drinking, celebrating. That’s when children -and their parents- show off with their bright colourful kites, to adorn the skies for everyone.
One of the many specialties served that day is of course Taramoslata. A tangy dip made of fish roe, bread, onion, lemon, and olive oil. Fairly easy to make, just keep tasting as you go along, adding a bit of this, a bit of that, and you will for sure end up with a delicious taramosalata!
Before I start, I’d like to show you the difference between the types of taramas that you can buy. Steer clear of the reddish looking one, its got dye, and it is very salty. You want to buy the beige coloured one, also known as “aspros” (white).
200 grs bread
120 grs tarama
a small onion
juice of 1 lemon (or 2)
The bread needs to be 2 or 3 days old. Also never use what I call “plastic” bread (the pre-packaged kind sold in a supermarket!), as once you put it through a food processor it turns to glue!
So, remove the crust off the bread, slice it, put it in a colander and soak it in water. Squeeze out the water with your hand, and put it in the food processor.
grate your onion very fine (as in picture), and add it to the bread
squeeze a whole lemon on it and start whirling in the food processor
add a bit of olive oil as you’re whirling just to get a nice smooth mixture
add your tarama, whirl, taste, add more lemon if needed
add olive oil a bit at a time while processing (a bit like making mayonnaise)
Personally I keep tasting as I’m going along and I add more of what’s needed according to my taste.
That’s it, you’re done!
Spoon some on a flat plat, and drizzle some olive oil on top.
Serve with sliced bread. I always toast my bread even when its fresh, as I prefer it a bit crunchy.
Store left over in a tupperware and keep in the fridge.
This delicious, delicate, always successful, and certainly impressive dish, used to be one of my go-to appetizers for years! It used to be my sister-in-law Katheline’s favourite as well, and since it freezes so well, we always made sure that one of us, had a few hidden dishes stached away in her freezer for last minute emergencies.
Then somehow it fell off my horizon, and I forgot all about it, until last night! when my niece-in-law asked me for the recipe. So… here it is Claudia, enjoy! And thanks for the reminder, I had forgotten how much I love it!!!
500 grs chicken liver (cleaned)
1 stick butter
1 medium onion finely chopped
1/2 handful dried sage chopped
1 clove garlic crushed
1/2 cup cream
2 tbsp cognac
chicken liver pate-2
melt 1/2 the butter
add onion & garlic and saute gently
add cleaned livers and saute till cooked through
place in food processor & work it till the mixture is smooth
melt the remaining 1/2 of the butter & cool slightly
add butter, cognac & cream to the mixture and process briefly till well combined
pour into 6 to 8 individual ramekins (or two larger ones) and chill
it can stay in fridge up to 3 or 4 days
or you can freeze for up to a couple of months, and defrost when needed
Yet another dish fought over and its identity claimed by so many different nationalities! Certainly all the countries of the middle east, no exception. As well as Turkey. And ofcourse Greece.
Personally, I prefer the middle-eastern version. Whatever the filling, it is always lighter & crispier than its Greek cousin. No offense meant to my adopted country!
1pkt filo pastry
2 sticks butter melted
400 grs shelled pistachios
100 grs hazlenuts
place the nuts in a food processor and give them a couple of whirls. Do not grind into a powder, you should still be able to see and identify the nuts!
2 cups sugar
1 cup water
juice of half a lemon
place your sugar and water in a small saucepan
when all the sugar has been disolved
squeeze-in the juice of half a lemon
keep simmering until the mixture starts sticking to the back of the spoon
add one tbsp rose-bud water to give it that middleastern touch (in Arabic it is called “mazahr” as opposed to “maward” which I dislike tremendously!)
set your syrup aside to cool
separate the sheets of pastry in two halves
brush your tray with butter
start laying your pastry sheets brushing with butter between each sheet
when half the sheets have been used, spread your nuts evenly over the whole tray
continue with the other half of your pastry sheets, one at a time, brushing butter between each sheet
finish with another good brush of butter cut your uncooked baklava tray in diamond shapes
you need to cut deeply, almost all the way through before baking (if you leave your cutting till afterwards you will end up with a crumbled mess! (so sorry, I forgot to take a picture of the unbaked version!)
