Time for a coffee…

In a Greek household, drinking coffee is a way of life.  As a young girl I remember my father always drinking it and my mother always making it.  I remember these days fondly, sipping coffee and chatting…these are the memories that I love so much.

2 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons coffee

Greek coffee is brewed in a long-handled copper (or stainless steel) classic ‘briki’ coffee pot.

Pour 2 cups (500 mls) water (small coffee cup) into the briki. Add sugar and coffee and stir well.  Place over a low heat and allow to simmer.  Before it starts to boil, remove from heat and pour the froth into the two coffee cups.  Return to the stove and allow to boil, then carefully pour the coffee into the cups.

Take care not to disturb the froth too much.

Quince spoon sweet

One of my favourite spoon sweets is the one made with quince. The quince is not normally eaten raw as they are hard, too tart and not very pleasant.  However, once cooked and sweetened it transforms into a beautiful red color, and becomes, I think, irresistible.

The spoon sweet is not the only way to eat quince of course.  You can poach them with vanilla and cinnamon and serve with Greek yogurt, you can make a quince tart as you would an apple tart by simply substituting the apple with quince, quince jam, quince compote and roasted as you would apples and served with roast meats such as pork.

They are ready for eating in late autumn…I love this time of the year.  You may be lucky enough to have a quince tree in your garden but, if not, the markets have plenty right now.

Here is my recipe for my much-loved spoon sweet…

Quince spoon sweet

1 kilo quince
3 tablespoons lemon juice
3 cups water
1 kilo castor sugar

Peel and grate the quince roughly and place into a saucepan with the water and lemon.  Simmer until the quince is soft and the water has almost been absorbed.

I love the rich color the quince turns once cooked.

Pour in the sugar, combine careully and allow to stand overnight.

In the morning place back onto a low heat and simmer until the quince is cooked, translucent and the syrup has thickened.  Pour into sterilized jars and allow to cool. 

Store in the refrigerator.

Soups to nourish the soul

I have a great love for the rustic soups of Greece.  They are usually simply prepared with few good quality ingredients but always nourishing and flavoursome.

There are many varieties of soup in the Greek kitchen, ranging from hearty bean soups to my favourite, the soothing flavours of an avgolemono soup.

For me, a bowl of soup, is not only comforting, soothing and nourishing it is also a gesture of love.

Here is my recipe for Yiouverlakia soup…meatballs cooked in a broth and finished off with an egg and lemon sauce.

A perfect winter warmer to nourish the soul.

Yiouverlakia soup

500 grams minced beef
1 small onion, finely diced
1/3 cup medium grain rice
2 tablespons parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon mint or dill, finely chopped
salt and pepper, to taste
50 grams butter

egg and lemon sauce

In a large bowl, combine mince, onion, half the rice, herbs and seasonings.  Shape this mixture into small balls.

Pour 1 litre water into a large saucepan and add butter.  Bring to the boil.  Slowly add the meatballs into the boiling water, together with the remaining rice.  Simmer until cooked.

Make the egg and lemon sauce and add to the soup.

Season to taste, garnish with a sprig of parsley is you like and serve hot.

Avgolemono (egg and lemon sauce)

2 eggs
juice of 1 lemon
juice from the soup stock

Lightly beat the egg whites in a small bowl, add the yolks and beat a little more then 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 into your soup or over your dish, stirring well so it doesn’t curdle.

Homemade filo pastry

Homemade filo pastry made into delicious savoury pies (pita) is something that I love to make and am still working on mastering, the delicate and light paper thin sheets.  I remember watching my mother, who was a master at this art, pulling at the pastry from each end over a table covered with a tablecloth until the pastry was silky and transparent.  Many have said that women from Northern Greece make the best pitas…I am not going to argue with that.

My filo recipe is basic and easy to make and work with.  There are many variations depending on which part of Greece you come from and each household may have their own version.  Some recipes add yogurt, others eggs but always olive oil and vinegar or lemon juice.

