All Greek to me, with a Nistissima touch
Greece’s economic plight is widely discussed and I hear “tut tuts” about the profligacy and irresponsibility of those in charge there. Especially the Teutonic “tut tuts” coming from Germany. It brought back memories of driving around Peloponnesus a few years back and talking to one of the many thousands of Germans touring there in vast Mercedes camper vans (or as my friend who has one says: “Motor Home”). This chap told me proudly he had brought everything with him, including the bottled water – he was bringing virtually nothing to Greece except his trash, and wouldn’t have to spend any money in there.
More than 2 million Germans visited Greece in 2014. Perhaps if they all bought their food and drink whilst there, Greece’s problems might be a lot smaller.
This small outburst arose from my reading this news item at the weekend, when I realised how under-rated and underpromoted Greek food and wine are in markets like Britain.
The first Real Greek was opened in 1999 by Athenian-born chef Theodore Kyriacou and was immediately seized upon by London’s Mediterranean food lovers. Not surprisingly, Theodore soon put his recipes, ideas and experiences to book and he has become a fine ambassador for his country. With eight restaurants he clearly knows how to run a business, balance his books and keep the ledgers in the black. They could do with him back in Athens.
This Real Greek’s recipes look good and they are good. The home-made Baklava pictured on the front of one of his recipe books is not difficult to make (if you buy ready made Filo) and wickedly yummy.
It being Lent, I have adapted this recipe from the book, which is an appropriate dish to try with the excellent local beetroot and our lovely capers. 2kg (4.5lbs) good, firm, fresh beetroot with leaves and roots on. Otherwise use 1 kg (2 lbs 3 oz) cleaned beetroot. Salt and pepper to taste. 20 pickled caper leaves, or 25g (l oz) capers. 100ml (3.5/2fl oz) extra virgin olive oil. 2 tbsp vinegar.
wine 1. Remove the beetroot tops and roots and set aside. 2. Wash the beetroot without removing the skins, then cook them in a large pot with plenty of salted water. 3. Clean the beetroot leaves with the stems. Add them to the pot when the beetroot have been cooking for 30 minutes. When the beetroot are tender (which will depend on their size), remove and strain off the liquid. 4. Feel the beetroot and cut them into wedges. Chop up the greens. Add the caper leaves and mix well. Pour the olive oil and vinegar over the top and adjust the seasoning.
For my second Lenten recipe this week, I have adapted one from another indispensable Greek cook book: “The Olive and the Caper” by Susanna Hoffman. 60ml (2 fl oz) olive oil. 1 small onion, coarsely chopped. 3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped. 225 g (8 oz) medium or coarse ground bulgur wheat (Pour Gouri). A selection of coarsely chopped vegetables which would fill about a cup and a half. Use three or four from: courgettes, squash, bell peppers, cauliflower, artichoke bottoms, cooked chickpeas or cooked Gigantes. 30 cl (10 fl oz) vegetable stock. 2 medium-large ripe tomatoes. 1 wine glass (175 ml) of dry white wine. 1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves, or 1/2 teaspoon dried. 1/2 teaspoon salt. 2-3 pinches of freshly ground black pepper. 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill. 1. In a deep frying pan, heat the oil. 2. Add the onion, garlic, bulgur, and vegetable mixture and sauté until the bulgur is translucent and the vegetables are wilted, about 10 minutes. 3. Stir in the stock, tomatoes, wine, oregano, and salt and pepper and bring to a boil. 4. Reduce the heat, cover the skillet, and simmer until the bulgur is just tender and all the liquid has been absorbed, 20 to 25 minutes. 5. Remove from the heat and stir in the dill. Cover and set aside for five minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve right away.