Peckham Bazaar, Peckham

A few years ago I decided to give up on Greek restaurants in the UK. I obviously love Greek food, and I feel quite homesick at the best of times, so there’s a limit on how many times I can get served dishes accompanied with that weird bright-orange passata, or charged £6 for a shot of ouzo, before I buy myself a one-way ticket back home.

The thing is, Greek food is not too hard to make, but does rely on lovely fresh ingredients that are not always cheap or easy to find here. In Greece, my mum will come back with a huge carrier bag stuffed with peppers, courgettes, aubergines, for little over €10. Every time I try to make moussaka in the UK, the aubergines cost substantially more than the mince.

I’m saying all this because, plot twist, there is a really good Greek (/Balkan) restaurant in London and finally, after months of drooling over their online menus, I made it there.

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We turned up for Saturday lunch with the right number of people to allow us to try everything on the menu. We had a couple of our own bottles of wine as this was their first BYOB lunch, but we also tried a Monemvasios from their extensive (mostly) Greek wine list. The restaurant is relatively small but bright, and the big open grill is visible from the tables. The smell from it hits you as you walk in and, together with the music, it set the tone for an authentic-feeling afternoon.

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Overall, everything on the menu tasted fantastic; both familiar but also with some interesting twists and additions. This is pretty authentic stuff – the presentation is more refined but the flavours are punchy. I enjoyed everything but below are some photos of my favourites.

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The octopus with fava (a houmous-style puree made from yellow split peas) was the dish I was mostly looking forward to, and it didn’t disappoint. The octopus had the right amount of chewiness and good char, and went well with the earthiness of the fava. Pretty to look at, too.

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This was the squid with Israeli cous cous, cabbage and orange. Flash-grilled squid on brilliantly chewy cous cous, with the orange segments keeping it fresh and interesting.

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Anchovies were perfectly fried and served alongside gem dressed with a very savoury graviera (my favourite Greek cheese!) sauce. I might have licked the plate.

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Lovely pork chop and, as the rest of the meats, it came in 6 slices, which was presumably to make sharing between the 6 of us easier. A nice touch. I love gigantes (giant butter beans in tomato and herb sauce) and this was a great example of them.

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One of the highlights, even for meat lovers, was the imam: aubergines roasted with tomatoes and olive oil till silky soft, served alongside stuffed Turkish peppers.

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We finished with Greek (or Turkish, if you prefer) coffee, a bottle of Samos sweet wine and a couple of puddings to share. The pistachio cake with mastiha ice cream was my favourite. Mastiha is not everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s really fragrant and an interesting alternative to vanilla ice cream. My boyfriend normally complains it tastes like soap, but he seemed to be enjoying this version of it just fine.

We ended up stretching our lunch to about 3 hours, threw in a spot of wine tasting, and left full and happy. The 6 of us paid around £30/head for all the starters and mains, 4 desserts, a bottle of red, a small bottle of dessert wine, and coffees. It’d be great to go back when the weather improves and sit out on the patio. Maybe for an Easter-special spit-roast lamb?

Courgette fritters

I always thought of courgette fritters as something you order at a greek tavern and because they taste so amazing I assumed they would be too difficult to make at home. I do have an irrational fear of deep-frying too so that might have contributed to my reluctance. It turns out they are pretty easy, and you can shallow fry them instead. We even made a “diet” version by dry frying them on a non-stick pan. They turned out less like fritters and more like savoury pancakes, but still tasted great. I added a red pointy pepper for sweetness and some chili for a bit of a kick.

Courgette fritters

Ingredients (serves 3 as a main)

2 large courgettes, grated
1 red pointed pepper, chopped finely
3-4 spring onions, chopped finely
150 gr feta, crumbled
1-2 chillies, chopped finely
1/2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried dill (or a handful of fresh dill, chopped)
1/2 tsp dried oregano
pinch of salt
lots of ground pepper
2 eggs
about 4 tbsp flour, to get the right consistency

Mix all the ingredients together, adding the flour slowly and mixing until you get a gloopy but not too thick consistency. In the meantime, heat some sunflower/olive oil in a frying pan; you want plenty to cover the bottom of the pan and be about 1/2 cm high. With the pan over medium-high heat, use a tablespoon to carefully drop some mixture in the pan and slightly flatten the top. Cook on one side until golden brown and then flip it to cook the other side. If they seem to be cooking too quickly you can turn the heat down a bit, as you don’t want them to still be raw on the inside. A few minutes on each side should do. Remove and place on kitchen roll to absorb the extra oil.

