My Mediterranean Pantry

Autumn has well and truly arrived and the long, lazy, carefree summer days are over. For me, it is a time to reorganize and declutter my home and especially my kitchen.  I love clearing my cupboards and pantry and restocking them with all that I will need for the cooler days ahead. Reorganizing my cupboards and desk and making space for new things is comforting and invigorating at the same time.

My Pantry

Olive oil — everyday cooking olive oil and for salads

Rice

for paella—short grain rice. There is one called

‘bomba’ which is great but you can use short grain

rice if that is all you have

risotto rice, I like to use Carnaroli

medium grain rice for sweets and stuffings

basmati rice or long grain for pilaf

Pasta

fresh and dry (fresh only keeps for a few days in

the refrigerator) spaghetti, penne, angel hair and

any other variety that you love

Bread

Grains

semolina, couscous, bulgar

Tomato passata, tomato paste and cans of diced

Tomatoes

Flour – self raising, plain and OO

Greek yoghurt

Pulses – lentils, cannellini beans (both dried and in

cans), chickpeas (garbanzo beans)

Vanilla extract

Vinegar – red wine, white wine and balsamic

Sea salt

Black peppercorns and a grinder

Sugar – organic, caster (superfine) and icing

(confectioners’)

Filo pastry

Olives

Cheese – feta, mozzarella, fresh ricotta, parmigiano

Honey

Eggs (organic)

Garlic, onions, lemons, potatoes

Dried herbs and spices – fennel seeds, saffron,

basil, bay leaves, cinnamon (ground and sticks),

cloves (ground and whole), nutmeg, oregano, sweet

paprika, rosemary, tarragon, sesame seeds

Greek Easter…

April is here already, it doesn’t seem that long ago that it was Christmas, but here I am now preparing for Easter.  I love this time of year.

Preparations for Easter begin on Holy Thursday when the eggs are dyed red and families begin their baking, making tsourekia and koulouria.  The house fills with the exotic aromas of mahlepi and warm baked goods straight out of the oven.

The traditional Easter mayeritsa soup, made with offal and finished with an egg and lemon sauce, is made on Easter Saturday to be eaten when everyone is back home from midnight mass that night.

Easter Sunday is a day spent with family and friends and every soul feasts on roasted lamb.  Red eggs are cracked and everyone, not only the small children and believe me my family can get very competitive, want to have the strongest egg.

These are the family traditions that I love.

I like to make Revani also for Easter, always need some extra sweet things on hand…

Here are my recipes for my koulouria and revani…

Koulouria (Easter biscuits)

150 grams unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 cup fresh orange juice
1 cup oil
self-raising  flour
2 egg yolks, beaten

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Cream butter and sugar and add eggs in one at a time.  Add vanilla, orange juice and oil.  Combine well.

Start adding flour, a little at a time, mixing continuously with one hand.  Add as much flour as required to form a smooth dough hat is not too sticky.  Avoid overworking the mixture as that will make the biscuits tough.

Take pieces of the dough and, on a smooth surface, roll into a cylinder, fold in half and twist.  Continue until all the dough is finished.

Place on a baking tray lined with a baking sheet.  Brush tops with beaten egg yolks and bake for about 20 minutes or until golden brown.

Revani (semolina cake)

2 cups oil
1 cup caster sugar
6 eggs
juice of 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup semolina
2 cups self-raising flour

Syrup –

1 cup sugar
2 cups water
lemon zest

Preheat oven to 200° C.

Using an electric mixer, combine the oil and sugar.  Slowly add eggs, one at a time.  Add the orange juice, vanilla, semolina and flour and keep mixing until well combined.

Pour into a prepared baking dish and bake for about 30-40 minutes, or until cooked. Allow to cool.

To prepare the syrup, bring 2 cups of water, sugar and lemon zest to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes.  Pour onto the cake slowly.

Cut into pieces and serve at room temperature or cold with a generous spoonful of natural Greek yogurt drizzled with honey and sprinkled with pistachios.

Delicious….

Langham Masterclass MF&WF – dessert

Bougatsa – filo pastry parcels filled with custard – with roasted figs

1 pkt filo pastry
3 eggs
½ cup castor sugar
1 cup semolina
½ teaspoon vanilla paste
1 ½ litres full fat milk (warm)
grated zest of one lemon
1/3 cup melted unsalted butter for brushing
icing sugar and cinammon for dusting or
sugar syrup.

Sugar syrup

2 cups water
1 ½ cups castor sugar
lemon peel

Roasted figs

500 grams fresh figs
2 tablespoons thyme honey
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
ground cinnamon
shelled pistachios for serving

Preheat the oven to 180°C.

To make the custard beat the eggs with the sugar until light and creamy.  Add the semolina and vanilla and mix well.  Pour into a large saucepan and slowly add the milk stirring all the time over the heat.  The custard will thicken and be smooth.  Set aside to cool.

Lightly grease a muffin tray with some melted butter.

Lay out the filo sheets and cut into about 14 x 14 cm squares.  Gently place a square into the prepared pan and brush with some melted butter.  Repeat this until you have placed 4 squares into each muffin mould.  There should be excess filo, enough to bring together in the middle, press together gently, to make a parcel.

