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Saturday, October 30, 2010


Apricot soufflé and some creme anglaise to join it..

First let's talk a bit about magic… What is it that makes a souffle expand and makes the people who eat it go: Ahhhhh as it get's to the table? Look no further than the magic of air.. 

So what is a good souffle? well, a good one is in many ways a lesser one. Ofcourse taste and aroma are important but the structure and form and texture are even more important. And the presence of air trapped in the egg whites is even more valuable. So, in many ways, the best souffle is the one that has the most air in it or in other words the less souffle makes me most souffle :-) 

Been playing around with them in the past and apart from the obvious chocolate ones that you can find everywhere the rest are not as well known.. So… will talk about a favorite souffle that lately i have been baking again and again for us and guests. 

To get to the magic… A few things that need to be told before we start. Eggs are made up from the yolks and whites. Whites are all protein while yolks have some protein but a lot of fat too. Have to keep that in mind. Also when we make a souffle we make a meringue which is to beat the egg whites and by that trap air in the egg whites into tiny little bubbles. So the protein in the egg whites forms the bubbles, the structure for the souffle. Fat on the other hand keeps those bubbles break or not forming and air escaping from them so make sure that there is no trace of yolk in your whites when separating your eggs. 

Then the heat plays a great role. Heat actually does two things. First of all heat makes air expand and those millions and millions tiny bubbles of air take more space and that is what makes the souffle pop and double in size but also another thing that it does is to coagulate the egg white proteins (change their molecular shape in space) and make them sturdy and strong. There are other ways to coagulate proteins apart from heating. You can use and acid like lemon juice etc but that is for another recipy down the road. 

What this coagulation does though is to stiff the structure of the souffle and so when the heat is not there anymore, the souffle more or less keeps it's shape. Also another great thing about that is that you can have the souffle ready from a previous day, already baked and the day of the dinner just to pop it in the oven to heat up and expand making your guests wonder about your culinary skills. 

A few more things… Souffle because it can be done with some fruit juice, a bit of sugar and egg whites is a desert with few calories and high in protein. On the other hand my version here with the creme anglaise and all takes the fat and puts it back in the desert but oh well! Tastes a lot better, in my mind atlas.

Fills 12, 100 ml ramekins. 
180 gr dried apricots (about 1 ½ cups), quartered. Use the California ones you get in the silver bag unless you can get really good Kaisia.
1 ½ cups water
¾ cup sugar plus additional for coating ramekins
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon dark rum if desired
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
5 large egg whites
Crème Anglaise:
1 cup cream
1 cup milk
half a teaspoon of vanilla extract 5 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon dark rum, or to taste

In a saucepan simmer the apricots, sugar (1/2 cup) and water. Keep the pan with the lid on. Do that for 20 minutes or until apricots are soft. Transfer the mixture (keeping some juice on the side) in a food processor and process until it is a smooth puree. Add some or all of the reserved juice if the puree seems too thick. Get a chinois or a tapis or a sieve and pass the puree from there to become more velvety and smooth. (structure is the essence we said). To the strained puree add the lemon juice, vanilla, rum and a little bit of salt to exalt the aromas. Let it cool into room temperature and you can keep in the fridge for a few days. At the day of use let it out of the fridge till it gets warm again. 

Butter the 12 ramekins and sprinkle with sugar to coat. Turn the oven on at 180 celcious.  

In a very CLEAN bowl (important as if it has traces of fat or oil it will ruin the meringue) beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt. Salt helps with coagulation. Also the point of the meringue is to have millions and millions of tiny air bubbles and not less but bigger ones. We have said that  the structure is important and a better structure is easier to maintain if the protein bubbles are more and smaller than if they are less and bigger. The way to do that is to beat the whites slowly and steadily and not just zap them in the mixer at top speed.

Meringue is ready when it forms soft peaks and has lost it's shine. Do not overbeat it and let it form firm peaks as this may result in problems when incorporating the puree. Slowly mix the remaining 1/4 cups  sugar in that mixture. Add about a third of the meringue in the puree mixture and slowly incorporate it. The amount of bubbles is important so take care not to beat in the whites but rather massage them slowly in the puree. Then add the remaining two thirds of egg whites one third at a time… make sure that the mixture is all one and devide it in the ramekins. 

