Taxi service

Taxi service
TAXI SERVICE, for all your holiday needs while you are travelling in Hania. If you're coming to Hania and you need a taxi, maybe we can help you out. For quotes and prompt service, drop me a line at: mverivaki hotmail com

Thursday, 30 August 2007

Brownies (Αμερικάνικα μπισκόττα σοκολάτας)

I really do love anything baked with chocolate. Brownies are a chocolate-lover's delight. The best testers for recipes are children - mine loved these! The recipe came from myhomecooking. Pre-heat the oven to 325F/180C degrees.
You need:
6 Tablespoons Unsweetened Cocoa
1/4 Cup Butter
1 Cup Sugar
1/2 Teaspoon Vanilla
1/4 Teaspoon Salt
1/3 Cup Flour
2 Eggs
8x8 Baking Pan

In a microwavable dish, melt the butter, then stir in the cocoa. Now, mix the remaining ingredients into the butter mixture. Flour the baking pan by covering the dish with fat or butter, then put a few tablespoons of flour, or cocoa, in the dish and shake it until the sides and bottom are covered. This will keep the brownies from sticking to the dish. Pour the brownie batter into the dish. Put the brownies into the oven for 35-40 minutes. Poke your brownies with a toothpick. If it comes out clean, your brownies are done. Now, take them out of the oven and let them cool until slightly warm. You are ready to cut and serve.

I followed the recipe as shown on the website, omitting the nuts; we don't have pecan nuts in Greece, but walnuts or cornflakes could be an equally good alternative. I used a larger oven dish, so my brownies were a little slimmer, more like a fat biscuit rather than a slice, but the top was crispy and the centre was crunchy. The recipe is easy to follow, and makes a good lunchbox filler. The brownies tasted so good that I'm not going to bother to search for a better recipe.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE CHOCOLATE:
Afghans
Chocolate cake

Chocolate muffins
Chocolate pancakes

Plain cake

Chocolate balls


Tuesday, 28 August 2007

Weekly food plan (Η καθημερινή μας διατροφή)


It's really important to keep kids off bad food for as long as is possible for us as mothers to do. We do try to eat a healthy diet in our house. Without a weekly food plan, I would be lost; my carnivorous husband was the reason I started to follow a weekly plan. That, and the fact that i am a working mother, and without a weekly plan, I would doing a fry-up or buying pre-cooked, mass-manufactured frozen convenience meals (or worse still, resorting to tinned beans) whenever I simply don't have time to cook, which is very often these days in most people's lives. This is why I am a fanatic of preserving our garden crops if we can't consume them as quickly as we harvest them. I feel good about myself when I follow a plan, or serve up food that I have cooked myself. I know I am doing my bit towards less environmental pollution, fewer carbon footprint and a sustainable lifestyle. Above all, I am serving a balanced weekly diet. This is the weekly plan I follow to ensure that I am providing a healthy meal for my family. Here are some tips for rushed mothers (let's face it; the burden of running the whole house rests on them). Remember, you can swap around the days for each meal plan to suit your household's schedule.
Monday: use beans as the basic dish - we eat fakes, fasolada or some other bean dish every week alternately. This can be accompanied by leftover roast from Sunday OR cheese and a boiled egg.
Tuesday: use rice as the main meal, accompanied by vegetables - we eat rice cooked with spinach, stuffed vegetables with rice, or pilafi. All these can be accompanied by yoghurt, or maybe some cheese or a boiled egg.
Wednesday: because this is my busiest work day, I take out some deep-frozen ready-to-cook meal that I have made myself (pastitsio, moussaka, aubergine shoes), and re-heat it in the oven or the microwave, depending on who's serving it. This also constitutes the midday meat dish.
Thursday: there will be LEFTOVERS from the last three days, so this is another good no-fuss day to use them up; in this way I can get some outdoor jobs done without worrying about what's for lunch. A salad can accompany these meals if there are only small servings left.
Friday: the basis of the meal is egg and cheese - an omelette with some boiled greens or a fresh salad OR a courgette pie or quiche are easy to prepare and very healthy.
Saturday: the basis of this meal should be fresh fish (accompanied by vegetables or a salad) if it is easily obtainable and reasonably priced. I find most kinds of fresh fish in Hania are too expensive, so if I can't afford fish on this day, I might make a simple filling dish like spaghetti bolognaise, puttanesca, carbonara, stir-fry noodles and vegetables, boiled greens or a hot potato salad.
Sunday: the traditional Sunday roast consists of oven-roasted meat with potatoes, or BBQ pork, lamb, chicken and sausages. Any leftover meat is used to make kebabs or to accompany Monday's bean dish.

You might be wondering if I ever fry chips, or eat takeaways. We eat fried chips in an omelette, which is usually a frittata, in our house. Fries also go well with boiled greens or a simple salad. I simply avoid frying as much as I can, because it is so unhealthy. As for takeaways, I don't even like the smell (there's always a rancid greasy odour to it), so I always have supermarket pizzas in the deep freeze if I'm running out of time to cook. Takeaway food usually consists of a souvlaki once every two months. We are never out of dackos ingredients in our house, I make a huge home-made pizza once a week, and there's always the weekly loaf of sourdough bread for making a quick sandwich to go with a glass of milk. And we never tire of tiropitakia, kalitsounia or spanakopita.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

SEE ALSO
:

School meals

In search of food
Taste sensationalism

The restaurants in the Agora
The rape of the countryside
Bulgarian pasta
Snacks
The open-air market
GAIA
To eat or not to eat?
A day in the field
Losing weight
Freezer clearout
Weekly food plan
Fridge contents
Eating locally
Low income and diet

Souvlaki home-made (Σουβλάκι σπιτικό)

We make our own souvlaki (otherwise known as kebabs or gyro) as a dinner snack usng leftover roast meat from the Sunday roast. They taste just like the real thing, and they don't have that greasy smell to them that lingers in takeaway outlets.

