Mellow Yellow

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I’ve just heard it on the news today uttered by a cardiologist in fact, that butter is good for you. Yay! At last is all I can say. For years I have firmly believed that butter, a natural product has got to be better for you than margarine, a mostly synthetic and wholly unnatural product. I haven’t cooked or eaten margarine or any made up spread for nearly 30 years and only use olive oil and butter. I have long been an advocate of a little of what you fancy does you good and I certainly haven’t fancied margarine. The scientists say that even cooking with sunflower oil, an oil I considered healthy, is bad for you as apparently when heated to high temperatures it changes it into something that is not healthy http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-33675975. These days trying to navigate your way to eating a healthy diet using the ‘scientific’ evidence is like a minefield and changes all the time. It used to be that butter and all saturated fat was ‘bad’ for you and sent you on a speedy road to a heart attack. Now saturated fat is man’s best friend even cooking with lard, apparently is better than cooking at high temperatures with sunflower oil; well  bring on the beef dripping sandwiches I say.

In the same conversation with the cardiologist, now wait for this bombshell, eating full fat cheese, milk and yoghurt is far better even for slimmers than semi skimmed and low fat.

If you stick to a diet that is a close to nature as possible you can’t go far wrong, that is the less man has had a hand in producing it the better; the more opportunity he has had to tinker with the produce or animal, add or subtract, mix and match the less you know what he has actually done. It seems to me quite often the results of scientific studies lay themselves open to misinterpretation depending on who is wanting the results and for what agenda. As I get older I listen to the latest finding with a good dose of scepticism.

The mediterranean diet as we all know is one of the healthiest, particularly including a great variety of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds into our diets, eat this and you can’t go far wrong.

Cookery Book Heaven

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Needless to say I love cookery books; it would be strange if I didn’t  as I have a large recipe section in my book ‘Androula’s Kitchen’ ( buy your copy on this site). So I was delighted to receive for Christmas ‘Jerusalem ‘by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi.I have been a great lover of Ottolenghi recipes ever since my sister introduced me to them. Ottolenghi is an Israeli and Tamimi  a Palestinian  were both born in Jerusalem and now are working partners in London. His recipes have a great deal of depth of flavour as they usually include many herbs and spices.’Jerusalem’ is one of those books I love because it tells stories as well as giving you recipes and all accompanied by a rich array of fascinating photos of periphery subjects as well as mouthwatering food. It is a book born out of a sort of longing  for the food of his early years; most of us, if we are lucky, have fond memories of our mother’s cooking as we were growing up, I certainly do.

Another favourite author of mine is Claudia Roden, a fascinating writer who has a multicultural background, born in Cairo studied in Paris and moved to London.Both write about mediterranean food; Roden covers Egypt, Greece and the Lebanon in her book ‘Mediterranean Cooking’ which accompanied a BBC series many years ago; Ottolenghi and Tamimi mostly the  Lebanon. Many years ago I went to Granada on a dance holiday and part of the memorable experience was the variety of eating places we were taken to. My favourite apart from the vegetarian restaurant; yes they do exist in Spain; was the restaurant in the Arab quarter , the Albaysin, which served delicious Lebanese food.

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I think out of all mediterranean food Lebanese is my favourite, it is of course a mixture of all the cultures that have passed through its regions over centuries much like Cyprus. With Cyprus it shares many dishes and through ‘Jerusalem’ I am learning even more similarities. Kibbeh, houmous, Mahulabieh, bourekia, these I knew  but there are so many other cross-overs it is fascinating. Just before Christmas, I was watching Rick Stein’s latest BBC series ‘Venice to Istanbul’ I was enticed into buying the book after watching Stein cook many of the recipes he picked up in Turkey, especially dishes using pearl barley which intrigued me as my only memory of pearl barley was when my mum cooked neck of lamb stew with dumplings and boy was that good. I was pleased to see in ‘Jerusalem ‘ a recipe for a pearl barley vegetarian risotto. I tried this on Sunday and it was as promised truly scrumptious. So if like me you love mediterranean food these are books I highly recommend and happy eating….I must stop buying books.