You have two choices here. One is to do this some hours before the dinner and let the uncooked mixture stay in the ramekins in room temperature and it will be just fine or bake it then and there and let it coo, store it in the fridge for up to 4 days and just before dinner reheat it in order to serve it just when your guests have finished the main course.. 

Now.. If you want to take it all a step further then make the creme Anglaise. 
That cream is quite important as it is the base for many things. From sauces to icecreams so it is good to know how it is made. What it is, is a mixture of eff yolks, sugar and cream or cream and milk.  Egg yolks as we've said contain some protein and a lot of fat. Also there is far in the cream so cream Anglaise is by no means something to be eaten while you are on a diet. On the other hand a little taste never hurt anybody so here we go…

In a saucepan heat the milk and cream till it boils. Remove from heat. 
In a bowl beat the eggs with sugar till it is nice and frothy… Very slowly start adding the cream in the egg mixture. VERY SLOWLY. That will allow the eggs and cream to mix without the eggs being cooked from the high temperature of the cream but will slowly rise the temperature of the egg mixture. When one third of the cream is in the eggs empty all that back in the saucepan and put it back on the fire.. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon till the cream thickens and covers the back of the spoon. DO NOT let it boil otherwise you will get an omelet and not a creme… 

When it is ready pass it through a sieve, add the vanilla extract and the rum.. Let it cool and put it in the fridge to cool. Add a few spoonfuls of the cold creme to the hot souffle as it comes out f the oven… 

Monday, October 18, 2010

Frozen cookies.. an idea...

When i was a kid and  watched these American tv shows with the great families that all lived together in harmony and mothers or grandmothers baking cookies for the children to have together with a cup of milk when ever they got back from school, i was wondering how on earth they made it. I mean, how did they have the time to bake and make cookies from scratch almost daily.. I remember thinking that one day it would happen here as well… The smell of cookies fresh from the over warming your hands and mouth after returning home from a rainy and bleak day at school… 

A few months ago though from something i read i finally realized that those mothers and grandmothers do not bother to make dough and bake cookies every day! NO, far from it… what they would do would be to get the frozen dough from the freezer that is formed into a roll and cut a few slices that they would then bake in the over right from the freezer! 

What a great idea i thought! easy to do, home made cookies that you make once, then freeze and then use fresh… 

Since then i tried a few recipes that turned out just great but a bit too much for the greek palate. All this butter and chocolate chips and candy bars etc… The butter obviously helps the cookies being cut more easily right out of the freezer but still wanted to see if i could have the same result with a typical greek cookie. 

And what more typical cookie here than the "ladokoulouro".. A cookie with no butter, no eggs, so it is great for the fasting periods but also very tasty with cinnamon and orange zest and in the background the warming taste of olive oil.. Love making it but always found that after a week it has lost it's freshness… So, i wonder how it would be if i froze the dough and bake the cookies in batches. Would it be ok in the freezer for a week or two? Did some experiments and found out that it pretty much can. Ofcourse since it has no butter so it freezes more solidly that the butter cookies it is not so easy to slice with a knife but a few hours out of the freezer will take care of that and cookies will come out smelling like heaven… 

One thing to keep in mind with this recipe is that the most important here is the olive oil. And i am talking about taste here. You need a fruity and nice oil with character, not a blunt one. 

2 cups of olive oil 
1 cup of fresh orange juice and the zest of two of the oranges ποτηρια ζαχαρη
1 espresso cup of cognac 
2 cups of sugar
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinammon 
sesame seeds for garnish
General purpose flour (about 1,2 kilos) 

In the mixer bowl add the oil and sugar and beat till it is nice and frothy. 

Add the soda and baking powder in the orange juice, stir and add the mixture that will bubble and expand in the mixer bowl. Add the orange zest, cinnamon and cognac. Slowly stir in the flour and make a soft dough that can be made into cookies. 

Separate the dough in three pieces. Put the two into bags and keep in the freezer. The one that remains make it into cookies, cover with sesame and bake in 180 celcious for about 20-25 minutes till the cookies are nice and brown… 

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Tomato-Apple-Rosemary Jam....

