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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

Sunday, 30 September 2007

Banana chocolate lassi (Ρόφημα με μπανάνα)

I loved milkshakes when I was young, like my kids do now. I had no idea what went into them, but they sounded healthy because they had the word 'milk' in them. I stopped drinking milk for breakfast form a very young age, so I though I was doing myself a favour to have a milk-based drink; good for my bones, I would get myself to believe. We all know what lured me to them: they contain generous amounts of sugar and fat-based products, so that their taste is nothing like milk, and more like high-calorie addictive junk food. Do strawberry milkshakes really contain strawberries? If it's winter, strawberries will have to be imported (and therefore increase CO2 omissions), so it's going to be expensive, not to mention wasteful, to make. What about a banana milkshake? If it comes particularly yellow in colour, then it doesn't contain banana - banana flesh is creamy white, not yellow.

So what does go into a milkshake? For a start, the invention of milkshakes goes hand-in-hand with the progress in technology; no matter how hard or long you beat milk, cream, butter or ice-cream, you'll never get the lump-free smooth creamy consistency of a milkshake unless you use some kind of machine to do it. So milkshakes, unlike their name suggests, are an artificial drink. Milkshakes always contain a thickening agent like flour. The addition of (high amounts of) sugar also thickens liquids. Ice-cream is an easy option for making milkshakes, because it contains all the ingredients needed to make one: sugar and dairy products (not necessarily milk or cream), plenty of sugar and thickening agents like fat and flour. Worst of all, think how many scoops you need to fill a tall glass, as milkshakes are traditionally served in. Wouldn't you have been better off having one scoop of your favorite ice-cream rather than one milkshake? Although they had always been a treat in my youth - I don't think I have had more than a couple of dozen of them in my whole life - I stopped having them permanently once I became highly weight-conscious. My 5-year-old's having his second chocolate milkshake in his life so far.

Talking about milkshakes, why not try the lassi version instead? The Indian lassi drink is very popular these days. It's so much more trendy to say you're having a lassi than a milkshake. But it's the same thing, really, it's a milk-based shake. We've all heard of mango lassi. It was invented in a third world country, it is not a technology-based food item, and mango was the first fruit to be associated with it. But let's face it, we don't all live in countries where mangos are widely grown. Our mango tree produced just two this year, so I couldn't expect to make mango lassi the whole summer long. So why not try making lassi - or smoothie, call it what you like - with any readily avaialble fruit with a thick consistency similar to that of mango? A cheap and common alternative, despite its undesirably high level of carbon footprints required to get it to our fruit baskets, is the humble banana. I had a couple of over-ripe bananas in the house, the type that grow black spots on their skin, despite having no blemishes in their flesh. Beauty is only skin deep, but my children are too young to understand that, whereas my husband is too childish to believe it; he also scoffs at black-spotted bananas. Here's what I made with one. I did use a blender, because it makes life easier. But if the banana is really ripe, you can mash it up using a fork (I suppose).

You need:
a ripe banana
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/3 cup thick yoghurt (of course I used Greek strained yoghurt, but if you can't get that, try using more yoghurt than milk to get the right consistency)
1 teaspoon of honey (or more if you have a sweet tooth)
2 teaspoons cocoa (or children's chocolate milk powder - this is optional; I add it to make a more child-friendly version of a milkshake)
Make sure the banana, milk and yoghurt are very cold. Put all the ingredients into the blender. Blend till the banana leaves no lumps in the mixture. Pour into a tall glass. A straw helps.

©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
Apple cake
Carrot cake muffins
Chocolate walnut pancakes
Kalitsounia
Ladenia pizza
Marathopites
Prasopita
Fruit crumble
Sfakianes pites
Spanakopita
Tiropitakia
Dakos rusk
Corn fritters

Yiouvetsi (Γιουβέτσι - roast meat with rice pasta)


Here's a popular Sunday roast dish, an alternative to meat and potatoes. This meal contains pasta (usually in the form of rice), and the meat it is usually served with is the head of a sheep or goat. Sounds a little like offal, doesn't it? This is a delicacy in Crete, even more so since there is only one head, so it's usually reserved for the head of the family. The logic behind the recipe is that in the past when there were no fridges, and not much meat available in poor rural areas, all parts of an animal were eaten in some way, hence the birth of this dish. The idea of pasta in the oven is a recent addition in Cretan cooking; rice and potatoes are more traditional. You may be wondering who is going to eat this in my house; I have also included some other cuts of meat in the tin, so there will be plenty of takers. This meal is at its most delicious when you use free-range chicken meat.


To make this meal, you need to prepare the sheep's head. Put it in vinegar and water to soak for a couple of hours. Then boil it in salted water for about half an hour. Now you can place it in a roasting tin with other cuts of meat, and cook it in the same way as for Sunday roast. When the meat is practically done, add 250 grams of rice pasta along with 3-4 cups of water. The pasta doesn't need a lot of cooking time. Scoop up a serving of pasta onto a plate with a piece of meat on the side. Don't forget the 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 MEAT RECIPES:
Avgolemono stew
Sunday roast
Chicken
Rabbit/Hare
Mince
Curried pork chops
Tsigariasto
Stir-fry beef
Souvlaki
Pan-cooked pork chops

Saturday, 29 September 2007

Salmon (Σολομός)


Salmon fillets need very litle cooking time, whether they are lightly fried or lightly grilled. I had some leftover salmon from yesterday's meal of grilled fish and salad. So I turned it into a cold salad for myself with boiled potatoes and courgettes. I chopped up the ingredients and dressed the salad with olive oil, lemon, some parsley and salt. Very nourishing, but nothing spectacular; no sauce to mop up, no piquant taste, all very bland. It reminds me of what the British cook.

