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

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.

Stuffed red peppers (Yemista)

Yemista is the term used to describe stuffed vegetables such as capsicum, tomatoes and zucchini.  These are often stuffed with the same fillings, usually rice and ground meat, and baked together.  At times you may see wedges of potatoes added amongst the vegetables to extend the dish.

I love the aroma of the red peppers cooking in the oven and their glorious red color.

This is one of our family favourites.

Yemista (Stuffed Red Peppers)

8 medium sized red capsicum
700 grams minced beef
1 bottle tomato passata 680 mls
½ bottle water
450 grams medium grain rice
chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste
I onion finely chopped

Wash the capsicum and slice the tops, keeping them to place back on after.

In a large frying pan sauté the onions in a little olive oil until soft.  Add the mince and tomato passata and mix well, add ½ bottle of water, the rice, parsley and season with the salt and pepper.  Cook only for about 5 – 10 minutes then spoon mixture into the peppers and put tops back on and place in a large baking dish.   You can lay them down or sit them up, whichever way they fit, it really doesn’t matter.   Drizzle a little olive oil on them and place in the oven at 200oC for about one hour or until cooked.  You may need a little water in the bottom of the dish.

Serve with a green salad, fetta cheese and fresh bread.

Rizogalo – rice pudding

This sweet creamy rizogalo fills me with childhood memories.

As a small girl I remember coming home from school and finding small plates filled with rizogalo lined up on the kitchen bench, still hot and sprinkled with aromatic cinnamon.  There was always enough for that afternoon eaten warm and another for the next day, cold from the refrigerator.

Perfect comfort food on a cold winters day…or any day really.

Rizogalo

150 grams medium grain rice
600 mls full-fat milk
30 grams cornflour
140 grams caster sugar,
ground cinnamon, to serve

Place rice and 300 mls water into a saucepan and simmer over a low heat until the rice is cooked and water has absorbed.

Add the milk slowly and keep stirring.

Mix the cornflour with a little water to make a paste and add to the rice mixture, together with the sugar.  Keep stirring until it thickens.

When ready, pour into individual bowls and serve with plenty of ground cinnamon.

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!