The last week of November I was swimming in Greece.
No, I’m not crazy, it was sunny and I did not find the water cold … OK, I will accept that I come from Peru where the sea water is cold, even in summer!
Vilma and I went to Neo Itilo with Saimir and had an incredible time with his family. We could not have been more spoiled: ate octopus freshly hunted and cooked by Martin, we had a go at olive picking and saw the whole process to make olive oil, we learned how to make the deliciously light spanakopita with Marci (Greek spinach pie with filo pastry), drunk lots of Greek coffee (thank you Ola!), were amazed by the fairy-like Vychlada caves, did some compulsory honey and olive shopping at Areopoli’s Saturday market, visited the ruins of a castle located between the towns of Neo Itilo and Kelefa … and I converted a couple of ladies into Zumba addicts!
From the field to the market, olives and olive oil in Greece. Clockwise from bottom left: olive picking in Itilo with battery activated rake, market in Areopoli, olive picking with rake in Itilo, green Olives and olives market stall in Athens, machinery to make olive oil near Itilo.
I spent a few more days in Athens where Vilma would have gone crazy at the variety of olives on sale and I walked around the city following the itinerary tailored by my friends Panorea and Stavros.
Recipes and more comments on yummie food should follow soon, in the meantime if you are interested in olives and olive oil and happen to be in London this week you might want to go to Vilma’s free talk on this subject at the Natural History Museum. Vilma, please remind us the specific time and place.
I’ve made this delicious and easy to make soda bread a couple of times since Vilma posted the recipe. I could not avoid altering the ingredients according to what I had in my cupboard at the time and also I knew I wanted to add some crunchy seeds anyway.
First successful bake: using a random amount of hemp seeds, wheat bran and strong flour instead of extra coarse wholemeal flour and using a mixture of milk, buttermilk and yoghurt to make up the 290ml of liquid required. I did not note down the exact amount of the ‘new’ ingredients, but remembered to keep the proportions mentioned in the original recipe.
Second successful bake: replacing the 113g of extra coarse wholemeal flour by 5g hemp seeds, 5g linseeds, 5g wheat bran, 98g strong flour and adding 1 tbsp treacle which gave a nice brown colour to my bread but also made it a tiny bit sweet. The picture talks by itself!
Have anyone tried other variations of this recipe? Please share your results with all of us!
Once upon the time there were 5 old wrinkling apples. They were getting older by the day but could still remember their life journey. From firm fruits attached to the branches of the tree to falling on the garden grass, picked from the garden grass and placed into Elena’s basket, passed from Elena’s basket to Tania’s plastic bag, from Tania’s plastic bag to the Algerian ceramic dish on top of the fridge. And there, with some other fruits the apples looked at me for a couple of weeks. Gone were the days when the sun would wake them up and the rain would shower them. Now they seemed to ignore the time passing, resigned to see the electric light at the end of the day and maybe waiting to see the first signs of softness in their flesh. For some strange (or not so strange) reason they were not getting rotten … they were giving me a chance. Finally, their glorious day arrived, I thought I would make an upside down cake with them! I looked for recipes on the web and on my cooking books and notes, and in a Frankensteinly way I made this upside down spiced apple cake taking elements from a supermarket recipe card and from the Girl Interrupted Eating blog (http://girlinterruptedeating.wordpress.com/2008/01/20/quick-apple-and-almond-cake/).
Think about the Little Prince next time when you are about to throw some food away and remember: L’essentiel est invisible pour les yeux.
Upside down spiced apple cake
5 apples, peeled and cored
½ tsp allspice
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp soft brown sugar
110 g butter
110 g soft brown sugar
110 g self-raising flour
55 g ground almond
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp ginger powder
¼ tsp nutmeg
Cut the apples in slices (you decide the thickness) and sprinkle them with the lemon juice, the table spoon of sugar, and the half tea spoons of cinnamon and allspice. Set aside. Cream together butter and sugar and when creamy, add the eggs. Incorporate all the dry ingredients (preferably sifted) to the creamy mixture. You will have a thick batter. In a silicone tin, greased pyrex or cake tin lined with baking paper place the apple slices. Put the batter on top and even the surface (don’t be shy and use your fingers if necessary). Place in a preheated oven at 200 ºC / Gas 6 for 15-20 minutes. Check if the cake is fully cooked by inserting a toothpick in the middle, it should come out clean. This cake can be kept for a few days and works very well with vanilla ice cream.
