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Delicious cod for the Greeks March 21, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes, Greek Food Culture, Special Features.
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In Greece and Cyprus, there are two Sundays in the Easter season when all households cook codfish.

The first is for the religious feast of the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary celebrated on 25th March annualy [also a National Day for Greece, commemorating the Independence Day and the Greek struggle for liberation against the Ottoman empire, started on 25th March 1821] and the second is Palm Sunday, which for this year is celebrated on 20th April, according to the Orthodox Church.

On these days, every household cooks the salted favourite. The pieces of cod are dipped into a batter of flour and water, and deep fried, then served with a garlic spread.

To make the spread, wet white bread, then combine it with lots of garlic, olive oil and lemon juice and blend till creamy.

Sounds delicious, so why not try it? Of course, the excess salt would have to be soaked from the fish overnight.

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Greek mini pizza > Recipes March 18, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes.
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These Greek mini pizzas are great for kids’ parties.

Ingredients >
• 8 mini Greek pita pockets
• Extra Virgin Greek Olive oil for brushing pitas
• 1/2-3/4 cup crumbled Greek feta cheese
• 1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers
• 1/2 cup sliced, pitted Greek Kalamata olives
• 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onions
• 1/4-1/3 cup chopped fresh mint
• Lemon juice to taste
• Extra Virgin Greek Olive oil to taste
• Red pepper flakes to taste

Procedure >
Turn the oven on to the broiler setting and use a small mixing bowl to assemble the topping. Add the chopped roasted red peppers, sliced Kalamata olives, thinly slice red onions, a handful of chopped fresh mint, a drizzle of olive oil, a good squeeze of lemon juice and a pinch of red pepper flakes and mix it up.

Next, brush a little olive oil over the top of the pita rounds, on a baking tray, crumble some Greek feta cheese on top of the pitas and pop them under the broiler to bake. The feta cheese isn’t necessarily going to melt but you want to make sure it’s hot all the way through and to give the pitas a chance to crisp up a little bit.

To finish, top each pita with a spoonful of the red pepper mix and pop it back under the broiler just long enough to warm through. Bon Apetite!

The chequered past of the Cyprus meze February 12, 2008

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus, Food Recipes, Greek Food Culture.
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Not known for its refinement or sophistication, Cyprus cuisine is based on the use of fresh, wholesome ingredients. Its flagship is, of course, the meze, which does show subtle differences to those available elsewhere in the region.

When the British arrived in Cyprus in 1878, they expected to find people with a spark of the Turkish fire and a touch of Grecian taste. They were greatly disappointed as Cypriots were neither oriental nor occidental. “Except in name, they are neither Turks nor Greeks; neither are they an amalgam of these two races. Who then are the Cypriots?” asked one perplexed British official in 1879.

Who are the Cypriots really, with a series of conquerors having left their marks behind? Enriched and diversified by the Assyrians, Persians, Greeks, Romans, Byzantine, Lusignan, Venetian, Ottoman and British, Cypriots have a rather unique disposition. The same can be said about Cyprus cuisine. It is an amalgamation of diverse tastes and textures. Cyprus meze reflects food influenced by the full range of different cultures, civilisations and traditions that have occupied the island. Some may argue that it is more closely related to that of Greece. It is true that in recent years, many dishes have been added which predispose the palate to Greek origins – dishes like tirokafteri, saganaki or kolokithokeftedes (spicy cheese, baked feta and courgette balls).

The origins of meze can be traced to the pre-Islamic wine culture of Persia, where the original meze were sweets to counteract the bitter taste of young wine. Among the very few rare early cookbooks, kebabs and stew-like meat are mentioned in one cookbook written in Baghdad in1226. Nowadays, meze is a type of hors d’oeuvre, an appetiser accompanying drinks.

Cyprus cuisine shares much with the other cuisines of the Eastern Mediterranean. For the Arabs, a mazza table can be the entire dinner. In Greece, mezedes or meze platters are almost a kind of institution where diners are encouraged to linger over their meals, and the same applies here. There is an especially strong family resemblance between Greek and Turkish recipes, and it is in no way clear in which direction the influence was strongest. While the Greek cuisine is older, it was also heavily influenced by Persian and Phoenician sources, so it is easy to believe that the central role of lamb, yoghurt, sesame, citrus, flatbreads, and very thin pastries all came from some common central Asian source. Also, meze platters are very similar in concept to the Spanish tapas.

Cyprus’ position at the crossroads of Europe, Africa, and the Middle East has added colourful dimensions that make it different and appetising. Emphasising fresh local ingredients, regional herbs and spices, and in recent years the use of olive oil in cooking, the Cypriot palate is quintessentially Mediterranean in character.

