Souvenirs of our beloved Crete
This year we had been blessed with a lot fruits from the garden and now the plums (European plums or prunes) are just ripe enough.
I decided to create a side dish, which goes with meat (for example roasted pork, chicken or game), but now I think that this (perhaps with less salt, and adapting the spices to your taste) would be lovely as a dessert with vanilla ice cream, Greek plain yogurt or over your morning muesli (or cereals) . Next time…
For the preparation, I used allspice, finely crushed coriander and pepper, but other combinations would work as well. Alternatives could be cinnamon, cardamom, ground ginger, cloves, grated orange zest, garam masala and so on.
Juicy Prune Compote with Spices
- 12 prunes
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ½ teaspoon ground allspice
- 1 pinch pepper
- ½ teaspoon finely crushed coriander seeds
- 1 pinch of salt
- 3 tablespoons water
- 3 tablespoon brandy (or grappa, whisky, …)
- 1 tablespoon butter or margarine
- Wash the prunes, cut into halves and remove the pits.
- In a small bowl combine sugar spices, salt, water and brandy
- In a non-sticky frying pan, heat the butter at medium heat and fry the prunes on the skin side for a few minutes until you see that the skin begins to brown.
- Pour the mixture over the prunes and turn the prunes cut side down.
- Cook until the juice reduces to a thick medium thick sauce and the cut side of the prunes begins to turn brown. Don’t let burn the sugar!
- Immediately remove from the skillet and place in a serving plate.
This year we had a very warm summer and the garden gave us a lot delicious figs, which we shared with friends.
However, it was only during our holidays on Crete after noticing that most of the figs fall on the floor and, as I hate food waste, I decided to try to dry some figs and prepare a great souvenir of the summer in a jar.
The good thing we had for this, beside the figs of course was the sun; the strong Greek sun is best to preserve these figs and for this reason, I searched in the internet how I should proceed.
To make them more special, I decided to modify an Italian recipe (from the *Puglie* region) and so I started to collect ripe but still firm green and black figs and to dry them in the sun!
Figs can be dried halved or cut in two pieces; I opted to cut them into two halves as the effect of the sun would be stronger drying the figs quickly and the rays would destroy all possible parasites.
The best way to dry them would be on a grid, but since I did not have this, I used my normal baking try with a black baking foil, which attracted the sun and kept the heat; in two days, the figs were dry enough, some of them almost to dry! J
If you don’t have the opportunity to collect and dry the figs, you should opt for the dry figs from the store and halve them with a scissor taking care to keep them partially attached.
These figs are an unusual addition to the holiday table and make a unique Christmas gift from the kitchen!
Dried Figs stuffed with Almonds and Orange Zest
- 50 dried figs, butterflied
- 1 orange, peel only removed with a vegetable peeler and cut into small pieces
- 50 almonds
- 1 tablespoon powdered sugar
- 1 pinch o cinnamon
- 10-20 bay leaves
- Add a piece of orange peel on one side of the butterflied fig.
- Add an almond on each it and cover with the other side. Press them well together.
- Bake for 10 minutes at 180°C/350°F, Check on the color and temperature as cooking time may vary from oven to oven!
- In the meantime, combine the powdered sugar with the cinnamon.
- Switch off the oven, take out the figs out, dust with sugar and place them in the oven for other 5 minutes.
- In order to store them for a long time, place the still warm figs into sterilized jars layered and with several bay leaves between the layers for added flavor. Store the jar in a cool dry place.
Tip1: After sun drying the figs, some of them resulted very dry, too dry for this preparation, for this reason I placed them in bowl, sprinkled them with water (about tablespoons for 5 cups of dried figs) covered them, and placed in the microwave for 2 two minutes. After resting for about 10 minutes they were ready for this preparation.
Tip2: Quartered walnuts and orange zest by lemon or tangerine zest may replace Almonds!
If you have a garden with a lot of delicious ripe but still firm tomatoes and you wish to save the for the winter, this is the perfect recipe for you!