Here I am again … with another quinoa recipe. Despite what some of you might think, I do have other ingredients in my kitchen and not just quinoa but I was trying to come up with a different version of the spinach and quinoa bake. So, as soon as I felt that ray of inspiration coming I put my Marimekko apron and armed with the digital camera in one hand and the knife on the other I ‘invented’ the following recipe with a cabbage cousin (cabbage and broccoli are both from the Brassicaceae family). As usual, feel free to replace some of the ingredients, for example change the broccoli by another vegetable or the smoked salmon by another fish or any other source of protein (cheese is the first one that comes to my mind … mmhhh pieces of halloumi or feta!). As I learnt from my mother: you have to think about the colours when choosing your ingredients … the eyes are the first ones ‘tasting’ the food!
Broccoli and quinoa bake
120 g smoked salmon trimmings
1 small broccoli head
1 tbsp capers
80 g or ½ cup quinoa
½ fresh chilli
Wash and drain the quinoa, place it in the pan with 1 1/3 cup of water, bring to the boil and then lower the heat and cook for about 15 minutes until all the water is absorbed. In the meantime, cut the broccoli into small florets, place in a small pan, add boiling water and cook at a medium heat for about 3 minutes, drain the little green trees. Finely chop half of a fresh chilli (or a whole one if you like to spice things up!). Mix all the ingredients, add salt and pepper to taste. Place in a loaf tin and bake for approximately 40 minutes at 180 ºC / Gas 4. Eat hot or cold. Serves 2 small stomachs like mine or maybe just one if you like big portions (like my friend Elena does!)
Following Vilma’s comment on quinoa and her question about ‘pesque’ I asked my mum if she knew what pesque was, she remembered from her childhood in Cuzco, Peru that they called pesque the cooked quinoa that was given to baby chicks. Beside that she wrote some comments (in Spanish) that I have translated below.
“To the marvellous qualities of this tiny grain I have to add the beauty of its plants, spikes of 2.5 – 3 meters high that appear like lovely bunch of flowers in different shades that go from crimson red to yellow and orange … all of which you can see in the Andean fields.
Regarding its nutritious value it has as many or even more proteines than red meat. The cuisine Novo Andina (Andean-Peruvian nouvelle cuisine) is wisely using this ingredient to give colour to salads with white, red or black quinoa, to make crusty buttered see food, lamb or pork meat or even in bakery. I have to add that NASA includes quinoa amongst the food given to astronauts.”
While chefs in Peru are experimenting with quinoa … how much do we dare to experiment in our kitchens? Just by replacing some ingredients we could be reinventing dishes and that is how I ended up making ‘Quinua chaufa’ (stir fried quinoa). The original dish I took my inspiration from is ‘Arroz chaufa’ (stir fried rice) which is something you will find in any ‘chifa’ which is how we call the Chinese restaurants in Peru. I don’t know how much chifa’s food are a fusion of Peruvian and Chinese culture, and I would guess that chifa’s dishes might not all be like in China (I haven’t been to China to compared though) and the stir fried rice or noodles in Peru are not like the ones I had here in London. Anyhow, now that you know a bit of the story behind the dish here is my recipe, now enjoy your cooking!
1 cup quinoa
1 chicken breast
1 bunch of spring onions
1 piece of fresh ginger (about 3 cm )
Soya sauce to taste
Salt to taste
Start by boiling the chicken breast, you will then have to shred it (if you boil it with something else like that lost carrot hiding in the fridge and that lonely little onion you can then use that chicken stock for a soup or another preparation!). Wash and drain the quinoa and toast on a hot pan until the grains are brown-ish and a lovely smell comes out of them. Add 2 cups of boiling water, cover the pan, turn the heat to the minimum and cook for about 15 minutes until the water is all absorbed. While the quinoa cooks fry the shredded chicken in a little bit of oil (wish a dash of soya sauce if you like). Keeping an eye on the chicken sun tanning in the pan wash and finely chop the spring onions and grate the ginger or chop it very finely. Whisk the eggs with some salt and pepper and make an omelette with them, you can optionally add some of your chopped spring onions to the omelette while it’s cooking, when done use a wooden spoon or spatula to ‘chop’ your omelette. Now you add to your fluffy quinoa the shredded chicken, pieces of omelette, ginger and spring onions, mix everything, add soya sauce to taste and some salt if you must. Eat as soon as it is ready! This recipe can have so many variations depending what you have in your fridge and what you like, here are some examples: replace the chicken by any other (edible) bird such as turkey or by any meat such as bacon strips (roasted meat leftovers are great for this dish!), if you are vegetarian replace the bird or meat pieces by mushrooms or tofu fried with crushed garlic. Your turn to come up with other vegetables that will work out well with this dish!