According to Niki Paraskeva, owner of Erinia Tavern, “a meze consists of as many as 30 small plates of food, from savoury dips and vegetables to a wide range of hot, mainly meat, dishes. The restaurant opened in 1934 and the same wholesome, traditional food has been served ever since with very slight variations. “I use the same recipes that my late mother passed on, and I make everything from scratch. I never serve anything that comes ready made in a tub.”

Much more than hors d’oeuvres, the meze often comprises the heart of a meal itself. Some of the dishes you can expect to be served when you ask for a Cyprus meze vary from place to place. Traditionally the appetisers are taramosalata, fish roe blended into a creamy pink dip of pureed potatoes with parsley, lemon juice and finely chopped onion; talatouri, mint and cucumber flavoured yogurt with crushed garlic; tahini, sesame seed paste with lemon juice, garlic and olive oil; horiatiki salata with tomatoes, lettuce, peppers, onion slices, feta cheese, green olives with a dressing made of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and local herbs.

Some common vegetable preparations are boiled potatoes in olive oil and parsley, pickled cauliflower and beets, fried courgette with scrambled egg, fried tomato puree with scrambled egg, kolokasi (a sweet potato-like root vegetable) and wild asparagus with egg when in season.

Other popular choices are koupepia, grape leaves stuffed with minced meat and rice; anthous, rice stuffed pumpkin flowers, when in season, halloumi, a delicious soft cheese, (usually grilled) made from sheep milk and spiced with fresh mint; home-made raviolis and kritharaki, orzo in tomato sauce.

The meat dishes will include loukanika, coriander-seasoned sausages, soaked in red wine and smoked; sheftalia, grilled pork sausage, pork or chicken kebabs, afelia, pork marinated in wine and coriander served with burgoul and stifado, beef or rabbit stew casseroled with wine vinegar, onions and spices. Some places may serve ofto kleftiko, chunks of lamb cooked in a sealed clay oven and seasoned with bay leaves and the traditional souvla, chunks of pork, lamb or chicken cooked on skewers.

A traditional sweet treat is a variety of fruit preserves or fried sweet anari bourekia, a kind of ricotta cheese filling in thin pastry.

Cyprus cuisine is not considered one of the world’s most refined and elegant styles of cooking, nor does it involve sophisticated techniques. There is nothing refined about cooking ofto kleftiko or souvla. Good quality produce and the use of wholesome ingredients which are in season are, however, all important in the local cooking.

Here are two Cypriot traditional recipes > 

Pork Afelia [Serves 4]

1kg pork pieces
1 glass red wine, extra for the marinade
3-4 tbsp coriander, crushed
½ glass vegetable oil

* Marinade pork pieces overnight, in enough red wine to cover the meat and 2 tbsp coriander.
* Add oil in a saucepan and heat up. Fry pork pieces on high heat for a few minutes, turning once or twice. Season well, add the rest of the coriander and stir. Pour in the wine and stir for a few minutes adding some water if needed. Lower the heat to medium and cook until the juices have reduced and the meat is tender.
* Serve with pourgouri (burgoul).

Pourgouri [Serves 6]

½ glass vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 fide – fine noodle nests, crushed
2 glasses burgoul
4 glasses water
Salt

* Fry onion in the oil until tender and brown. Add the crushed noodle nests and stir. Add the burgoul and stir more. Pour in the water and season well. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes or until almost all liquid is absorbed. Remove from the heat and place a clean towel over it.

Briam September 29, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes.
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Ingredients >  
1 kilo potatoes
3-4 zucchini
2 eggplants
3-4 onions
3 green peppers
2-3 carrots
½ kilo tomatoes
finely chopped parsley
2 cups oil
salt and pepper to taste 

Method >
Clean the vegetables and slice in wheel shapes about the thickness of a finger. Mix them in a baking dish and salt and pepper to taste. Pour in the oil and a little water before putting in the oven. Bake at low temperature. 

briam.jpg

Cyprus meets North Africa in food August 30, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Cyprus, Food Recipes.
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Halloumi is a cheese indigenous to Cyprus, traditionally made from a mixture of goat’s and sheep’s milk, it’s similar in texture to mozzarella and has a beautifully salty flavour. The real secret of halloumi however, is it’s high melting point, which makes it an excellent cheese for grilling or frying.

My usual foray onto the food world yielded a delicious recipe for Halloumi and couscous salad.

Couscous consists of grains of semolina wheat and is the primary staple food of much of North Africa, in fact in much of Algeris, eastern Morocco, Tunisia and Libya it is simply known as “ta’aam” which just means food.

Ingredients >
1 large onion
1 courgette sliced
1 red pepper
2 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
handful of raisins
1 pint vegetable stock
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 block halloumi cheese
500g couscous

Method >
Roast your sliced courgette and red pepper. Peel the pepper when roasted and chop.