We are lucky enough to find good tomatoes so late in the fall. And think that tomatoes of this season are even better than the summer ones. Must have to do with the fact that the temperatures are not as high and so the tomatoes we get now are maybe less red but definately more fleshy, less watery and in general pretty aromatic and wonderful...

Also it is apple season. And a couple of weeks ago i got a bundle of apples from a small village called Perithori.. Aparently the apples there are probably the best apples you can get or among the best ones in Greece. And i realised that from the first bite...

We are getting used i think to mediocracy. Especially when it comes to food and the main ingredients. Apples do not taste like apples. They have lost their aroma and even though the shape and colour is there the taste is missing. And we seem ok with it. And forget about it all. Till we taste the real thing...
This is what happened when i took the first bite from the Perithori apple. I was talking to a friend and then i was speechless. Quickly i got another bite just to make sure that the explosion in my mind with the condense information about taste, texture and aroma came from the apple and not from a childhood memory. And with the second bite happened the second explosion... And was in awe... This was the epitome of appleness (if there can be such a word). Full, juicy, aromatic, playful almost. Knew then that these apples had to be made into something special. Had the great tomatoes i bought from Christos in the farmers market in Marousi on Saturday and had read a recipe for a jam by Christine Ferber. She has a great book on jams called Mes Confiture but since it is in French i got the recipe from a blog that i read all the time  Chez Pim.
Really easy to make.
The rates are:
1kg tomatoes, 500g net (In my case it was more like 700g since the tomatoes had a lot of flesh)..
500g Perithori apples, 400g net. Ofcourse you can substitute that with granny smith or your choise of apples.
500 sugar
2 lemons
2 sprigs of rosemary

Apples need to be peeled and cored and sliced very thinly. I used a mandolin for that that made this task really easy. Also have the lemons juiced and put in a non reactive pan together with the apples so that they do not discolour.

Tomatoes need to have their skin removed and so they are crossed with a knife and blanced in boiling water for a few seconds to make peeling them off a breeze.  Then they are cut in half, have the seeds and water removed and chopped in smaller pieces and have them drain in a collander.

Add them with the apples, sugar and rosemary and let them boil softly for a few minutes for sugar to melt, stirring quite a lot. Transfer it to a glass conteiner and cover it and keep it in the fridge for the night.

Next day remove from the fridge, put in a nonreactive pan, remove the rosemary springs and start simmering in low heat making sure you skim off the foam. Also make sure you stir often cause especially the apples can stick to the bottom and make a mess of the whole thing. Continue to boil till apples loose their colour. When that happens remove the fruit and let the syrup boil till it gets to 96 Celcious. Add the fruit and boil for a few more minutes for the whole thing to reach that temperature.

Transfer in clean jars and let them cool upside down. Then you can store them in the fridge or sterilize the jam and keep it in a cabinet.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010


October is Pumpkin month..  Last weekend at the farmer's market i found some nice and fresh and aromatic pumpkins and could not avoid them... What i do every year though is to buy some, clean and cut in pieces, blanch for a minute or two, drain and store them in little plastic bags in the freezer. Keep it like that for the duration of the winter. Also, a few weeks ago after talking to a friend, i finally figured out what i am doing wrong all this time and my pumpkin nioki are great for ping pong but not for eating. But that will be for another post.

So.. what better to do with it than a nice hot soup? Only problem is that come to think of it the pumpkin soup is nothing really special. OK, yes you can add some orange for extra flavor, some cinnamon and nutmeg to spice things up but really pumpkin soup is not really something. But then, baked beans came into the picture. Read in one of my favorite blogs ( about using baked beans to give some extra flavor, body and kick to the soup and decided to give it a try... Also instead of the usual spices in the recipe there is a lot of cumin... Overall it is a great dish that takes a normal and maybe even blant soup a bit further!