Serve these with tzatziki (garlicky yoghurt with cucumber) for dipping. They are also perfect as part of a greek meze dinner, as I did recently, serving them with spetsofai, a slab of feta and lots of crusty bread.

Greek Octopus Stew

Have you not had enough of all this roast turkey/goose/stuffing/cranberries chat? I know I have and without actually eating any of it! Our Christmas tradition involves cockerel stew served with pasta, and a lemony-eggy chicken soup on Boxing Day to help the hangover. But whenever I’m in Greece I also try to take advantage of all the nice seafood here. This octopus stew is one of my favourite dishes – if you don’t fancy a bird anymore then give it a go.

As is the case with quite a lot of seafood, you need to cook octopus either for seconds or hour(s). Anything in between, and it’ll be tough. I normally grill my octopus, and have it drizzled with red wine vinegar and some chips on the side, but this stew is also a great (and very traditional) way of having it. The meaty chunks of octopus cook in the sauce long enough to give the whole dish a strong seafood taste and a thick gravy that you will want to lick off your plate.

To prepare my octopus, I remove most of the skin on the inside of each tentacle (the opposite side from where the suckers are!). I’m sure you could just leave it, but if it’s quite a big octopus the skin tends to be quite thick and I don’t like it. You can (should) of course use the head, but I’d remove the skin from that too.

My normal portions of pasta are bigger than average, but when you cook it in sauce it somehow goes a long way. We had 500gr between 4 of us for dinner and a light lunch the next day. I think that 300gr would be more than enough for dinner for 3. We use short tubes of pasta (kofto) for this dish. If you can’t find them, you could use macaroni or pasta shells.

Greek Octopus Stew

Ingredients (serves 3)

1 medium-sized octopus, chopped in 2 inch pieces
1 medium onion, finely chopped
olive oil

1 small glass of red wine
1 can of good quality tomatoes
4 allspice berries
1 bay leaf

300gr pasta
lots of ground pepper
salt to taste
sprinkling of oregano
fresh chopped parsley (optional)

First, place the octopus pieces in a large pot (it will need to fit the pasta later) and let them simmer over a medium heat. You don’t need any water as they will release a lot of (very red) juices. Reduce until you have a thick red coating all over your octopus. Add the chopped onion and some olive oil, and let it all fry slowly until the onion is soft.

Turn the heat up, add the glass of wine and let the alcohol evaporate. Add the tomatoes, enough water to cover the octopus and the allspice and bay leaf. Let it simmer slowly for an hour.

Add the pasta and some more water (but not too much, you don’t want to end up with a soup). While the pasta is cooking, keep an eye on it and add more water if it’s getting dry. You want to end up with a thick sauce. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle with the oregano. Enjoy.

(Healthy-ish) Spinach and Feta mini-pies

What do you do when you’ve spent three days eating huge amounts of spit-roast lamb for lunch and dinner?

Apparently, you find yourself ordering a crepe at that (life-saving) 24h sandwich shop. At 4 in the morning. I can’t even remember what was in there, but there was definitely cheese, chips (yeah, obviously) and mayo. And probably some meat.

Greedy.

I woke up with no hangover – thankfully all those calories didn’t completely go to waste. But I was really hoping to eat something slightly healthier and preferably green-coloured. I don’t think my mum has ever seen me so excited about spinach.

The recipe is of course quite vague, since this is how mum described it to me. Actually, her first sentence was “Make some dough” and she was not going to offer any further explanation. Thankfully she saw the blank look on my face and got the hint.

