Makaronada me saltsa yiaourtiou / Macaroni and meat stew with yogurt sauce

Sounds strange, right? Warm macaroni and meat stew with a cold yoghurt and garlic sauce… It is absolutely heavenly! Quick to make, and the mild macaroni, the powerful stew and the intense garlic-flavoured (and fragrant) yogurt sauce is a wonderful combination. As I’ve said repeatedly before, the Greeks are the experts in putting together a few simple ingredients and create exciting, tasty food. I use mint in my yogurt sauce when I make this with lamb, and oregano when I use beef. You can sprinkle some cheese on top of the dish as well, but I actually think it’s better without. (And there are very few things I think is better without cheese.)

  • 350 g minced lamb or beef
  • 1 onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 100 ml water
  • 250 g macaroni
  • 1-2 tablespoons butter
  • 250 ml Greek yoghurt
  • 4 mashed or pressed garlic cloves
  • dried or fresh oregano or mint
  • salt and pepper

Fry meat and onion in oil. When it is brown add a little water and let it simmer without a lid. Cook until the sauce is just moist, not watery. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. While the meat simmers, cook the macaroni and make yogurt sauce: Boil macaroni according to package directions. When it is ready strain and stir in the butter, until the macaroni is completely covered. Mix the garlic, yogurt, mint/oregano and salt to taste. Layer macaroni, meat and yogurt sauce on plates and enjoy!

For 2 persons

Psomi / Bread

In Greece, bread is served with both lunch and dinner, whether you eat in a tavern or are invited to someone’s home. The bread does not only provide an extra flavour, it’s great for soaking up sauces and olive oil.
Also, a good bread, some juicy olives, feta cheese and a well-chosen bottle of red wine make an excellent picnic.
In this recipe I use cold water and yogurt, and leave the dough to raise overnight in the refrigerator. (But you can also heat the liquids to roughly 40 degrees C, and bake the bread in the usual way.)
Use the flour you prefer, but a mix of plain wheat flour and semolina gives the bread quite a Greek flavour. If you want, replace semolina with sifted rye flour, for example. A sprinkling of sesame seeds on top is not entirely wrong.

  • 1 package dry yeast
  • 250 ml water (cold)
  • 250 ml yogurt (cold)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon liquid honey
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • about 800 ml bread flour and 200 ml semolina
  • + some more flour

Stir dry yeast into the water, yogurt and olive oil. Mix in honey and salt. Knead in enough flour to make a firm, smooth dough. Sprinkle a little flour over the dough. Cover the bowl with plastic or aluminium foil, and place it in the refrigerator overnight.

The next morning, remove the bowl and leave it in a warm place for an hour. Then divide the dough in half and form two loaves, work as little as possible with the dough. It’s okay that the loaves look really homemade.

Preheat the oven to 40 degrees C, and let the loaves rise in there until doubled in size, about an hour. Turn the oven up to 220 degrees C, and bake for about half an hour. You can check if the loaves are done by tapping them on the underside. A hollow sound means that the bread is ready to eat!

Methismeno kotopoulo / Drunken chicken

No, you don’t have to feed chicken alcohol, poor little thing (the chicken, that is), but you must buy large, juicy chicken breast, cut them in cubes and put them in a marinade of white wine and ouzo.

The first time I ate chicken made in this way was at a lovely taverna in Nafplio called Epi Skinis, and no matter where I’ve been in Greece every since – if I find it (very occasionally) on the menu I order it.
There are, as with most Greek recipes, a myriad of variations, and as long as the chicken’s marinade contains alcohol, it’s called Methismeno kotopoulo. So you may well vary the dish, depending on the contents of your liquor cabinet. I once made Methismeno kotopoulo with cognac instead of ouzo and dark beer instead of wine, and that tasted lovely too. (Not to brag, of course.)
Epi Skinis serves this as a meze, but there is nothing wrong with serving it as a main dish, either, with rice or fried potatoes and lots of greens. I think a mixture of broccoli and green beans taste good.

  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into chunks.
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • For the marinade:
  • 20 ml olive oil
  • 100 ml dry white wine
  • 50 ml ouzo
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • salt, pepper

Mix all the ingredients for the marinade in a bowl, add the chicken pieces and marinate 1 to 2 hours.
Strain the chicken, but save the marinade.
Heat the butter and brown the chicken quickly and easily. Add tomato puree and let it fry a few seconds, add the marinade. Cook, uncovered, a few minutes, until the chicken is cooked and the sauce has thickened slightly.

Main course for 2, meze for more.

Bouyiourdi / cheese and tomato dip

This is just outrageously good! A kind of cheese dip, with tomato, garlic, chilli, a little oregano … You can hardly make enough, but this is best eaten hot, so if your making this for a party, it’s best to make two smaller than one big bouyiourdi. This recipe is enough for two for lunch, four as a starter, for many as a meze. And if you don’t understand what this word meze/mezedes I constantly write about means, check Greek Food in the menu above.