I used San Marzano Tomatoes, but if you have only cherry tomatoes this will go as well simply skipping the peeling procedure and starting form point 9; reduce time and heat as need until the tomatoes reduce their juices but don’t turn to dry.
These slow-roasted tomatoes are fancy food ingredients which can be served as appetizer or addition to sandwich, salad, or pizza.
- 1-2 kg San Marzano or Roma tomatoes (or not to big tomatoes)
- salt to taste
- olive oil
- herbs to taste
- Bring water to boil in a big pot (about 2/3 of pot content) . Prepare a big colander that fits in the pot.
- Fill the kitchen sink with cold water, adding ice if possible.
- Make a cross incision on tomatoes peel using a sharp knife.
- Place tomatoes in a colander.
- Place the colander in the hot water.
- After 30 seconds remove from the hot water and place them in the cold water.
- Leave them again for about 30 seconds then remove them and sit them somewhere to drain and rest for a couple of minutes.
- Remove the skin of the tomatoes.
- Halve the tomatoes.
- Remove seeds with their water.
- Place cut side down on a baking sheet and bake for approximately one hour at 150°C/300°F.
- Remove from the oven and let cool down.
- Serve with olive oil and sprinkle some salt and herbs or preserve these in jars.
To preserve then for the winter:
- Tightly pack the confit tomatoes and with their juices into 500 ml jars within 1 cm of the tops and screw on lids.
- Place in a large, heavy-based saucepan and pour in enough water to cover the jars, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 40 mins. Turn off the heat and leave to cool in the water.
A tagine is such a wonderful way to prepare and serve a complete meal at once.
The combination of meat, vegetable and carbs makes this possible and super easy!
The special spice mix, which I call “Moroccan Spice Mix”, is a wonderful very versatile balanced combination of flavours; I use this in many different ways, mostly spontaneously according to the ingredients I have on hand at home.
In the recipe below, I added some honey from our own production; this made the plate really really delicious!
Chicken Tagine with Chickpeas
Moroccan Spice Mix:
- 2 teaspoon ras el hanout spice mix, if available, optional
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 500 g chicken skinned, cut into big pieces (if you prefer deboned)
- 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into quarters (wedges)
- 1/2 lemon with peel, cut vertically in wedges (skin on)
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger, peeled and chopped
- 6 teaspoons Moroccan Spices Mix (see above)
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- 4 Roma tomatoes
- 1 cup chicken or vegetal broth
- 1 can chickpeas, about 2 cups cooked chickpeas
- ½ lemon juice
- 2 tablespoon honey
- 3 tablespoon raisins (+ some for decoration)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Parsley for decoration
- Prepare in advance the ingredients taking care to prepare the tomatoes. To peel the tomatoes dip them in boiling water for two minutes, place in cold water and remove the skin. Cut into half and with your fingers remove the seed, cut into 1-2 cm pieces.
- Heat the oil in a non-stick skillet (provided of lid) and fry chicken for 2 minutes, add onion and lemon wedges and fry for other 3 minutes.
- Add garlic, ginger and spices. Stir fry shortly until fragrant.
- Add tomatoes and sauté for 1-2 more minutes. Set aside a few pieces tomatoes, one lemon and one onion wedge for decoration.
- Add the broth and stir well-
- Add chickpeas, lemon juice, honey and raisins.
- Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Cover and let simmer covered for about 30 minutes or better one until the chicken results tender. Stir and add little water from time to time as it should not result dry.
- Just before serving top with the reserved lemon and onion wedges, the pieces of tomatoes, a few raisins. Cover for a few seconds.
- Top with parsley and serve with a smile!
Fascination “Bread”! Bread is life and the preparation is magic! I always love to see how the dough is rising and how it grows while baking! I love baking bread so much, that I could stay days in experimenting and baking again and again; if possible in the wooden oven. This is a wonder, which occurs every time I make my dough!