Sunny Side Up

It’s a beautiful day in uptown Arodhes if a tad windy…a great day for drying the washing. I have been here three weeks and in that time I have been in turn: pleasantly warm in the February sun, rained on non-stop for a week, snowed in, iced out, and hailed on, freezing cold and now back as you were, pleasantly warm in the February sunshine. Such is the roller-coaster ride of early Spring weather in Cyprus. I have been told though that this winter has been exceptionally harsh and prolonged.

Yesterday I had a day planned to go to Limassol and the day was perfect, clear blue sky and the temperature hovering around 20 degrees. My first port of call… pardon the pun, was to visit a young pioneering couple, Maria and Peter in Polemidia on the outskirts of Limassol and fast becoming swallowed up in the ever-spreading town’s suburbia.They arrived in Cyprus just a year ago with a vision of setting up an organic farm on Maria’s father’s land in Polemidia. Peter is American from Long Island originally and set out to study art but somehow got side- tracked into farming after doing an internship on an organic farm in Kentucky. To quote from their website Parhelia : “He completed apprenticeships through ATTRA on organic farms in three different states in the U.S., where he learned how to grow vegetables organically, save seeds, raise healthy animals and generally live off the land in sustainable ways. His favourite Cypriot foods are and tahinopita.”

Maria also studied art in the States after gaining a Fulbright scholarship which stipulates she must return to Cyprus after her studies for a set length of time to work in her chosen field of study.”She is a visual artist, educator and food lover. She has worked in an art museum, a university, an organic dairy farm and a farm-to-table restaurant, among other places. Having grown up in Cyprus, she recalls summers eating under the grapevine, chickens, and other living things her grandfather used to tend to.” So between them they worked out a plan for the future to combine both their loves of food and the land and have after a lot of hard work established the beginning of their dream. Such a project will take time to establish and develop into a thriving business of course but the enthusiasm and perseverance are there. It will take time to get to know both literally and metaphorically, how the land lies, what crops work best which crops take too much labour and which just grow themselves. Already they have discovered that the climate and soil of Cyprus enables most crops to grow vigorously and well, a walk around the plot showed evidence of this with some huge cabbages and cauliflowers that would do well in any garden produce show in the UK.

The land is divided up into two sections one where the crops are grown and one that is ear-marked to be more of an orchard. At the moment it has olive trees and some young fruit trees with many roaming chickens and a few clutches of young chicks. A magnificent white cockerel was showing whose boss and strutting his stuff. Amongst the many crops grown and planned to be grown, the crops available to harvest at the moment are :- cabbages, cauliflowers, chard, Cavalo Nero or Tuscan cabbage, some beautiful tender stem  broccoli, enormous fennel, kale, parsley, radichio and eggs. Every Saturday morning they open their doors to the public to allow them to come and buy this great produce. Check out their website Parhelia for details of where they are and times they are open.

As my regular readers will know, in the UK I belong to a community garden and whilst talking to Peter as we walked around the vegetable plots, I realised how much I had learned during my time there. Happily chatting about using liquid nettle feed and natural ways of deterring pests, recognising the crops common and not so common. We sat happily chatting in the sunshine talking of their plans and eating the delicious kataifi made by Maria’s mother as part of the Green Monday celebrations.

In Cyprus now there are quite a few small groups of people who are keen to move in a different direction to the focus of the majority and in a way go back to the roots of a way of living that, until very recently, was the norm all over Cyprus. In so doing they bring with them techniques and knowledge which will enable a better, healthier way of life without the hardship of previous generations and a much more environmentally and ecologically sound way of living on the land and working in harmony with nature. This island has so much potential in terms of its younger generation and riches of the land, I believe the future is very bright. I hope in my own very small way I can show examples of what is happening and showcase the people I get to know about and meet and in so doing promote Cyprus.

Pater and Maria admit is isn’t easy but they knew it would be a challenge maybe the reality was harder than they imagined but they are here and doing it. Please support them by visiting on a Saturday morning to buy their beautiful bounty, the crops are ever changing, broad beans, peas and artichokes are on their way as well as many more crops when in season.