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MORE SEAFOOD RECIPES:

Bakaliaros - bakaliaraki
Octopus stew
Psarosoupa
Shrimp in lemon
Squid stew
Squid fried
Taramasalata
Mussels sauce

Mango lassi (Ρόφημα με μάνγκο)

Lassi is a kind of yoghurt drink originating in Asia. Milk is added to make it runny, and honey and/or spices are added for taste. I checked out a range of lassi recipes on the web (Jamie Oliver, elise, indiasnacks, bbc) and found that they all contained runny yoghurt and milk, the remaining ingredients all being a matter of individual taste. I enjoyed the drink in a Pakistani restaurant in London, but it didn't seem to taste the same in my own home. I tried making it with some tinned mango pulp, but it didn't taste that spectacular. Another time, I made it with fresh mango pulp from imported mango; very nice indeed, but I wouldn't say any more genuine. I wonder what the difference is between the yoghurt used in Asia and the runny Greek cow's milk yoghurt (a local variety produced in Crete) that I used. I could taste the tangy flavour of the mango (unlike with the canned variety). It made a refreshing breakfast. I whizzed the ingredients (along with some honey to sweeten it) in a blemder, and put the drink in the fridge. We have a mango tree of our own in one of our fields in the village - it gave us two mangos this year. For the sake of mango lassi, I hope it prospers.

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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
Dakos rusk
Corn fritters

Friday, 28 September 2007

Cheese and honey pies form Sfakia (Σφακιανές πίτες)

These cheese pies are very popular in Crete. They are easy to make and use quite basic ingredients, but they do involve making a slight mess of your kitchen. Although I have made them on numerous occassions, they turned out best for me when I made them for the first time with a friend's mother's help, and just recently (9 years later) when another neighbour friend invited me to her place to make them together, so I was spared the hassle of cleaning up. They involve a little skill, in that when you roll out the dough-and-cheese mixture, you mustn't apply a heavy hand, otherwise the dough will break up, and the cheese will run out. Their name derives from a remote area of Crete (Sfakia) where they were originally made, and they are cooked in the typical style of the cuisine of the Sfakia region, using just oil and high heat.

To make about 15 pies (which can be deep-frozen stacked on top of one another with greaseproof paper between each layer), you need 1 egg, a cup of water, 1/2 cup of olive oil, some salt and approximately 1 kilo of flour for the dough. You also need approximately a kilo of mizithra for the filling. Mix well the egg, water, oil and salt together, and then add the flour, kneading it in well, until you have a soft dough that can be easily spread (not too firm and hard). You'll need almost a kilo's worth, depending on the temperature, humidity, and the size of the cup you used to measure the liquids. Put the dough aside for half an hour to let it become more elastic, so that it won't break up too easily when rolling it out. This dough is not the same as filo pastry - it is softer, thicker and more malleable.

These pies are made in a similar way to marathopites, except that they are slightly bigger. Take a knob of dough the size of a large mandarin (or a small apple). Open it up into the shape of a small saucer. Place a knob of dry mizithra (ricotta-style cheese) the size of a golf ball into the centre of the dough, and roll it up around the cheese so that it is hidden inside the dough. Take a rolling pin and LIGHTLY, not firmly, knead the cheesy dough into a bigger round on a floured workspace. Every time you roll the dough, turn the pie round, so that it turns round like a clock hand as you roll it out. This is to ensure that the cheese in the dough will spread out evenly. Stack the pies one on top of one another, separated by greaseproof paper. If you aren't going to cook them immediately, you should cover them with a cloth, and put them in the fridge. They freeze well, but you must freeze them individually on a flat surface, otherwise, they are difficult to stack, and they lose their shape.

When you are ready to cook them, heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan the size of the pie. Slide one in the pan, and cook on a medium to high heat till brown bubbles have formed on the side it is being cooked. Then flip it over and cook the other side. You can cook them as soft or as crispy as you like. When both sides are done, place the pie on a plate, and pour a tablespoon of honey over it. Repeat the process, starting from the point where you place oil in the pan. Stack the cooked pies on top of each other, pouring a tablspoon of honey over each one.

These pies can be served hot or cold. They make a spectacular desert at the end of a traditional Cretan 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.

MORE PUDDINGS:
Apple pie
Brownies
Chocolate cake
Chocolate pancakes

Walnut cake
Apple pie
Tiropitakia
Halva
Fruit crumble
Bougatsa

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Lemon cake (Κέικ με λεμόνι)


We own and manage 500 orange trees in the village of Fournes, in Chania. Even so, we still manage to run out of oranges at this time of year. The variety we grow is mainly Valencia orange, which is now growing on the trees, and will be ripe sometime after March. So how can I make a cake like my plain cake? The original recipe (GIOTIS Flour Mills) says to use 1/2 cup of milk and the zest of an orange or lemon. I adpated the recipe to use orange juice instead of milk. This time, I have used 1/2 cup of milk and the zest AND juice of a lemon. I then divided the batter into two and mixed some cooca in one bowl, but now that I've tasted it, this would make a refreshing lemon cake, and the cocoa part isn't necessary. It has a tangy taste, perfect with a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon.

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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 DESSERTS:
Apple pie
Afghans
Banana cake
Brownies
Chocolate cake
Koulourakia
Simple cake
Carrot cake muffins

Chocolate muffins
Chocolate pancakes
Gingernuts
Vasilopita
Walnut cake
Apple pie
Tiropitakia
Halva
Fruit crumble
Sfakianes pites

Chocolate balls

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Lettuce salad (Μαρουλοσαλάτα)

The typical salad line-up in tourist areas of Greece is composed mainly of boring run-of-the-mill fare: tomato and cucumber, lettuce or cabbage or 'mixed' salad. It is presented in a boring way, and more often than not, contains sub-standard olive oil (or a substitute when the restaurateur is a cheapskate). Apart from the more unusual salad greens that are eaten in Greece (vlita, stifno, stamnagathi, and other horta), universally Western salad vegetables like lettuce and cabbage can be served in more appetising ways than we see on the typical Greek menu card. Here is one of my favorites; it goes with everything.

Tearing lettuce is supposedly more healthy than knifing it, but in this case, you must shred it with a knife, otherwise the remaining ingredients will not blend in with the lettuce. In Greece, we use mainly cos lettuce, rather than the frilly round variety (which I remember being more common in New Zealand). Cos lettuce is not as sweet or tender as the round variety. Add some grated carrot, sliced cucumber moons and some chopped vinegar-pickled small green peppers (our own crop - I pickle them myself). Season with salt, and dress with vinegar and olive oil. You could use mayonnaise instead of olive oil and vinegar, but that is not a Greek salad at all!