Spinach and Feta mini-pies

For the dough

500 gr all-purpose flour
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
enough water to make a dough (~1/2 pint)

Simply mix the flour with the oil and the salt and then add water gradually and knead until you have a dough. You want it as wet as possible without sticking to your fingers or the bowl. Knead until smooth and let it rest. In the meantime, prepare the filling.

For the filling

200 gr spinach
6-7 spring onions
a bunch of dill
150 gr feta, crumbled
2 tbsp rice, washed
olive oil
a pinch of salt and some pepper

First of all, wash your greens and chop them up. In a big bowl, mix with the cheese and the rice. Add some pepper, a little bit of salt, depending on how salty your feta is, and drizzle with olive oil. Mix to combine.

By now the dough should be ready to be used. Cut off an apple-sized piece and place it on a lightly floured surface. You want to roll it out to a rectangular shape, a bit like in the picture below, but probably a bit thinner than mine. Make it thin enough so that you can just about see there’s spinach inside when you fill it and roll it up.

Add some of the mixture in the middle and then roll it into a long cylinder. Squeeze the ends of the dough to seal them and roll it in this kind of shape:

Brush top and bottom with some olive oil, place on a tray and cook in a preheated oven (180 degrees) for about 30-40 minutes or until golden brown. My mum turned them round towards the end, but I forgot to. Not sure how much of a difference it makes but you should probably do it anyway.

I think mine also needed a bit more cooking, but I was in a hurry. I reheated a couple the next day, and they were nicer, so leave yours until they look a bit darker than the ones on the picture.

I really love making a big batch of these and having them for lunch the next day too. You can also have them as a light dinner or serve them as a side to something meaty (in Greece we had them with some lamb – of course!).

You can add less authentic things in there too, like some kind of meat, diced finely. Just don’t skip the rice, it makes a big difference as it absorbs the liquid from the spinach and stops them from turning soggy.

Happy Easter!

There is something really quite magical about being back home, and it’s not just that the beach is 5 minutes away and the sun is almost always shining at this time of the year. Although it helps.

It’s that special feeling you get when you know a place inside out and every street brings back a different memory. Easter is a particularly good time of the year to be here too; I’m glad to have escaped the awful weather back in England and be able to smell all those lovely spring smells.

And Easter is still celebrated in a very traditional way. A week of fasting or at least moderate eating is followed by feasts right after midnight on Saturday. Eggs are dyed bright red and the egg wars are a favourite post-Sunday-lunch game.

There’s been a silly amount of meat-eating, not that I’m complaining of course! We got a whole spit roasted lamb and, since there’s just four of us, something tells me it’s going to take us a while to get through all of it. Even when the novelty wears out, there’s so many things you can do with it: use it in sauces, omelets, salads. Mum likes to eat it straight out of the fridge, Nigella-style.

I am not a huge fan of liver, but when it’s wrapped in intestines and then cooked on a rotisserie until crispy (kokoretsi) I can be tempted.

But apart from the meats, appetisers are also an important part of the Easter table. Salads, cheeses and dips go perfectly with the salty meat. One of my favourite ones is the one I’m about to share with you, and it’s so simple I’m not sure I’m even allowed to call this a recipe.

Roast Peppers

Ingredients
 
long peppers (as many as you like, including a spicy one for a bit of a kick)
olive oil
salt
red wine vinegar

Wash and prick the peppers with a knife. Dry them with a kitchen towel and place them on a baking tray. Sprinkle with olive oil and salt and shake the tray to cover them all over. Place under a medium grill until soft and brown in spots, turning round once to let them cook on both sides. Serve either hot or cold, with a splash of vinegar.

Rice Pudding (Greek #10)

Ah, hello beautiful feeling of achievement! Sometimes I forget how good you feel. Both in my work and in this blogging business (alright, hobby) I got myself into, days can go past when nothing feels right. Food that isn’t worth writing about and maths that doesn’t mean anything no matter how hard you squint, or scale, or both. Today isn’t one of those days, I think. The sun helps too.