For each person, you need one pita bread; you can use a soft tortilla, Lebanese pita bread or any other round single-serving piece of bread. You can even use Indian chapatti, roti or naan if they are the size of a small plate. In Greece, pita bread can be bought from the deep-freeze supermarket counter; 10 to a packet cost 1 euro. I always keep a bag in my deep-freeze. They are very easy to defrost, and don't stick to one another.

Have ready some sliced tomato, thin onion rings, Greek-style yoghurt and paprika pepper. Cut some greaseproof paper into squares the size of the pita bread. Chop the roast meat into small pieces, and heat it up in a small non-stick saucepan. You need about 2-3 tablespoons of meat for each pita. You don't need to add oil or seasonings as you heat the meat, because it would have been seasoned when originally cooked.

pita yiro souvlaki
Home made souvlaki without the trimmings - the kid's version

Heat the pitas individually in a saucepan. Brush them with olive oil so that they don't burn in the pan. Place a heated pita on a paper square. Add 2-3 tablspoons of prepared meat in the middle of the pita, letting the meat spread out downwards, leaving the top part of the pita empty. Place some tomato and onion over the meat. Spoon some yoghurt over the middle of the mound of ingredients. Now roll it up, with the help of the greasproof paper, into the shape of an ice-cream cone. Then, take a paper napkin and roll the souvlaki up in that (for extra support). Sprinkle some paprika over the top. This dish can be messy; serve it on a plate!

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE HOMEMADE SNACKS
:
Banana cake muffins
Banana lassi
Apple cake
Dakos rusk
Carrot cake muffins
Chocolate walnut pancakes
Kalitsounia
Ladenia pizza
Marathopites
Prasopita
Fruit crumble
Sfakianes pites
Spanakopita
Tiropitakia
Corn fritters


Sunday, 26 August 2007

Anemomilos (Ανεμόμυλος)

We had a little houseminding to do today. The house was situated by the sea in Tavronitis, northwest of the province of Hania. After feeding the rottweiler, we thought we deserved a treat - a meal by the sea. The weather was just right for lazing on a beach and going for a dip. We went to the beach - 300m from the house we were minding - and found a quiet cosy-looking canteen right by the sea (which was too rocky and became deep too suddenly for our liking, but we were too hungry to care). It was called Anemomilos - windmills - and it had thatched parapets over each outdoor table. There were also plastic sheets that could be drawn down in the same way as blinds, so that you could sit "indoors" on a wet spring day, or a cool summer evening. The bathroom consisted of a cylindrically-shaped building with a windmill on one side.
The canteen served simple fast food style meals; Christine had a club sandwich with chips, Aristotle had a hamburger and chips, hubby had three souvlakia (skewered grilled meat) with chips and I had a plate of deep-fried calamari (squid), which we washed down with a beer. We thoroughly enjoyed our junkfood. The atmosphere contributed immensely; soft music from the CD player, lulling waves crashing onto the beach, an adventure playground (not too close to the tables) for the children to play. We can't wait to go houseminding in the same place one more time.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE REVIEWS:
London cuisine
Paleohora cusine
Akrogiali
Aroma
Agora

Saturday, 25 August 2007

School meals (Σχολικά γεύματα)

It's lunchbox time for mothers and children alike. Here's a list of foods I include in my children's lunchboxes, so they don't get bored eating the same food day after day. If you change their menu every day using the following list as a guide, there will be a different meal every day for 12 schooldays, ie they will eat the same food only twice a month. More importantly, their lunch will form a balanced meal, along with the snack food they will be eating during the break.
1. home-made meat patties in a bun (aka hamburger)
2. ham and cheese toasted sandwich
3. cheese and spinach pie (spanakopita)
4. a cheese pie (I buy it from the bakery as we drive to school)
5. bagel and cheese (for desperate times when I didn't have enough time to prepare something)

Our school offers a lunch room where children are able to heat up their food and eat from their own tins (with a spoon!), so I also include the following:
1. macaroni shapes with tinned corn, mashed tuna and mayonnaise (see my recipe)
2. pilafi and some boned/shredded chicken
3. fakes or fasolada with a slice of bread and cheese
4. yemista - stuffed tomatoes (casing removed) with yoghurt
5. Cretan dackos
These foods are oily, so you need to be sure they are securely packed and the child won't get too dirty eating them.

During the break, I usually include:
1. a banana, apple, or any other fruit in season from our trees
2. a tub of white yoghurt
3. a box of cornflakes (if they didn't eat this for breakfast)
4. a piece of home-made cake or muffin (if they didn't eat this for breakfast)
5. some home-made biscuits (for desperate moments)
6. 2 graham crackers (or rusks or friganies) and a piece of cheese
7. a pre-packed croissant (I must be very desperate when I give them this)
8. 2-3 kalitsounia or a piece of spanakopita

If children don't eat something before they go to school, they will literally be sluggish, listless and tired. Then they will gorge themselves on canteen food during their morning break, and will be too stuffed to eat anything healthy for lunch. Better to eat breakfast at home and bring back their lunch rather than skip breakfast and gorge themselves on junk. Here are our breakfast choices:
1. a small cup of milk/tea and a small bowl of cornflakes topped with milk (no sugar)
2. a glass of milk/tea and 4-5 petit beurre (semi-sweet) biscuits
3. a glass of milk/tea and a slice of home-made cake or muffin
4. a glass of milk/tea and 2 crackers/friganies with cheese
5. a glass of milk/tea and a slice of toast with butter and jam/marmalade

I know that one day they will eventually be buying junk from a school canteen, but at least I made an effort to keep them healthy before they became independent enough to choose and prepare their own snack food.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.


