Sunday, January 20, 2013

Garides saganaki (prawns with feta in tomato sauce)

This is a typical mezze (Greek version of tapas) and normally served with other mezzedes and some ouzo to accompany the meal. It's nice with some bread dipping (dipping bread into sauces and just plain olive oil is very typical in Greece and totally delicious). I also find this dish can be a meal on its own served with couscous. One great thing about it, is that it's very simple to make and a great accompaniment when making mezzedes/tapas as there's no fuss involved in making it and always goes down well with friends. When cooking other mezzedes I usually prepare the sauce before hand and add the prawns and feta just before serving.

There are slightly different ways of preparing garides saganaki, as with everything. So here I will share my own version. It's very typical in restaurants in Greece to have it served with whole prawns (shells included). Here I present a simplified version by using peeled, cooked prawns. If you decide to make it with raw prawns, all you need to do is cook the prawns in the sauce for 5 minutes until pink and then add the feta.

The recipe:

Serves 3-4 people with couscous and a salad as a main meal or more people as part of a mezzedotapas evening.


5-7 tomatoes
± 400g cooked and peeled king prawns
1 green pepper
100-150g feta cheese
1-2tbs olive oil
dried origano
a pinch of sugar
a pinch of sault and pepper

Optional: dilute a tablesoon of tomato paste with half a cup of water and add in the pot with the tomatoes in step one.


1. Roughly chop the tomatoes into small chunks. Put in a pot and simmer for around 20-30 minutes until the juices are almost gone and the tomatoes have turned into a sauce. Meanwhile chop the green pepper into large chunks.
2. Add the green pepper, olive oil, origano, sugar, salt and pepper and leave to simmer until the pepper chunks are softened (if you find the sauce dries up before the peppers are cooked add a bit of water).
3. Chop the feta into large chunks. Add the prawns and feta in the sauce and heat through for a couple of minutes (the feta will slightly melt and give the dish a pinkish colour). Serve immediately.

And that is all there is to it!

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Banana cake/bread

Got some over-ripened bananas that you don't know what to do with? Well, you don't need to throw them away. You can bake them instead!

This is a nice little recipe that I have made to suit my own taste... Truth be told I'm not a fan of overly sweet things so I have modified it according to my tastes. If you have a sweet tooth make sure to add more sugar and butter (I will list ingredients for both sweet and less sweet versions). Additionally feel free to use any nuts you fancy and you can replace the chocolate with raisins or dried cranberries :)

I found that people loved this cake for different occasions. You can have it for breakfast, desert (with a bit of ice-cream if you please) or as an energy booster for exercise. A friend who came over and went for a loooooong ride with his bicycle said that this was the best thing ever for his energy levels. The chocolate, sugar and flour gave him an instant energy boost, while the slow energy releasing banana and hazelnuts kept him going later on when he needed it most.













The recipe



50 g (or 100 g) unsalted butter (take it out of the fridge a couple of hours ahead of time in order for it to soften) and a bit extra melted
100 g (or 140g) light muscovado sugar and a bit extra for sprinkling
2 large eggs
3 large ripe bananas, mashed
50 g hazelnuts (pecans also work well), roughly chopped
chocolate chip (or dark good quality chocolate roughly chopped)
150 ml buttermilk
280 gr wholemeal flour
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

Optional: You can roast the hazelnuts ahead of time. I find this enhances the taste. Do this by heating the oven to 180C. Place the hazelnuts on a tray and roast for about 15 minutes. Take them out of the oven and place them inside a folded towel. Leave to cool for a bit and the place your hands on top of the towel and rub, in order to release most of the dry peel from the nuts.

Tip: Instead of buying ready made buttermilk make it yourself: squeeze a bit of lemon juice over 150 ml of milk, stir and leave to rest for about 5 minutes, et voila!