But is a bowl of rice pudding worth blogging about? And how challenging can it be to qualify as part of a challenge?

Well, I haven’t cheated. I’ve never made rice pudding before, not the Greek kind, not any kind. And this is about me learning, right? And it was totally worth it because when I tasted it, it made me feel like a kid again. It was exactly right. Now, you might like your rice pudding a specific way, and I don’t blame you. This one is the one I grew up on. It’s a bit different to English rice pudding; first of all, it’s supposed to be eaten cold. It tastes better cold. And secondly, you sprinkle cinnamon on top. No nutmeg, no jam. It’s got to be cinnamon.

The recipe comes from the Greek Delia as I like to think of her, or Vefa as is her real name. I’ve changed quantities a bit as I didn’t like it as sweet and I thought the amount of cornflour was a bit on the extreme side.

Greek Rice Pudding (adapted from here)

Ingredients (makes 6 portions)

1/2 cup rice, washed
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 tsp salt
4 cups milk
1 tsp cornflour
1/3 cup sugar (or up to 1/2 cup, depending on how sweet you like it)
vanilla extract
ground cinnamon

In a pot, bring the water to boil and add the rice. Cover and let it simmer until all the water has been absorbed. In 1/4 cup of the milk, add the vanilla extract and the cornflour and dilute. Bring the rest of the milk to boil (or warm up in the microwave which is what I did) and add it to the rice, together with the sugar. Let it simmer for about 20 mins. When it’s done, thicken it by adding the cornflour-milk-vanilla mixture, bring to boil and cook for another 5-10 mins while stirring to make sure it doesn’t stick to the pan. Let it cool and split it into 6 bowls. You can keep them in the fridge until you serve them.

You know the thing I said before about cinnamon? Don’t listen to me and my food pedantry. Rice pudding is the easiest and friendliest and least pretentious pudding in the world. Have it with whatever you fancy!

Doing these 10 Greek recipes has actually been harder than I initially thought- I cook Greek stuff all the time and it was quite tricky (but also very exciting!) to try and come up with things I hadn’t made before. You can argue that a couple of the things I made were just borderline acceptable, but it was fun and I learnt stuff! Next country is going to be India because a bit of spice is going to help us get through the end of the winter. I’m really looking forward to it; in the meantime, if you would like to have a look at the other Greek dishes I made, here’s a list:

Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines
Ladopita 
Cheese and Salami Pie
Pork Souvlaki
Homemade Pita
Rabbit Stifado

Rabbit Stifado (Greek #9)

When I blog about Greek food I try to avoid using Greek names to describe dishes as I find it a little bit pretentious and possibly quite confusing for non-Greeks. I will definitely be found guilty of doing the exact thing I’m pretending to dislike around this blog, but I do at least make an effort. Sometimes, it’s just a bit silly to say Courgettes, Aubergines and Potatoes baked with Tomato and Olive Oil rather than just Briam.

I was thinking about an English name for this dish the other day while watching Masterchef when Gregg spoke the words “She’s making a Beef Stifado. Will it be enough to get her through to the next round?”. Well, if the word is good enough for Gregg, then it’s good enough for me. Because Gregg isn’t pretentious at all. Fact. So there you go: we’re almost at the end of the Greek month (the word month used in the most general way possible) and we are having Rabbit Stifado.

Rabbit is a controversial meat I suppose, but I feel that we should eat most things and eat them in moderation. And if you think about it, rabbits have probably enjoyed a much better life than those battery chickens that haven’t got the space or the energy to move.

Having said that, I managed to persuade Alex to do the dirty job of cutting it in pieces. It didn’t look like a great job. It was a bit messy but the idea is to try and cut it in half following the spine and then remove the 4 legs and any other meat pieces from around the main bone. We threw that away. If you want some proper advice on preparing the rabbit, there are quite a few useful videos on YouTube that we only thought of looking up after we had finished.

The sauce is simple, but very aromatic and I love the sweet onions. As it’s normally the case with stews, the longer you leave it to simmer, the better it becomes.