SEE ALSO:

School meals - Part 2

In search of food
Taste sensationalism

The restaurants in the Agora
The rape of the countryside
Bulgarian pasta
Snacks
The open-air market
GAIA
To eat or not to eat?
A day in the field
Losing weight
Freezer clearout
Weekly food plan
Fridge contents
Eating locally
Low income and diet

Pilafi (Κρητικό πιλάφι με κοτόπουλο - chicken and rice)

Here's a really simple chicken and rice dish that's very nourishing. It is an excellent meal for hungry children who have been playing at school all day long, when they come home at four o'clock (like mine do in winter). By the way, this is the traditional wedding meal, served at all weddings in the region of Hania. All you need to make this dish is some chicken (for a wedding, lamb is more commonly used), BLUE ROSE, BASMATI, JASMINE or another variety of LONG-GRAIN rice (which can be mixed eg basmati and blue rose), some lemon juice and some salt. Brown rice, wild rice and par-boiled rice are NOT suitbale for this dish.

Use one piece of fatty chicken (leave the skin on) per person to be served. Free-range chickens with yellow skin and fat pockets are usually used for this kind of rice dish. I can remember my mother adding butter to deep-frozen New Zealand Tegel chicken to turn the stock into pilafi. You can buy the chicken in pieces, or get a fresh one and chop it up. You don't need to use all the pieces, and it's handy to have some ready in the freezer, or you can buy it last minute from the supermarket. Place them in a pot and fill the pot with water, till it covers at least two inches of the chicken. The best cuts are the ones with lots of fat, which is useful for the stock (the fat will melt in the stock and be discarded later - it is not for eating). Boil away the chicken in the pot (lid on), till the chicken is very soft (practically falling away from the bone).

When the chicken is done, take it out of the pot, drain it, and put it aside. Strain the broth of all impurities, using a sieve, into another pot. Now clean the first pot. Measure out a small wine-glass of white long-grain rice per serving into a separate bowl. Then measure out three small wine-glasses of broth per small wine-glass of rice, into the cleaned-out pot. The measurements are very important, so that the rice will be cooked to the correct consistency. As a guide, the photo shows the appropriate measure of rice and broth using the green cup (2 cups rice=6 cups broth) which fits an average lemon. If there is not enough broth, add water; if there is too much broth, discard the remaining, or freeze it for later use. The broth must be placed in the pot and warmed up BEFORE you add the rice, otherwise the rice will go lumpy. Add salt to taste, give it a good stir, and let the broth come to the boil. At this point, add some lemon juice to your liking.

Now stand over the pot, and stir the pilafi every now and then to make sure it will not stick to the bottom of the pot. Don't over-stir, as the rice will be too lumpy. From this point on, it will not take more than 15 minutes for the rice to be done. You will see the broth congealing, and it is at this point that you must decide when the rice is done to your liking (crunchy - less cooking time; grainy - more cooking time; do not let it go mushy, or it will not taste so good). This dish takes practice to get the rice right! If the rice is still not cooked to your liking, and it is starting to stick to the bottom of the pot, add some more water, and mix it in.

Once it is ready, serve the pilafi with a ladle onto individual plates, with a piece of chicken per serving. It may look a little runny, but it will slowly congeal to the right consistency. Serve it with a tomato or lettuce salad and a good white wine (water for the children!). It tastes spicier with some freshly grated pepper sprinkled over the rice. My children prefer to douse it with Greek strained yoghurt mixed into the rice. If this isn't available, sour cream is just as good.

To help busy people, this dish can be prepared in stages. You can boil the chicken any time up to 48 hours before the rice is to be cooked. Leave the chicken in the broth in the pot in the fridge. When you are ready to cook the rice, heat up the pot as is, till the chicken is heated through, and proceed to take it out and put aside. The broth can be frozen for later use, but the rice dish, once cooked, cannot be frozen. It can, however, be re-heated in the microwave (for best results), and eaten as part of a leftovers meal.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Monday, 20 August 2007

Summer fruit (Καλοκαιρινά φρούτα)

Look what we have in our garden at the moment:

plums (from our tree), watermelon (from my uncles' fields), grapes (from a cousin's field), figs (from a tree hidden in our olive grove) and cantaloupe melon (grown in Hania).

You really don't need to cook - fruit goes very well with rusks (dry baked bread) and cheese; more than enough on a very hot humid day on a Mediterranean island in the middle of summer!

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.


CRETAN PRODUCE:
Soft mizithra cheese
Xinohondro (hondro)
Stamnagathi
Marathopites
Bougatsa Iordanis
Avronies (wild asparagus)
Dakos rusk salad
Orange juice
Lagos stifado
Sorrel
Silverbeet
Black mustard greens
Kalitsounia
Malotira
Olives tsakistes - pastes
Olive oil

Saturday, 18 August 2007

String beans stewed in tomato (Φασολάκια γιαχνί - yiahni)

Fresh string beans are the summer alternative to winter bean soups. If you grow your own string beans, you can use them in this recipe. There's a happy reason why I prefer the frozen variety: they are easier to deal with in terms of preparation. I tend not to buy them from fresh markets, because the farmer may have used too much fertiliser, and the beans become tough and fibrous, whereas frozen ones (despite the cultivation method used) always cook to tenderness, and don't need cleaning. To prepare fresh string beans, you need to top and tail each one separately, taking care to pull away any stringy fibre from each side. If they are very long, chop them in half. You can also use okra (lady's fingers), otherwise known as bamies in Greek cooking, instead of fasolakia to make this dish. Another popular way to eat them is to brown some chicken pieces in olive oil, and when they are half-cooked through, to add the remaining ingredients of this recipe. Green beans go especially well with meat stewed in tomato. I also add barbounes beans - they look like white haricot beans with a streaky red mesh design on their skin), to suit the different tastes of my family: someone wants green beans, someone else wants white beans.

