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Braised beef with zucchini

Braised beef with zucchini

This braised beef with zucchini (or courgettes if you prefer) is a classic Greek summer dish. By early summer, the farmers’ market stalls are filled with bright green zucchini and sun blushed tomatoes, perfect for this delicious casserole. As my grandmother used to make it,…

Pea soup

Pea soup

This pea soup is fast, delicious, nutritious and is made with minimal effort and prep. We all have days when we just don’t feel like cooking, but still want something healthy, tasty and good value with household staples. I’ve used frozen fine peas here. If…

Salt cod with chickpeas – Bacalao con Garbanzos

Salt cod with chickpeas – Bacalao con Garbanzos

Salt cod with chickpeas is also made in the island of Crete , however, we will be making Bacalao con Garbanzos, a version of the traditional Spanish recipe. This is a healthy, colorful, aromatic dish packed with nutriens from the vegetables, pulses and fish. It is also well suited to quarantine cooking as all ingredients can be kept for a while in the fridge and pantry.

When I say a “a version”, it is because traditional recipes have many presentations, as they have been developed over the years, by generations and generations. So, they appear in different versions with slight differences in technique or ingredients, according to what’s available from one place to another. However, what they usually have in common, is the economic management of seasonal materials, as well as their wise combinations, maximizing nourishment and enjoyment.

In this case, the fish enhances the absorption of iron from chickpeas, while vegetables, such as peppers and tomatoes, supplement vitamins and nutrients. The smoked paprika completely differentiates the dish from it’s greek counterpart. You can replace it or mix it with sweet paprika if you don’t think your young partners will accept it.

It’s also a traditional dish of Catholic Lent. I imagine that the dried legumes and the salt-preserved fish were suitable for the end of winter and the beginning of spring, when the new crops are still scarce. Such delicious dishes are meant comfort us until the rich bounty of warmer seasons arrives.

Cod with chickpeas, gently steweed together for a deliciously tender dish

It’s a dish that was cooked in quarantine conditions. So, all its ingredients can wait in your pantry (which includes the modern fridge in my book), now that we’re limiting our market visits. The cod is preserved in salt, the chickpeas are dry, the tomatoes are canned and onions and garlic can wait for us patiently in the right conditions. Peppers keep in the fridge, but if you don’t have fresh ones, you can use a jar of roasted red ones. You’re just going to add them towards the end along with the fish, since they’re already cooked.

Salt cod needs to be rehydrated and de-salted. So, ideally, preparation would start two days before cooking. First you need to pull off the cod’s skin with the help of a sharp knife. Then you put it in a large glass basin with plenty of water to soak. You can place a small plastic grid in the bottom of the basin, so that when the melted salt falls to the botom the fish will remain higher up. Cover the basin and place in the fridge. You change the water every six hours over 48 hours. You can de-salt it in 24 hours, but you will need to change the water every 3-4 hours. I do it over 48 hours, alongside the preparation of the chickpeas.

For the chickpeas now, we’ll soak them for 24 hours and then sprout them for another 24 hours, as described here. This way they become easier to digest and more nutritious. Before cooking the dish, you will need to gently boil the chickpeas for 40′, if they have only been soaked and 20′ if they have also been sprouted. Boil them until soft but not melting. You can replace them of course with two drained and washed cans of chickpeas. They are not readily available in Greece.

Salt Cod and Chickpeas Recipe

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 kg dried chickpeas
  • 800 gr. salted cod
  • 2 red peppers, roughly chopped
  • 2 green peppers, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, sliced and optionally 5-6 pearl onions, whole
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • 400 gr. tomato, grated
  • 1 tbsp smoked or sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp turmeric, ground
  • 1 tsp cumin, ground
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 120 ml cider vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, be very light-handed with the salt as the cod is well seasoned

You soak the cod and soak & sprout and boil the chickpeas as above. Keep half a liter of the boiling liquid and strain them.

Heat a large, wide saucepan or a deep skillet. Heat the oil and sauté the onions, leek and peppers with a little salt, for 5-7 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, bay leaf and cumin. As soon as they release their aroma, add paprika and turmeric and stir well. Next, pour in the vinegar. Once it’s almost evaporated, stir in the chickpeas, tomato and half the water. Keep the rest of the water aside, and add a little if the sauce seems dry during cooking.

Bring to the boil, cover and lower the heat. Let the sauce simmer for 20′-30′ until reduced. Cut the cod into large bite-sized pieces. Then remove the lid and carefully add the fish, pouring the chickpea and vegetable sauce over it with a spoon. Let it simmer for 8 minutes uncovered or until the fish is cooked through and easily flaked. Taste and season if necessary.

Serve if preferred with chopped parsley, lemon zest and a green salad.

One for the cod, one for the chickpeas and one for the ManaCooks, who cooked them…
No-knead turmeric bread with sunflower seeds

No-knead turmeric bread with sunflower seeds

Now that you’ve learnt how to make your own no-knead bread and may even have tried the olive bread with herbs, it might be time to change it up a little with this dutch oven variation for turmeric bread with seeds, a bright yellow crumb…

Braised cabbage with lamb – Kapuska

Braised cabbage with lamb – Kapuska

Winter cabbages are so sweet and tasty, especially when braising gives the such a silky taste. Stuffed cabbage leaves may very well be my winter favorite, but we’ll leave those for another day. In this recipe we are looking a a very easy, fast, midweek,…

 Skillet chicken with creamed beat leaves

 Skillet chicken with creamed beat leaves

If you’re looking to add more greens to your plates, this is a great start. Beet leaves are delicious, sweeter than spinach which will score points with the kids and so pretty. Combined with ever popular chicken and cream that makes everything taste better, its a sure thing. I prefer to use free range chickens, here is some more info on that.