Smoke Gets in your Eyes on Thursday

I can’t believe that nearly a week has gone by since my last post. To borrow a phrase from a well known Christmas song “The weather outside is frightful” and we have had everything this week from dramatic thunderstorms to buckets full of hail  and even snow here and there. The sun, thank goodness came out on Thursday and this afternoon just to show us that it is still there, so hopefully things can only get better. The countryside is looking tremendous at the moment with very green lush fields, the trees foliage is all very fresh in their greys and greens with the dramatic contrast of huge wet ochre coloured boulders of rock striated with black  thrusting out up the hillside road.

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Even though to me it seems like Easter is a long way off the preparations are beginning now with the run up to Lent and Green Monday when everyone starts the 50 day fast, celebrations and frivolity pave the way. Starting with tzuknopempti which roughly translated  means ‘Thursday when the air is filled with the smell of meat cooking over charcoal’. I was lucky enough to be invited to a big extended family gathering where the sheftelies and souvlakia were cooked in abundance by the men, local mushrooms which grow at this wet time of year were picked and cooked with onions by the women and bowls of salad, laid out together with lountza a smoked loin of pork. Pittas were toasted on the charcoal along with some local halloumi and a truly delicious meal was followed by sweet pastries and cakes. Brandy, beer and wine were drunk along with the usual Coke for the children. Much animated discussion took place during the course of the meal, the focus being politics as Cypriots have been following closely the Greek elections and post election discussions concerning the European Union.

Then it was time for the singing, at the head of the table was the patriarch, father and grandfather of the family who was looking very smart and well groomed for the occasion. He started off the proceedings with renditions of what sounded like very melancholy songs that could have dated back hundreds of years. There is also a tradition unique to Cyprus I am told, whereby two people sing a two line verse they make up as they go  and the second person answers it with another two line verse, a bit like a rapping duo I guess. The mother and father gave a grand rendition of this art and were greatly appreciated by the gathering and even though I may not have understood the sentiments I too appreciated the performance. Then it was the turn of the daughters to sing some traditional Laiko songs with everyone clapping along in that off beat rhythm that is so distinctive. Next of course it was the turn of the children and a young girl produced her guitar and music stand and gave us a touchingly beautiful rendition of a traditional song, her brother followed suit in a brave attempt to match his sister. Finally they turned their attention to some pop songs of the moment including ‘Wrecking Ball’ the hit of Miley Cyrus which seemed to go on forever but was very funny to watch how much they enjoyed  themselves particularly with the chorus when they could let rip.

There are Grapes at the Bottom of My Garden

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In Cyprus it is the grape harvesting season and even here in the UK near where I live we have vineyards. Just in the next village there is a vineyard, Tinwood, producing sparkling white wine and delicious it is too. I even have a vine at the bottom of my garden which this year is laden with ripened grapes. Last year, I guess because of the awful weather the winter before, I got very few but this year they are back to abundance. Because we had a lot of sunshine this summer, a phrase I’m sure you who live in Cyprus will puzzle over – summer surely that is always sunny? – the grapes are nearly sweet, that is to say they are certainly edible without having to screw your face up into a grimace.

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So this year I have been juicing them to make a delicious drink which I am sure must be packed with goodness. In past years when they didn’t achieve optimum ripeness I used them by crushing and then cooking and straining out  the juice  then adding a little sugar and lots of garlic to make a thick sauce I could keep and use to add to stews for extra richness. I have also made chutney with them, I have used a pear and grape recipe which was very good.I always leave some for the birds as I so enjoy watching the starlings descend in a squaky,, noisy raid to gobble them up.

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In Cyprus however there is far more choice as there is a positive cornucopia of grapes and not just wine is made from them. My favourite product is soujouko or shoushouko, that strange looking string of knobbly sausage that hangs on a washing line all over the island this time of year. Do not be fooled by its appearance it doesn’t look like it but it is a delicate morsel fit for any a gourmet. When bitten into it reveals a delicate sweet fragrance with that nutty centre. In it’s purest form it has no sugar added and is as healthy a food as you could wish for. The ingredients are pure grape juice with a little added flour to thicken the juice and make it more manageable. It is my favourite sweet better than chocolate. In Omodos on my last trip, Androula took me to a shop filled with local yummy delights and there were small packets of two types of shoushouko, one was made with pomegranate juice and the other traditional grape and they were both a delight.Watch out for it next time you go.