©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
Summer horta
Winter horta
Salad advice
Greek village salad
Cretan salad

Beetroot salad

Omeletta (Ομελέττα με πατάτες - frittata)


Here is our favorite egg and potato dish. We call this omelette, even though it is nothing like the original French version which the dish gets its name from. It's more like a Spanish frittata. Whatever you call it, it's more elegant than simple chips and fried eggs. My husband swears by frying chips in a conventional frying pan under a gas elelment for more flavour; we never use a friteusse (the little vat-type deep-fryer that sits on a kitchen benchtop covered in grease until spring-cleaning time), although it is handier than a frying pan, in that it doesn't spit out oil over your benchtop.

Fry some salted, chipped potatoes till they are done to your liking. Some people like them well-fried, others prefer them softer. I'm for somewhere in the middle. Drain them in a bowl. Remove all the oil except a light film covering the bottom of the frying pan (we never use a deep-fryer). Add some greens of your choice - I added julienned green and red pepper - and return the potatoes to the pan. Pour 2 beaten eggs over the chips and let the egg cook on the bottom of the pan. When it is ready, slide the omelette onto a large plate, and place it into the pan once again upside down to cook the other side of the omelette. I'm not a perfect pancake flipper, but I can manage this to a reasonable level. When it is done, slide it out of the pan onto the plate you used to flip it over. Serve it with a salad, and some good quality sausages (saveloys were my favorite in New Zealand - we buy them here from LIDL).

©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 EGG RECIPES:
Avgolemono
Scrambled eggs with wild mustard greens
Frittata
Potato salad
Wild asparagus omelette

Saturday, 22 September 2007

Rice noodle stir fty (Κινέζικα μακαρόνια)

I prefer to use leftover boiled chicken to make my favorite homemade takeaway: organic Chinese rice noodles in a stir-fry chicken sauce. The organic rice noodles are available in my favorite organic store in Hania the only one I trust. The noodles are actually cheaper than the supermarket BLUE DRAGON variety, which are mass-prodused and not very tasty.

Bring some water to boiling point, and drop the noodles into the pot, turning off the heat. The noodles will then soften in the water while you prepare the next part of the meal. Chop up some pre-cooked chicken into small pieces. Grate some carrot and/or courgette into the chicken. Mince up some onion, garlic and fresh ginger. Heat a little oil in a saucepan, and add all the ingredients, adding some salt, pepper and soya sauce. While the pan mixture is blemding together, drain the noodles, and add them to the pan. Add some water to the pan to make surre that the noodles don't stick to the bottom. Mix everything in until well blended. Serve immediately.

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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 ASIAN RECIPES:
Banana lassi
Chicken curry
Mango lassi
Stir-fry beef
Curried pancetta
Blue dragon

Monday, 17 September 2007

Plain cake (Κέικ με πορτοκάλι)


Here is the simplest cake I make, which keeps a week long and goes regularly into my kids' lunchboxes. It comes straight from the back of a packet of flour produced by the GIOTIS flour mills.

In a big bowl, mix together 4 eggs, 1 1/2 cups sugar, 1 cup 
(250g) margarine (I use olive oil these days), 1 teaspoon vanilla essence, the grated zest of an orange, and 1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice (not the bottled variety - it ruins the taste). Mix the ingredients well (I use a hand-held electric mixer). Add 1 1/2 to 2 cups of self-raising flour, and mix it in to get a batter that is thicker than pouring consistency. Pour 2/3 of the mixture into a greased cake tin. Mix 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder into the remining mixture, and pour that on top of the other cake mixture. Bake in a medium-hot oven for 40 minutes, or until a knife inserted into the cake comes out clean. Let it cool before slicing, otherwise the cake's form will be spoiled.

©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 CAKES:
Banana cake
Brownies
Chocolate cake
Carrot cake muffins

Chocolate muffins
Vasilopita
Walnut cake
Tsoureki
Apple pie
Halva

Moussaka (Μουσσακά)

This dish takes a long time to make, so it's worth making it in big batches to freeze some for later. It tastes just as good when taken out of the deep freeze and cooked (or heated, if you choose to pre-cook the moussaka) in a conventional oven. I usually cook the moussaka and let it cool, after which it is much much easier to cut it up and pack into individual servings in clean tupperware, and pop it into the freezer. Apart from this, I also make some small tins of moussaka without pre-cooking it, which I serve to the whole family on one of my lazy cooking days. It is a heavy meal, but there are plenty of ways to make it lighter and healthier (we prefer the authentic version). And don't forget that aubergines are not easy to freeze, so this is one of the best ways to preserve fresh garden aubergine crop; you can freeze them raw or fried, in slices or shell as for yemista or papoutsakia. 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.

The first stage involves cooking the mince. You should start cooking this before you deal with the vegetables so that it is ready when you have finished frying (or boiling) the vegetables. I cook this mince in exactly the same way as I have described for papoutsakia or pastitsio. The mince is ready when most of the liquid has evaporated.

While this is cooking, you can prepare the vegetables. You need about 5 medium round eggplants and 5 large round (rather than oblong) potatoes, for every half kilo of mince you cook. Slice the eggplant and potatoes into thin rounds (about 3-5mm thick). The thicker, the healthier, as they won't absorb so much oil. Now fry these rounds (first the aubergine, then the potato) in olive oil till they are just brown. Drain the slices on absorbent paper to soak off some of the oil. First place HALF the aubergines slices at the bottom of the baking dish, then HALF the potatoes on top. (A healthier version omits the frying; I've heard of some people who boil the eggplant and potato slices instead, and drain them very well before they put them in the baking dish, while others do not pre-cook the vegetables at all. Suit yourself.) In restaurants, you will see moussaka being served with a layer of courgette slices, too. If you choose to add a layer of courgettes to your moussaka, they definitely don't need pre-cooking. Slice them and layer them on top of the aubergines, whether you are going to cook or freeze it. This makes a substantial healthier meal.

Now pour the mince over the layered vegetables, taking care not to let too much liquid run into the tin if you have fried or boiled the vegetables. On the other hand, if the vegetables have not been pre-cooked, the excess liquid from the mince should not be drained away. Then layer the remaining vegetables over the mince, this time starting with the potatoes, and ending off with the aubergines. Make a bechamel (white) sauce (just like for pastitsio) and pour it over the moussaka. Grate some nutmeg over the sauce. Bake in a medium oven for 40-45 minutes. If the vegetables have not been pre-cooked, the dish will need more cooking time. Test to see if it is done by inserting a knife to feel the texture of the potato. Once the moussaka is ready, let it cool before cutting, otherwise it will not slice well. You will forever be told what a good cook you are if you serve this at a dinner party.