Ingredients for 6-8 soup bowls
550gr of chopped and cleaned and blanched pumpkin
celery, a couple of stalks chopped
one big onion chopped
a few fresh ones chopped
some garlic minced
a can of red beans
salt-pepper to taste
one tsp ground cumin
olive oil to saute the veggies
3 cups of stock, some water
Some yogurt and pumkin seeds for decoration

OK.. so.. saute the onions, celery and garlic, for a good 6-8 minutes in the olive oil. Add the pumpkin and saute it for another 8 minutes. Empty the can of beans without the liquid, and saute for another 4 minutes. Add the spices and after a minute the stock and/or water.. Be careful of the salt in beans and stock and not add salt before adding those ingredients..

Let it all boil till pumpkin is nice and soft (about 20 minutes). Take it off the fire and let it rest for 30 minutes before you mash it all together in a blender or chopper. Add more spices if you see fit. Serve hot with some yogurt and seeds...

Friday, October 8, 2010

Alevropita flour-pie

Some history.. 
One thing we need to keep in mind about Greek cuisine is that as a poor land with many mountains, lot's of rocks and not enough soil people had to make do with the absolute essentials. Their cooking was without frills, using anything they could find and subjected to the availability of fresh produce. And also since they had many mouths to feed and little means to do so they had to make things last. 

The poorest region of Greece was Epirus. And still is. Lot's of mountains, an abundance of rocks used to build houses and everything and great natural beauty. Breathtaking scenery, little villages lost in the trees, rivers, few plains. 

Staple food in Greece was flour. With it, whole generations of Greeks grew. Mixing it with water, making a soft dough and scattering some cheese on top and some oregano or a little butter and baking it in the oven was their version of a quick pizza and something quick and plentiful enough to eat. 

These flour pies especially in Epirus took a twist and to this day they are considered almost an art form. And they tend to be quite expensive as well..

Now… when your friends bring you some Pastrimaırma from Caesaria in Turkey that is considered as the best in the world you need to make something special with it. And simple as well… So.. while i was taking with my friend Fotis he gave me his mother's recipe for the flour pie and decided to make the best of both worlds and add the pastrima in the flour pie… 

Turned out great, but unfortunately forgot to take pictures after it came out from the oven. Guess that we finished it quicker than the time it takes for the camera to click..

16-18 table spoons of flour
half a cup of greek style yogurt
half a cup of olive oil
1 egg
1 tsp salt
warm water 

2 chopped-deseeded tomatoes
some parsley chopped
250 gr Feta cheese crumbled
100 gr Pastrima chopped

Make a mountain with the flour. A hole on top. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix with a spoon. Add enough warm water to make pancake consistency of batter. 
Empty the mixture in a pan that is well coated with olive oil and butter.
Drizzle the rest of the ingredients on top. Bake in preheated oven at 200 C until it is nice and crispy… 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Golden rules of blogging..

I am sure that one day i will write a post here about the ten golden rules of blogging. Or let me rephrase this by saying that one day i will post someone else's ten golden rules. Am sure that somebody has already figured them out.

What i want to share though is that in the first hour of blogging i have already come across the first of these Golden rules. Which states:
Do NOT cook while you are starting a new blog. Cause then this will happen:
Oh well...
Did not expect the first post about cooking would be a disaster but hey, am not going to lie...
Last saturday i found some beautiful pomegranates and after reading all sorts of recipes about them, i decided to make a pomegranate syrup to use in so many recipes in the future.. so, took the pomegranates,  juiced them and added some sugar and lemon juice in the pot and slowly started to simmer.

But, am sure it has happened to the best of us and got carried away looking for a nice background for this blog.. So... I promise to do this syrup the coming weekend and share it with you then :-)
And this concludes the First Golden rule of blogging!

A new blog...

So.. why a new blog? So many things to share with total strangers and so many friends to tell you how nice /bad/terrible you write? So many experiences to share? bloated ego? a bet you make with yourself about starting a new project and keeping at it for 6 months? A way to show how "connected" we all are? How small our world has become? So many pictures to post? New tastes to explore? Ingredients, temperatures, places to eat? A new way to piss off your significant other? And why in English? Why not in Greek? Why not in Greek and English? hmmm questions, questions and not many answers. To be honest i do not have an answer to why a new blog. But i hope that in time these questions will be answered by themselves. Or they will not be the important questions anyway.
One thing is for sure. In this blog you will see a lot about food, photography, good friends, dogs and crafts. Hope that we will all enjoy it.. Welcome onboard!