You need:
1/2 cup olive oil
2 onions, chopped small
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 500g packet of frozen green string beans
1 250g packet of frozen white beans
5 small potatoes, peeled and qaurtered
3 courgettes, cut into chunks (only in summer; I never buy greenhouse grown zucchini in the winter)
1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into medium-sized rounds
400g tinned tomatos
a bunch of parsley
salt and pepper

Brown the onion and garlic in the oil in a large pot. Then add, in layers, the string beans, carrots, courgettes (topped and tailed), white beans and potatoes. Pour the pureed tomato over everything, and add enough water to just cover the pot. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle with the chopped parsley, cover the pot and cook until the potatoes are done, about 35-45 minutes. Serve the beans with leftover roast meat, boiled egg, cheese or just as they are.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

Olive oil (Ελαιόλαδο)

That ubiquitous ingredient in Greek cooking, olive oil is the only cooking oil that can be extracted without the use of heat, thereby protecting it against the loss of nutritious substances. We cook using only olive oil in our house. We make cakes, fry sweets and savories, dress salads, stew meat and grease baking tins using just olive oil.

Olive oil is not cheap; it cost between E5-6 a kilo in the supermarket. If you buy it straight from the oil producer, it will cost you 25% less. If olive oil is too expensive for you or it sounds too fatty for your liking, try using it sparingly, without substituting it with other cheaper or less fatty oils. If it's too expensive to buy it in your own country, simply use less than the recipe states. Do the same thing if you think that the quantity of olive oil used in a particular recipe is more than you are used to when you cook or prepare the main meals in your household. Don't forget that Greek people are not known for their SL (SLeek, SLim, SLender) bodies - rotund and bulgy is more like it!

Don't substitute olive oil for any other kind of oil if you are cooking Greek (or other Mediterranean) food; only olive oil is used, so the meal won't taste the same.

©
All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

CRETAN PRODUCE:
Soft mizithra cheese
Xinohondro (hondro)
Stamnagathi
Avronies (wild asparagus)
Dakos rusk salad
Orange juice
Lagos stifado
Bougatsa
Sorrel
Silverbeet
Black mustard greens
Kalitsounia
Malotira
Olives tsakistes - pastes
Olive oil

Low income equals low quality diet (Το καλό φαγητό δεν είναι φτηνό)

Here in Crete, people generally eat a lot and have rotund bodies. The middle class eat a lot of ready-to-eat food, eg souvlaki and other takeaways, while the poor buy low-quality supermarket brandname food to prepare their meals with, eg cheap ham, cheese, macaroni, sliced bread etc. The well-off definitely eat better. For a start, they themselves cook less, their food contains more high quality ingredients, eg fresh fish, and food is not the most important priority in their daily lives, with the result that they eat quality and not quantity. A low income definitely equates with a low quality diet.

As the chief cook in my family, I limit meat intake to a mince or chicken dish mid-week, and a pork, lamb or beef dish at the weekends. We grow a wide range of summer vegetables, and limit our sugar intake to a bought sweet once a week and a homemade madeira cake that I cook on a weekly basis. On non-meat days, we eat rice, macaroni or potato dishes cooked with vegetables, and always served with a salad. Once a week is devoted to a bean dish, eg lentils, bean soup, etc. We don't eat out very often, because we find it too expensive to eat quality meals at restaurants, while budget restaurant meals are of low quality. As the children are quite young, they are still eating at home, but once they start eating out with friends, I doubt they will be eating good quality meals. You definitely are what you eat.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

SEE ALSO:
In search of food
Taste sensationalism
School meals
The restaurants in the Agora
The rape of the countryside
Bulgarian pasta
Snacks
The open-air market
GAIA
To eat or not to eat?
A day in the field
Losing weight
Freezer clearout
Weekly food plan
Fridge contents
Eating locally

Akrogiali (Ακρογιάλι)

I hate going out for lunch or dinner thses days in Crete, because the restaurants are very crowded at this time of year, and the food is never up to scratch, so we usually prepare and cook all our meals at home. Last Sunday, I was in a can't-be-boithered-cooking sort of mood, so my husband kindly suggested to me that we go out. As I mentioned earlier, I have little faith in the food cooked at our local taverns, so I suggested we go to an outdoor restaurant (they all are at this time of year) by the sea. We had recently been recommended a good fish taverna by a friend. It was located in a large coastal village half an hour out of Hania, in the Gulf of Kissamos, sandwiched between the Gramvousa and Rodopos peninsulas.
First of all, I have to tell you about the atmosphere. We sat at a table which was set on a raised platform just above a stony beach. The waves were crashing violently onto the stones, and there was a slight breeze - just the right kind to whet your appetite. The salty air stirred up our hunger just as we sat down. A few people were swimming, but the raging sea didn't appeal to me, even though I could tell it was quite shallow for a long way out.
Then the waitress came and told us the menu. No menu cards; she explained the different types of fish available, and told us how they were cooked. You could have had anything you wanted: kakavia (the Greek version of bouilliabaise), fresh kalamari, grilled swordfish, sea urchin salad, sole, groper fillets, various small fish fried, whitebait; any fish that came to mind was being served fresh that day. They also had a limited number of meat dishes, while the rest of the menu was made up of traditional Greek vegetarian fare.
We ordered roast pork for the children, while we feasted on grilled swordfish, freshly fried squid, octopus in wine sauce, Greek salad, freshly cut fried potatoes and stuffed vine leaves and zucchini flowers. This was served with the tavern's own fresh bread baked in a traditional oven, and we washed the lot down with some ice-cold beer. It was the best meal I had ever eaten out in all my years of living in Hania.