Zalatina

This is not for the squeamish as it features not a horse’s head but a pig’s head. I talk you through making a very traditional dish Zalatina or braun as we call it in the UK. My mum used to make this and it is extremely tasty if somewhat fiddly and time consuming. But nothing goes to waste if you keep you own pigs for food production.

A Little Snipette of a Demo

I have finally got around to trying to put together a few video clips of the cookery demonstration I did at West Dean College with Rosemary Moon in February here is the first on Trahana.

Please excuse the coughing and the scraping of spoons on crockery in the background!!

 

A Recipe for Contentment

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Fittingly, as it’s Palm Sunday today, my thoughts turned to cake, of course, not just any old cake but Easter cake. In the UK Simnel cake is associated with Easter this is basically a Christmas cake with a seam of marzipan running through the middle. Decorated with another layer of marzipan on top, it has 11 marzipan balls around the edge representing the disciples of Jesus minus Judas who did the dastardly deed. Mainly a rich fruit cake it is quite heavy and although I like a good fruit cake I wanted to celebrate Easter with something a little lighter so my thoughts turned to Greek Easter and the cake that is cooked there to celebrate.  I knew of tsoureki which is the Easter plaited sweet loaf baked with a red egg poking out the top, but I didn’t know the name of the Easter cake.

Looking for a recipe online surprisingly I discovered a delightful blog written by Anne Zouroudi an English author married to a Greek fisherman, writing detective stories based in Greece. I have never heard of her before but from what I have seen I can’t wait to get reading  as the books look right up my street.  She has put a familiar sounding recipe for orange and almond cake on her blog and it sounds delicious so I’ll be giving that a try. here is the link to the recipe http://www.annezouroudi.com/greek-winter-food/

I like a good detective novel and have read quite a few in my time. Rebus is the well crafted Scottish detective of Ian Rankin full of grit and grim dark Scottishness, then there is the Aurelio Zen series by Michael Dibdin with the magical Venice as background which I devoured one by one. I did the same with the No1 Ladies Detective agency series by Alexander McCall Smith which I found absolutely delightful, I could almost smell Botswana from some of the descriptions. After seeing the Inspector Montalbano series on TV. set in Sicily based closely on the novels written by Andrea Camilleri, I ventured to the library again to order these books  in sequence,  I had to stop after 13 as the most recent haven’t been translated yet. The fact these are all  set in a foreign country; you could count Scotland as a foreign country to some; makes them all the more appealing to me as I glean so much more information about customs, food, language and so on. So I was thrilled to find a new series of foreign sleuth stories to keep me occupied and I am eagerly awaiting the two I have ordered on Amazon as I was too impatient to try the library this time.

It seems I’m not the only one to be attracted by books set in foreign parts as I have been approached by a new on line book club that specialises in such books, more of this in another blog.

Demanding but Delicious

My long prepared for demonstration and talk at West Dean College finally took place on Saturday and to say I was apprehensive in the days leading up to the final hour, was a bit of an understatement. I had made a trip to London paying  a visit to Tony’s Continental store in Finchley to gather some of the ingredients but I was  more worried about not giving value for money than what the food would taste like as I knew that would speak for itself. The recipes were all tried and tested and most of the dishes I cooked beforehand so just needed re-heating . I left the simple dishes for demonstrating. I wanted to give an idea of the unusual foods that Cyprus had to offer so colocassi of course was there although strictly speaking the taro can be found in a great many countries, trahana had to be included, mixed with some home made chicken stock and shamali made with semolina and yoghurt was for dessert. I took along some masticha and mahlep for the audience to see and smell as well as carob syrup and carob bean.

I started by making a simple village salad and sprinkled grilled halloumi on top also offering the fresh halloumi to taste. The halloumi was the real thing made with goat and sheep’s milk and kept in the brine, completely different to the flabby tasteless stuff our supermarkets offer up. Tsakisstes were there and so delicious. My friend Rosemary Moon was assisting and cooking up some koupes  while I chatted along about the different foods and cooking up some kieftedhes. It turned into quite a meze of flavours, the audience were invited to come and taste at intervals rather than leaving it all to taste at the end. Many came for seconds and even thirds, the colocassi and trahana as well as the tsakisstes proved to be a great hit. As an afterthought I had also made some skordalia to be eaten with the other things and wasn’t sure they would like it as it was so strong but this too disappeared.