©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:
Biftekia
Chili con carne
Dolmades
Makaronada
Cottage pie
Papoutsakia
Soutzoukakia
Pastitsio

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Bamies (Μπάμιες με ψητό στο φούρνο - lady's fingers, okra)

Okra are an old-fashioned summer vegetable with an acquired taste that not many people are interested in eating these days, unless they have tasted them before and know how delicious they are when cooked properly. The preparation of these vegetables takes a long time, their texture is a little slimy, and their taste leaves much to be desired if they are not treated appropriately before being cooked. They are considered a specialty vegetable in African, Indian and Carribean cuisine. In Greece, they are eaten as a stew in a tomato sauce, or put into the roasting pan or a casserole with potatoes and meat. My mother used to buy tinned okra in New Zealand from an Italian grocer's on Pirie St. We would always have that revolting gooey seedy slime in a chicken casserole. It just made no sense to eat it in New Zealand when there was a plethora of other fresh vegetables available for roasting with meat, which my parents seemed hesistant to try themselves: kumara, pumpkin, baby squash. I had never seen fresh okra until I came to Greece, and only then could I appreciate why some people call it the king of summer vegetables. It has a unique chewy taste; when added to a roast, it tastes like jerky.

Okra need to be sun-dried before they are used, otherwise they will excrete an off-putting slimy juice. They also have a further preparation ritual: once the okra have been dried, you need to cut off the stalky top without slicing it off (be careful - their hairy texture can cause a slight rash), then they need to be "shaved" right around the cap where the stalk was cut off, but the cap must not be sliced off, otherwise they will become slimy once again. As if that's not enough, they also need to be soaked for about an hour in some wine or vinegar to remove the slime and bitterness. Here's what touregypt says about preparing okra: "Okra must be cooked so that its slimy texture is eliminated. The Greeks have the best technique - applause, applause! - for achieving this. Trim the conical tops with a sharp knife, then soak the okra in red wine vinegar for 30 minutes, allowing 1/2 cup wine per pound. Drain, rinse and dry the okra."

A friend of ours grows okra in his garden. When we visited him, he let us pick our own (we itched for hours afterwards). We're having them today in the traditional Sunday roast. There are no set amounts of ingredients in a roast: it always depends on the number of people eating. I used the famous Greek 'tapsi' - a large roasting pan used for making roasts and pies.

You need to:
Wash the pieces of lamb well to get rid of bone shards.
Peel and cut some potatoes in large quarter-moon chunks.
Puree some fresh tomatos in the blender (you can skin and de-seed them if you have time, but I never bother; without the seeds and skin, the sauce is thinner)
Arrange the meat and potatoes in the roasting dish, season with salt and pepper, pour over some olive oil and the the tomatos. Let them cook for half an hour before adding the prepared okra, as well as half a cup of water. Cook in medium heat until the meat and potatoes are tender. Okra don't need much cooking time, so make sure you don't add them at the beginning of the cooking time, otherwise they may burn. I cover the roasting dish with aluminium foil so that the food doesn't brown too quickly, and take it off half an hour before the end of the cooking time, raising the heat to give the roast a BBQ look.

For an alternative to the same dish, try this post.

©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.

Saturday, 15 September 2007

Apple pie (Μηλόπιτα)

Right up until I left New Zealand, there was a fresh produce market on Tory St, Wellington. When I was young, my parents would often shop for fresh produce from there. I couldn't really understand what attracted them to an open-air market, when they could be shopping inside a comfortable supermarket in one of the shopping malls that were sprouting all over the city at the time. It was only when I came to live in Greece that I realised why they liked the open-air market: it resembled the laiki, the open-air mobile street markets that take place every day of the week in different parts of every city in Greece. A flash of images of the Tory St market inundate my mind: the smell at the fishmonger's, lamb carcasses hanging off figure-of-eight hooks, Pacific Islanders selling large root vegetables which my mother would peer at out of curiosity, and then back away as if she'd seen a mouse when the smiling stallholder said: "Yes, please?" I vivdly remember truckloads of apples being rolled off into some kind of vat which had a door on one side. The operator would lift this hatch and the apples would pour out into plastic bags marked "New Zealand Apple and Pear Marketing Board", each weighing 5 kilos. My favorite variety was the grannysmith. I really miss New Zealand apples; here in Crete, apples never seem to taste crisp and juicy, and worst of all, they are even sold bruised in the supermarket. My husband says it's because apples are stored inappropriately. In any case, apple trees thrive in cold climates, and the island of Crete is just too warm right throughout the year to make it an ideal place to keep apples for a long time. New Zealand apples can be found in Crete, but I’d be defeating the purpose by buying them, being mindful of my carbon footprints (I’m much more tempted by New Zealand Zespri kiwifruit).

Although I don't normally store apples in the fridge, I found four lurking in the back part of one of the vegetable compartments. But these were bought some time in June, and since apples tend to go soft and brown in hot weather, I thought I'd store them in a cooler place. Because of the great variety of fruit available in summer, the apples did not get eaten. When I cleaned out the vegetable bin, seeing the apples just gave me the winter blues, because I felt I'd wasted good money on something no one wanted to eat, but I didn't have the heart to throw them out. I decided to make apple pie with them. What I can't believe is how delicious the pie is, despite using last season's apples! (Another way to use up 'bad' apples is to make a delicious apple cake with them.)

I always thought this was a difficult dish to make, what with kneading dough and shaping pastry cases. I don't believe in wasting time in the kitchen, as I spend more than enough time in there in the first place, so my recipes must be quick and easy. I made the first recipe I came across in a google search from dltk-teach; it really was quick and easy. I used a mixture of white and brown flour for health reasons. For the pie dish that i was using, 4 apples were more than enough. The aroma of cooking apples sharpened my maternal instincts; my children's faces made me melt as they came into the kitchen and the smell hit them.


For the filling, you need:
1/3 to 2/3 cup sugar
a fistful of all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
4 large apples
Peel, core and slice the apples. Try to keep the size of the slices even. Mix sugar, flour, nutmeg, cinnamon, and salt in large bowl. Stir in apples. Heat oven to 425 degrees.