I always buy beets whith their leaves as they are a sign of freshness. I slice the bunch of leaves off the beets and give them a quick wash. I then put roll them up in parchment paper with some olive oil, place them in the dutch oven and roast them for about an hour. Once they’ve cooled down a bit, you can easily rub off their skins. You can use gloves or peel them under running water to avoid pink stains on you hands.

While the beets are roasting, I soak the leaves in lots of water with a little vinegar. They ‘re ready after 2-3 washes. I save the tiny tender leaves to use fresh in our salads and braise the larger leaves to make a delicious, creamy side for out chicken. They will seem like a lot but they wilt down to nothing so you can add them in batches if they don’t fit initially in the pan.

The best thing about this recipe is that it can be made in 30′ using a single pot, so you can enjoy it on a weekday without having to wash up half your kitchen afterwards. You are going to need a large pan, I used my Lodge skillet that I am falling in love with. It is so easy to use.

 Recipe

  • 2 tbsp ghee or olive oil
  • 4 free range chicken breasts
  • 2 tsp coriander, ground
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 1 big bunch of beet greens
  • 250 ml stock, hot
  • 1 small potato, grated
  • 250 ml heavy cream
  • Nutmeg

Warm up the skillet on a medium heat. Dry the fillets well and season with coriander salt and pepper. Add half the oil and pan fry for 8 minutes on each side until cooked through. Set aside.

Heat the remaining oil and cook the onion until softened, about 5′. Add the garlic, stir through and add the beer leaves in batches to wilt with the hot stock and the grated potato. Allow to simmer for 5′. Add the cream and grate in 1/3 of the nutmeg or to taste and simmer for another 5′. Return the chicken to the pan to heat through and serve.

Whole braised cauliflower kapama

Whole braised cauliflower kapama

Kapama is a traditional way of braising in Greece, by placing a pot on top of a baking tray. I first tasted cauliflower kapama made the traditional way at my Aunt Sophia’s. This is an everyday, simple dish, usually served during the period of Lent…

Greek Sofigado stew with quince

Greek Sofigado stew with quince

Sofigado is a traditional recipe from the Ioanian island of Lefkada made with yearling goat or lamb. Modern versions include beef, but the strong deep-flavored sweet and sour sauce really complements darker red meats. As potatoes used to be scarce towards the end of autumn,…

Olive Bread with herbs

Olive Bread with herbs

When I first wrote about the wonderful no-knead bread dough that waits patiently in the fridge for whenever you need it, I promised you variations like this delicious olive-bread with herbs. It can be a quick snack on its own. If you have 3 minutes more you can also make a perfect sandwich or bruschetta with:

  • Feta and tomato or
  • Cheese spread and red peppers or even
  • Kefir cheese with grilled vegetables

Follow the instructions for the basic dough, which you can keep 10-14 days in the refrigerator. When you want to make some for olive bread, you take the amount you need, roll it out, add your filling and roll it back again. Fold the edges, let it rise and it’s ready to bake! It shouldn’t take you more than five minutes.

See the detailed instructions here:

Ingredients

  • No-knead dough that has fermented for at least 12 hours in the refrigerator
  • Half a cup of Kalamata or green pitted olives, sliced in half or in slices
  • 1-2 pinches of oregano

Every time you want to make bread, you first prepare a piece of parchment with a little flour on your counter. Preheat your dutch oven with the lid on at 230 C. Take the dough out of the fridge. Sprinkle with a little flour, so that the dough does not stick to your hands. Pull out a piece of dough about half a kilo. As the dough is very elastic, it helps to cut it with the kitchen scissors.

Place it on the floured surface and very quickly fold the edges towards the center, going around to form a ball. Turn the ball over with folds under it and sprinkle with flour.

The dough is very soft. So, roll it out gently into an oblong shape, approximately 2-3 cm thick.

Spread the olives and oregano all over the surface.

Roll up the dough carefully, without pressing it too hard.

Fold the edges of the roll inward and turn it over with the folds downwards.

Turn the loaf with your hands around the sides, to give it a round shape again and let it rise for 40′.

Before baking your loaf, slash a deep cross into the dough with a sharp bread knife and sprinkle with flour. Prepare the spot where you will place the hot dutch oven and make room for the hot lid next to it. Take the pot out of the oven using gloves. Set it down in a safe place, take off the lid and leave one glove on the lid (otherwise I tend to forget how hot it is and grab the lid with bare hands). Holding the parchment paper taut with both hands, transfer the loaf as it is into the center of the dutch oven carefully. Use GLOVES to cover it and put it back in the oven.

Bake covered for 20′ and for a further 10 minutes without the lid. If you are making a larger loaf, adjust the baking time by 5′. The maximum baking time, if you use all the dough, is 30 ‘ covered and 20 ‘ without the lid.  

Baked eggs in two ways

Baked eggs in two ways

I was very lucky to see a recipe of Jamie Oliver’s for baked eggs on Sunday morning. I happened to have all the ingredients for the Mexican version and decided to try it. I admire him incredibly for his quality, well-designed recipes. His simple presentation…