Rabbit Stifado

Ingredients (serves 4)


1 rabbit, cut into pieces
10 small onions or shallots, peeled
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 glass of red wine
1 cup creamed tomatoes and/or some fresh tomatoes, pureed
1 cinnamon stick
a few allspice berries
olive oil
salt and pepper

Fry the rabbit in a bit of olive oil. If you like, you can first roll the rabbit pieces in some flour and then fry them. Slightly healthier if you don’t. When it’s nicely browned, add the onions, the garlic and the wine and boil until the alcohol evaporates. If you have fried bits of meat stuck to the bottom of the pan you can use a wooden spoon to scrape them off. Then, add the tomatoes, enough water to almost cover the meat and the cinnamon, allspice and pepper and cover. Let it simmer for a couple of hours or longer if possible. The meat will just get more and more tender. When it’s done, season with the salt.

Serve with pasta or some good bread. I actually fancied some mash when I made it so I had it with that and it was really good with the lovely, thick sauce. The next day we had the leftovers on spaghetti, with some grated pecorino on the top. Very nice too.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines
Ladopita 
Cheese and Salami Pie
Pork Souvlaki
Homemade Pita

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: Finishing off with a childhood sweet!

Pork Souvlaki with homemade Pita (Greek #7 & #8)

When I lived in Greece there were some things I never thought of making myself. To be honest, I didn’t do a lot of cooking back then, being a student and all, and having my mum to cook yummy food for me! And it never crossed my mind to make some souvlaki with pita, given how many places there are around that make it so well! But in England, most Greek food places (fancy or not) try to prove every bad stereotype about Greek food true.

It was Tsiknopempti a couple of weeks ago (I am slow at posting recipes!) and I was also feeling quite homesick so I decided to put some Greek music on and make something traditional. Tsiknopempti is what in other countries is called Fat Thursday and because it is 10 days before Lent starts people eat a lot of meat, traditionally barbecued.  The name comes from the word tsikna which is the smell that meat has when grilled or barbecued.

Pork Souvlaki

a joint of pork shoulder
a small onion
2 lemons
olive oil
oregano
salt and pepper
skewers (soaked in water, so they don’t burn under the grill)

First of all, cut the meat into squares (sides approximately 2cm), keeping some of the fat on it. To make the marinade, grate the onion on the thick side of the grater and mix it with the meat, the juice of a lemon, olive oil, oregano and the seasoning. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge, ideally overnight, but if you’re feeling impatient, for as long as you can wait.

When you are ready to cook it, put pieces on the skewers and cook them under a medium grill, turning the skewers round half way. You want them to be crispy on the outside but make sure you don’t overcook them.

Serve with some more lemon on the side and this easy and tasty pita bread. I am never buying pita from the supermarket again.

Pita Bread (recipe from Kalofagas)
makes approximately 6 big ones

3 cups plain flour
3/4 cup lukewarm water
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

oil for greasing the pan
flour for dusting

Mix the water, olive oil, yeast, salt and sugar and leave for a few minutes. Add the flour slowly and mix with a wooden spoon until it becomes a dough. When it is too difficult to do it with the spoon, start mixing with your hands. When the flour has been incorporated, knead until the dough looks smooth. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave for half an hour.
Pull pieces off the dough, the size of an orange (although it depends on how big you like your pita!) and roll them out into 1/4 inch thick round sheets. Use a fork to poke holes into the dough, without going all the way through it.

Heat your pan and spread a little oil on it. Place your flat dough on the pan and cook on each side for about 2 minutes, or until golden. When each pita is cooked, put it inside a towel to make sure it doesn’t dry out while cooling down. Serve warm, or if you want to serve them later, let them cool down inside the towel and reheat on the pan.

It’s perfect Greek food, so easy to make, quite healthy and very tasty. Serve with some Greek salad, and my favourite Greek dips: Tzatziki and Roast Pepper and Spicy Feta dip. Actually, this pita is so yummy that a couple of times last week my dinner consisted of it and these dips.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines
Ladopita 
Cheese and Salami Pie

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: It’s a cute animal, but it’s also pretty yummy.