Last week I was making a concotion with chickpeas, spinach and chorizo and decided to ‘save’ some freshly cooked chickpeas to make hummus. I love it with coriander but did not have any, so I made it with black olives. Here is the very precise recipe (I’ve measured everything) and this time I did not forget to take pictures !!!
2 cups/420 g cooked chickpeas
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp paprika
1 tsp salt
7 tbsp olive oil
7 tbsp warm water
1/2 cup/135 g olives (106 g pitted olives)
1 1/2 lime juice
1-2 tbsp sesame seeds or tahini
The main ingredient of this recipe are the chickpeas (also called ‘garbanzo beans’ … ‘garbanzo’ been actually the name of the chickpeas in Spanish). I always use my pressure cooker for cooking beans, lentils and chickpeas soaking them the night before. Make sure you don’t add salt to your pulses until they are almost cooked as that makes the cooking process longer, in this case I did not add salt at all as that ingredient is added during the preparation of the hummus. If you prefer buy a can of ready cooked chickpeas (410 g chickpeas in a can, I think). Mix all the ingredients with a hand mixer and vary the consistency by adding more or less oil and water. Taste it while you make it so you add more or less of the spices, garlic and lime juice to suit your taste! You can make the basic hummus without the black olives, or vary the classic recipe by adding coriander leaves or roasted pepper. I have also tried hummus with pumpkin and with beetroot, both are sweeter than the classic version. Most of the recipes I have read use tahini, I usually have sesame seeds at home so I tend to use that ingredient instead (toasting the seeds a bit in a hot pan), after all tahini is a paste made of sesame seeds. Enjoy it and if you try other alternative ingredients to make a special hummus share your recipe with us !
Together with a couple of colleagues we have decided to share our food (or cooking experiments), once a week one cook for the 3 of us and brings the meal to work to have lunch together. Today was my turn, and I thought I would use the occasion to introduce a new ingredient to them: quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa). It was not a random choice, quinoa is produced in the Andes, I am Peruvian-Belgian and the mountains are very special to me. I made a delicious (yes, I have to admit it!) and very nutritious ‘bake’ with quinoa and spinach (Spinacia oleracea). See the recipe below! Did you know that those two ingredients are botanically related ? Both plants are from the Amaranthaceae family. Although quinoa leaves are edible you might only find the seeds in some supermarkets and health food shops in the UK, and those seeds come mainly from Bolivia and Peru. What is quite surprising for me is that when I was in Peru people in the coast or amazonian region would not know and eat quinoa (thought to be food for the poor?) and now that there is a whole wave of ‘Peruvian nouvelle cuisine’ more Peruvians are starting to appreciate quinoa in its different varieties (white, golden, red), forms (grain, flour, flaked, popped) and recipes (sweet or savoury). I have made with good success: chocolate cake with quinoa (ideal for coeliacs), quinoa madeleines, quinotto (like risotto but with quinoa instead of rice), quinua and courgette bake … the possibilities are endless! I forgot to take a picture of my bake, but here is the recipe …
Quinoa and spinach bake (recipe for 3-4 people)
1 cup quinoa
1 1/4 cup water
1 onion, chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, chopped
450 g spinach
200 g feta cheese, chopped
1 tsp cinnamon powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg, grated
1 tsp baking powder
Salt & pepper
I first tried the quinoa and spinach bake from a friend who made it for a picnic (you can eat it hot, warm or cold). I looked for the recipe on the web and then modified it to my taste. Wash, drain and cook a cup of quinoa. Put in the pan enough water to cover the grains and a bit more, put the lid on, turn the heat down as soon as it boils and turn the heat off when most of the water has been used up (the rest of it will be absorbed by the quinoa or evaporate). Meanwhile, chop 1 onion (I don’t mind if white or red) and 2-3 garlic cloves (depending how much you like garlic), gently fry them until they become nicely caramelised. Add 450 g of spinach (I’ve used packed baby spinach, if using a fresh bunch wash and chop it first), cook for a few minutes, turn off the heat and add the cooked quinoa, about 200 g feta or salad cheese chopped, 1 tsp cinnamon powder, 1 tsp cumin powder, ½ tsp grated nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste, 3 beaten eggs, 1 tsp baking powder. Place the mixture in a cake tin or similar and put in the oven at 180⁰C/Gas 4/350⁰F for 40 minutes or until set.
Optional: add some grated parmesan to the mixture, put some strips of feta or salad cheese on top of the mixture before baking it.