Pourgouri Pilaffi with Chorizo

Tomato slices

Tomato slices (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A dish that I cook a lot and is a bit like comfort food to me, is pourgouri pilaffi. It is very simple to make and can be adapted by adding different ingredients when the mood takes me.

The basic recipe requires:-

I onion diced

1 tablespoon  sun dried tomato paste or 1 large fresh tomato grated or half a small tin tomatoes

a handful of orzo pasta or vermicelli

200 g of bulghur wheat

Olive oil 1 tablespoon

salt and pepper to taste

Fry the onion in the oil until soft then add the orzo or vermicelli and cook until turning brown then add the tomatoes and soften them down if fresh and add the seasoning. Put in the bulghur wheat and mix the tomato paste with 568 ml  of hot, boiled water  and also add that to the mix, giving it all a good stir. Put on a lid and leaving the heat on low, cook for 10 mins. Turn the heat off and leaving the lid on leave the pilaffi for a further 10 mins until the moisture is absorbed and the pourgouri is fluffy. Serve as an accompaniment to afelia or similar.

I like to eat it as a meal in itself with some vegetables on the side and I add  sliced bacon to the mix after cooking the onion and fry until it is turning brown before adding the tomato. Yesterday I decided to also add a bit of chopped chorizo  and it certainly made a delicious meal with my plate of green beans, courgette and chard as a side dish. Very inter-continental.

The recipe for pourgouri pilaffi and more delicious recipes can be found in my book ‘Androula’s Kitchen – Cyprus on a Plate’ due to released in October. Check out some sample pages on The Book page

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The Cut and Thrust

I’ve just been having a hacking time in the garden again. All the rain over the last few months has given everything in the garden an urge to spread its wings, which, in turn, urged me to have a cut-back.

I had an arsenal of tools to aid me: long-handled loppers, secateurs, tree saw and hedge-trimmer. I got a bit carried away and ended up with a huge pile of debris. The worst bit about cutting back in the garden is the clearing up, all those clippings and branches to gather up and deposit.

One of the plants I gave a bit of a tidy  was the vine. Now don’t get excited- this isn’t a juicy grape bearing variety. It’s very decorative but the grapes are small, full of seeds and never usually get sweet enough to eat. Though they have made quite a good chutney in the past. The last couple of years sadly there haven’t been many grapes, the photo was taken a few years ago when there was an abundance but the very cold winter of 2010/11 has  upset it and then all the rain this year hasn’t helped. However the leaves are good and these are excellent for harvesting and storing to make koupebia.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned the community garden in my village and the glut of potatoes and onions this has now moved on apace and we are into the marrow, courgette overwhelm.

We have several varieties of courgette growing including these rather dear little round courgettes. The trouble is if they don’t get picked when small, they grow at a rapid rate a day and end up pumpkin size!! I have large and small in the kitchen and today I thought I would stuff one. In Cyprus most vegetables are candidates for stuffing and collectively are called Yemista. The stuffing mixture I’m using will be minced lamb with onions, herbs, seasoning and tomatoes. As it happens we are also starting to get a good harvest of tomatoes and I’ll use a few of these to make a delicious filling for the courgette.

The filling ingredients are fried in a little oil and  cooked first then the centre of the courgette is cleaned out and the filling added. These will then be placed in a deep dish with a little water covering the bottom and placed in a moderately hot oven for about an hour. Deelicious.

I’ll have to think of a few more butternut squash recipes as well as we have a few of those in the pipeline. Aren’t we lucky by Jove!

Inspiration- Stifado!