For the pastry, you need:
2 1/2 cups white flour
2 tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup cold butter, broken into small pieces (use only margarine for lenten fare)
5 tbsp. cold margarine
8 tbsp. cold water
Measure the flour, sugar and salt together. Stir to combine. Add the chilled butter pieces and margarine to the bowl. Cut them in with a pastry cutter or knife. Don't over mix them. Add the water. Mix until the dough holds together (add a bit more water, if necessary). Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, knead it together, then divide in half. Flatten each half into a disk, wrap in saran wrap and chill for at least half an hour. Roll out one of the disks on a lightly floured surface until you have a circle that's about 12 inches in diameter. Put the circle in a 9" pie plate, trimming any extra dough from the edges. Pour the apple mixture into the pastry-lined pie plate. Dot with 2 tablespoons margarine. Cover with top crust and seal the edges. Cut slits in the top. Cover with aluminum foil to prevent too much browning. Remove foil during last 15 minutes of baking. Bake 40 to 50 minutes or until crust is brown and juice begins to bubble through slits in crust.

©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 PUDDINGS:
Brownies
Bougatsa
Chocolate cake
Chocolate pancakes
Walnut cake
Apple cake
Tiropitakia
Halva
Fruit crumble
Sfakianes pites

Friday, 14 September 2007

Corn fritters (Τηγανίτες με καλαμπόκι)

All children will go on as adults to remember one dish that their mother made so well, that they could never eat someone else's version in the same way. My son will always remember my corn fritters. I got this recipe from an old but very good NZ vegetable cookbook by Digby Law. At one point, I read his obituary in a New Zealand newspaper, which referred to his sexual leanings. We often read about the surviving members of one's family in an obituary, but I didn't think that a famous cook's sexuality needed to be revealed in an obituary, especially in a country that practiced political correctness fervently. (I'm sorry, but I can't find the article which contained these 'facts' about Digby Law, so you'll have to take my word for it.)

People's attitudes to corn have come a long way in Greece. When my friend Philippa from New Zealand first arrived in Hania, her Cretan husband told her to prepare a meal for a dinner party. She made a rice salad with corn and other mixed vegetables. She was rather taken aback when one of the guests, who had never been out of the environs of the island, exclaimed in horror that Phillipa was serving them 'chicken-feed'. Corn cobs are a regular part of the Greek menu in the summer; admittedly, when corn has come off the husk, it stops being a part of the traditional Greek diet.

Like many informed citizens around the world, I like to check the labeling on packaged food. You have to be particularly careful with corn. Among the different tins on the shelf at the supermarket, one of them claimed to be a product of the Monsanto company. I know that GMO products are forbidden in the European Union, so what is Monsanto's name doing on our supermarket shelves? I used to buy tinned corn that clearly states it is not GMO - until it stopped bring stocked. I now buy the Green Giant brand, believing it is 'sans GMO' as the other tin used to clearly state on the packaging.

Corn fritters were one of the customers' favorite fritters, along with paua fritters and potato fritters, in my parents' fish shop. In our house, we have them as an evening snack.

You need:
1 egg
salt, cumin and pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
a cup of corn kernels (you can use creamed corn)
1/2 carrot and 1 small onion, finely grated (these are not in the original recipe; I add them because it is one way of getting children to eat their vegetables without realising it)
1 cup of flour
1/2 cup milk
Mix together the egg, salt, cumin, pepper, baking powder and the corn. I like to put them in the blender so that the corn mashes up a little. You can keep the kernels whole, or use creamed corn instead. I use the blender to make these as I find it less messy. At this point, add the extra vegetables if you are using them; I include them to make the corn fritters more healthy. Pour the mixture into a bowl (if you were using the blender to make them), add a cup of flour and 1/2 a cup of milk. Mix well; add more milk if the batter is not runny enough to pour spoonfuls into a pan (ie it is like a dough), OR add flour if it is too runny (it is like oil).

Heat up some oil (enough to cover the base of the pan) on medium heat in a shallow pan and pour spoonfuls into the pan. Turn the fritters over with a spatula when you can see the edges browned, to cook them on the other side. They do not break up easily. My kids eat these as a dinner snack, instead of our usual dacko, kalitsounia or sandwiches. They also get them as a morning snack at school if there were some leftover from the previous evening.

©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
Dakos rusk
Marathopites
Prasopita
Fruit crumble
Sfakianes pites
Spanakopita
Tiropitakia

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

Eggplant cheese bake (Μελιτζάνα Παρμεζάνα)


We have an influx of eggplants in our garden every summer. I can make as much yemista, moussaka and papoutsakia as I want. In fact, that's all I seem to be making with aubergine. Even the dog gets her fair share of aubergines every year. I am tired of cooking the same dishes, so I thought I'd try something new. Here is something that is quite vegetarian, and uses them up.

I found a recipe for eggplant parmesan at gourmet sleuth, which makes a great summer flavoured dish. Instead of the cheeses suggested in the recipe, I used local Haniotika varieties: instead of mozzarella, I used mizithra, and for parmiggiano I used regato cheese (which isn't local, but it is much cheaper than parmesan). The result was an eggplant boureki, but it was still quite tasty, although I found it a little heavy because of the fried eggplant. It's much lighter when you don't fry the eggplant, and it would probably work just as well. I also made a tomato sauce with some chopped onion and garlic for a more Mediterranean taste to it. The note at the bottom of the recipe page tells you how to prepare this dish in advance. This means you could easily put it in the freezer too, which I duly did!

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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 AUBERGINE/EGGPLANT RECIPES:

Papoutsakia
Moussaka
Pastitsio
Spaghetti bolognaise
Yemista in the oven.
Yemista in the pot
Melitzanosalata
Eggplant pickle

Sunday, 9 September 2007

Afghans (Μπισκόττα Νέας Ζηλανδίας - chocolate cookies)

A cup of tea in New Zealand meant bringing out a round biscuit tin containing a variety of shortbread and chocolate biscuits. Here's my second all-time favourite biscuit: crunchy chocolate biscuits, which we called afghans in New Zealand (first in place are gingernuts; I miss them most of all, because you simply can't make them in Greece - golden syrup is not available here.)