Bake in a 180centigrade pre-heated oven for approx. 45mns
keep checking on the colour of your baklava as every oven is different
when you’re happy with its colour remove it from the oven and immediately pour on it the cooled syrup
in order not to end up with a soggy baklava, you need to make sure that one of your two items (baklava or syrup) is hot and the other one cold. If the 2 are hot it will be soggy, and if the 2 are cold the syrup will just sit on top of the baklava without penetrating its layers. I prefer to make the syrup ahead of time and set aside to cool, before placing my Baklava in the oven. This way its ready for pouring as soon as the Baklava is out.
Its been more than a year since I last posted! Apologies to those of you that have been following and must have given up on me by now! I promise that I’m still faithful to my kitchen and to my cooking, even if sometimes “life” does get in the way. I am now left with a backlog of pictures and recipes cooked throughout the year, and frankly, I’m at a total loss as to which to post and when. So lets just start with the most recent prepared just a few days ago.
The holiday season was quite busy this year. It so happens that a lot of the expats on our island, have decided to stay put this winter, so there was a fury of parties flying back and forth, and an over abundance of super delicious food, and fantastic company.
This past Thursday we had a few friends over, for an overdue and long promised middle-eastern meal.
We started with a spread of various appetizers: hummus, homemade labneh, mehamara (my style), and tabouleh. All with arabic bread ofcourse.
I then served one central dish: Maklouba Palestinian style.
Its basically chicken, eggplant, zucchini, and rice. Each cooked separately, then assembled in layers to be presented in one dish, which gets turned over (upside down) in the last minute. Hence the name Maklouba, which in Arabic means upside down.
A bit of an ambitious choice on my part considering that I’m a one woman kitchen! Also considering that “this” one woman does not have the same energy as in the past, and tends to tire somewhat faster these days. But with some organization it can definitely be undertaken, and believe me it will be worth the effort as this is one dish that is meant to impress!!!
There are many versions of Maklouba out there: Palestinian, Syrian, or Lebanese. Some with lamb, some with ground beef, some with chicken, but all with vegetables and with rice. I happen to like this one.
Oh and I forgot: for dessert I made a Baklava with pistachio nuts, which was a great success. Recipe to follow later today or tomorrow.
Now back to the Maklouba!
2 double chicken breasts (meaning 4 individual breasts cut horizontally into two each, giving a total of 8 relatively medium pieces)
2 chicken legs (w/bones) separate drum sticks from thighs
½ a tsp of each of the following spices: turmeric, cumin, coriander, allspice, clove, paprika, salt, and juice of one lemon
rub all over the chicken pieces, cover, and refrigerate for a couple of hours.
1 large onion cut into thin wedges
4 medium eggplants sliced length wise 1cm thick
4 medium zucchini sliced length wise 1cm thick
2 large onions sliced into thickish wedges
2 large tomatoes peeled and sliced 1cm thick
2 cups rice
2 cups boiling water
1 tsps turmeric
mix together in a bowl and set aside till ready to use
Brown the chicken pieces in a bit of olive oil in a large pan till lightly coloured on both sides
remove from pan and set aside
put the onion wedges in the same pan and saute till soft-ish
put the chicken back in the pan and deglaze with some white wine
add water (a little at a time in order to roast and not boil)
cover the pan and simmer till the chicken is tender and there is enough gravy in the pan to use for later
remove the chicken and set aside till ready to use
adjust the gravy: you will need about 2 cups worth, so you may need to add some water to it, probably a soup cube as well, and bring to the boil once
set that aside as well
P.S. Up to this point the chicken can be prepared the day before.
line a couple of oven trays with parchment paper
oil the paper and sprinkle some sea salt on it
place the eggplant slices next to one another (you may need to use both trays to hold all the eggplant)
brush the top of the slices with olive oil, and sprinkle with a bit more sea salt
bake in preheated oven, set on max, with fan on
third shelf and above it
switch trays half way through
check frequently on colour. Should be slightly coloured (not brown!)
repeat above procedure with the zucchini slices (oiling & salting the parchment paper first, then oiling & salting the zucchini slices)
if there is enough room in one of the trays, place the onion wedges as well
repeat as above until slightly coloured (the zucchini will need a lot less time than the eggplant, so remember to check on it frequently
you will need a large heavy bottom pan with a lid
start assembling your ingredients in the following order to build up the layers of your Maklouba
half the eggplant slices
half the onion
half the zucchini slices
the pre-soaked rice
the remaining eggplant
the remaining onions
the remaining zucchini
pour the gravy from the chicken on top
place a flat dish to keep everything in place
cover the pan and simmer for 40 mns or until rice is cooked
Test rice for done-ness. Remove pan from heat and keep covered (about 20-30mns) till ready to serve.
