Monday, May 27, 2013

Classic Greek Vegetarian lunch:
Stuffed Tomatoes with Greek Salad

Today I'm guest blogging again, this time over at Simple Living and Eating, a blog written by Diane Balch about simple living and healthy eating with the Mediterranean diet.

While we freeze our toes off here in wintery Melbourne, Greece is basking in Summer sunshine where people all over the country will be enjoying Yemistes Domates (stuffed tomatoes) and Greek Salad. These are the two recipes I've featured today on Diane's blog.

Go take a look at Simple Living and Eating for lots of recipe ideas, weekly menu plans and to learn more about the philosophy behind healthy eating, the Mediterranean way :)

I will be back again soon with three very exciting little Greek dishes that I've been experimenting with, using the humble and often overlooked turnip!

I'm linking today's post once again with Veggie Mama's endlessly inspiring Meatless Mondays link-up. Hop on over to see how she made perfectly crispy barbecued potatoes.

Friday, May 24, 2013

Prasopita (Leek Pie with Feta) and
Vegan Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)
with home-made filo pastry, two ways

I'm not going to pretend making your own filo pastry is easy as pie, because it isn't. Just as well the two pie dishes with which I chose to practice making home-made filo pastry are forgivingly rustic and don't highlight pastry failings in the way a croissant might.

Two classic Greek dishes, Spanakopita (spinach pie) and Prasopita (leek pie) kindly allowed me to use them to experiment with some filo-making techniques. The traditional technique mastered by Greek yia yias (grandmothers) involves hand stretching the dough over a large round table until it is paper thin and bigger than the table itself. I wasn't going anywhere near that technique.

Unfortunately no one in my family could impart any knowledge on home-made filo pastry, so I did a bit of research online and I kept coming across a very popular method where by the pastry is carefully rolled, buttered and folded several times to create the layers needed. This sounded like a pretty easy method so I decided this would be the first technique to try.

Another method I was determined to tackle was from a Greek cook book my sister recently gave me. It's a little closer to the traditional technique of stretching the pastry, but with only half the degree of stress!

Not to say that these methods aren't stressful! They both require lots of time, patience and strength, especially if you knead dough like never and your rolling pin is made of solid marble and weighs 5 kilos.

So are you completely inspired now to make your own filo pastry? Well I should also tell you that along with the difficulties of making the pastry, the end results didn't turn out that well either. The top layer of the folded pastry came out quite hard and thick and the other pastry was a little on the rubbery side.

Neither were anything like the flaky sheets of commercial filo pastry we know and love, but despite their textural misgivings, they actually didn't taste too bad. I'm fairly certain the delicious fillings had something to do with that :)

Because these methods didn't quite work for me I wasn't going to detail them in this post, but then I thought that perhaps it was just my crappy kneading or rolling techniques that messed things up and I shouldn't presume that everyone would experience the same failings that I did. I'm sure someone who knows what they're doing would probably have great success with these methods, and if you do, I would love to hear about it.

These two pies are absolutely delicious in their own right anyway so I owe it to them to share with you their recipes. And feel free to use commercial filo pastry! I know I will be next time I make them!

Prasopita (Leek Pie with Feta)

Adapted from the recipe for Greek Leek Pie from the Authentic Greek Recipes blog

Serves 8 to 10 (using a 25cm x 30cm baking dish)


For the pastry
  • 500g plain flour
  • 280ml soda water
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 150g butter, melted, for brushing
For the filling
  • 2 large leeks, finely sliced
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 250g feta cheese, roughly crumbled
  • 100g ricotta cheese, roughly chopped
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Begin by making the pastry. Combine the flour, salt and soda water to form a dough and knead well for around 10 minutes, until smooth.
  2. Divide the dough into four balls, wrap in cling film and place in the fridge to rest for 1 hour.
  3. Meanwhile, fry the leeks in olive oil over low heat until soft and lightly golden and transfer to a large bowl to cool for 10 minutes.
  4. Add cheeses and salt and pepper to taste, then lastly the eggs. Mix well and set aside.
  5. Remove pastry balls from fridge and roll the first one out to around 40cm in diameter.
  6. Brush pastry generously with melted butter and fold the pastry as illustrated in the photos below to form a square shape. Set aside.

  7. Roll out another ball to 40cm diameter, place first square of folded pastry in the centre of the circle you have just rolled out, and fold into a parcel as illustrated below. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for one hour.

  8. Repeat with the the remaining two balls of dough.
  9. Once dough has rested, remove from the fridge and roll one of the squares out so it is large enough to fill your baking dish and come up the sides.
  10. Butter the baking dish and lay the pastry in the dish, stretching it up the sides and to the edge of the baking dish.
  11. Place the filling over the pastry and fold the sides of the pastry over the filling (see below).