No one really knows where they got their name, but here's a bit of trivia for you: they are not included in the fifth edition of Edmonds cookbook, which is in my possession, among other bits of New Zealand trivia that I could not bear to part with: a set of Maori poi, an Air New Zealand souvenir tiki and a pestle and mortar made out of rimu wood. The first edition of the Edmonds cookbook came out in 1907, while the third came out in 1914. I also own the 19th printing of the 19th De Luxe edition published in 1983. I'm wondering if they were invented during a war period; they are a relatively recent invention, but then New Zealand hasn't been around that long either, and cornflakes are quite a novel way of eating corn, which is one of the earliest grains.

I don't know if their name has changed for politically correct reasons (and it should, don't you think?), but I can't imagine why these biscuits should be called afghans. They are normally iced with chocolate and have a walnut stuck on the top; still, does that make them resemble an Afghani? My friend Mike from Wales showed me a photo of his Afghan father in military uniform; was it the different shades of brown from his face and hair, ending off with the peaked cap, that lent the biscuit its name? Or was it the little woollen squares (afghans) patched together to make a blanket (I made a few of those in my younger years)? They had a distinct round link of double crochet stitches (maybe that's the walnut), after which the colour was changed (that could be the icing) as the pattern spread from one row to the other (the biscuit is the third colour); still, they were square, not round.












I remember the afghan biscuits sold in the university cafeteria; they were as large as a dessert plate. They were also sold as good NZ chow in teashops, and later at various trendy cafes ike Esspressoholic in the then up-and-coming Courtenay Place. I always had them with a huge cup of frothy cappuccino almost as large as a soup bowl. And I didn't blush, not even a hint, when I said to the multi-pierced shop assistant: "One Afghan, please." Oh, for the pre-PC days. Afghans also started to be mass-produced by the Griffins biscuit company (it was one biscuit they didn't stock in their enormous range of biscuits); I tried them when I visited New Zealand in 1994, but I felt they didn't live up to the real thing. For a start, they don't use cornflakes.

The recipe I used comes from keewee, another NZ ex-pat, who makes these for Christmas. She ices them with chocolate, and then sprinkles them with dessicated coconut resembling snow.
You need:
7 ounces butter
3 ounces sugar
6 ounces flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 cup corn flakes, slightly crushed after measuring
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
Cream softened butter and sugar, add sifted flour and cocoa. Stir in coconut and crushed corn flakes. Put small spoonfuls on a greased oven tray (I sometimes use baking paper, but this is not environmentally sound; I greased the baking tray with olive oil) and bake for about 15 minutes at 350F. Leave them on the oven tray a few minutes before removing them to a wire rack to cool.

They are lenten biscuits if made with margarine, but they don't taste as good as when they're made with butter. The Edmonds cookbook states: "200g butter, 75g sugar, 175g flour, 25g cocoa, 50g cornflakes".





The traditional recipe does not use coconut, but I liked these better because they were firmer and crunchier. Keewee's idea is better than the original, which contains whole walnuts; I don't like whole nuts in my cookies, either. I also made them without the coconut another time, and they tasted just like the New Zealand variety. These cookies can probably be kept for at least a week if you make a big batch, but they are so moreish, that I doubt you will resist the temptation to eat them all in one go. I didn't even get as far as icing them, which is probably not such a bad thing after all; they contained less sugar, meaning I could help myself to more than one at each coffee break.

This post is dedicated to Row, because she liked Espressoholic, just like me.

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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 BISCUITS:
Brownies

Gingernuts
Koulourakia

Chocolate balls

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Paleohora cuisine (Η Παλαιωχωρίτικη κουζίνα)

We just spent three days in Paleohora, a favourite coastal reosrt town southwest of Hania in Crete. The area is still underdeveloped compared to the northern side of the island, helped by the long and winding stretch of road that you need to drive through to get to the other side of the island; this explains why I didn't find any photos on the internet of the restaurants that we went to. This underdevelopment does not detract from its charm; in fact it serves to make it one of the prime Greek holiday destinations of the mid-life crisis-hitting northern Europeans, especially among Brits and Germans who want to get away from the rat race world they live in. Unfortunately, a Cypriot-interest leisure lifestyle consortium has recently bought up a barren piece of land nestled among the hills surrounding the area, and life there is already ringing in modern changes. The cuisine offered in its restaurants - which were all busy, even in early September - covered the whole gamma of international food, with an extra focus on local cuisine. We ate out twice a day during our holiday, and were never diasappointed.

On Wednesday, after a dip in the crystal clear (albeit icy cold) blue sea at Grammenos Beach, we sat at Ostria by the long stretch of sandy beach known as Pahia Ammos: soutzoukakia, horta, roast chicken and potatoes, yemista and beef stew. Total cost with two barrel beers served in ice-cold glasses and soft drinks for the children: 34 euro. Isn't that rather cheap? My husband agreed. In the evening, we ate at Porto Fino pizzeria, which was located on the other side of the promontory which makes up Paleohora, by a stony beach called Votsala: puttanesca spaghetti and a medium sized pizza with the works, downed by some more barrel beers, also served in ice-cold glasses. Cost: 11 euro. We couldn't resist an ice-cream for dessert. The main gelaterie served large scoops of ice-cream in wafer cones. We all tried different flavours of ice-cream, at a cost of 7 euro for six balls in total. Our family of four was dining out on three courses of well-cooked, beautifully-presented meals for 13 euro a head at the most romantic locations in the area.

On Thursday, we swam at Pahia Ammos and sat down for lunch a stone's throw away from the rocky beach at Votsala at To Kima (= The Wave), a restaurant owned by the parents of two of my former students: stewed fresh green string beans, giant white beans in red sauce, youvetsi (lamb cooked with rice pasta) and meat patties with fried potatoes. This cost only 26 euro with two big glasses of barrel beer and soft drinks for the kids. Needless to say, all the restaurants in Paleohora have a separate fridge for keeping their glasses as cold as ice, and they all serve beer from the barrel. My husband thought the food here was lacking in olive oil, the main constituent of all Greek food, but I have a feeling that there were at least two good reasons for this: the customers were mainly foreigners who find olive oil too heavy for them and have nevertheless learnt to use it sparingly; in any case, I thought it was much healthier to eat food that wasn't drowning in olive oil as is usually the case with Greek cooking. It meant that you were more likely to eat the food being served to you rather than mop up the remaining olive oil-based sauce on your dish with the spongy fattening peasant bread that is always served at Greek restaurants, whether you ask for it or not, along with a jug of water, which these days comes in the form of a bottle of water which you get charged for.