My friend Lois came along to take some photos and shoot a bit of video and she wasn’t left out when it came to tasting the food.

The audience  all had some experience of Cyprus and apart from one man all had visited, or lived there, several had been in the British Forces, there were also a couple of people who were Cypriot and born in the UK, we had a full house. After a tea break I gave a slide show and talk about the crafts but it also ended up with photos of more food by request. I felt that most had come to re-visit happy memories of the food and island and there was a genuine love of this magical place. It seems that Cyprus touches people in their hearts. I found it a great pleasure to act in my humble way as an ambassador for this place and share my enthusiasm for the food and crafts.  I found I had to put quite a bit of time into the preparation of both the talk and the food but it was worth it. Now I have one under my belt I wouldn’t mind doing another one…. but not quite yet!!!

The Time Grows Near

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Well the planned talk demo at West Dean College is getting nearer and my time seems to be getting eaten up with so many other demands that I seem to have the feeling of running towards it but wanting to put myself in reverse or on the spot. I will just have to make myself sit down and ignore the other things until I’m happy with my plan for the talk. Of course I have to write this blog first and then go and do some painting but apart from that! I have managed to collate most of the photos in some order and have a rough outline of the food part, with lists being drawn up. What I fear the most is not giving value for money so I could end up over compensating with too much food; very Cypriot, or too much information. You know the sort of talk when the speaker bombards the audience with endless bits of information and facts that they end up looking glazed. I want to keep it entertaining as well as informative. My hope is the audience will  leave feeling they have tasted some good food but also learned a little about Cyprus.

I will have to aim to emulate my helper and instigator of this event, Rosemary Moon who is an experienced food writer and demonstrator and gives a good line in banter when she delivers her demonstrations. I think once I’ve worked out a clear running order of when to do the cooking and where to do the talking I should feel more confident.

Just writing this blog has just inspired me to leave off and pop over to my West Dean notes and jot a few things down that occurred to me, so you could say that I am working on several fronts at once. I am thinking of making another trip to Cyprus in September to do another little sales push and mingle as well as follow a few interest while I’m there. There are still many place I want to see and landscape I want to spend time with as well as revisiting old friends and haunts. Writing about it always makes me even more curious and wanting more.

 

Sugar & Spice

Around the world at this time, all the countries that celebrate Christmas are busy making their own traditional foods eaten at this time of year, particularly the sweets. England’s traditional fare heavily features a variety of ways of eating  spiced mixed fruits, either in cakes or pies or puddings. On the Continent there are some traditional sweetmeats that are not quite so heavy and rich. In Italy they eat a fabulously light sweet bread called Panetone which is cooked with candied peel and dried fruit, there is also a plainer cake called Pandoro. In Germany, Switzerland and Austria they go for ginger spiced biscuits and cakes, and in Spain, almonds are used a great deal.

An italien Pandoro cake. Side view with cut

An italien Pandoro cake. Side view with cut (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I recently bought some biscuits that are ubiquitous throughout Spain at times of celebration: polvorones and mantecados. these are the light, crumbly and melt in the mouth. They are eaten in Mexico at weddings and are made with ground almonds. I wanted to try to make some as they were so delicious and I found several recipes online that varied somewhat but they all had certain things in common, one of them that you bake the flour until it turns lightly brown before mixing your ingredients together. Everything is very finely ground to give that light crumbly texture. I didn’t quite achieve the lightness on my first attempt but they tasted similar, I’ll have to have another stab at it another time.

It struck me that there was a great similarity here with those little almond biscuits eaten in Cyprus where they are also traditionally given away at weddings. These are called kourabiedes and of course echo those eaten in Greece. At Christmas everyone makes these by the bucket load for the constant stream of guests that may appear. Alongside these are the other sweet biscuit melomakarona. I have never made either of these before and as I’m doing a bit of a home made theme this year as presents go, I thought I’d give them a whirl. I don’t have a recipe handed down through generations so I again looked online and found several  picking the one I liked the sound of here kourabiedes–greek-biscuits.aspx. I added rosewater. On another site it recommended that the butter is beaten to within an inch of its life for 20 minutes ….yes twenty and I thought ‘well why not do as the recipe says’ as this will certainly make it light and fluffy. They didn’t come out too bad although I think they might be better with a touch of cloves as suggested on a Greek site. These little biscuits are traditionally crescent-shaped and apparently this was in deference to the Turkish flag during their 400 year rule of the island, now they come in round or star shapes and again identical to the Spanish matecondas, they are heavily dusted with icing sugar.