©
All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE REVIEWS:
Paleohora cuisine
London cuisine
Anemomilos
Aroma
Agora

Friday, 10 August 2007

Papoutsakia (Παπουτσάκια - aubergine shoes)

We always have an excess of eggplant in our garden, so I have to think of many ways to cook them. Not everyone in the family likes papoutsakia though, so I freeze this meal in small quantities. When I cook them, I can cook something else at the same time - in the same pot or oven tray - to satisfy all the family. Today, for example, I've placed potatoes in the same baking tin.

To make these "little shoes" as we call them, you need to use the long variety of aubergine. Cut off the stalk, then cut a small slice in the center of one side of the aubergine - the same procedure used for YEMISTA (stuffed vegetables with rice), and scoop out the flesh. You can choose to use the flesh in the mince mixture, or to discard it. I prefer to use it, because it is a healthier option; no one suspects me of tainting the mince anyway. You can also use the large round variety of eggplant, which means you cut the stalk off, then cut them in half lengthways, and scoop out the flesh from each half.

Warning! Touching the inside flesh of an aubergine will stain your nails and fingers badly. The brown colour doesn't come off easily, so use plastic gloves, or be prepared to scrub your fingers well afterwards with a lemon (otherwise, you will need a manicure!). And don't forget that you can freeze the fresh aubergine shells as for yemista and moussaka, not forgetting that this is the best way to freeze eggplant. Remember to use frozen aubergine (shells or slices, fried or raw, filled or empty) straight from the deep freeze. They taste just like fresh aubergine when used this way. Do not let it thaw under any circumstances; it goes soggy and is completely unappealing.

In a shallow frying pan, covered with a generous amount of olive oil, lightly fry each shell, drain them on kitchen paper, and place them in a baking dish. If you prefer a healthier option, don't fry the eggplant; turn it into baba ganoush or melitzanosalata. Just place it in the baking dish as they are. It will cook in the same way that eggplant cooks as for yemista. My eaters prefer the unhealthy version of this dish. Once they are in the dish, put it aside. Cook some mince the way you prefer to cook it for a spaghetti dish. We like to use a mixture of pork and beef mince, which we place in a pot in which a generous amount of onion and garlic has been browning in olive oil (what else?). Once the mince has browned, add some wine, let it cook for 10 minutes, and then add some salt, pepper, oregano and a few freshly grated tomatoes into the pot (enough to top the mince by 1cm). At this stage, you can add some minced aubergine flesh if you have put it aside. Cover the pot and let it cook well.

When the mince is ready, spoon it into the shells right up to the top, and cover each shell with a slice of cheese. Some poeple use white bechamel sauce instead of cheese. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs on the cheese. (Now is the time to freeze the dish if you aren't going to cook it when you make it.) If you have some space in the dish, don't let it go to waste; peel and chop some potatoes, and place them in the gaps in the dish. Now drizzle some olive oil over the potatoes, and some freshly grated tomato over everything. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper, and put the dish in the oven and cook on a high heat for half an hour. Serve the aubergines with a fresh tomato salad, or any other leafy green salad.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE MINCE RECIPES:
Chili con carne
Biftekia
Dolmades
Makaronada
Cottage pie
Soutzoukakia
Pastitsio
Moussaka

Thursday, 9 August 2007

Bread and paximadi (Ψωμί και παξιμάδι)



Staples for all Cretan mealtimes - tradional bread from the local bakery, and dry rusks known as paximadi.

Good for dipping in tomato dishes and any food with an oil-based sauce.

For a rusk-based snack, try DACKOS.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

CRETAN PRODUCE:
Soft mizithra cheese
Bougatsa
Xinohondro (hondro)
Stamnagathi
Avronies (wild asparagus)
Dakos rusk salad
Lagos stifado
Orange juice
Sorrel
Silverbeet
Black mustard greens
Malotira
Olives tsakistes - pastes
Olive oil
Eating locally

Tuesday, 7 August 2007

Biftekia (Μπιφτέκια - meat patties)

My parents had a fish and chip shop in Wellington, fish and chips being the staple takeaway meal for New Zealanders. We sold mainly battered (or breadcrumbed) fish fillets and potato chips, as well as the usual chip shop "fritter" specialties, like corn fritters, paua fritters (my absolute favorite kiwi delicacy from the beautiful abalone shellfish which we often used as an ashtray or in jewellery) and potato fritters. All very fattening and not good for you, but what I would do for a paua fritter these days. We also stocked battered oysters, scallops, hotdogs, saveloys, crabsticks, dim sums, squid rings, spring rolls and curry rice rolls. All these processed foods were deep-fried in animal fat. Some had unpronunceable (for my Greek parents) names: squid rings often became 'square ring'; crabsticks were usually 'crabbystick' (at least they weren't 'crapsticks'); when they couldn't relate the item with its English name, they just gave them a host of variations based on the Greek for 'thingamijig' - fasoulaki, bihlibithi, marafeti. I had learnt to translate each of the nicknames appropriately, so I could fetch them from the deep freeze when my parents shouted out a customer's order to us.

Apart from fish, the only other unprocessed food (which unfortunately was also deep-fried) was meat patties (bifteki; the plural is biftekia). My mum would make a huge batch of these ever week - 100 pieces. We never ate them at home, I suppose because we sold so many of them, that she never had the time to make them for us. But she did use the same recipe for making fried meatballs (keftedakia), which we always associated with party food. I've followed her recipe more or less, and I always make at least 25 patties for the deep freezer. I use them in my children's sandwiches, and as a quick meal accompaniment to salad and roast potatoes. They go really well with any green vegetable dish. They can also be frozen once the patties have been formed. Absolutely fabulous in home-made hamburgers. 500g of mincemeat make 12 patties.