How to knead dough ad how to give the shape to the loaf is something that need to learned and some exercise is needed. I strongly recommend to check the internet and look at videos about this topic.
In this post I give you a simply basic recipe, you should try to follow this and then make your variations.
During the past 2 years I started to make bread with sourdough (100 % hydration aka same quantity of flour and water in the culture), but this does not mean that sourdough recipes cannot be converted in recipes for commercial yeast. Keep in mind: you may substitute “1/2 cup sourdough starter” simply with “1/3 cup flour, 1/4 cup water and 1 teaspoon yeast (instant, dried or fresh)” and it works perfectly! The rising time will be different: wild yeast (sourdough) is usually slower, but this is only a question of planning and experience.
For standardized baking recipes the exactly amount of the ingredients is required and for this reason the weight of the ingredients is an important factor, but if you do not have the possibility to check the weigh or you need simply a quick recipe, this goes very well and I made very good experiences with this.
In my case 1 cup = 220 ml water and 1 cup = 125 – 130 g all-purpose flour (I checked the weight); the weight of the flour depends on the kind of the flour and the adsorption of water is different. This dough should not to be too wet (about 60% hydration), for this, I can work this independently of the kind of flour and I seldom need to add more flour or liquid.
I change the kind of flour to my need and inspiration, I can remember the great whole-wheat flour I used in Norway was excellent, but also the mixed grains flour I bought in Italy was superb!
I you need a smaller amount of dough, the simplest way is to use a smaller cup or a glass and I reduce the amount of the needed yeast.
If I know that the flour I will use for the second rising is “heavy” lot of grains and maybe seed, I prefer to use plain white flour for the first rising.
Variations for the dough:
It’s in the mixture for the second rising where I mostly add other ingredients; these may be savory but also sweet or even sugar if I want to make brioches! Here a few examples: olives, herbs, chopped sun dried tomatoes, nuts, sunflower seeds, dried figs, candied orange zest…
Variation for the filling:
This recipe can be also used for filled breads, e.g. Turkish “pides”; during our holiday in Norway, we filled the bread simply with canned tuna fish mixed with pesto (+salt/pepper).
Variation for the topping:
The easiest way is simply to dust the loaf with flour and make some cuts (aka scoring the bread), but nice results can be get sprinkling some seed , brushing with water, milk or oil for a focaccia after flatting the bread making holes and sprinkling them with water, salt and rosemary.
Some of my recipes based on this water/flour proportions:
- Mixed Grain Sourdough Bread
- Pane Bruco – Caterpillar Bread
- Focaccia ai Pomodorini con Pasta Madre- Sourdough Focaccia with Cherry Tomatoes
- Sourdough Whole Wheat Pita
Basic Bread Recipe
For the basic bread you need:
Starter (equivalent to 1/2 cup sourdough starter):
- 1/3 cup flour
- ¼ cup water
- 1 teaspoon instant yeast
- 1/2 cup starter (see above)
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup flour
- 2 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons oil (if using white flour I love to add some olive oil)
- Additional ingredients to taste
Topping (make you selection or play with you phantasy)
- Check the yeast combining the ingredients for starter and checking after 20 minutes (or according the package) if the yeast is alive.
- Combine all the ingredients for the first rising into a big bowl, cover and let sit until spongy. The time depends of the kind of yeast (if using sourdough starter I combine these the evening before or early in the morning) and the temperature.
- Add the ingredients for the second rising knead shortly and let lit for about 20 minutes. Now knead again until smooth. I perform this step directly in the bowl using a dough spatula and folding over the bread until done. Let rise a few hour until doubled.
- Now it’s time to shape the bread (for the suggestions check at the end of the recipe)
- The last proof depends on the temperature, in winter the oven (switched off, light on) is the best place for this step, but the temperature should not exceed 30°C!
- When the bread is almost doubled it’s time to preheat the oven to 220°C.