My tooth has definitely got less sweet as I’ve got older and find that I don’t want to eat the usual rich heavily fruited sweets  of my youth and I tend to go for ginger spicy cakes. These kourabiedes suit me as they are very light and although there seems to be a more than generous sprinkling of sugar on the outside, they actually don’t contain much sugar so it balances out and you always have the choice of shaking the sugar off before you eat them.  I will definitely be making these again and maybe adding a few improvisations of my own in the future.

My other home-made efforts for presents include macaroons, individual ginger parkins, black forest chocolate fudge, and a sort of nutty, oaty, chocolate mix- I think I’ll call it “Sonia’s Nuts”!!!!!

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Santa’s Little Helper

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I’m sorry to introduce the big C word at the beginning of December but marketing tactics demand that I think well ahead about these things. Marketing isn’t one of my favourite things and I find myself procrastinating rather than getting stuck in. Everywhere you look there are craft fairs and markets and I feel a bit like Cinderella. I have been half -heartedly planning an advert on Facebook but find the details a bit daunting (if not downright boring).

On a more enjoyable side I have been reflecting on some of the contacts I made when I was in Cyprus to do my promotion in April.These have turned out to be good outlets for the book and  interestingly they all are related to food but I suppose not surprisingly. One is a caterer and supplier of home made preserves etc. another is a baker and  a couple are cafes. The book seems to sell well in these environs. I find myself wishing I could be there in person to attend various craft markets and do my own selling, far more enjoyable than working out an online strategy. The most fun thing was playing around with  images to give them a personal appeal like Santa’s sleigh above. Also Santa’s little helper below.

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A Head of the Game

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As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog  I belong to a community garden and we have a small pig co-op. The pigs come as weeners and the co-op looks after them for several months until they reach the desired size and then they’re sent off to be turned into the Sunday roast and bangers. I don’t belong to the co-op so I don’t benefit from the meat except the occasional pig’s head comes my way if its not wanted. This week saw the poor beasts sent off on their way, I say poor beasts as this last lot of pigs were real characters and I often used to watch them and their antics. I have been given one of their heads, a bit like John the Baptist. I made some zalatina or brawn for the first time earlier in the year and was asked if I would like another head to make some more. So always up for a challenge I accepted.

It is actually a very easy process but does take a while. The head looks a bit gruesome as it sits in the pot, I had the whole head, usually the snout and mouth are cut away but this requires a hacksaw which I don’t possess and although I feebly tried with a fret saw it wasn’t up to the challenge. So there it sat eyes closed as it bubbled away with the lemons bobbing about it. You need to apply plenty of salt and lemons, this will kill any nasties that may be lurking in trotters and head. The trotters are needed to give a good jelly for your brawn. The first lot of water is discarded after it’s boiled and the process repeated this time leaving it until the meat is cooked. Then the head and trotters removed and left to cool and the liquid left in the pan overnight.

Then the picking begins and after the fat has been cut away and discarded. This head proved to be much meatier and the braun has come out a lot better, the meat is delicious.any meat that can be gleaned is cut up into small pieces and put in a bowl. The liquid by now has set with a film of fat on top that should be skimmed off leaving a lovely jelly underneath. Some  of this is decanted into a fresh pan, more lemon juice is added as well as wine vinegar,  some orange blossom water and a sprig of rosemary. This is heated to dissolve then tasted and seasoning adjusted to your liking. When the juice has cooled slightly this is poured over the meat and put in the fridge to set with a plate and weight on top.

Enjoy. For the full recipe why not buy the book and see all the other recipes in there.

 

Let’s Talk Food

 

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I know it may seem like a long way ahead but I’ve been thinking, on and off, about my debut as a cookery demonstrator in February. Yes, the world has gone topsy turvy. I can cook of course but I do not consider myself in any way as ‘a cook’  if you see what I mean. I still have to read recipes when cooking cakes, I measure most things instead of judging by eye. I like to try out new things and as regular readers will know I love a good cake recipe. It was only when I stopped regular work a few years ago that I really had the time to think properly about cooking and when I was researching for the book I tried out a lot more recipes. Like most things you become more confident and knowledgeable with practice.