You need:
500g or pork or beef, ground, (we use a mixture of the two meats).
1 cup stale bread pieces soaked in water, then strained by hand
1 large onion, minced
2-4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 sprig of mint, finely chopped
1 sprig of parsley, finely chopped
1 carrot, grated (this is optional - it toughens the patties a little)
1 green bell pepper, minced
salt, pepper, oregano (or any other spice you like - we add cumin)

Put all the ingredients into a bowl and mix them well together by hand, taking care to blend everything in. Mix thoroughly. You can add any ingredient that can be finely chopped. You can also play around with the spices you choose to use in the patties. Form the mixture into flat round patties. At this point, you can freeze them for a later date. They do not need to be defrosted if you cook them in the oven, but if you prefer to do them in a saucepan, they need to be thawed first, otherwise they will not cook through. The same mixture can be formed into meatballs for frying, although it is best not to mix in 'hard' ingredients like carrot and pepper, becasue when making small meatballs, these ingredients stick out and ruin the spherical shape of the meatball.

To cook them in the oven, you need to:
Place the patties in a shallow baking tin. Pour lemon juice, salt and olive oil over them, and cook in a hot oven until the meat is done (about 30 minutes). Try using freshly grated tomato instead of lemon juice for a thicker saucier taste. I have also added potatoes, chopped into large cubes (either with lemon or tomato), and served the meal with a simple salad or summer greens. The meat patties shrink slightly while cooking, so the extra space created while they are cooking can be taken up with prepared vegetables ready for roasting. I usually chop 2-3 large potatoes and position them in the spaces among the patties.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE MINCE RECIPES:
Chili con carne
Dolmades
Makaronada
Cottage pie
Papoutsakia
Soutzoukakia
Pastitsio
Moussaka

Dackos (dakos) (Κρητικός ντάκος - Cretan rusk salad)

This is the healthiest salad snack you can imagine. It has been immortalised all over Greece and is famous for its Hania origins. It is served in practically every single restaurant, taverna, cafe or kafeneio in the province. It is extremely easy to make. I don't know why it's called dackos (or dakos, or dako for that matter); the same name is also used for the troublesome fly that infests olives and ruins olive trees.

Use Cretan rusks (paximadi - παξιμαδι) for this recipe. These are bread slices that have been cooked twice and turned into thick hard dry slices. They keep well in an airtight container. They were probably made originally as a way of preserving bread, which was made by each household: to avoid kneading and cooking bread for the daily meal, a large amount was made and whatever wasn't eaten fresh was baked hard to be eaten later int he week (or month). If you can't get hold of such things, use stale sourdough bread, cut up in thick slices, and toasted or grilled just enough to make it firm. Do NOT use sliced bread, or any other mass produced bread that does not come from a traditional bakery. Only handmade loaves can replace Cretan paximadi rusks.
Take a few rusks and arrange them on a plate. If they are small, leave them as they are. If they are large, break them up into smaller chunks, or slice them in half and serve them individually. Drizzle olive oil over the rusks. Grate a generous amount of fresh tomato over the oil. It's important to pour the oil first, so that the rusks or bread do not become soggy (unless the paximadi is very dry-baked, in which case grate the TOMATO first, and then drizzle the olive oil over it). Top them with a swab of mizithra (ricotta-style cottage cheese - the traditional soft white cheese made in Crete). If you can't get mizithra where you are, use Indian paneer cheese, or Italian ricotta, or grated feta cheese. Sprinkle a little oregano on top. Don't season it with salt, because the cheese is probably loaded with it. Serve it with sliced cucumber and black or green olives. Without the cheese, it makes good lenten fare.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE HEALTHY SNACKS
:
Banana cake muffins
Banana lassi
Apple cake
Carrot cake muffins
Chocolate walnut pancakes
Kalitsounia
Ladenia pizza
Marathopites
Prasopita
Fruit crumble
Sfakianes pites
Spanakopita
Tiropitakia
Corn fritters

Meat and milk, western diets and supermarket food (Η δυτική διατροφή)

Two recent articles on food that you should definitely read if you want to change the way you think about food:
http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6934709.stm
Westerners (including myself) love Chinese and Thai cusine, even though they don't contain a lot of meat, and they never contain any milk, while Westerners consume huge amounts of dairy products in the form of milk, milkshakes, milk in tea and coffee, yoghurt, puddings, cheese, pizza topping, sandwiches, you name it. Thai people are never overweight in my experience, while Chinese people have only just started to look obese, mainly due to the "Little Emperor" syndrome. Instead of changing the way non-Westerners eat, maybe Westerners should try to adopt the eating habits of others, for their own health's sake.

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/magazine/6933744.stm It is perfectly possible to never throw food away, just by following a few guidelines:
* Don't over-buy; just because there are 15 varieties of pre-packaged cheese doesn't mean you need to buy at least three types every time you feel like something different! Supermarkets never run out of the products they stock - they just keep refilling the shelves. So buy what you need and let the supermarket store things for you.
* Don't buy pet-food; what about your own meals' leftovers? If it was good enough for you, then it's good enough for your most cherished animal.
* Create one leftovers night in the week; if you really don't want to eat the same meal twice in the same week, cook less of it, or freeze the remaining in single easy-to-thaw servings.
* Ask for doggy-bags in restaurants; it's not your fault if the serving was too big for you to eat in one go, but it is your fault if you over-ordered! Have the remaining on your leftovers night.
* "Best before/Use before" doesn't mean the same thing as "Eat before"; the food is still likely to be edible after that date. If you weren't going to eat it by the best before date, you shouldn't have bought it, but it is still usually safe to eat something within a reasonable amount of time after the expiry date.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

See also:
Taste sensationalism
Googling food

To eat or not to eat?
Eating locally
A day in the field

Monday, 6 August 2007

Yemista (Γεμιστά - summer vegetables stuffed with rice)

This is the king dish of Greek lenten fare. For this dish you need 8 medium tomatoes, 4-5 bell peppers and 4-5 medium aubergines. Slice the tops off the vegetables and put them aside. You will need them after filling the shells. If you are using the long variety of aubergine, slice the top off (and discard), and then cut off a thin slice on one side (keep it). You can also use courgettes (treat them similarly to the long aubergine), but I prefer not to as a matter of taste. Spoon out the flesh of all the vegetables, placing it all in a bowl (discard only the innards of the peppers).