Chilli is not so common in Greek cuisine, and you can be pretty sure that if there’s chilli in the recipe, it comes from northern Greece, and have been inspired or brought there by the Greeks who came there after the “exile” in Istanbul or Smyrna.

  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • 1 small red onion
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • salt, pepper
  • 100 grams feta
  • 150 grams kasseri (or the mildest white goat cheese you can find. For emergencies use English cheddar)
  • ½ small green bell pepper
  • some chilli flakes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • country bread, white bread or pita bread

Strain the tomato box and pour the tomato flesh into a bowl. Finely chop the onion, crush the garlic and mix it in the tomatoes with oregano, salt and pepper. Pour half of this in a small ovenproof dish.

Chop the feta and layer it on top of the tomatoes, grate the kasseri and put half of it on top of the feta. Pour over the rest of the tomato mixture, and sprinkle the rest of the kasseri on top of everything. Cut peppers into strips and place them on top. Sprinkle with chilli and pour over the oil.

Place a lid on the dish, or make a tight lid of aluminium foil. Bake at 200 degrees C for 1 hour. Serve the bouyiourdi hot or warm, with bread, and dip, dip, dip – but please use a fork as well, so you get to taste all the good stuff!

PS! As a variation, you can slice some black olives and add to the tomato mixture.

 

Tonosalata / Tuna salad

In a Greek home, I once was served a delicious tuna salad, and here is my attempt to recreate it. It’s probably not, I believe, arch-typical Greek, but it consists of ingredients that are found in most Greek kitchens. So it’s ok to give you the recipe here, I think.
The salad can be served as a meze; you can eat it in a sandwich, or tear up a few different types of green salad leaves and add tuna salad in splotches on top. Seriously good!

  • 2 large tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 2 large tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped red onion
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill
  • 1 can tuna in water
  • salt, pepper

Mix yogurt, mayonnaise, red onion and dill. Pour the brine from the tuna and stir the tuna vigorously in the sauce until it flakes into small pieces. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
And that’s it!

Papoutsakia / Small shoes

Papoutsakia, small shoes, isn’t that an adorable name for a dish? Papoutsakia are baked eggplants, scooped out, filled with a meat ragout, topped with cheese sauce, and baked again. And these filled eggplant halves look like small shoes. Perhaps you have eaten moussaka in Greece, and papoutsakia contains the same ingredients – you can almost say that papoutsakia are moussaka made in serving portions. But for some reason, papoutsakia taste much better than the moussaka, I think.

  • 2 eggplants
  • olive oil
  • 200 grams ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1 ripe, large tomato
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • a splash of water
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • possibly a small sprinkle of cinnamon if you like it
  • 2 tablespoons fresh minced parsley
  • (Eggplant pulp)
  • Cheese Sauce:
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 300 ml milk
  • a little nutmeg
  • salt, pepper
  • 150 ml tasty, grated cheese and 50 ml more to sprinkle on top

Wash eggplants and cut them in half lengthwise with a knife. Brush them with olive oil. Bake them v 180 degrees C for 35 minutes. Brown beef in olive oil. Add the onion and garlic at the end. Grate the tomato, throw away the peel and add the tomato pulp and juice to the pan, together with the tomato paste and spices. Then add a little water, but not too much, you want a thick ragout. Cook for 45 minutes. Stir in parsley.

Melt the butter for the cheese sauce, stir in the flour and add the milk little by little, until you have a thick white sauce. Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and simmer for five minutes. Remove sauce from heat and add cheese.

Hollow out the eggplants with a spoon, leave a rind of pulp, something like 1 cm, all along the peel. Chop the eggplant flesh you have dug out, and mix half (or all, if you want) with the ragout. Fill the ragout in the aubergines and top with cheese sauce and the rest of the grated cheese.

Bake at 220 degrees C, until cheese is melted and golden, about 15 min. Eat with bread and salad.
For 2

PS: If you are among those who think eggplants get a bit too gel-like consistency after they are baked, you can replace them with large baking potatoes and do exactly the same. Divide potatoes in two, bake them in foil until soft, and proceed as the recipe says. Some use potatoes in the moussaka too, so doing it this way is not a criminal offense.

Rakomelo – a warming winter drink

Maybe most of us regard Greece as a summer country with warm sand, hot winds and dusty streets, but there are winters in Greece too, of course. Greece has several ski areas, and even in the mildest areas, like Nafplio, the thermometer could crawl down to zero. And then the Greeks drink Rakomelo.  Rakomelo is perfect in Advent and Christmas, as it consists of sweet honey and Christmas spices like cinnamon and cloves.

It is possible that you can’t get hold of Greek spirits like raki, tsipoura, tsikouda, (dear children, etc…) Do not despair. Vodka will highlight the honey and spice tastes, but use grappa if you want more character, more like the original Rakomelo.