After a traditional Cretan meal, you need a cool shower and a siesta before you go out again for the evening, when the air is cooler and more bearable. When we left the hotel in the late afternoon, the wind had changed direction and was blowing hard. We climbed up the Venetian fortress called Fortezza, and after a walk round the promonotory, we recided to return to Porto Fino, because it really was the best place at the best location for a light family meal. Puttanesca was served once again, this time with Vienna schnitzel accompanied by mushroom sauce and a chef's salad, washed down by those famous beers again. When the bill came (21 euro), we were also treated to blackcurrant granita in shot glasses. For dessert, we had some more ice cream from the gelateria and cream cake (5 euro). Again, 13 euro a head as the total cost of the day.

On Friday, we got up later than usual so we went out for brunch at Votsala cafe: tradtional Greek salad, a large vegetable omelette, strained yoghurt with honey and fruit, toasted sandwich, orange juice and coffee, all for 16 euro. After a few hours of swimming and fishing at Grammenos beach, we felt quite hungry in the mid-afternoon, but we only wanted something to snack on because we wanted to go out in the evening. Alas, nothing was open, except for a creperie and some souvlaki joints. What we really wanted was a baguette sandwich or a donut, but these places close down in the midday heat; who wants to eat then anyway? For 10 euro, we had some gyro souvlaki (otherwise known as a hero sandwich) in pita bread, club sandwiches with french fries and a hamburger from Thraka Express, washed down by some Pepsis. In the evening, we couldn't break our traditional stroll along the harbour and an alcohol-free meal at Porto Fino: puttanesca (we might establish it as an hors d'oeuvre once we get home), a pizza with the works and a tuna salad (17 euro). We decided to buy some take-home dessert from a bakery chain; alas, it did not live up to our espectations. Aside from the Gringlish spellings (Apple Dies, Chocolate Crepas and Xam and Cheese pastry), the cream cakes (known as 'pasta' locally - nothing to do with spaghetti) tasted rather stale (7 euro). A sad end to a splendid mini-break.

©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
Akrogiali
Anemomilos
Aroma
Agora

Tuesday, 4 September 2007

London cuisine (Η Λονδρέζικη κουζίνα)

On our recent trip to London, we went to town food-wise. The previous year, we cooked some meals at my cousin's home to save money, and also because we visited at a time when it got dark very early and it was bitterly cold - most days averaged around 5 degrees Celsius, highly unsuitable temperatures for my two kindergarten children. But this year, as we were staying in a hotel, it was clearly not feasible to be preparing our own meals. Besides, my children were now at primary school, so they were easier to deal with. So we would take a picnic lunch on some days on our daily excursions (or buy takeaways when our Cretan mizithra and paximadi ran out!), and on most nights, we would eat out. On our first night, P led us to the famous (if slightly infamous) Wong Kei on Wardour St in Chinatown, the rudest China diner in London. We were lucky to find a table on our own (most people were sharing tables wherever there was a free seat). The most memorable dish was the crispy fried duck, cut and boned with a spoon(!) and the thin eggy pancakes. Apart from noodles, Aristotle and Christine ate 'souvlaki'; that's what the crispy fried duck in a pancake resembled! I must congratulate them on their relaxed attitude to foreign food. They have a more mature outlook concerning international cuisine than most Greek children their age.


On Sunday night, P wanted to meet up with us in Brick Lane, so after leaving Platform 9 and 3/4s at Kings Cross, we passed by the Ten Bells pub (aka Jack the Ripper's haunt), and ate at Preem. We ordered some curry dishes, which resembled saucy Greek meat casseroles and stews, the main difference being the hot and spicy additions. No wonder Indian people are overweight like the Greeks; I do believe that there must be such a thing as Indo-European cuisine, not just languages! Coincidentally, we had eaten exactly across the road from this place last year at a restaurant called Shampan; the meal there differed very little from the one we ate this time round.




On Monday, we ate the leftovers of yesterday's restaurant meal (all packed up for us in a doggy bag) at a park near the Imperial War Museum. The long weekend had tired us out, so we didn't want to go out that night. Our hotel was just round the corner from Earls Court underground station, where there is a plethora of fast food restaurants. The children chose Burger King; they also asked us why there was a man lying on the ground in a sleeping bag outside the premises, so we had to find a way to introduce so sensitive a topic to them such as homeless people. We bought burgers and chips; not exactly healthy, but the kids loved it. We also ate breakfast there once as we did not get up early enough to have it at the hotel, and I swear the coffee tasted like murky water.





On Tuesday, we waited for P at Shoreditch, and went to Whitechapel to a restaurant called Lahore. The staff made our children feel very welcome, and they even had a TV blaring loudly - there was a major soccer match being televised on the night we went. Some of the diners looked as though they couldn't have cared less about the food, as much as they cared for drinking alcohol while watching a televised sports of event of a national sport. Aside from the kitsch, this was Pakistani cuisine at its best. We started off the meal with a mango lassi, and went on to eat the most succulent BBQ lambchops I have ever tasted in my life, spiced up in South Asian style. We were also able to view a tandoori oven close up; the naan bread was heated up in it, simply by being stuck to the side of this oven!



On Wednesday, I had the clever idea to stay at the hotel and prepare a meal in the kitchen because we were due for a long trip out to Cambridge the next day, and I wanted to be fully prepared for it and have an early night in to get up very early the next day to catch tubes, trains and buses to Duxford Air Museum. I regret not going out instead, as our dinner that night consisted of canned giant beans and meatballs in tomato sauce, which I'd carried in our suitcase in readiness for a cheap night in at the hotel. I can now understand why people might go off Greek food; at least they weren't baked beans! But never again - in London you can eat anything you want at the price you want.