Place them in a baking dish, making sure they all fit neatly. If there is still some space left, shell out some more vegetables of your choice and fill in the gaps. You can freeze the shells at this stage, so that you can save time when making this dish at a later date. The good news about the frozen shells is that they can be used as they are, and certainly mustn't be defrosted before use. Aubergine is best frozen in this way ( or in slices); it keeps its taste and texture when it is cooked immediately after being taken out of the freezer. Never thaw frozen aubergine, as it retains a lot of water, it turns soggy, and looks unappetising. There are three ways I successfully freeze eggplant without it losing its taste: see my recipes for moussaka and papoutsakia.

For the basic filling you need:
1 large onion, grated
a bunch of finely chopped mint
a bunch of finely chopped parsley
a bunch of finely chopped fennel or dill
the flesh of 6 tomatoes, pureed
the flesh of 1 eggplant, finely chopped (optional)
salt, pepper, cumin and oregano to taste
Place the onion, aubergine pulp, mint, parsley, fennel, salt, pepper, cumin and oregano in a bowl. Using a blender, turn the tomato flesh into pulp, add 2/3 of it to the onion mix, then add 1/2 cup of olive oil, and mix everything well. Omit any herbs you don't have access to; these stuffed vegetables can be made with any herb favorites, although the ones I have listed are the traditional Greek ones.

And if you had decided to freeze the shells, you could now also freeze this mixture as is, to use it when you decide to cook this dish. The remaining pulp can also be frozen in a separate container to be used in the sauce that the vegetables will be cooked in. The bad news about the frozen mixtures is that you will need to defrost both of them well in advance when you do decide to make them. Unfortunately, rice does not freeze well, so you can't pre-fill the shells before you freeze them.

If you are not freezing it, and you're going to cook it now, add a tablespoon of rice for every vegetable shell (ie, approximately 20 tablespoons of rice for the 8 tomatos, 4-5 peppers and 4-5 aubergines). Mix the rice into the tomato mixture thoroughly. Now take a tablespoon and add one spoonful of rice mix into each shell. After all the shells have had a spoonful of rice added to them, repeat the process until all the shells are filled to just below the top. Don't fill the shells one at a time; it is important to dole out the mixture slowly, so that each shell gets its fair share of liquids. When all the shells have been filled (if you have any rice mixture left over, you can make αγέμιστα. You can't freeze it because rice doesn't freeze well), put the tops back on the vegetables. Then pour the remaining tomato pulp over all the vegetables; drizzle some olive oil all over them, too. Now cover the whole dish with aluminium foil and cook it in a pre-heated oven (200C) for approximately one hour, or until the rice is cooked. You may need to check for this by opening up the foil, and taking a top off one of the vegetables to look at the rice. If it needs more doing, check that there is enough liquid in the tin to ensure it doesn't burn.To make this dish a little spicier, insert a small piece of sausage of your choice on top of each filled shell before you put the tops back on. Delicious! many cooks also add mince to the rice mixture; I never do, because I believe we eat enough meat as it is, so I never make yemista in this way (although I am partial to sausage).

Instead of using the caps of the vegetables to close them, try using dolmades or dolmadakia instead. Use whatever leaves are in season; I've even topped them with Cos lettuce. In the summer, most Greek cooks will hunt out anthous, the delicate little yellow flowers growing at the end of courgettes (zucchini). Cleared of their anthers (whose powdery orange dust stains anything that touches it), they make a stunning rice parcel hors d'oeuvre. For my family, to save cooking time, I often top them with meat patties, and they cook very well.
To serve the vegetables, place three different stuffed vegetables on a plate, cut them into three or four pieces each, and spread a snall blob of Greek strained yoghurt over them. Heaven!

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE RICE RECIPES:
Simple pilafi rice for children
Spanakorizo
Dolmadakia - dolmades
Yemista ki'ayemista

Pulses (Όσπρια - beans)

We eat pulses - another word for the humble bean - once a week in our house. As there are a range of beans to choose from, you could eat a different one each week, and never have the same meal in the same month. T see how we cook each one in our house (there are slight variations all over Greece), click on the link:
fasolia: white (haricot) beans cooked in a red sauce with onion, celery and carrot
fakes: brown lentils cooked in a red onion sauce
fava: split yellow peas boiled with onion and pureed as a dip
mavromatika: black-eyed beans cooked in a red onion sauce OR boiled for a salad with parsley and onion
revithia: chickpeas (garbanzo) cooked in a white OR red sauce (with or without rice), boiled and pureed for a hummus dip, OR ground and shaped into spicy patties
gigandes: lima beans baked in the oven with carrots and parsley
koukia: broad beans, often eaten fresh; dried broad beans are soaked overnight and added to boiled wild greens

This bean soup (fasolada) was made by putting 1/2 cup of olice oil, a grated onion, some minced garlic, some chopped celery, two peeled carrots sliced into rounds, lots of pureed fresh tomato, salt, pepper and oregano into a pot, with enough water to cover it 2 inches above the ingredients, and letting it cook on the lowest heat for two hours, covered. Saucy bean dishes are best served with some boiled eggs and cheese. They go especially well with leftover BBQ meat, or any other simple meat dish. When serving the soup, squeeze some lemon juice over the soup for a tangier taste.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