Cheese and salami pie (Greek #6)

I’m talking about a Greek style pie of course, which involves layers of phyllo pastry on the top and bottom with a filling of your choice. Most common example I suppose is the spinach pie or Spanakopita. The one I made is loosely based on Pastourmadopita and it was made in an effort to use up all the graviera cheese that was sitting in the fridge for a couple of weeks. It turns out it’s quite tricky to eat 1.5 kilos of cheese before it starts turning mouldy.

The recipe originally uses kaseri, a cheese with similar texture to cheddar. The one I had, graviera, is a hard salty and spicy cheese, which doesn’t melt as well. In this case it didn’t matter, as I made some bechamel sauce for the filling, but if you are not doing that you probably want to use a meltier cheese. If you can’t find graviera you can instead use some Pecorino. I also substituted pastourma, a type of cured beef, for some peppery salami I had brought back from home.
Cheese and Salami Pie
Ingredients:
1 pack phyllo pastry (~8 sheets)
olive oil for brushing
sesame seeds for sprinkling

  

For the filling:

400gr cheese, grated
1/2 salami, chopped

2 medium-sized tomatoes, no seeds or excess juice, chopped
1-2 red pointy peppers (or any other kind you prefer)
bechamel sauce* (use just enough to bind everything together without making it too saucy, see below)
ground pepper

Grill the pepper(s) until lightly charred and then chop them, discarding seeds.

 

Mix all the filling ingredients together and add the bechamel sauce. You probably don’t need any salt, as the cheese will be quite salty, but you can give the filling a taste and adjust it accordingly. Place half of the phyllo sheets on the tray, brushing with olive oil between each layer. Top with the fillling.

  

Fold the edges of the phyllo on top, cover with the rest of the sheets (brushing with olive oil again!) and tuck the ends inside the tray. Use a knife to cut through the top layer down to the filling, making sure you don’t cut all the way to the bottom phyllo layer. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

  

Cook in a preheated oven at 180 degrees for about half an hour or until golden on the top.

Serve it with some salad on the side.

You can see that I didn’t do a great job when I tucked my phyllo sheets in as some of the filling escaped but it didn’t really matter. The flavour and smell are brilliant. The salami is spicy and strong-flavoured and makes for a great addition to a standard cheese pie. The pie is quite heavy because of all the cheese and the sauce, but the peppers and tomatoes make it more aromatic and somehow it tastes lighter because of them.

*About the bechamel sauce:
You can use your favourite bechamel sauce recipe; I make it the way my mum always does and these ingredients will make you just a bit more than what you need for the pie. Then you can eat the leftovers from the pot while your pie is baking.

3 tbsp flour
3 tbsp olive oil
milk
nutmeg
salt, pepper

Quickly fry the flour with the olive oil until it becomes a smooth paste. Turning the heat right down, add the (preferably warm) milk slowly and stir/whisk. I never know how much milk to use, I just keep adding it until the sauce reaches the right consistency. You want quite a thick bechamel for this recipe. Let it come to the boil, but keep whisking to avoid the bottom burning and the sauce turning lumpy. Add the seasoning according to taste (but remember that for this recipe, you are about to add salty cheese to the sauce).

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines
Ladopita

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: Meat Feast!

Ladopita (Greek #5)

Do you like Marmite? I don’t, although I’m trying to get used to it slowly, somehow it feels like it is something I should enjoy. My point is, this cake is like Marmite, as in you either love it or you hate it. So far, a handful of my friends say they enjoy it, while the rest could happily survive without trying it ever again in their lives. But don’t let this put you off; you should give everything a go. Especially something so traditional and local and simple yet special as this.

As far as I’m aware, this cake is made only on a small island in Greece, on which I grew up. It is made by grannies on villages in large batches and then given away as presents to family and friends. At least that’s what happens in my family. It really is a matter of pride, to be able to make one of those well! People grew up on this stuff, because it involves such cheap and common ingredients and lasts well for a few weeks. Everyone knows what one should taste like, and they are very critical of any alterations of the recipe (even substituting honey for sugar is frowned upon!).