  12. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  13. Roll the second square of pastry out so that it is large enough to cover the pie. Pinch the edges to join with the pastry beneath and brush top with melted butter (see above).
  14. Bake for 45 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

Vegan Spanakopita (Spinach Pie)

Adapted from the recipe for Lenten Spinach Pie from Recipes from a Greek Island by Susie Jacobs

Serves 8 to 10 (using a 25cm x 30cm baking dish)


For the pastry
  • 200g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 80ml water
  • 1/4 cup olive oil for brushing
For the filling
  • 1kg spinach, thick stalks removed
  • 500g mixed greens such as endive, amaranth, chicory, mustard or beetroot greens
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 16 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 40g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 40g fresh dill, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, zest and 1 tablespoon of juice
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon rice
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds


  1. Begin by making the pastry. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and water and mix well to form a dough.
  2. Knead dough for around 10 minutes, until smooth. Wrap in cling film and place in the fridge for one hour.
  3. Meanwhile, place spinach and mixed greens in a large pot with around 1 cup of water. Bring to the boil and simmer with lid on for a few minutes, until leaves have wilted. The greens can be steamed if you prefer. Drain well and allow to cool slightly. Once cool enough to touch, squeeze out any excess liquid, roughly chop the cooked leaves and set aside.
  4. In a large pot, add oil and fry the spring onions over low to medium heat until soft. Remove from heat and add chopped greens, parsley, dill, lemon zest and one tablespoon of lemon juice and toss well.
  5. Season well with salt and pepper.
  6. Remove pastry from fridge and divide into four balls, two of them slightly larger than the other two.
  7. Roll out one of the larger balls so that it is large enough to fit inside your baking dish and come up the sides. The pastry will be very thin and fragile. Gently stretch the pastry with your hands to increase its size.
  8. Lay the pastry sheet into the baking dish, pressing out any air bubbles and stretching the sides further if they don't quite reach the top edges of the dish. Brush the pastry with olive oil.

  9. Look how thin I rolled it!

  10. Repeat the process with the other larger pastry ball and place over the first sheet of pastry. Brush again with oil.
  11. Sprinkle the tablespoon of rice over the pastry to absorb any excess liquid from the filling and place filling over the rice.
  12. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  13. Roll out one of the remaining smaller balls of dough so that it is large enough to fit over the filling and brush with oil. Repeat with the last ball of dough.
  14. Fold the sides of the pastry over the top of the pie and brush entire surface with oil.
  15. Sprinkle with sesame seeds and pierce surface of pie with a fork.
  16. Bake for 45 minutes or until pastry is golden brown.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Fava (Yellow Split Pea Puree)
A guest post for I Spy Plum Pie

Wow, that went fast! One minute I was working myself silly with freelance work coming out of my ears, the next minute Tony and I were holidaying in Darwin (in the northern tropics of Australia) and now I'm back here at my desk with a list of things to do so long I could write a novel with it.

Luckily I'd prepared a guest post for Liz, the girl behind the very cool sustainable living blog I Spy Plum Pie, before everything caught up with me!

On Liz's blog today you will find the recipe for a very simple and traditional dish, Fava (yellow split pea puree) and a little bit about my favourite Greek island, Limnos.

I Spy Plum Pie features inspiring stories about Liz's journey towards living as sustainably and happily as possible, as well as lots of great vegetarian recipes, eco-living resources and reviews, and a very interesting insight into living in the house where they film the popular Australian television series, Offspring.

And now I must go back to the task of slashing through the jungle that I call my to-do list so I can free up some time to start blogging properly again!

I will see you in a few days with the all-important results of my home-made filo pastry adventures!

PS! I almost forgot, I'm linking this post up with Veggie Mama's Meatless Mondays this week where there's always a plethora of great vegetarian recipes and ideas.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Artichoke Salad with Spinach, Feta
and Sugar Snap Peas

After finding some born-again love for artichoke to make Vegetarian Magiritsa (Greek Easter soup) last Monday, I've been inspired to do more with this interesting little vegetable.

Sometimes I find strongly-flavoured marinated artichokes a little overpowering, so for the Magiritsa recipe I went out and bought fresh globe artichokes for the first time in my life.

A quick search on google gave me all the instructions I needed to prepare an artichoke for cooking. What I didn't realise is how much of the artichoke needs to be removed before you finally pare it down to the little edible chunk in the centre of the vegetable! At $2.50 each I felt slightly ripped off, especially when you can get a whole jar of marinated artichokes for around $2.