Sunday, 5 August 2007

Tsigariasto (Τσιγαριαστό κρέας - stewed meat)

Use spring lamb or goat for this dish. Chop the meat roughly into large chunks. Wash thoroughly to rid meat of bone shards. Heat a large deep pot with a 0.5cm layer of olive oil. Add some coarsely chopped onion and garlic to your liking, and cook till soft. Then turn down the heat, add the meat and cook on both sides till it loses its red colour (about 10 minutes per side). Pour a glass of wine over the meat, season with salt, oregano and pepper, and cover the pot with a lid. Turn the heat to low. Cook for at least an hour.Take the lid off about every twenty minutes to check if it needs any liquid. If it looks dry, or is sticking to the bottom of the pot, add only enough water to stop it from sticking. The meat is done when it is very, very tender.

Due to its simplicity, this meat makes a good accompaniment to any vegetable dish.

©
All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE MEAT RECIPES:

Avgolemono stew
Sunday roast
Chicken
Rabbit/Hare
Mince
Curried pork chops
Stir-fry beef
Souvlaki
Yiouvetsi
Pan-fried pork chops

Greek tomato salad (Χωριάτικη σαλάτα - peasant (village) salad)


Greek salad can have all sorts of ingredients added to it these days, but I like to remember the most traditional, which add up to the easy-to-remember number 10. This is my 10-things Greek salad.

Wash two tomatoes and chop into segments. Peel a cucumber and chop into chunky slices. Peel and coarsely slice a big onion. De-seed and chop 4-5 stalk peppers or a bell pepper into rounds. Pour a little vinegar over the ingredients. Add a little salt. Toss in a few olives. Cut a big slice of feta cheese and place it on top of the other ingredients. Sprinkle some oregano on the feta cheese. Pour some olive oil over all the ingredients. Don't mix the salad until it is time to serve it. Serve with traditional village bread. For lenten food, omit the cheese.

A delicious alternative way to serve this salad and make a main meal out of it is to add boiled potatoes cut into chunks and chopped-up boiled eggs.

Pick o' the bunch, as you can see! The cucumbers are a locally grown variety, known as atzouri instead of aggouri, the common Greek word for cucumber. They are firmer and less juicy than the common variety of cucumber.

If you want to turn this into a Cretan village salad, just add mizithra (our local variety of ricotta cheese) to it instead of feta cheese, and sprinkle a few pieces of crumbled dakos rusk over it. Now it becomes an 11-things salad.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE SALADS
:
Cabbage salad
Lettuce salad
Summer horta
Winter horta
Salad advice
Beetroot salad

Kalitsounia (Κρητικά καλιτσούνια καλοκαιρινά - Cretan summe pasties)

THERE IS AN UPDATED SECTION ON KALITSOUNIA: CLICK THIS LINK FOR THE NEWER POST, which is based on winter kalitsounia.

These delicious kalitsounia (pasties) can be made any time of the year with whatever leafy greens are in season. In the winter, I prefer them with spinach and wild herbs. Now that it's summer, I make them with zucchini and vlita. Here is a recipe for summer pasties. For the winter version, click here.

Grate a large courgette and a large onion together, salt them well and leave in a colander for about an hour to drain away their liquid. Hand-strain them after the hour is passed. Coarsely chop a bunch of well-washed vlita, finely chop a few sprigs of mint, and add them to the vegetables. Then add 100g of grated yellow cheese and 150g of mizithra (the local Cretan variety of ricotta-style cottage cheese). Sprinkle some freshly ground pepper and a fistful of semolina into the mixture. Mix thoroughly. You can also add other herbs to this mixture, such as parsley or dill, in small quantities, so as not to affect the overall taste.
Have the filo (phyllo) pastry ready to cut. I never make the pastry myself; we can buy freshly made thick-filo pastry in Hania, even though most women usually make it themselves using a lasagne maker (I've got one of those, but I still buy the stuff; no flour or mess to clean up afterwards; see how Peter made it himself). Cut the pastry into rounds or squares. Fill and seal them. Lay them on a well-oiled oven sheet, brush them with beaten egg and sprinkle them with sesame seeds. Cook them in a hot oven (190-200C) for about 25-30 minutes.
The pasties can be frozen successfully before the egg-and-sesame stage. They do not need to be defrosted before being cooked. The pasties can also be fried (fresh or frozen) in olive oil in a shallow frying pan, in which case you do not add egg and sesame seed. Instead of cutting the pastry, a pita (pie) can be made instead: Lay a sheet of pastry on the bottom of an oiled baking tray, pour in the mixture to no more than 0.75cm in thickness, close the pie with the edges of the pastry sheet that lie over the tray OR use another pastry sheet. At this stage, the pie can be frozen, or cooked in the same way as the pasties. When you want to cook a frozen pie, don't defrost it completely, otherwise it will go mushy. Brush it with egg and sprinkle some sesame over it as is, and cook till done in the oven.

©All Rights Reserved/Organically cooked. No part of this blog may be reproduced and/or copied by any means without prior consent from Maria Verivaki.

MORE WILD GREENS RECIPES:
Kalitsounia fried
Kalitsounia in the oven
Wild asparagus
Hortopita (spanakopita)
Horta in winter
Horta in summer
Sorrel
Swiss chard (silverbeet)
Eggs with mustard greens
Mountain tea

PASTRY RECIPES:
Kalitsounia fried
Easter kalitsounia
Prasopita
Kalitsounia in the oven
Marathopites
Hortopita (spanakopita)
Tiropitakia
Sfakianes pites
Summer kalitsounia
Spiral pie