For many the idea of making your own filo pastry is frightening…but have a go as it can be very satisfying.  For those of you who have electric kitchen mixers and would like to use it, you can use you dough hook, that will also work.

Here is my recipe…

Homemade filo

500 grams bakers flour
1 teaspoon sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 cup warm water

Sift the flour and place into a large mixing bowl with the salt, sugar and baking powder.  Make a well in the centre and pour in the olive oil, vinegar and warm water.  Mix the flour into the liquid mixture slowly,  you can add more water if you need to.

Knead the mixture into a soft and elastic dough.  Make a ball with the dough, leave in the bowl, cover with a cloth and allow to rest for at least an hour.

When ready to use divide the dough into small balls and roll out into sheets using a long thin rolling pin.  Keep rolling all directions until you have made a large round very fine sheet.  When using these sheets brush with a little melted butter and olive oil between sheets.

To make pita filo which separates during baking, stack three or four balls of dough on each other brushed with a little melted butter together with olive oil.  Roll this stack into a sheet.

Ready now for your favourite fillings.

Join me for a magical foodie tour to Greece

Hi Everyone,

Join me  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 September.

Mary x

Baking tsourekia

It is days like today that stir up so many emotions.  I am baking tsourekia and the house is filled with exotic aromas of mahlepi.  I am always so surprised, and really shouldn’t be, as to how something as simple as baking or a taste or smell can take you back to another place and time.

It is my mother that I am thinking of today as I make my tsourekia…we always spent the day together in the kitchen, as well as my sister and father, after all he was the baker in the family.  I would watch my mother and take instruction not realizing that one day I would be the one giving instruction and being watched by my own children.

It has been almost 10 years now that my parents have passed but I miss them every day, especially on days like these.

These are the memories that I hold close to my heart.

Find my recipe in the recipes section!

Red eggs for Easter

Red eggs for Easter are dyed on Holy Thursday..so today I bought a packet of red powdered dye and some eggs ready for tomorrow mornings ritual of dying the eggs.

My mother loved to decorate a few of the eggs using a leaf from her garden and using it as a stencil.  She would place the leaf on a clean egg and place it into some stocking, tie it tightly and slowly immerse it in the red dye.  When ready she would remove the leaves and a lovely leaf pattern would emerge.

I now, as my mother did, polish my red eggs with a little olive oil in some cloth, place them in a bowl and then they take their place on my kitchen table.

I love these traditions.

Green beans casserole

Ladera are the dishes that the Greeks eat during periods of fasting when all meat and dairy products are not eaten. Of course, that is not to say that they are not eaten at other times.

They are always vegetarian dishes cooked with olive oil and usually tomatoes, garlic and herbs. The word ladera comes from the word ‘ladi’ meaning oil…so oil-based, comforting dishes.

Some of my favourite ladera dishes are those prepared in the summer: the delicate green beans, eggplants, zucchini and okra which are cooked with tomatoes, bursting with flavour and  perfect served with fresh crusty bread and some cheese, usually feta. In winter dried beans are included as part of the ladera menu.

Ladera are best served at room temperature but I also think that they are even more delicious the next day.

I love the simplicity of these one-pot dishes and here is my favourite ladera dish…green beans with tomato.

Green beans casserole

1 kilo green beans
4 or 5 fresh tomatoes roughly chopped
4 carrots peeled and sliced
4 small zucchini cut into chunks
salt and pepper
oregano
olive oil
1 onion finely diced

Wash beans and cut into half. Prepare carrots and zucchini and put aside.

In a casserole dish sauté the onion in a little olive oil until soft, then add tomatoes, beans, carrots and zucchini, season with salt, pepper and oregano. Add 1 cup of water, enough to just cover the vegetables. Cover and simmer for approximately 45 minutes or under tender.

You can also add potatoes into this casserole if you like or simply serve with mashed potatoes and roasted meat or lamb chops. This is also delicious with fresh crusty bread and lots of fetta cheese.