Now the tricky part: Remove the lid, place a large round serving dish on top of the pan, hold from both sides, and flip over and into the serving dish.
We first had this delicious dish, disguised as a salad, in our friend Sylvie’s house. Being that my husband is a huge lover of fish I of course had to recreate it, many times over, and in the process it became part of my usual repertoire.
It is a perfect dish for both small and large gatherings, the only “sticky” part is that it is best served warm. So, even though the ingredients can be prepared ahead of time, the actual assembly is best done right before serving. It is not a huge obstacle really, even if you’re planning to take it to a friend’s house. All you need to do is warm up the ingredients (a microwave will do fine), assemble, mix, and serve. All in all a five minutes process. And did I mention it is quite impressive?
750 grs (frozen weight) fish fillet cut in four (Perch is what I use, because that’s what I find locally!)
1 tsp paprika
1 ½ cups basmati rinsed well
water as per cooking instructions of your rice
1 ½ cups cooked chick peas
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped red & yellow pepper
1 tsp curry powder
1 soup cube
1 cup water
1 cup peeled & chopped apple
1 cup sliced green & black olives
6 anchovies chopped
1 large lemon
parsley chopped rough
place fish in baking tray
sprinkle with salt & paprika
add a bit of olive oil
bake in a 200centigrade pre-heated oven until done
saute onion & pepper
add curry powder
add chick peas
add a bit of water
simmer until the flavours are well combined
when done, make sure that there is enough liquid/sauce left (picture #3) & that it hasn’t all dried up as it will add flavour to the final dish (you may need to add more water when simmering)
cook your rice
as mentioned above, do not go further until you’re ready to serve
when ready, make sure all the above (fish, rice, and chick peas) are warmed up before assembling
in a large serving dish
start with the fish
add the rice
add the cold ingredients (apple, olives, anchovies)
add the chick peas w/their sauce
add the parsley
squeeze the lemon
mix well with your hands until well combined (I find that using my fingers to mix is a lot more efficient and less “traumatizing” to whatever it is you’re mixing then using a spoon or other utensil)
finish up by decorating with a couple of slices of lemon
Looking through my pictures & recipes (in the hope of getting semi organised with my long neglected blog!!), I found a few that are totally ready but hadn’t been posted yet! So, apologies if you get an avalanche of recipes all of a sudden. I promise I’ll try to do no more than two postings a day until I catch up with myself.
This dish is an absolute winner! It is healthy, it is easy, it is quick, and it is a life saver in large gatherings. Any vegetable you can think of qualifies, the rule is: if you fancy it, then it definitely goes.
Have fun with it and experiment, you can not go wrong believe me!
Below is the variety I used, it changes often depending on what’s available in the market, and to some degree also on what’s available in my fridge & freezer at the time.
300 grs frozen flat green beans
300 grs frozen peas
2 small red peppers halved then quartered then sliced about ½ cm thick (if you want you can use 1 red and 1 yellow, it adds to the colour)
2 medium onions halved then quartered then sliced medium thin
2 aubergines halved then quartered then sliced about ¾ cm thick
4 medium-large zucchinis halved then sliced ½ cm thick at an angle
1 extra large tomato halved and sliced (or 1 can crushed tomatoes)
1 large tbsp tomato paste
2 soup cubes
2 cups hot water
place all vegetables in a large oven tray and mix roughly with your hands
add some olive oil
combine the soup cubes, the hot water and the tomato paste
add to the liquid some olive oil
pour on the vegetables
place in pre-heated 200 centigrade oven on 3rd shelf from the bottom until golden brown and cooked to your liking
P.S. after 20mns get the tray out and mix the vegetables carefully to make sure that all the vegetables get their fair exposure to the heat. If you don’t, the top layer will “bake” nicely and the bottom one will be “steamed”.
Repeat again after 20 more mns
Overall timing in the oven should be around 1 hour in total. If
you like your vegetables on the crispy side, you may have to
reduce the cooking time. Just taste as you go along.