Red onion slices

Red onion slices (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ve not been feeling very inspired lately, mundane jobs have been on my agenda like decorating and gardening which are taking up a lot of my time. I find my brain just seems to switch off and focus on the job in hand at these times, which I suppose is a good thing. But doesn’t give me any food for thought when it comes to writing a blog on Cyprus! But inspiration came and the result is – Stifado

Of course always I have “Androula’s Kitchen- Cypus on a Plate” on my mind and trying to work out my next step towards getting in print. That never goes away in fact it goes around my head constantly buzzing like some persistent mosquito! I think I know exactly where I should go next and then a new bit of information comes my way and scuppers my plan so it’s onto the next idea. But it has been said by many wise people that determination wins the day so that helps me re-focus and move forward however slowly it may feel to me, every step I take is one step closer to success.

The gardening I mentioned has been mostly at the community garden to which I belong in our village. It has been quite a stressful growing season this year as we have had so much rain together with cold temperatures. I was tending quite a big plot of potatoes and onions and these took up a lot of my time it seemed, battling against the elements and disease. Surprisingly we still managed to get a fair old crop and now it’s potatoes and onions with everything.

Onions are a major part in cooking, so many dishes use onions as a base for flavour and they are good for you too. Onions are good for the prevention of heart disease and also act as an anti oxidant. We have also been growing garlic , which is of course the same family and the thing I found surprising is how sweet fresh garlic tastes. As we have had such wet weather some of the onions have suffered and needed to be eaten straight away as they would rot if stored. So it was a hunt for recipes that use onions. I have been making onion tarts which in fact are a bit like a pizza but with just caramelised onions, anchovies and olives on top. Delicious, but it’s really a French recipe and as this is a blog about Cypriot things I think a Cypriot recipe is in order.

There are several Cypriot recipes that use lots of onions, my favourite is Stifado which also uses potatoes so perfect for my  purposes at this time. Rosie, a friend of  Androula’s and a great cook, gave me this recipe and I use it a lot. Enjoy.

Stifado

Serves 4

1 rabbit or hare cut into pieces

500 g shallots whole or onions quartered ( usually the weight of onions is equal to the meat)

500 g potatoes (optional) peeled, quartered or left whole if small

1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns

2 bay leaves

1 stick cinnamon

300 ml red wine

140 ml red wine vinegar

1 dessertspoon tomato puree, thinned with water or 284 ml passata ( sieved tomato)

salt

2 tablespoons olive oil for cooking

Fry the rabbit pieces in the oil until the meat turns golden then take out and put aside. Peel the shallots or onions, if using onions cut them into quarters but leave the shallots whole, peel and cut the potato if necessary and add to the juices in the pan, cook until the onions are soft. Put the meat back in the pan together with the peppercorns, salt, bay leaves, cinnamon, red wine and red wine vinegar together with the tomato juice or puree give everything a good stir. The liquid should cover the meat so add a little water if required. Taste and adjust the seasoning, then cover and leave to cook on a low heat or cook in a moderate oven gas mark 5/190C for 1½ to 2 hours until the meat falls from the bone and the juices are reduced.

Bourekia Anaris

Tsestos used as a tray with the bourekia

Tsestos used as a tray with the bourekia

Bourekia are found all over the Middle East. These little delicious pies are generally fried but for a healthier option can be cooked in the oven, once glazed with oil. Great finger food for parties.

This is a recipe taken from my book “Androula’s Kitchen – Cyprus on a Plate” . My Aunt Eugenia very generously took the time to show my cousin and I how to make some of the best – loved foods of Cyprus especially for the book.

These are delicious sweet little parcels of delight often eaten at parties.

Using the Basic Pasta dough quantities given should make approximately 30 parcels.

Basic Pasta Dough

BASIC PASTA DOUGH

250g plain white flour

250g wholemeal flour

Pinch of salt

Pinch of cinnamon (cinnamon is only used for sweet recipes)

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil

Water to mix into stiff dough (approximately 284ml)

Mix all the dry ingredients together then add the oil and mix in water to gradually bring together the ingredients to form a stiff dough. Knead the dough really well on a board for about 10 – 15 minutes or until it is smooth and elastic; the secret of good pasta dough is in the kneading. Leave to rest for at least 2 hours or keep in the fridge in a polythene bag for use the next day.

