Tag: Christmas

Christmas “Kouloura”, a sweet ceremonial bread

Christmas “Kouloura”, a sweet ceremonial bread

In Zakynthos, my grandmother’s island, we make the round “Kouloura” on Christmas Eve. It is a lovely Lenten sweet ceremonial bread. Every year since I got married, we gather around the table, raise the Kouloura together in our hands, over the incense burner and chant 

Purple risotto

Purple risotto

I’ll never cease to be amazed by the incredible wealth of traditional kitchens and their ability to create hearty and delicious dishes out of almost nothing. The ingredients of this dish are simple and economical, but with a little artistry from the cook, they also 

Ossobuco with purple risotto

Ossobuco with purple risotto

Osobuko, the perfect cut of beef for a no-fuss, delicious Sunday dinner. Minimal effort is required as it only needs time, care and quality ingredients.

I have used a free-range beef shank, cut into slices of about 4 cm. This thickness allows it to keep its shape and withstand the long braising time. Theoretically, the edges don’t curl when it’s so thick, but as theory differs from practice, I make two small incisions on the right and left of the membrane that surrounds each slice. This way, even when the membrane contracts from the heat during cooking, the edges do not curl and each slice is sautéed well on both sides.

Here, I have followed the traditional recipe for Ossobuco Milanese which is usually accompanied by a yellow risotto with saffron and marrow. But wanting to give the dish a more festive tone, I combined it with traditional Greek “lachanorizo”, which means cabbage with rice. I used red cabbage, instead of white to give it this awesome purple color. They complemented each other very nicely in both on the table and tastewise, to give it a try.

I’ve made this both in the oven and in the slow cooker and I’ll give you instructions for both. The result is quite similar to just use what you have on hand and suits you. For the oven I used a large casserole that I can use straight from the hob. If you don’t have one, do all the sautéing in a heavy pot or skillet and transfer everything to a baking pan.

The recipe mentions wine. As the cooking time is long, most of the alcohol evaporates. But not all of it and children can’t metabolize even that little bit. So if you are serving young children, you can replace the amount of wine with broth and balsamic vinegar in a proportion to 2 to 1. As always, I mention homemade broth because it contains more collagen and thickens the sauce nicely.

Finally, you can make the Ossobuco from the night before and keep it in the refrigerator in its broth. In the morning you can remove the fat that has accumulated on the surface making the taste of the broth even more intense.

Recipe for Ossobuco

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons clarified butter or olive oil
  • 6 slices of ossobuco, about 4 cm. thick / 300 – 400 g each
  • flour for dredging (optional, you can also use rice flour)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 2 carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery sticks, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 sprigs rosemary or 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 heaped tbsp. tomato paste
  • 300 ml white, dry wine
  • 700 ml homemade hot broth or water (only 300 ml needed for the slow cooker)

Oven-braised Ossobuco

Season the meat well on both sides and make 2 small incisions in the membrane surrounding each slice. Dredge each slice in flour, very lightly. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed casserole over medium heat. Preheat the oven to 140 C.

Turn up the heat, add the butter and brown the slices in two batches on both sides. Once the first three are well browned, remove to a platter (or your baking pan) and add the rest. As soon as you remove them, add the onion, carrot and celery with a little salt and sauté for about 7 minutes until golden. Add the garlic and herbs and stir. Add the tomato paste and rub it well against the bottom of the casserole to incorporate. Pour in the wine and allow it to boil for 2-3 minutes. Put the meat back in the casserole (or empty the contents into the pan), add the broth, season with salt and pepper and cover with the lid (or paper and foil).

Braise low and slow in the oven, for about 2 to 2.5 hours until the meat softens well. If the sauce has not thickened to a honey like consistency, uncover and leave it in the oven for another 20 minutes at 180C or strain the broth and reduce to thicken in a saucepan. You can also blend a little of the cooked carrot in the sauce to thicken it.

Ossobuco in the slow cooker

Season the meat well on both sides and make 2 small incisions in the membrane surrounding each slice. Dredge each slice in flour, very lightly. Heat a large, heavy skillet over medium heat.

Turn up the heat, add the butter and brown the slices in two batches on both sides. Once the first three are well browned, remove to a platter and add the rest. As soon as you remove them, add the onion, carrot and celery with a little salt and sauté for about 7 minutes until golden. Add the garlic and herbs and stir. Add the tomato paste and rub it well against the bottom of the skillet to incorporate. Pour in the wine and allow it to boil for 2-3 minutes. Add the 300 ml of broth, season with salt and pepper and empty the contents in to the slow cooker insert.

Lay the slices of meat on top, cover with the lid and let it cook for 7 hours at low or 5 on high until the meat becomes very soft. To thicken the sauce, leave it on with a half-open lid for 30 minutes or strain the broth and reduce to thicken in a saucepan. You can also blend a little of the cooked carrot in the sauce to thicken it, with a stick blender.

Meanwhile, make the purple risotto with red cabbage and serve along with chopped parsley, pomegranate seeds and roasted pine nuts.

New Year’s drink with Pomegranate and tsipouro

New Year’s drink with Pomegranate and tsipouro

A festive drink to ring in the New Year with pomegranate for luck. Serve cold in a frozen jug with small shot glasses on the side. Leave a bowl of pomegranate seeds for guests to add to their glass. I use fresh pomegranate juice. You 

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, 

Grilled Talagani with chutney

Grilled Talagani with chutney

The Talagani is a cheese closely related to the traditional Greek Mastelo, Formaella and mostly with the Cypriot Halloumi. It is produced exclusively from sheep’s and goat’s milk and, like its cousins, has a robust texture that allows you to grill it even straight over coal without losing its shape. It is often kept in our fridge for a quick snack or an easy appetizer. Its chewy texture and savory, full flavor blends very nicely with most chutneys. Although there are many excellent ready-made options available, here I preferred to serve it with my homemade chutney with pumpkin, apricot and almonds to combine both different flavors and textures.

Ingredients

  • 5 slices of Talagani (or Haloumi) cheese
  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil
  • Some fresh spearmint Leaves
  • Chutney of your choice

Heat a cast iron grill pan on medium heat for about 5 minutes. Once heated, lightly grease the surface and immediately add the cheese slices (you may need to do this in batches). Grill for two minutes on each side. If it seems like its sticking, don’t worry, as soon as it’s cooked it will be released from the pan. Serve immediately with a little mint and the chutney.