- Bake in at 220°C for about 20 minutes or until begins to turn light brown and if you press the crust you feel it is crunchy enough, if not, bake for a few minute again.
Shaping bread suggestions;
- Cut into two portions (don’t deflate), dust well with flour, transfer to the baking tray and twist gently.
- Shape to baguettes and score as in these videos: https://www.kingarthurflour.com/videos/how-to-shape-a-baguette and https://www.kingarthurflour.com/videos/how-to-slash-a-baguette
- Make pain d’epi (shape as baguette and cut): https://www.kingarthurflour.com/videos/how-to-shape-a-baguette and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aN5QL_kaowQ
- Make a boule: http://www.finecooking.com/article/how-to-shape-a-boule
Spring, sun, flowers, herbs and missing Crete!
During my walk through the garden I noticed that the fist wine leaves were almost big enough to be used for one of my favourite Greek dishes: dolmadakias (diminutives of dolmades)! Now in early spring the leaves are very light, tender and even if even still small, I decided to try to make this without meat (lamb or beef
As the same times I had some asparagus on hand, I decided to prepare also the egg-lemons sauce, which is perfect for both preparations!
Usually for this recipe, we use pine nuts, but as did not have such of them just now at home, I decided to uses some previously roasted pumpkin seeds; and WOW! This was real great!
I collected only about 30 leaves about 10-12 cm wide (yes real small, but tender!) and these made 3-4 cm sized dolamadakias.
Note: this dish often served lukewarm and the lemon leaves would taste even better the next day.
- 30 young tender fresh grape leaves (double the filling and the sauce if you have big leaves), washed and stem removed
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 small onion
- ½ cup rice
- 1 cup vegetal broth (or simply the hot water you used to prepare the leaves + salt)
- 1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley chopped
- 1 tablespoon fresh dill, copped
- 2 tablespoons, chopped roasted pine nuts (or roasted pumpkin seeds)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 egg
- 1 lemon, juice of
- 1/2 lemon, grated peel of
- 1 cup water (I used drained liquid form the stuffed leaves + the blanching water for the leaves)
- 1 tablespoon cornstarch
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Additional lemon juice
- Bring about 1 liter of water to boil and place the leaves in hot water. Drain the leaves after 3 minutes (preserve one cup of water). Set aside and don’t discard the water.
- Fry the onion in the oil just until translucent, add the rice and the broth. Reduce to simmer.
- Add the herbs and seed, cook until the water is adsorbed for about 6-8 minutes, the rice will not be cooked through, but this just fine. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
- Place a small amount of this filling (about 1 teaspoon or more if the leaves are big) on the backside of the leaf near the stem and then close it. For this step, I first fold the left and right side of the leaf toward the center and I roll it up starting from the side of the stem (like the spring rolls).
- Place one tablespoon of olive oil on the bottom of you pot, and then place the stuffed leaves one by one, near each other, opening side down so that they don’t move. If you have more leaves you some leaves to cover the bottom of the pot or (even better) a few thin sliced potatoes (addition to your meal)!
- Try to make two layers of the leaves in the pot (size depends on the leaves and the pot!)
- Grate le lemon zest, set aside; juice the lemon and set this aside as well.
- Place parts of the peel or additional lemon slices over the stuffed leaves, cover with the water (add to the water previously salt to taste), add about 1 third of the lemon juice as well.
- Cover with a small plate the stuffed leaves, so that they don’t move while cooking. Cover with the lid and simmer for about 40 minutes (adding some more water if needed). Drain out the liquid and use it for the sauce.
- If you have rice leftovers, cook them in a small saucepot with water as a risotto until done.
- For the egg-lemon sauce blend together the egg, the lemon juice the lemon zest, the drained liquid from the stuffed leaves, the cornstarch and the olive oil.
- Very slowly heat the sauce in a small saucepot until it thickens (do not let it boil but add more water if needed). Adjust salt and pepper. If you need add more lemon juice to taste.
- Serve the stuffed leaves with this sauce.