On Thursday, after a very long but interesting day-trip out of London, I decided that we would not have time to eat out or even buy takeaways, as our train left from Cambridge at 7pm, and arrived at Kings Cross at 8pm, after which we had to make our way to Earls Court by tube. So we did what I suspect most London commuters do when they're too tired and bothered to prepare a meal after a long working day: before we boarded the train at Cambridge, we popped into the Marks and Spencers Simply Food outlet at Cambridge station and bought ourselves a variety of sandwiches, a salad, some corncobs, two tropical fruit juices, some carrot sticks in a dip, a couple of packs of crisps and a dessert. My husband's idea to eat once we got home was tossed out the (train) window when we saw what our fellow ommuters were doing; we tucked into our meal, and my most memorable part of that journey was watching my very tired children eating as if they had never seen food before. They scoffed the lot. In fact, they were so well revived by the meal that they didn't feel sleepy when we reached the hotel, despite having been on the road since 7am, and spending over six hours walking around a huge open-air museum. We could have gone out for walkies at this point, save the fact that we were in our PJs!

On Friday, it was pissing with rain, so we decided that we would have to visit a museum, where we would stay till closing time, and then meet up with P. We ended up eating a rather early lunch close to St Pauls' in the City at a cafe called Piccolo's, a place which served lots of ploughman's lunches for burly construction site workers, as well as more refined meals like chili con carne and curried chicken. Quite a few businessmen also had lunch or coffee there, while they were constantly on their cellphones. The food there was very hearty, and I liked its light taste. It filled you up and it wasn't too oily. The dining room area was the most intriguing part of the visit. It reminded me of Charles Dickens' Christmas story; with its red brick-built walls, it looked like an underground sewer that had been drained and turned into a dining room. The roof was covered in brick arches, and in one corner, there was a disused fireplace. All that was missing was a poor Victorian family huddling around it. I could imagine a family of wretches living there in the 1850s; either that, or it could have been the kitchen area where the cook would prepare meals downstairs, then put it in the hatch (there was one above the fireplace) and ring the bell for the servants to pick up upstairs and serve it to the lady and the lord who lived there. There were no windows, so whoever lived or worked there could never see the sun, or get any fresh air. Spooky if you have never seen this sort of place before. The waitree, interestingly enough, was Portuguese. Being a bold traveller, I asked her about how she ended up in London, and what her future plans were. She opened her heart out to us; I suppose she didn't often see families coming in to this diner and she could relate to us as fellow Mediterraneans. She had left Portugal with her husband because of the high unemployment they both faced there. They were both working in various jobs, trying to save as much money as they could in order to go back home for good one day. She had gotten very depressed lately, because of the high cost of living in an overcrowded city with a bad housing situation - she and her husband lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment, which cost them most of her own pay from working at the diner. She couldn't even think of having children becuase of the expenses and the lost income. She also complained about the food; Portuguese specialties were not easy to obtain of course, and when they were available, they were quite costly. She told me she didn't know how long she would be able to endure London life, and being away from her family. I felt sorry for her. She reminded me of my parents who left their villages in Crete because they were poor and knew that they had no prospects of self-improvement in their own homeland. My own success in this globalised world is due in part to their sacrifices.


On Saturday, after another long day-trip (how we managed to visit both Kew Gardens and Hampton Court Palace in one day, and then stroll right along the South Bank from London Eye past Waterloo Bridge and back, together with two toddlers, only I will ever know), we felt like a quick pizza meal. We wanted to eat in, and we actually managed to find a pizza chain - Perfect Pizza in South Kensington - that served up mainly deliveries and takeaways, but it also had two (just two) tables with five stools (in total) if anyone felt like eating in. Talk about cramped for space! We ordered the works: a pizza, coleslaw, baked potatoes and fried chicken wings. Good value stodge, washed down with fizzy drink. My husband said he'd neved eaten such good pizza before. I tend to view all junk food as junk, so I couldn't see his point.



On Sunday, after a beautiful day out, walking around the camden Town markets and sampling all sorts of international food-stalls by the canal where we ate Argentinian, Carribean, Chinese, Indian and English (if there is such a thing) food, we went for a walk to Hampstead Heath, where we climbed up to Parliament Hill and got a birdseye view of Lodon. After that, we went to Wetherspoons in Finchley Road at the O2 Centre, for a taste of pub atmosphere. This pub chain is well known for being kid-friendly, which upmarket London restaurants are, unfortunately, generally not. I'm not one for roast meat dinners, but I was in for a treat when I ordered steak and kidney pie. I hadn't had one of those in ages, and it tasted just like the steak and kidney pies we used to eat in New Zealand; I loved it.

On Monday, we found ourselves inundated by tourist traps. We wanted to eat at South Kensington at Bella Italia where we had had a super meal on our last visit there, only to find it closed. So we headed off to White City - it seemed logical to take the tube and stop off wherever we knew a lot of people were heading to - close to the BBC buildings, but the food there seemed wholly unappetising. We then took the tube to High Street Kensington, where we felt like fish out of water because we didn't know the area very well. When you can't avoid eating junk, you may as well eat safely in a well-known pizza or burger bar. We chose Pizza Hut, where we ordered very little, but at the end of the meal, we felt like stuffed potatoes - that's what fake food does to your stomach. The kids loved it.

On Tuesday, sadly, it was time to say goodbye. Our last meal was a Chinese buffet lunch at the China Red restaurant, again in the O2 Centre on Finchley Road. That place seemed to epitomise London life for me; long busy roads full of shops, and red double-decker buses constantly coming and going. I bought some raspberries from a stall vendor who spoke in that alluring Cockney accent which we find so irresistable; he had balckened teeth to match it. Another example of Victoriana! He was surprised when I told him I was taking this fruit on the plane. He simply melted when he heard we were from Greece, and told us how lucky we were to live in a sunny place. Would you ever move there, I asked him, like many Brits who are making their home on our island? If I could, he said, I'd be out of this place as fast as possible! Why, I asked him, what is it that you don't like about it? London's changed, he said, it's all drugs and knives and crime now, he said. It's hard to explain this sort of thing to my husband; he is only now beginning to realise that the London we saw was only the small part that is well-policed.

I can't find a photo of China Red on the internet; has it closed down since we were last there? My husband was very impressed with the wide variety of dishes that were on offer. Being familiar with the worst kind of food from this internationally renowned cuisine, I felt it was a sad conclusion to an otherwise fabulous round of the finest cuisine London had to offer.

©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:
Akrogiali
Anemomilos
Aroma
Agora
Paleohora cuisine