1. Preheat oven to 180C. Prep your ingredients (mash bananas, chop nuts etc...), butter a loaf tin (roughly 20 x 15 cm) and line the base with baking paper. I use a silicone loaf tin which makes it super easy to remove the cake once it's ready.
2. In a mixer, mix the butter and sugar until the mixture becomes creamy. Transfer to a bowl and beat in the eggs. 
3. Mix in the mashed bananas, hazelnuts, chocolate chip, and the buttermilk.
4. Sift the flour and bicarbonate of soda on top of the mix. Fold the mixture with a wooden spoon, but do not over-mix. Spoon into the loaf tin and shake a bit so that the mixture is even.
5. Sprinkle some sugar on the top and place in the oven. Bake for 1-1h 15mins until golden. You can check if the inside is cooked by inserting a knife in the cake. If the knife comes out mostly clean, your cake is baked (however the cake is quite moist so the knife will never be completely clean). Leave to cool for a few minutes and then take the cake out of the tin and leave to cool on a cooling rack (or if like me you don't have a cooling wrack, the grill from a grill tray will do!).


P.S. You can also freeze this cake. Just simply slice it and place in freezing bags. Then on the days you feel like having some, take the slices out and leave to defrost for about 30 minutes.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Paella with cod and vegetables

In my in-laws house paella cooking (and therefore eating) is a social event in itself. They have a lovely barbeque outside where a huge paellera (a special broad and shallow frying pan made for the purpose of cooking paella) fits comfortably on top of a gas stove. For some reason the task of cooking a paella has always fallen in the hands of a man in that house. People are welcome to come and help the cook or simply sit around in the sunshine, enjoying a beer, chatting about with the cook and taking in the lovely aromas radiating from the pan.

Now, I know the use of a large paellera outdoors is not always possible in every household, but I would say that one of the most important things here is to cook the paella over a gas stove instead of an electric one and make sure that the fire is distributed evenly underneath a large pan.

Every household has its own little secret for a paella recipe, and everyone will cook it with slightly different tips and tricks. I am sharing with you here our friend Chef Antoine's recipe (one of the best in my opinion!). He was kind enough to let me watch, question him constantly and take photos as he was working his magic :)

Note: There are many different types of paella with different variations (e.g. meet, shell fish etc). This one is considered a light one. Another little tip: paella is best eaten at lunchtime.

The recipe:

Serves approximately 15 hungry people. For smaller portions make adjustments according to taste (e.g. less vegetables, less rice...) - there's no actual science here. Additionally you make the paella with whatever vegetables you have at hand/ are in season, so feel free to swap according to taste or findings in your supermarket!



- 1 kg cod cut in slices
- 1 large aubergine chopped into cubes
- 1 large pepper chopped into chunks
- 3 large onions chopped
- 250 g mushrooms of your choice chopped into large chunks
- 1-1,5 kg artichokes cleaned (outer layers and chalks removed) and chopped into wedges
- 3 tomatoes chopped into cubes
- 1,5 kg paella rice (if not available, risotto rice will make a good substitution)
- boiled water (double the amount of volume of the rice ) with vegetable stock
- generous amount of good quality olive oil

Optional: men wanting to cook in the sunshine in which case they would appreciate being served beer.













1. Put the artichoke wedges in water and squeeze a lemon over them so that they don't brown (leave to rest while chopping the rest of the ingredients)

2. In the paella pan add a lot of olive oil (good quality is a must!).
3. Wait for the oil to heat, add the artichokes and fry for about 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
4. Add the aubergines and peppers and fry for a couple of minutes, stirring often.
5. Add the onions and fry for another couple of minutes stirring often.
6. Add the tomatoes. Stir occasionally. Fry for around 10-15 minutes until the vegetables are softened.

7. Add the mushrooms and the cod. Stir and leave to fry for about 10 minutes stirring occasionally.
8. Add the rice and stir to mix well. Fry until it becomes abit see through.

9. Add the boiled water with stock, stir in and leave to simmer stirring once in a while. 

Cook for about 20 mins until the water is absorbed and the rice is cooked. You might need to add extra water toward the end (you'll know by tasting to see if the rice is cooked). It's important that if you do add water, it's boiling hot, otherwise you "interrupt" the cooking of the rice. Toward the end, do not stir too much, it's nice when the rice at the bottom burns slightly. Instead you can shake the pan a bit. Also try the rice every now and then to know when it's done. 

Y ya está: A dinaaaar!