Place a heaped tablespoon or two into the filo prepared moulds, bring the filo together and pinch to close and seal.

Brush with some melted butter and place in the oven.  Bake for about 20-30 minutes or until golden.

Remove from the muffin tray carefully.

Prepare the figs by trim the stems and cutting into half lengthways.  Place onto a baking tray lined with baking paper and place a very small piece of butter in each fig,   drizzle with honey and sprinkle with cinnamon.  Roast in a 200°C oven for 10-15 mins or until the figs have softened.

Prepare the syrup by bringing to the boil the water and sugar and a little lemon peel and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Serve the bougatsa with roasted figs, a gently drizzle of syrup and some pistachios.

You can also dust with some icing sugar and cinnamon if preferred over the syrup.

Langham Masterclass MF&WF

Stuffed zucchini with avgolemono

8 white (Lebanese/white) zucchini
200 grams beef mince
¾ cup medium grain rice
2 heaped tablespoons chopped parsley
1 heaped tablespoon chopped mint
1 teaspoon chopped dill
1 tablespoon tomato paste or ½ cup tomato passatta
olive oil
salt and pepper

Avgolemono (Egg and lemon sauce)

2 eggs
juice of 1 lemon
juice from stock

Prepare the zucchini by washing and trimming the stalk end.  Carefully remove the pulp using a teaspoon or knife, making sure not to pierce the other end, and set aside.

Place the mince, rice, tomato paste and herbs into a bowl and season. Mix well using your hands and fill the hollowed out zucchini.  Place the filled zucchini into a large pan, add 1 cup water and a teaspoon of the tomato paste and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Cook slowly on the stove top, keeping an eye on it, for about an hour or until cooked.

Prepare your avgolemono. Lightly beat the egg whites in a small bowl using a fork, once frothy add the yolks and keeping beating   Add lemon juice gradually.

Slowly add a little stock into the egg and lemon mixture beating all the time, add a little more stock, continue mixing.  Pour the egg and lemon sauce over the zucchini stirring well so it doesn’t curdle.

Delicious served on its own with some fresh crusty bread.

Langham Masterclass – Melbourne Food & Wine Festival

What an inspiring weekend it was, demonstrations, discussions and tastings at the Chefs Masterclass at Langham Melbourne.

I feel immensely privileged to have been part of the Chefs Masterclass amongst some of the world’s best culinary masters…it was so much fun.  Chocolate masterpieces created by Johnny Iuzzini, inspiring discussions together with delicious seafood by Mauro Uliassi and so much more.

Hope everyone that came to my session enjoyed it as much as I did.

Here are the recipes that I prepared on the day…Mary x

Kakavia – Fishermans stew

500 grams fish fillets (I like to use snapper)
1 small whole fish, cleaned
1 whole garlic clove
6 black pepper corns
1 brown onion, peeled and sliced
3 tomatoes, peeled and chopped
3 sticks celery, cleaned and sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks
2 cloves garlic, finely diced
2 bay leaves
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 generous tablespoon chopped parsley
1 lemon

In a large saucepan place the whole fish and cover with about 1½ litres of water.  Add the whole garlic clove and season with salt and add peppercorns. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes or until the fish is cooked and  tender. Using a slotted spoon carefully remove the fish, garlic and peppercorns.  Clean the bones from the fish and put flesh aside to be added to the soup later. Strain the stock.

In a large pot sauté the onions in a little olive oil.  Add the celery, garlic and tomatoes and cook until soft, should only need 4 – 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and carrots, bay leaves and season well.  Add the fish stock (there should be about a litre, if not add some water) and simmer gently for 30 minutes.  Add the fish fillets and flesh from the stock and simmer for a further 20 minutes.  When cooked remove some of the potatoes from the soup and mash with a fork then add them back to the soup.

Add the parsley and a squeeze of lemon.  Serve hot with fresh crust bread.

Karydopita (walnut cake with syrup)

Hope everyone had a lovely Christmas.

If you are looking for a  dessert for the new year here is my recipe for Karydopita.

This gorgeous cake is perfect for any special occasion.  The blend of cinnamon, walnuts and honey make this cake irresistible.  It is very typical of Greek cakes.

Happy New Year to all…Mary x

Karydopita (Watnut cake with syrup)

70 grams unsalted butter
150 grams castor sugar
3 eggs separated
70 grams self raising flour
70 grams semolina
1 teaspoon cinnamon
150 grams finely chopped walnuts
½ cup full fat milk
syrup
2 cups water
1 cup castor sugar
lemon zest
4 cloves

Cream butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl, add yolks and combine.  Add flour, semolina, cinnamon and mix well.  Add walnuts and milk.  Whisk egg whites until light and fluffy and fold into mixture.

Pour into a baking dish which has been lightly buttered and cook in an oven at 200 oC for about 45 minutes, or until cooked.

In a small saucepan pour the water, sugar and add lemon zest, simmer for about 10 minutes.  Pour over the cake carefully.  Leave for about an hour then cut into pieces.