While the vegetables are roasting, put the couscous and raisins in a deep bowl, add 1 pint of warm vegetable stock and stir vigorously so that the water is absorbed evenly. After 10 minutes, when the couscous has become plump and tender, add the three tablespoons of olive oil and rub the couscous between your hands to air it and break up any lums.

Fry the onion in a pan, when the onion, courgette and pepper are ready, add them and the coriander to the couscous and mix through thoroughly.

While preparing the couscous you should also slice the halloumi into nice large flat pieces and place under a medium grill, turning when nicely browned.

To serve simply place the couscous on a large serving platter and lay the slices of grilled halloumi on top.

Greek Frappe > a cold and frothy drink August 4, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes, Greek Food Culture.
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The frappe turns instant coffee into a drink worth lingering over.

greek_frappe.jpg  The frappe, a foamy cold coffee drink, is an easy-to-make beverage that’s wildly popular in Greece.

It started by accident in 1957: A representative from the Nestlé food company couldn’t find any boiling water to make his coffee at an international trade fair in Thessaloniki, northern Greece. So he used cold. And thus was born the frappe, the foamy, caffeine-packed drink that became an icon of Greek pop culture.

Fifty years on, while Americans guzzle innumerable fancy chilly copycats, Greeks remain loyal to their simple cool coffee, imbibing everywhere from the beaches to Athens’ numerous upscale cafes. In fact, the frappe has become its own industry. Supermarkets carry hand-held electric foam beaters, while roadside kiosks keep frappe kits in their fridges. Tips are traded on the merits of thick froth, straw placement, and the best time to drop the ice into the mix.

“Frappe looks so thick, but it glides through the straw so easily,” said Daniel Young, an American food critic who teamed with his wife, Vivian Constantinopoulos, to write a coffee-table book on the subject. It may drink smooth, but it has a kick. Young says many frappes have four times the caffeine as an espresso. And it is fueled by something considered the dregs of the beverage world in many countries, instant coffee.

Frappe is a simple beverage. A spoonful of instant coffee is combined with water, sugar and sometimes milk, then shaken vigorously in a cocktail mixer. When to add the ice, during or after shaking, is hotly debated. The resulting dark drink has a foamy head so large it resembles a half-pint of Guinness more than a coffee.

How the freeze-dried coffee drink became a national craze is hard to say, but supporters insist that it matches Greeks’ erratic lifestyle: laid-back Mediterranean with bursts of energy thrown in.

Young and Constantinopoulos, whose book is titled “Frappe Nation” (Editions Potamos, 2006, $42.95), believe Greeks’ relationship with the drink is rooted in their centuries-old thirst for public dialogue and social interaction. “It doesn’t have to do with quality or quantity, but it is more about the way people sit and enjoy,” said Constantinopoulos, who says the average person takes 93 minutes to drink a frappe.

In fact, coffee shop owners price their products accordingly, charging customers likely to keep their tables for a couple of hours as much as $7.50 for a coffee. Much of frappe’s appeal lies in its longevity. Even as the ice melts, the foam, which contains coffee granules, mixes with the ice, and the drink replenishes itself.

“If you time it perfectly, it will stay consistent throughout,” Young said. “Greeks turned it into something that is supposed to be instantaneous and made it a three-hour ordeal.” “To Greeks, there is no such thing as instant coffee,” Constantinopoulos said.

How to make a Greek Frappe >

Ingredients >
1 tablespoon instant coffee
1 tablespoon hot water
1/2 cups cold water
2 tablespoons milk
1 to 2 tablespoons sugar
3 ice cubes

Method >
In a blender or cocktail shaker, dissolve coffee in hot water. Add remaining ingredients and blend or shake until very frothy. Pour into cold glass and serve immediately. Yields 1 to 2 servings, about 1 1/2 cups.

Summer drinks > Campari Cooler July 30, 2007

Posted by grhomeboy in Food Recipes, Wine And Spirits.
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The versatility and bitterness of Campari mixed with juices makes an ideal base for cool summer cocktails. The drink featured today can be served equally well in a pitcher or a highball glass. In my opinion, pitchers are a great way to serve drinks to friends in the garden on a hot evening, they are an exiting alternative to cocktails by the glass. Salute!

  • Ingredients >
    4cl Campari
    3cl Peach Schnapps
    5cl cranberry juice
    5cl fresh orange juice
    2cl fresh lime juice
    1 teaspoon of sugar
    Lemonade
  • Method >
    Pour all the ingredients except the lemonade into a shaker half filled with ice. Shake sharply. Strain into a highball glass filled with crushed ice. Top up with the lemonade. Add more crushed ice and garnish with a slice of orange.