Monday, August 15, 2011

prawn salad with an asian twist

Salads are one of my favourite things to eat... I have always loved them and always will :p This prawn salad is a bit of an invention of my own and inspired by Asian dishes, using ginger and chillies. It's also quite filling and can be eaten as a main dish especially on a lovely warm evening or can be prepared as part of a buffet. Keep in mind that it does take a while to make, as there are a lot of ingredients to cut up! Also as this is a completely made up dish I really have no set amounts for the ingredients... just do it by eye and put as much or as little as you like from each ingredient.


For the prawns and mushrooms:

Pack of prawns (precooked and deshelled)
Pack of mushrooms of your choice
Ginger (finely chopped)
Garlic (finely chopped)
Chillies (finely chopped)
Splash of fish sauce
Splash of soya sauce

For the salad:
Mixed salad leaves of your choice (can include chicory, watercress, lettuce etc….)
Red onion
Bunch of chopped coriander leaves to top up

For the salad dressing:
Freshly squeezed lemon juice 
A pinch of sugar (to compliment the acidity of the lemon)
Olive oil (3 to 5 times the amount of lemon juice)
Chilli flakes (optional, depending on how spicy you want it!)


1.     Heat a bit of oil in a wok and lightly fry the ginger, garlic and chilli over a low heat so as not to burn the ingredients. Add the mushrooms, fish sauce and soya sauce and stir fry until tender. Add prawns and heat through.  Leave to cool slightly before adding to the salad.

2.     Chop and mix all the other salad ingredients in a salad bowl.

3.     Prepare the dressing in a small bowl by mixing all the ingredients and giving them a good stir so that the sugar dissolves as much as possible.

4.     Add the cooled down prawns and mushrooms in the salad making sure that most of the juice from the wok doesn’t “spill” into the salad as the taste from the ginger and the rest of the mixture will be too strong. Add the coriander, salad dressing and a bit of salt if needed. Mix well and serve.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Mezzedotapas: Spanakotyropita with a sunblush twist

Hello all and welcome back! Your absence from my blog is entirely my fault as I have neglected my duties as blogmaster. I wish I could say this is due to holidays... I really wish! In any case I shall try to keep this up a bit more regularly.

The theme of this blog is mezzedotapas. This is a made up name of the Greek mezzes and the Spanish tapas. Oh, us Mediterranean people love our little bites of food accompanied with drinks and a lovely group of people. And let's face it, even my non Meditarranean friends enjoy it just as much. Who doesn't love having a variety of foods to pick and choose from? It can be as simple or as complicated as you wish and with the right company you can have a lovely tasty evening.
Rest assured there will be more posts on mezzedes and tapas as there are countless recipes and variations, and our household loves them very much!

Spanakotyropita with a sunblush twist.
In translation spanakotyropita is spinach and cheese pie. This is a very typical dish in Greece, and just as with the tyropitakia recipe posted a couple of posts ago, it can come in a variety of forms. I recently found a new recipe which has the addition of sundried/sunblush tomatoes. This sounds very strange to many Greek people, but trust me when I say, it's really good! And gratefully it's also very easy to make (if you manage to find filo pastry that is, not an easy task as I discovered first time round).

The ingredients:

  • 400g spinach
  • Half a leek, chopped roughly
  • Bunch of parsley, chopped roughly
  • A pinch or two of nutmeg
  • 200g feta
  • 2 eggs
  • Jar of 150-200g sundried or sunblush tomatoes in oil
  • 3 sheets of filo pastry
  • A baking tin with a removable bottom
1) In a large pot heat a bit of water and tip in the spinach bit by bit, allowing it to wilt. Add the leek, parsley, nutmeg, pepper and a tiny amount of salt. Let it simmer for around 10 to 15 minutes (again I do this by eye!). Top with splashes of water if needed, but keep in mind that the spinach and leek will also release some liquids. Once cooked, tip into a sieve and with a spoon squish some of the excess water out and let cool.

2) Preheat the oven at 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Crumble the feta into a bowl, chop the sundried tomatoes (keep the oil for later) and prepare the pastry (the trickiest part of this recipe - see tip below). Once the spinach mixture has cooled, roughly chop it and tip back into the pot, add the feta, sundried tomatoes, eggs and stir into an even mixture.

3) Oil the baking tin with the sundried tomato oil. Take a filo pastry and layer snuggly inside the tin, with one end sticking out. Oil another sheet and repeat, with the extra bit of the pastry sticking out on another side of the tin. Repeat once more.