Greek Orthodox Easter

Greek Orthodox Easter is not far now, only three weeks away. It is a time of fasting, and the Lenten begins on Clean Monday, which is seven weeks before Easter. The purpose of fasting is to cleanse the body and spirit. During this fasting, you abstain from foods that contain red blood, meat, poultry, milk, cheese and eggs, for example.

I am looking forward to all the Easter preparations, which begin on Holy Thursday when the eggs are dyed red and all the baking begins. It is a time to bake tsourekia and koulouria, a time when the house is filled with aromas of mahlepi and warm tsoureki straight out of the oven.

My kitchen becomes a hive of conversation and laughter.

Good Friday is the holiest day of the Easter calendar, the most significant religious celebration in the Greek Orthodox faith. It is a day of mourning. Traditional foods such as lentil soup are eaten. There is a church service in the afternoon and families attend at this time and help decorate the Epitaphio (the tomb of Christ) with fresh flowers, later to return for the evening service when the priest and choir chant Byzantine hymns.

On Holy Saturday, the Mayeritsa (Easter soup) is being cooked and the house prepared for the coming feast.

Families attend church for the Resurrection service. Just before midnight the church is darkened and everyone is silent. The flickering light of the ‘Eternal Flame’ (a candle inside the altar) is the only light. At midnight, the priest lights his candle from the Eternal Flame and sings ‘Christos Anesti’ …everyone joins in and chants ‘Christos Anesti’. Families enjoy the late dinner of Mayeritsa once back home breaking the fast.

Easter Sunday is a day to be spent with family and friends and every soul feasts on lamb, usually cooked on a spit or, at times, oven roasted. Always a great day spent with loved ones.

Here is my Mayeritsa recipe… Hope you like it!

Mayeritsa (Greek Easter Soup)

3 litres of water
olive oil
½ cup finely chopped dill
½ cup chopped spring onions
½ iceberg lettuce finely chopped
½ cup medium grain rice (optional)
salt and pepper

250 grams lamb intestines
500 grams (in total) lamb heart, liver and kidney

egg and lemon sauce

Wash the intestines well. It is easier cut into smaller lengths then with the help of a knitting needle or skewer turn them inside out and wash well under running cold water. Soak in a bowl with water and lemon juice for 10 minutes, drain and wash with cold water. Blanch in some salted water for 5-6 minutes, drain and cut into small pieces.

Wash the meats well and cut into bite sized pieces. Place in a saucepan with water and bring to boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes, drain and let cool.

In a large saucepan pour a little olive oil, heat and place in the dill, spring onions and lettuce a sauté a litte. Add the meats and seasonings, water, bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, then add rice (if you are adding rice) and cook until both the meat and rice are cooked.

Make the egg and lemon sauce and add to the soup.

Serve hot.

Spinach and Risoni

It is already April and I can hardly believe it.   Summer is over and autumn is well and truly here…crisp mornings, glorious day and time to bring out the cardi.    The autumn kitchen also begins to change from barbeques and salads to bowls of soup, slow cooked meats and casseroles.

Autumn in Melbourne is my favourite time of the year, but maybe I say that at the beginning of each season.

My vegie garden is not very big but I am still excited about clearing the summer crops and planting some beetroot, cabbage, carrots, leeks, spinach, silverbeet, cauliflower  (if there is any room left) and possibly rocket…some of my favourites.

Here is my spinach and risoni…simple, delicious comfort food

  • 1 bunch of spinach
  • olive oil
  • 1 small onion finely diced
  • 1 cup tomato passata
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 x 500g packet of large risoni (kritheraki)

In a large casserole dish sauté the finely chopped onion in a little olive oil. Add the tomato passata to the onions, season with salt and pepper and add about 2 cups of water. When it starts to simmer add the risoni and simmer until it is almost cooked adding the spinach and continue cooking for a further 5 minutes, until all cooked. Add more water at any time if it looks too dry.

Serve while hot and accompany with fetta cheese and olives.

This will make 4 generous serves or 6 smaller ones.

Enjoy!