Serve at room temperature or cold.

Gourmet foodie tour Greece 2014

Hi Everyone,

Join me, Mary Valle, for the ultimate gourmet foodie tour to Greece.

It will be 10 glorious days of luxurious foodie indulgence, traditional Greek culture and living the Mediterranean lifestyle that we love so much.

The tour begins in Athens where we will explore the Acropolis, Temple of Zeus and the Ancient Agora.  We will visit the colorful central marketplace of Athens, tasting local delicacies along the way.

The magical island of Crete is next where we will stay in a traditional style villa, living like a local.  Visits to local wineries, shopping for the freshest local produce to be prepared later for that night’s dinner.  We will also spend some time in Chania, the town centre, exploring and dining at the breathtaking seaside tavernas in the old port.

We finish with stunning luxurious accommodation in Santorini.  We will be visiting local wineries, cooking with local chefs, enjoying shopping, restaurants, magical blue waters, cobblestone laneways, sun and a breathtaking sunset.

We hope that you return home inspired and rejuvenated.

For more information you can contact me via email or

Jaqui at Touchdown tours,
Email: travel@touchdowntours.com.au
Toll free: 1800 657 441
Telephone: (03) 9482 5215

Hope to see you in Athens in June/July 2014.

Mary x

private cooking classes

I love sharing my passion for cooking, and in particular all things Mediterranean.

I offer private cooking classes in the comfort of your own home for just yourself or a small group of friends.  It makes sense to be learning how to cook in your own kitchen as this is where you will be preparing meals: a home kitchen.  We will discuss your needs, what you would like to learn and for how many people you cook for, whether that is for one, two or more.

Classes run for 2-3 hours and in this time we will cook three dishes.

All classes are tailored for your individual needs whether you are a beginner or looking for some inspiration and ideas for weeknight family dinners or simply to expand your repertoire.

I will share tips and techniques and you will walk away feeling confident to reproduce the recipes adding your personal touch.

You will receive copies of the recipes that are cooked on the day.

Ingredients are not included however; you will receive a shopping list for the ingredients for you to purchase.

It is the responsibility of the participant to make sure all equipment is safe for use for the cooking class.

Following the class, I am always happy to answer questions and any concerns about the recipes; I am only an email away.

Contact me via email for any further details or questions you may have.

Gift vouchers

Looking for a gift for friend or family member…gift vouchers are a lovely idea.

Mediterranean lifestyle

The Greek Mediterranean diet is not only about the food but also about the lifestyle.  The importance of this lifestyle is evident in the research into the longevity of the people of Ikaria, a Greek island in the Aegean.  This island has been known as “the island where people forget to die”. Similar studies have been made in Crete, which makes one question why the people of these islands live so long; what is the secret to a long life?

The people of Ikaria enjoy a Greek Mediterranean diet, which is rich in olive oil, whole grains, fruit and fish, vegetable and bean dishes often being the main meal and not as a side, and salads being a part of every meal and fruit always following the main.

What I found most interesting was that the Mediterranean diet also includes a lifestyle and the importance of strong social connections…spending time with family and friends, as well as daily physical activity, which could be as simple as making walking part of your daily routine, and taking a nap in the afternoon or simply having some quiet time.

I notice this especially whenever spending time with family in Greece. I love the simplicity of life in the village, mealtimes not only being a time to eat, but to spend together, creating a strong bond between family and friends, young and old.

Eat Greek and live well.

Fish soup avgolemono

You can tell Spring is in the air.  The days are becoming warmer, getting longer and the kitchen will start bringing us lighter meals.

As I sit here at my desk writing I am feeling excited about spring and the beautiful  fruit and vegetables that will come to our table.

Here is my favourite fish soup avgolemono which makes two courses. Soup served as a starter followed  by a plate of vegetables and fish.

Fish Soup Avgolemono

1 ½ kilo fish (I like to use snapper)
olive oil
2 small onions, peeled and quartered
2 carrots, scrubbed and halved
2 zucchini, cut into quarters
2 celery stalks, chopped into quarters
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
10 peppercorns
salt
white pepper to garnish
1/3 cup short/medium grain rice
Egg and lemon sauce

Cook vegetables together with peppercorns and salt in a large saucepan of water.

While they are cooking, wash and clean fish.  If the fish is large cut into half and place into the boiling water with the vegetables.  Simmer for about 15 minutes or until fish is done.

Remove fish and vegetables carefully with a slotted spoon and put aside.  Place the vegetables onto a platter and remove flesh from the fish and arrange onto the platter also.  Drizzle some olive oil and lemon juice.

Sieve stock into a clean pot and bring to the boil, add rice and simmer until cooked.

Add egg and lemon sauce and season to taste.

Serve hot accompanied or followed by the fish and vegetables.

Avgolemono (Egg and lemon sauce)

2 eggs
juice of 1 lemon
juice from stock

Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl adding lemon juice gradually.

Slowly add a little stock into the egg and lemon mixture beating all the time, add a little more stock, continue mixing.  Pour the egg and lemon sauce into your soup or dish stirring well so it doesn’t curdle.