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.

Spanish omelette

How do you like to cook potatoes?

The humble potato can be transformed into many delicious Mediterranean meals.

When my children were young, one of their favourite quick meals was fried potatoes (chips) with egg…delicious on its own or accompanying a stew for a more sophisticated dish.

I love the comforting combination of potato and eggs and it seems that each country has their own variation as to how they put these two together.

The Spanish omelette is perfect.

Spanish omelette

4 large potatoes
2 large onions, peeled and sliced
6 eggs
olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste

Prepare potatoes by peeling and slicing into thick slices, about 4 mms.

In a deep frying pan pour in some olive oil, about 1/3 cup and heat.  Add the potatoes and onions and cook on a medium heat, turning occasionally, until they are cooked.  This should only take about 10-12 minutes.  Pour out any excess oil from the frypan.

In a large bowl beat the eggs using a fork and season.

Pour over the potatoes and onions and cook over a medium heat.  When the sides are cooked you can slide it onto a plate and then place the frypan over the plate and return the omlette to the frypan upside down.  Return to the heat and cook the other side.

Serve hot or warm.

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.

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!