So I've been thinking that I could try rinsing marinated artichokes to remove the strong pickled taste, reflavour them with lemon juice, olive oil and cumin seeds and toss them in a salad with some leafy and crunchy things. I did this for lunch today and some serious magic happened – it was delicious!

This salad is based on a beautiful recipe I found in Fish and Figs, a cook book of recipes from the island of Crete by Jacques Fricker and Dominique Laty. I love this bit of trivia from the book:

"At the time of the Roman Empire, artichokes were recommended for the elderly, apathetic, or melancholic. In the seventeenth century, artichokes were considered an aphrodisiac, so young ladies were forbidden to eat them."

Well I just ate a bowl full of them for lunch. Does that mean I should whip out the chastity belt?

Artichoke Salad with Spinach, Feta and Sugar Snap Peas

Adapted from the recipe for Spinach Salad with Broad Beans, from Fish and Figs by Jacques Fricker and Dominique Laty.

Serves 2


  • 1 200g jar of marinated artichokes
  • 150g baby spinach leaves
  • 200g sugar snap peas
  • 80g feta cheese
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds


  1. Using a sharp paring knife, carefully slice open the sugar snap peas lengthways along the curved edge of the pod. Remove the peas and place in a small bowl. Also keep sugar snap pod halves for the salad.
  2. Empty artichokes into a strainer to drain, and gently rinse under warm running water, being careful not to break the artichoke pieces apart.
  3. Place spinach leaves in the bottom of a salad bowl. Lay artichoke pieces, feta and sugar snap pods over spinach leaves and sprinkle the peas over the top.
  4. Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice and cumin seeds and drizzle over salad.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Vegetarian Greek Easter Soup (Magiritsa),
with Spinach, Artichoke and Mushroom

I had huge cooking plans for the weekend just passed, but a persistent cold has kept me out of the kitchen and under the covers of my big purple blanket. That's when I'm not keeling over in the midst of one of my gut-wretching, organ-uprooting coughing fits.

Yesterday was Greek Easter Sunday, a day for feasting and celebration. Our family is not overly traditional, but there is one cousin of my dad's that likes to celebrate Greek Easter every year with a bang.

Foto is an incredible cook and she will spend all of Friday night and all day Saturday (that's right, no sleep) preparing a ridiculously enormous amount of food to be launched upon by hungry family members at the stroke of midnight on Saturday night. Each year we are invited to celebrate Greek Easter with Foto and her extended family, but this year Foto gets a well-deserved break as she is spending Greek Easter with her daughter in Sydney.

So I thought that a scaled-down Greek Easter feast just for Tony and I would make for a lovely weekend in the kitchen and a beautiful Sunday of eating some lovely food together. But at midnight on Saturday night while Greek people around the world were celebrating the end of the Great 40-day Lent, I was hunched over a pot of steam with a towel over my head wondering how I was ever going to stop the incessant cough that has been depriving me of sleep since last Monday.

As some of you may know, I was planning on making a Cheese and Leek Pie this weekend along with my first attempt at making home-made filo pastry. I was also hoping to make a big pot of vegetarian Magirista, a Greek Easter soup that is usually the first meal to be enjoyed after the Lenten fasting period. Ambitiously, I thought I could also try my hand at Tsoureki, the beautiful fluffy brioche-style Greek Easter bread. Go and take a look at the beautiful Tsoureki that Peter from Souvlaki for the Soul made over the weekend and you will see what I'm talking about.

I'd never made Tsoureki before (and as you now know, I still haven't) but it's one of my favourite breads, especially toasted and then laden with gorgeous melting knobs of butter. This sort of indulgence can only be pulled off on days like Greek Easter Sunday... And alas, now my chance has passed.

I whinge so much when I'm sick. I get grumpy and emotional and I really don't feel like doing anything but sitting around sulking. It's a terrible attitude, I know, and my partner Tony responds really badly to it (pretty much just ignores me when I'm being like this), but I find it so hard to be positive and motivate myself when I'm feeling like a car being crushed into a shoebox-sized metal block.

So there was no Greek Easter celebration to be had for us this weekend. I think I ate scrambled eggs last night for dinner. Yeah, what a feast that was.

Then today I was forced out of my self-pitying hole by some unexpected freelance work that I couldn't avoid. I really wasn't in any condition to be working in front of the computer today but some how the endorphins kicked in again and when I finished my work I quickly transported myself to the kitchen to make the most of my sudden burst of energy.

Vegetarian Magirista was going to be the easiest and quickest dish to make in the short time that was left of my definitely temporary energetic state. Traditionally, this dish is made with lamb offal, head and neck. Now you know I love Greek food, but these kinds of ingredients need to be way, way off my radar at all times. Even if I wasn't a vegetarian I'm sure these rules would still apply to me. I can't even begin to imagine what these things look like and I certainly don't want to start now when I'm in the middle of my own offal-ejecting state of affairs.