My mum attempted making it once. I was about 10 years old. I remember a lot of running around in the kitchen, some panicking and a lot of vigorous mixing. The end result was nice I think, but it didn’t compare to my granny’s version and I think my mum decided she would never manage to make one as good as the original one. Having been so critical of other people’s efforts, she decided to not put herself in that position again.

So what chance did I stand?! Although it could well be a failure, I was safe in the knowledge that my parents would not have to taste it and any criticism would come only from people that didn’t really know what a good one tastes like. And myself.

But I’ve just realised I haven’t even told you what I’m making yet! This Greek “cake” is called Ladopita. And that translates to “Oil Pie”. Olive oil of course. I wonder how many people have just closed this tab. Oh well. There you go:

Ladopita

Ingredients (This is a quarter of the standard recipe and makes about 20 pieces. It’s enough, trust me.)


2 glasses of water
1 3/4 glasses of olive oil
1 glass caster sugar
around 500 gr all-purpose flour
sesame seeds
ground cinnamon

I know that using glasses isn’t really the best way to measure things, and I have already expressed my disliking of the cups method, but this is a traditional Greek recipe. I wouldn’t dare spoiling it by making you use scales! It’s easy to estimate what half a kilo of flour is from a 1.5 kilo packet. Just use a standard water glass, about 250 ml. You can decide how much flour you need by judging the consistency of the mixture.

I am including quite a few rubbish pictures to help guide you through the process. First, heat up the oil in a big pot. Add the flour slowly and mix until smooth and creamy. It will look a bit like this:

Now you need to keep stirring over a medium heat to make sure you cook the flour without burning it. It might take a bit. Don’t get impatient, this is very important. In the meantime, pop the sugar and water in a pot and let it boil for 5-10 mins until it becomes a bit syrupy.
 
Your mixture is starting to look darker. First a bit like chestnut paste, and then it should take a brown-ish colour.
 
This is where I stopped. I think it needed a bit longer. If you keep stirring it won’t stick to the bottom, so you can wait until it gets a bit darker.
Now, add the syrup in batches. You should probably take the big pot off the heat. The first batch of syrup you add is going to make the mixture go mental. You’ve been warned hence you’re already more well prepared to do this than I was. This is how it looks after you start adding syrup. I think there is a drastic change because the hot syrup cooks the flour really quickly. It is very important that you keep stirring so it is all smooth, although this step won’t take more than 5 minutes.
 
You can now add a bit of cinnamon to the dough. Take a baking tray, sprinkle a few sesame seeds on the bottom and spoon in the dough. 
 
It looks all messy on the top so you need to take some baking paper, pop it on the top and then press down on the dough with your hands so it all becomes smooth and flat, like this:
 
Then, you sprinkle cinnamon, sesame seeds and a bit of sugar (preferably granulated) and, using a knife, cut it in diamond-shaped pieces, all the way to the bottom. This is very important as it will be quite hard to cut it in pretty pieces after it’s cooked.
 
Pop it in the preheated (200 degrees) oven for about an hour. You can check with a knife if it is cooked in the middle. It should be looking golden brown on the top.

You can enjoy it as an afternoon snack with a cup of coffee, especially if dinner is still a long time away and you’re feeling a bit hungry. It’s quite filling! It should be crumbly on the inside without being dry. It keeps for at least a couple of weeks out of the fridge. Just cover it with some cling film so it doesn’t dry out.

I think overall mine was a good effort! It wasn’t as hard to cook as I thought it would be, it was just a bit intense for a few minutes when I added the syrup. Certainly not time consuming! It was of course no match for the original version and I probably wouldn’t dare serve it to my granny, but I think I could convince my parents to have a taste without feeling embarrassed. 
If you decide to give it a go –  and you should! –  I’d love to hear how it went.

Previously on Round the World in 100 Recipes:
Spetsofai
Stuffed Onions
Lihnarakia
Beef with Aubergines

Next time on Round the World in 100 Recipes: Cheeeeeesy!