Friday, March 26, 2010
It's all Greek to me...
I loooooove Greece and everything it beholds, so much so that I have visited there, twice (and will go again). The people. The culture. The history. The Islands. The language.
I have several Greek-Australian friends and colleagues; many of them speak of the hardships in trying to fit in to the Aussie culture, particularly throughout their school years. I feel a great affinity with them in that I also struggled to fit in - not being much of a fan of the "great Aussie traditions" of glorified footy heroes and such, preferring instead to bury my head in books and experiment in the kitchen with forbidden fruits such as chilli. I also love that to the Greeks, food is an integral part of living a happy life - each meal is an occasion in itself, celebrated with gusto. Families and friends gather together and passionately engage in robust discussions while tucking into fresh, wholesome foods, taken from huge communal platters in the centre of the table. I have been lucky enough to partake in such occasions, both in Australia and in Greece; and even more fortunate to spend time with the women: mothers, daughters & Yia Yias - learning a precious few of their kitchen secrets.
In recognition of this year's Greek National Day (25th March) and to pay homage to my Grecian peeps (who so kindly introduced me to some of the most wonderful culinary experiences of my life), today I enjoyed re-creating some simple and tasty home cooked Greek food. The key: to use the freshest, (preferably) in season ingredients, and to keep things very basic. Olive oil. Fabulous feta. Juicy Kalamata olives. Meat & Veg.
Marinated lamb cutlets on kalamata couscous
I grabbed a big tray of lamb cutlets and marinated it in about half a cup of olive oil, dried dill, oregano and some fresh ground pepper for about six hours. Lamb was cooked (without the marinade) in the pan (about 3 mins per side for medium) and then rested for a few minutes covered in foil prior to serving time.
Equal amounts of couscous + boiling water, and some red onion, chopped carrot/zucchini pan fried and tossed through the couscous along with a handful of chopped kalamata olives. The cooked lamb was arranged over the couscous, dodoni feta crumbled over and drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with extra dill.
Melomakarona with orange spiked honey syrup
My twist on the classic walnut honey biscuit:
Heat oven to 180C and line trays with baking paper. Beat together one cup of olive oil, half cup white sugar, half a cup of orange juice and a teaspoon of orange zest for about ten mins until it thickens. Add one egg yolk and one tablespoon of ouzo (or any other white spirit) and beat another few minutes. Sift over three cups of SR flour, half teaspoon ground cinnamon and fold gently until combined (it should make a loose dough mixture). From here you can roll individual balls into oval shapes, but I found it easier to make uniform sizes and shapes by rolling out the mixture into logs, flattening slightly and then slicing off pieces, flattening out a little more on the tray. Cook in batches for 25 mins, let them cool on the tray.
Make a syrup out of half a cup of honey, half a cup of boiling water, one cup of white sugar, zest of one orange, and a cinnamon stick - simmer for about five minutes. Remove the cinnamon and arrange the biscuits on a large tray with sides, then pour over the syrup. Sprinkle with about 120g finely chopped walnuts and leave for as long as you can (the longer the better - the honey soaks up and the cookies become marvellously chewy and sticky). Enjoy with strong coffee - espresso is okay, but Greek coffee (metrios) is best.