I was asked to do a small demonstration and talk on food  and crafts relating to my book by a local private college that runs short and long courses on food and art & craft subjects. The college, West Dean, is run by the Edward James Foundation and my path has led there on more than one occasion over the years for many different reasons. I of course have done a few courses on rare occasions but I have also worked there. For many years I used to give a lecture to the furniture restoration students about painted furniture restoration once a year, more recently I did a concentrated 3 day session with the post-graduates. When the renowned interior decorator David Mlinaric was engaged to give the dining room and surrounding areas a makeover in the 1980’s they asked me to work with him on the stencilled frieze that ran around the walls. I have even worked part time as a kitchen assistant, so now I find it a little ironic that I’ve been asked to do this talk.

As it’s only half a day and the first half is only one and a half hours long I’m going to have to find a few things that are quick and possibly take some things that are already prepared. While I’ve been pondering, I always wanted to try making skordalia. Although I’ve never eaten this in Cyprus  it is eaten with salted cod in Lent and sounds delicious. It is a dip made with stale bread soaked in water to soften, olive oil and garlic pounded with salt. You can add nuts, almonds or walnuts and also it can be  made with mashed potato. I made some today used stale bread and pine nuts,  if you like fresh pesto you’ll love this.

I think this may be one thing I can take and a melitzanasalada  which is another dip made with aubergines. I also want to make some keftedhes. These are those tasty little meatballs that pop up everywhere especially at weddings and parties. Of course I’m tempted to make a cake and the one that is so popular in Cyprus, Shamali. I’ve even made a video of this, check out the recipes page on the drop down menu under food.

Jam and Cake

9872832793_9ebac4e0d3_zOut of all the squash family, marrows are my least favourite vegetable but they are great for one thing and that’s making fabulous marrow and ginger jam, I have fond memories of my mum making this.  As we had a spare marrow growing in the community garden that hadn’t run away with itself and turned into a giant, I decided to make some yesterday. Last year was my first attempt and to be honest it is always on the runny side. The recipe suggests you sprinkle some sugar on the marrow and leave overnight. This acts the same as salt as it de-gorges all the water leaving you with a lot of liquid and shrivelled pieces of marrow. So when you make the jam it seems to consist mostly of syrup but what a delicious syrup with that ginger and lemon tang!

Last year I found a new use for it as well. When we had an open day to raise some money for the garden, I cooked my mum’s ginger parkin, (well actually it was my grannie’s recipe). This I turned into my recipe by substituting carob syrup for some of the golden syrup, much healthier. I had this idea last year when I’d finished it that I could adapt it even more by pricking the surface and pouring the marrow and ginger syrup over it when warm, sort of a nod to the many cakes you find in Cyprus which have a syrup over them. I guess this is how all recipes evolve by developing a basic great idea and making it your own. I have to say the result was very rich and added another depth to the taste.A lovely cake to use as pudding with ice cream. I am very partial to a bit of ginger nice and warming on the chilly nights.

Here is the recipe:-

CAROB CAKE

75 grams hazelnuts finely ground

200 grams medium to fine oatmeal

200 grams self-raising wholemeal flour

225 grams unsalted butter

225 grams dark Barbados or muscovado sugar

2 eggs

4 generous tablespoons of carob syrup

2 teaspoons of baking powder

2 teaspoons of ground ginger

Melt the butter gently over low heat together with the sugar and when dissolved add the carob syrup taking off the heat. Beat the eggs. Sift the flour into a bowl add the oatmeal, baking powder and nuts. Pour in the butter mixture and mix thoroughly then add the eggs, mix well. Pour into a greased tin 22cm square and bake in a heated oven mark 4 gas or 180° centigrade for about 45 −50 mins until brown on top and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle. While still hot warm prick the surface all over with a toothpick and pour over the syrup.

One of the many recipes to be found in ‘Androula’s Kitchen-Cyprus on a Plate’

Two varieties of ginger as sold in Haikou, Hai...

Two varieties of ginger as sold in Haikou, Hainan, China. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)