  • 75 ml raki or other liquor (see above)
  • 1 teaspoon Greek thyme honey or other liquid honey
  • 1 / 2 cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove

Put everything in a small pan and heat it slowly and gently until the honey melts and steam starts to rise. Remove the cinnamon stick and clove. (The cinnamon may of course be used again if you make more Rakomelo.) Drink while it’s hot! Enough for two shots, or one small drink (in Greek standards).

 

Lentils a la the ancient Greeks

This old Greek recipe was found written on papyrus in Egypt, and proves that also the ancient Greeks could make great food. Just smell the aromas that spread in the kitchen while it’s cooking! The old recipe doesn’t say anything about amounts, so I’ve experimented to find a dish I like, you can add more or less amounts of whatever you like if you want to experiment further. The original recipe asks for a little anise, I use ouzo, Greek liquor with anise, instead. The lentils taste great with white fish or fried chicken, and are also an original mezé dish.

  • 150 g lentils
  • 1 red onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 150 ml red wine
  • 150 ml stock (water + chicken or vegetable cube is ok)
  • 3 tablespoons ouzo
  • 50 ml olive oil
  • 1 / 2 tsp cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried dill (or about 2 tablespoons fresh – if you use the latter add it at the end of the cooking time.)
  • 1 small bunch parsley
  • salt, pepper

Wash lentils. Mix everything except the parsley, salt and pepper, and simmer, covered, until you have a thick stew, about 45 minutes. Add a little water if it cooks dry. Add the chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Ladera / Vegetable stew with olive oil

Ladera is a generic term for vegetables (and other foods) cooked in oil, and this is really traditional fare. Ladera is eaten all year, but is especially popular during Lent, when many Greeks don’t eat meat. Peas, carrots and potatoes, like in this recipe, are common in a ladera, as are artichoke hearts, peppers, tomatoes, beans – depending on what is in season. One, two or three vegetables cooked together and eaten, often as a main dish, in company with feta cheese and bread. But the ladera can of course also be served as an accompaniment to meat or fish. Dill is often used as spice, but especially with mint, peas are more than usable, and parsley goes with more or less everything. The recipe below is just a starting point, experiment with different vegetables and herbs.

I add quite a lot of water and thus less oil when I cook ladera, to limit the number of calories. If that’s no problem for you, simply use more oil, less water, and the ladera will be even better. Also be aware that the ladera should cook quite a while, in other words, the vegetables will be really soft – over cooked some will say. But that’s the way it should be.

  • 50 ml olive oil
  • ½ onion, finely chopped
  • 200 g peas, frozen or fresh
  • 3 carrots into small pieces
  • 2 regular potatoes in slightly larger pieces
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1.5 ml water
  • salt, pepper
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons fresh dill, finely chopped
  • feta cheese and bread for serving

Heat oil and fry the onion so it becomes soft but not brown. Add the rest, except dill. Simmer for 45 minutes under a lid, stirring occasionally. Add the dill. Eat  the ladera warm or lukewarm, with bread and feta.

For 2 as main course, 4 as a side dish.

Kourkouto me kolokithia / Squash pie

Squash pie, zucchini cake, I do not know exactly what to call this heavenly mix of squash, leek and cheese, but the name isn’t really important when it comes to good food. Directly translated kourkouto means something like (cake) batter. Eat the pie / cake as an main course, along with a fresh tomato salad and a piece of bread, or as an accompaniment to grilled chicken. The recipe is borrowed from the fantastic Greek food blog kalofagas, but with a few changes, the most important being that I use more cheese in my kourkouto. For nothing is much better than cheese. And by the way, if you want you can fry some bacon and add to the batter before baking the pie. Seriously good!

  • 1 small leek, finely chopped
  • 1 zucchini/squash, about 350 grams, cut 4 thin slices, chop the rest
  • 0,3 cup olive oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 0,3 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 0,3 cup Greek yogurt
  • 0,5 cup feta cheese, coarsely chopped
  • 1 cup kasseri *, grated
  • 1 bunch dill, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • pepper and perhaps salt

Sweat leek and squash (except slices) in oil for about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, make the batter: Beat eggs; add flour and baking powder, then yoghurt. Stir well and add the cheese, along with dill. Stir in the vegetables. Season with pepper and paprika, the cheese is probably so salty that you do not need a lot, if any, extra salt. Pour into a greased, small baking dish. Top with the squash slices, sprinkle a little paprika on top, and bake at 175 degrees C for about 50 minutes.

Let the pie / cake stand fifteen minutes before you eat it, but if you wait until it has room temperature, it’s absolutely fine too.

To 2 as main course, 4 as a side dish.

* Kasseri is a lovely, tasty but not strong, Greek cheese made from sheep’s or goat’s milk. If you are lucky you have a fantastic cheese shop near you, to find an adequate replacement is not easy. However, provolone, cheddar or graviera will probably also taste excellent in this dish.