Filling

250g soft white unsalted fresh anari (a firm ricotta could be used if this isn’t available)

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon caster sugar

Few drops of rosewater

Few drops of vanilla essence or vanilla sugar

Zest of 1 orange

Mix all the ingredients for the filling together in a bowl.

bourekia anaris

bourekia anaris

Roll out the pasta thinly using a long thin rolling pin. My Aunt Eugenia uses a long plain round rolling pin, 4cm diameter and about 46cm long, to roll her pasta and, given her many years of experience, she is an expert in rolling the pasta very thinly. The secret, she tells us, is in keeping the board and pasta well floured so that it doesn’t stick. At the beginning roll out into a round and keep quarter turning the pasta to allow it to be rolled evenly. Once the pasta dough has become big enough Auntie showed us the technique of wrapping the dough around the pin and rolling backwards and forwards. This is a very good way of getting very thin pastry and is the local technique for making filo pastry. It also makes excellent use of a limited work surface as you are rolling several layers at the same time. But this takes practice and a long rolling pin. You also need a fairly good size pastry board or surface. When the pastry is about 2mm thin you can start to put your filling down.

Using a teaspoon place a row of small firm mounds of filling spaced about 2cm apart and about 4– 5cm. in from the edge, but this is dependent on the size of cup or glass that you’re using as a cutter. Then fold the edge of the pastry over the top of the mounds. Firm down the pasta dough in front and between the mounds, then use an espresso coffee cup or small glass to make small half-moon shapes, this also seals the two edges of the pasta parcels together.

  These are fried in hot sunflower oil until golden.

You can also fill these with a savoury mixture of fried onion, mince and mint instead of the anari.


Cups or kilos

Ten of Cups from the Rider-Waite Tarot deck

Image via Wikipedia

I’ve been a bit lax and let a few days go by without posting but it is that time of year and Santa is getting closer by the minute. But after wrapping the presents and cooking some goodies I pause for thought as I’m also in the throes of getting my manuscript copy -edited. I’m looking to produce an e.book of Cyprus on a Plate featuring Androula’s Kitchen; I’m still not sure which formation of title to use, Androula’s Kitchen- Cyprus on a Plate perhaps? Whatever I plump for I’m planning on getting it out there early next year. Anyway,  one of the questions that keeps popping up is the use of consistent measurements in the recipe section.

When I was given a lot of the recipes the method of measure mostly imparted was cups and I painstakingly converted many of these into metric measures for the readers convenience and my own when I came to cooking them at home . But to be honest I rather like the idea that there are a few measurements  left in cups as a nod to the original recipe, as long as the same cup is used all the time of course!

I have been giving the subject of measurement and method  some considerable thought as I worked through the recipes. My original thought was that I didn’t want to get too precise about it all. These recipes have been used over the years passed down through families and are very familiar to all Cypriots and visitors to Cyprus. I wanted  to give a flavour of the cooking naming the most common seasonings and ingredients used for instance and explaining where some of the more unusual ones come from.

Most cooking in Cyprus traditionally, was done over the fire in one pot or cooked in a clay oven outside so no exact temperature was possible to gauge, it was an experienced eye that measured.The very art of cooking is that, an art and therefore not measured in precise quantities. There is leeway for a bit or creative interpretation and I wanted to give a feel of that. We all have different tastes and when cooking from a recipe I might leave something out or substitute it with something else if I don’t have that particular ingredient in my store cupboard. As Rick Stein often says “this is what cooking is all about” not being to precious about it. And Cypriots are certainly not that when they cook. My Aunt uses her judgement as a measure not the scales.

There are different kinds of cookery books I feel, there are the Elizabeth David variety that give you a feel for the food without too many precise details or even illustrations. Then there is the highly illustrated step by step guide for the inexperienced who want the reassurance that every detail is covered. I wanted to fall in between the two and I will maintain my original concept even in the face of criticism.