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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

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Broccoli falafel

Inspired by a recipe for cauliflower fritters, I decided to make something similar using broccoli instead, because we still have broccoli int he garden, but no more cauliflower. Broccoli plants re-sprout many times once the main head is cut, whereas cauliflower does not, hence the abundance of this highly nutritious winter crop.

I started off with some leftover boiled broccoli (about 3 cups worth), drained of excess liquids. I pureed this (including the stalks, which were quite tender), adding a finely grated onion, 2 finely minced cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of finely minced parsley. To spice things up, I added some ground ginger, paprika, cumin, pepper and salt. To bind the patties: 2 eggs, 150g grated cheese, 1/2 cup of chickpea flour (for flavour) and, instead of ready breadcrumbs which I'd run out of, I whizzed about 1 1/2 cups of paximadi in the blender and added them to the wet ingredients to give a soft, not-so-dry pattie that would remain firm when cooked.

Falafel tends to break up, so after forming the patties and flouring them carefully on both sides, I placed them one by one in quick succession in the frying pan where olive oil had been heated to a very high temperature. This is important because oil cools down in the pan as you add things to it, and your fritters will become heavy, oil-sodden and fragile.

The falafel were cooked on both sides till golden crusty brown. We had them with spanakorizo, which is a lot of green food for one day, my husband says...

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Friday, 21 February 2014

Perek (Περέκ)

I recently came across a recipe that uses some kind of pre-cooked filo pastry, called perek. Perek is a kind of filo pastry made only from flour and water. Home-made perek can be stored for up to a year. As I make all my own filo pastry needs myself, I thought it would be a nice idea to have some filo pastry ready to use when I need it, without having to worry about when I would find the time to make the dough and roll it out.
Kiria Martha's perek is famous in Thessaloniki. Her son continues to make them in the family taverna. Note the hot plate an the left, sitting on coals in the fireplace.
The origins of perek are mired in the diaspora Greeks of the Pontus region. A friend from Northern Greece saw my perek when I presented them on my facebook page, and she told me a little story: She recalls that her grandmother was able to cook a pita very quickly, without much preparation, and she always wondered where her grandmother found the filo pastry to do this, especially since she too made all her own needs, and never bought it. So a kind of perek was and is still being made by Greeks within and outside the borders of the country.

I really enjoyed making perek for the first time, using this recipe. It looks a little like crispbread, and can also be used as chips for a dip. The perek is moistened before use when using it as filo pastry, a bit like spring roll wrappers. I decided to use my regular spanakopita filling to use my perek. With the following recipe, I got 10 rounds as big as a medium-sized frying pan.

You need:
600g flour (I used high quality Greek LIMNOS flour - this yellowish flour has a grainy texture; it's a joy to work with)
1/2 cup (approximately) of water
a teaspoon of salt

Place the water in a bowl and mix in the salt. Add a cup of flour and mix it in till well blended with a wooden spoon. This is the way I usually make filo pastry, not being a great fan of exact measurements of flour and water, which are always subject to temperature differences and flour quality. Now add another cup of flour and mix it in well. Keep adding flour until you can no longer mix it with a spoon. Start kneading the dough in the bowl, adding just enough flour to stop it from being sticky. Tip the dough onto a flat surface and knead it till it is soft and pliable. Set aside for an hour or two in a bowl, covered with a cotton cloth.

Divide the dough into 50-60g balls. Roll out each ball into a round, with the help of a rolling pin. Sprinkle with flour as you pile up the circles one on top of the other, to prevent them from sticking to each other.

Tradtionally, the perek are cooked on a very hot iron plate, like a griddle, in the fireplace. I cooked each one on both sides in a frying pan over a very hot flame. They felt soft when they came out of the fire, but when I wanted to use them (later in the afternoon), they were very crisp and dry.

Perek filo can be used in various ways (as in the original link I first noticed, and in Kiria Martha's pies in the taverna - see first photo for links). I made a spanakopita filling and chose to use the perek as a kind of wrap. Each perek was dampened in water to soften it, and wrapped around 3 tablespoons of filling. The pieces were placed in a pie dish and brushed liberally with olive oil. They were then baked in the oven till the pastry became crispy.

Next time I make perek, I will use the taverna photos as a guide to novel ideas for their use.

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Monday, 17 February 2014

Black-eyed beans with greens

We've had gorgeous weather in the last week. The spinach is now growing really fast, together with the chard and wild greens - time to get my spring greens recipes in order.

Here's a dose of deliciousness that's easy to prepare: black-eyed beans with leafy greens.