4) Spoon in the mixture, making sure that it also sits nicely on the edges. Cover the mixture with the ends of the pastry that are sticking out, scrunching it to give it a nice effect (purely for cosmetic purposes)

5) Again with the sundried tomato oil, oil the pastry on top. Place in the oven and bake for 30-45 minutes.

A nice little trick to ensure it's nice and crispy is to bake it until slightly golden. Then take out of the oven and let it cool slightly. Remove the pie from the tin, but still keeping it on the bottom of the tin and placing it in the oven for another 10-15 minutes. This double baking ensures that the sides become crispy and golden.

This pie also looks very pretty (and more impressive) when baked in a round tin.

Filo pastry tips and handling:
As mentioned earlier, filo pastry is slightly tricky to handle. It's best to take out of the fridge about 30 minutes before using (but keep it sealed in the packaging.) Take it out of the packaging right before you need to use it (this ensures it doesn't start drying out). Unfold it and cover with a dampened towel. Every time you need to take a sheet uncover, oil it quickly, peel the sheet off and cover again with the towel. Once you're done, roll up the remaining sheets and place in the packaging sealing it up with foil or cling film. I have used pastry from the same package within 2 weeks and it was fine, if only a little dry. I wouldn't really use it after 2 weeks of opening the package...
If you can't find filopastry in your ordinary supermarket, try Turkish and international supermarkets, they are bound to have it!

And lastly may I quote a great fan of this dish:
"This is the best thing I have EVER eaten!"

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Sushi fun

Contrary to popular belief this Japanese specialty is actually quite easy to prepare at home. A Japanese friend in my first year at university taught me how to make sushi, and ever since then we hardly go out to eat it. It's much cheaper to make at home and can turn into a fun little social workshop, as friends always want to help out and learn how to prepare those little rolls.
However you need to make sure that the fish is VERY fresh! Whenever we go to the fishmonger to buy the fish in preparation for the sushi I use a little scare tactic, stressing to the person behind the counter that we are making sushi with their fish and it needs to be completely fresh otherwise we could get real bad food poisoning...they sometimes seem to reconsider once they have heard that and advise us as to which fish is fresh enough. One fish to be extra careful with is tuna (salmon is almost always really fresh but this doesn't apply to tuna). If you are not completely sure (the colour should be a deep red, if it's not too fresh it will be slightly pail and have shiny rainbowy bits) you should sear the tuna, so the outside is slightly charred but the inside still a bit raw.
The most common fish to use is salmon and tuna (as you might have guessed by now), as well as king prawns and crabsticks. We also sometimes make a small plain omelette with 2 eggs which is then cut into strips. Also if you are using tuna, try and make sure that it's not bluefin tuna, as it's under threat!

Once again I can't give exact measurement of the ingredients, as I prepare everything by eye. I usually calculate half a cup of rice per 2 people, but that's as far as my actual calculations go...


Salmon steak
Tuna steak
Packet of cooked king prawns
Small packet of crabsticks

Red pepper
Spring onion

For the rice:
Japanese rice (it's sticky!)
Rice vinegar

Seaweed sheets

Extras to serve:
Soy sauce
Pickled ginger

I like to prepare the rice a few hours ahead so that it has time to cool down.
In a large pot put the rice (as mentioned I calculate half a cup per 2 people) with double the amount of water and then a bit more (i.e. about half a cup extra per 1 cup of rice). A friend gave me the advice of then adding per 300g of rice the following amounts: 4 tablespoons of the rice vinegar, 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1/2 a tablespoon of salt. I put slightly less of each as I'm a bit scared that the tastes might overpower the rest of the ingredients. Bring the rice to the boil and simmer gently. Make sure you keep an eye on it and stir often, so it doesn't stick to the bottom. It takes about 20-30 minutes to cook. Once most of the water has been absorbed have a small taste. The rice should still be only slightly watery and al dente as it continues to absorb water once off the fire. And don't be alarmed by the slightly thick layer of substance formed while cooking. It's completely normal and it's this substance that makes the rice sticky!

