Pitta Bread

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The weather is lovely at the moment and we have a lot of salad produce coming from the garden so what better way to enjoy it for lunch than making a delicious salad filling for a pitta? I make my own bread once a week so instead of making a large loaf I used one-third of the dough to make a few pittas.

When I first experimented with making these. I was thrilled to discover that the dough spontaneously separates in the middle when cooked in the skillet.

I use for making the dough, one-third each of strong bread flour, spelt flour and kamut flour with salt, sugar yeast and water accordingly. For my loaf I use 8 ozs of each flour with 2 teaspoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of salt and 2 teaspoons of quick yeast and 426 ml. of tepid water. Mix all the ingredients together and mix into a soft dough, kneading for 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Put in a bowl brushed generously with olive oil and leave  in a warm place to rise for 1 hour until doubled in size then knead again and leave for a further 45 minutes.

To make the pittas, tear a piece the size of a tennis ball from the dough and roll it out on a floured board into the required shape, an oblong or circle, about 3 mm thick. Heat a skillet to very hot and place the pittas on it to cook making sure they don’t burn. These generally take about 3 mins on a medium to high heat each side. You can also grill them. Turn over and cook on the other side when the dough will bubble up and separate.

These can be stored in the fridge in a polythene bag until needed and re-heated under the grill. Great fun.

Pittas are great toasted and used for all those dips like:- humous, tsaziki, skordalia, ect.

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A Taste of Cyprus in Tangmere

I might have mentioned before that I belong to a community garden in my village of Tangmere. All the members live in the village (more or less) and we come from a wide range of backgrounds and made up of all ages from aged 2 to late sixties, with varying degrees of gardening knowledge. The title of ‘garden’ suggests lots of beautiful flowers and we do grow flowers to attract bees and insects that will help keep the pests at bay, but the prime aim is to grow a variety of vegetables and fruit.

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The driving force behind the garden is our ‘leader’ Rosemary Moon http://www.moonbites.info/ who was the instigator and got the whole thing off the ground. Galvanising volunteers into clearing and digging a waste plot of land overgrown with brambles and trampled on by horses to produce the organised vegetable garden we have today.

Rosemary and Angie in action

She is a food writer and activist and very generously holds cookery demonstrations about 6 times a year, in a large house in the village to raise funds for the garden. They are well attended because apart from being a very inventive and great cook she is also very entertaining. She is assisted by another garden member, Angie, who conjures up heavenly and mouth-watering deserts full of naughty things that are bad for you (?) Everyone gets a plate full of tasters at the end and go home very satisfied.

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At these events of course after the cooking and eating is quite a lot of washing up and volunteers from the garden are called upon to help out, rewarded with their own plate full of tit bits of food. At our last demonstration at the end of November I offered to get my hands wet, it happened to be the same week I received the delivery of my books. Rosemary suggested I bring some along to the demo and she did a lovely bowl of Village Salad  taken from the book to accompany the meal and gave me and the book such a wonderful endorsement I was almost blushing!!!! It was a great evening and I managed to sell a few books which was an added bonus.

AK with saladPhotos courtesy of Lois another member.

My Kitchen

English: Flag of Greek/Cypriot nationality. Fl...

English: Flag of Greek/Cypriot nationality. Flag for Greek language speaking countries. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I seem to have chosen the same time to publish my “Kitchen” book as Tonia Buxton who has just released her book “My Greek Kitchen”  For those of you not familiar with the name, Tonia is a Greek Cypriot based in London and has made several Greek cookery programmes shown on the Discovery channel. As her website states she is a “Presenter, Historian, Writer, Gourmet Cook and Beauty Expert which she balances with being a wife and mum to four children!” In fact an all round superwoman, she even looks amazing. One of her cookery programmes was called “My Cypriot Kitchen” and I am going to buy her book – as soon as Amazon restock must be a good sign!

I was quite daunted and dismayed when I saw all her publicity  (I follow her on Twitter) . But then I got my thoughts back into perspective. “Androula’s Kitchen-Cyprus on a Plate” in spite of its name did not set out to be a “cook book” I love cooking but I’m not a cook nor an expert on cooking. My initial idea for the book, was to find out some information, as a layperson, on the subjects that interested me about Cyprus. I thought that if I wanted to know these things, there must surely be others who would be interested to read about my discoveries.

I grew up in London in the East End and my dad was the only Greek Cypriot who lived in our area. He didn’t speak Greek at home, my mum was English but he did teach us the Greek alphabet and how to count. Although there were no Cypriots living near us, my dad knew a few Cypriots in London, he had a cousin who lived in North London and a very well-educated Greek lady used to come to visit, but we didn’t really have much contact or knowledge of Cyprus or Greece. Occasionally we would receive parcels which contained, to our eyes, very exotic unusual food that my dad’s family had sent. I remember the large tins of halloumi that would show up occasionally, the hard, folded parcels of cheese floating in mint flavoured brine, large bags of shelled almonds, soushouko and pickled birds. There was no Green Lanes then, with its vast array of Turkish and Greek Cypriot shops, where you can buy all the Cypriot food, as there is today; even bread is flown over every day. Occasionally there would be a trip “up the West End” to pay a visit to a delicatessen or two to purchase olives and coffee.

My dad cooked sometimes and my mum  learnt a few recipes, so the food in our house was a bit different to your average house locally. My brother used to get a bit of stick from his friends at school when they talked about what they had eaten  for their teas. When I was about 10 my dad’s youngest brother came over to the UK to live and stayed with us for a while, then several years later another Uncle also came with his wife and family and they all lived close by to us so we started to understand a bit more about the Cypriot way of doing things.

I had been to Cyprus for holidays of course, in my adult life and when I was 21 I decided I wanted to go and live in my dad’s village Yerolakkos for a year with relatives, so that I could learn the language fluently, a bit of a gap year I suppose you’d call it now. It was a completely different way of living as in those days very few houses even had bathrooms, the toilet was a closet with a hole in the ground. I cannily chose to stay with a cousin who had a modern house with all mod. cons. which was built as her dowry. This adventure did not turn out as I had planned and I returned after 9 months as I was ready to come home.

Over the years, from time to time, many questions would  pop up in my mind and researching for the book gave me the opportunity to find out some of the answers. They’re not grand philosophical or historical questions, just little bits of information about this and that. Tid bits of knowledge  and as I describe on the cover of the book  “a meze of Cypriot culture from art to crafts to food” can be found in Androula’s kitchen.

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.