You need:
300g dry black-eyed beans
1 large onion, chopped roughly
2-3 cloves garlic, minced finely
150ml olive oil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
a cup of pureed tomatoes (I use my own home-made tomato sauce, but you can used tinned tomatoes
a bunch of spinach, roughly chopped
a bunch of swiss chard, roughly chopped
a small bunch of aromatic wild greens or leafy herbs, finely chopped (I use Cretan wild greens, as explained in this post, but you can use dill, sorrel, dock, parsley, mint, etc)
salt and pepper

Boil the dry beans for 5 minutes, then drain the water and rinse the beans in a colander. Heat the olive oil in a pot and cook the onion and garlic till translucent. Add the beans, tomato, salt and pepper. Stir will everything has blended, then add enough water to cover the beans and top them by about 5cm. Cover the pot with a lid and cook on the lowest heat until the beans have softened (about 90-120 minutes). Add enough water to make the stew soupy but not runny.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a shallow pan and wilt all the greens. Cook on low heat for fifteen minutes or so, then add them to the beans. Mix well. Serve hot, with sourdough bread, feta cheese and white wine.

©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, 10 February 2014

Authentic Greek products

There's a lot of talk these days about the labelling of food, especially concerning fake labels on processed food. This hardly worries me, ever: telling people that they are often eating 'fake' food (ie not what's on the label) has not made them better cooks, nor has it made them stop buying these foods. Processed food is part of the global pro-urban lifestyle; cooking from scratch is a luxury or some kind of hobby, rather than a reality under such circumstances.

As a Greek living in Greece (there are other types of Greek people too), what I'd be really concerned about in terms of mislabelled food is local products that are labelled as 'authentic'. Even before the crisis, we have always had a taste for Cretan mizithra, Santorinian fava, Karpenisi sausage, Prespes giant beans, central mainland feta, among many other  products, and many people can tell the difference between dishes cooked with products grown/raised in a certain area, and more generic products grown outside the traditional area of the genuine product.
Elefantes beans from Prespes, with Karpenisi sausage (Vrekos brand)
Terms like 'genuine' and 'authentic' can sound elitist, but you also pay more for such products. So it's not just a case of being a connoisseur - it's a simple case of economics. The more you pay for a label, the more you expect from it.
Elefantes baked beans
Just last weekend, I cooked gigandes, the Greek version of baked beans, made with Prespes elefantes beans, Phaseolus coccineus. These beans are slightly more expensive than the commonly known giant bean, which are butter beans or lima beans, Phaseolus lunatus. The two species look so alike that it was easy to switch them and label them all Prespes beans. But the two species cook so differently: the coccineus beans cook more evenly need less cooking time than the lunatus beans.
Santorinian fava
About a month ago, I used genuine Santorinian fava, Lathyrus clymenumas opposed to the generic yellow split pea, Lathyrus spp, to make the popular Greek fava dish. Again, just like the Phasoleus species, the Santorinian fava needs less cooking time and it has a sweeter taste. The cost of Santorinian fava is more than three times (yes, that is correct!) than the regular fava. So you can see why Greeks are concerned with labelling in a different sort of way; we pay good money for the genuine product to cook a meal from scratch, which has nothing to do with fake labels on processed food.
PDO fava and PGI elefantes
When you've tasted the difference, you will probably not be able to go back to the imitation product, and it won't seem all Greek to you after that.

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Monday, 3 February 2014

Broccoli and potato hotpot (Μπρόκολο και πατάτες με σάλτσα)

Broccoli is a sweet winter vegetable which can be used in a variety of ways; it can be fried, baked, steamed or boiled. We have been eating HEAPS of broccoli this season, and we never get bored of it. I cook it with varying flavours - it goes very well in Asian cuisine, especially stir fries. Here is a really easy broccoli recipe to prepare and cook. It gives broccoli a Greek flavour and warms you up in the cold weather (we've been having lots of that lately).

You need:
a medium-large head of broccoli (about 600g), cut into florets - you can also use sprouting broccoli  
10-12 small potatoes, peeled (if they are of various sizes, cut them in half to make them even-sized) 
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut in chunks
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1 large fresh tomato, grated 
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/2 wineglass of olive oil
salt and pepper (and oregano, optional)
Heat the oil in a wide deep pot, and cook the onion and garlic till translucent without burning. Add the broccoli, carrots and potatoes, and stir well to coat all the vegetables in oil. Let them cook for 2-3 minutes on high heat, stirring just enough to stop them sticking to the bottom of the pot. Then add the tomatos and seasonings, with a cup of water (about 250ml). The water should not completely cover the vegetables. Turn the heat down, cover the pot with a lid, and let the vegetables cook till tender (about 30 minutes). Check the pot from time to time to ensure that there are enough liquids, and stir lightly so that the vegetables at the bottom of the pot rise to the top. Take care not to break the potatoes. Serve warm.

This meal tastes even better the next day. It can be re-heated without a fuss. Although it is a vegan dish, it is easily adapted to a vegetarian one. The leftovers can be placed in an ovenproof dish and grilled slightly to give a crispy edge to the vegetables, and/or some cheese can be placed on top. A crusty loaf of bread is vital to mop up the juices in the pot, which are too precious to discard. 

©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.