About 30minutes before people arrive start cutting the fish and vegetables into strips. Cut some of the fish into slightly thicker pieces to serve as sashimi (plain raw fish).

Now the rolling can begin!
Tip: have a small bowl of water near you so you can wet your hands to make the rice handling easier and also to wash the stickyness off before rolling the seaweed.

Place a seaweed sheet infront of you, shiny side down and with the (barely visible) lines horizontal to you. Take a small handful of the rice and with your fingers flatten it out on to the sheet in a thin layer up to about half way up the sheet.

Layer the strips of vegetables and fish of your choice at the end nearest to you (bottom of the sheet)

Take the end nearest to you and roll the seaweed (over the filling) toward the upper end.

Dab the fold of the sheet with a bit of water to ensure that it sticks on properly.
Slice the roll into small bitesize pieces with a good sharp knife.

Serve with small bowls of soy sauce, wasabi paste and any other additions you may feel like.
Smiles all around!

A little tip from my dad: If you have extra vegetables and crabsticks/prawns you can make a refreshing salad by chopping them up into smaller bits and tossing them with a bit of vinegar and soy sauce.

Monday, May 16, 2011


Here is the much promised post for the recipe of tyropitakia (deriving from the words "tyri"=cheese and "pita"=pie).
Cheese, and more specifically feta is very popular in Greece. As a consequence, it is of course used in many ways and enjoyed in various dishes. You can mix it in your salad (especially choriatiki salata, which is the typical "Greek" salad), you can cook it, you can have it as a side dish for a variety of dishes such as stuffed tomatoes, lentil soup etc., or just have it there with a nice plain old bread and olives. You can even roast or barbeque it by wrapping it in kitchen foil and adding onion, pepper, tomato, oregano and olive oil to that wrap. And then there is the typical spinach and cheese pies (spanakotyropita and tyropita). You can find those in small and various versions in many bakeries or cook large sized pies for a group to enjoy. My own version of tyropitakia (which is lots of little cheese pastries) which have fed many and is the perfect finger food for parties and gatherings, comes from a family friend who first showed me years ago how to make them. They are very easy and quick to make once you know what you're doing! I have to say I buy ready made pastry, cause let's face it: if I had to make that as well I wouldn't be making them that often...
So without further ado, here is the recipe!

Ingredients (for 16 tyropitakia, easily doubled)
250gr puff pastry
200gr feta (I like to add slightly more if I have it, so they can be nice and fat!)
1 egg
1 egg yolk
pepper for seasoning and giving them a slight kick
flour for dusting
melted butter (about 20-30gr)

In preparation have a large working surface nice and clean, to roll out the pastry. Butter your baking tray. I like to first line the baking tray with baking paper and buttering that instead. This makes washing easier and the pastries don't stick to the surface while baking. Tip: take the pastry out of the fridge about 30 minutes before as it will be easier to shape and handle.

Preheat oven at 180°C.

In a bowl crumble the feta with your fingers. 
Break the egg and mix it with the feta. 
Season with pepper according to taste and mix all the ingredients with a fork (mushing the slightly larger bits of feta that might have got away). Your filling is now ready. 

Split your pastry into 2. If you're working with pre-rolled pastry, just cut it in half.
Dust your hands and work surface with some flour. Take the pastry, roll it into a ball and flatten it out with a rolling pin, shaping it into a pizza shape.

Cut the rolled out pastry into 8 "pizza slices".
Now take a small spoonful from the filling and place it on the wide end of the "slices".
Take the sides from the wide end of the slice and fold inwards toward and over the filling.
Then roll from the top toward the smaller end to shape into a croissant type shape.

Repeat with all the pieces and then place them on your buttered baking tray. Repeat the whole process with the other half of your pastry.

With a brush, butter the top of the rolled cheese parcels.

Once they are all buttered take the egg yolk and brush the parcels. This will give them a nice golden colour when baked.

Place the tray in the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until cooked through.
Leave to cool for a bit, resisting the temptation to bite into them, as they will be piping hot!

A little alteration that I experimented with last time I made these was to add some chopped sundried tomatoes to the filling and it was yum.

Photos taken by the wonderful Pau.
The batch I made for the illustrations was actually for 32 pastries (so that I could give some away and still have some for ourselves :p)

Enjoy :)