But back to the vegetarian version of this dish. I was so excited when I found the blog Authentic Greek Recipes earlier this year. Tony (aka Symposio) writes the blog and his wife Maria is the talented cook.

This lovely couple live on the island of Corfu and their recipes are a great source of inspiration to me. One such recipe is for Vegetarian Magiritsa which is what I cooked for dinner tonight. It's a beautiful creamy, spinach soup loaded with fresh herbs, vegetables and lots of goodness – the perfect elixir to sooth my pitiful soul. I won't be posting the recipe here because I made it to the letter from Maria's recipe and she deserves all the credit for it. Click on any of the links in this paragraph to go to the recipe on the Authentic Greek Recipes blog.

I know I'm a day late, but Kali Anastasi everyone! If you celebrate Greek Easter I'd love to hear how your shindig went down!

Friday, May 3, 2013

Lentil Stew with Roast Vegetables,
Flomaria Pasta with Hearty Mushroom Sauce
and my first guest post!

I'm super excited this morning to have written my very first guest post for Maria Hannaford on her lovely blog Econest.

I've featured two of my favourite recipes: Lentil Stew with Roast Vegetables and Flomaria Pasta with Hearty Mushroom Sauce and talk a little about how healthy the Mediterranean diet really is.

Maria also has a plethora of ideas and advice about maintaining a healthy, sustainable lifestyle so please take some time to meander through her blog.

This weekend I'm planning on giving home-made filo pastry my best shot with a recipe for Cheese and Leek Pie (Prasopita). Wish me luck!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Greek Cabbage Stew Pie,
with Feta, Fennel and Tomato

I'm such a sook when I'm sick. I'm like a baby. I'm even wrapped up in a big purple rug, all squished into my chair here. My desk is a mess with screwed up tissues and empty cough lolly packets everywhere. My cat is making a nest for himself somewhere in my lap, deep down in the folds of my rug. He's keeping me warm as the rain pelts down outside and the skies get darker with the early evening approaching. Luckily I've already done the photos for today's dish. The light is now terrible for food photography!

Too bad I missed the deadline to submit today's recipe for the Meatless Monday A–Z challenge (this week was C for Cabbage), but I still loved making this dish.

After two days of high fever, body pains and a blisteringly sore throat, this morning I suddenly felt a lot better. But more than better. It was almost euphoric, lasting for a few hours (does anyone else get that when they're sick?) before it all went downhill again, so I took advantage of my amazing mental state (can't quite say the same for my pathetic physical state) and sent myself to the kitchen to cook up this comforting Greek Cabbage Stew Pie.

And what better dish could you imagine when you're sick than a hearty stew pie?

~ Stew pie? Has she gone completely mad? ~

I know having a bad cold can mess with your head, but I haven't quite lost my nut yet. When I put the call out for ideas to make a Greek cabbage dish other than stuffed cabbage leaves, Mina, one of my readers from Greece (and owner of the gorgeous food blog Mookies) suggested a tomato chilli cabbage stew. Then another reader, Shvetha, came up with the idea to make a cabbage spanakopita. Then I thought, why not cabbage stew... in a pie!

I couldn't wait to make it, and even had ambitious plans to make my own filo for this one. But when I went to bed last night with burning razor blades having a party in my throat it wasn't looking likely that I'd be bending over a table top kneading and folding pastry today. The packaged filo I had in the fridge would have to suffice.

I don't know if it was the scent of fresh basil that I could smell in the house this morning or the codeine tablet, but for the short time that my symptoms subsided I suddenly had the enthusiasm to get into the kitchen and cook. And we don't even have any basil in the house at the moment.

Still not quite keen enough to tackle the home-made filo challenge, I was happy enough to just gently potter around the kitchen and keep a casual eye on the pot of stewing cabbage. It's so very comforting just to watch it bubble away. Especially knowing this was going to be my lunch :)

I had a feeling my pain-free state wasn't going to last and sure enough by the time I started filling the pie, the symptoms started to return. I got through the photo session, only just held on during the eating part, and as soon as I sat down at the computer to upload the photos I could feel the blades getting back into position, ready for round two of flesh-ripping fun and games.

So while Simba my cat does some kneading of his own (more flesh wounds, in my lap!) I might consider kneading some filo pastry over the weekend. Hopefully by then I will have kicked the cold, and won't be relying on any medication or random basil scents for a dose of enthusiasm!

This stew pie actually turned out very well and dare I say it, this might even pass as a real Greek dish – with flavours like fennel, onion and tomato, all wrapped up in pastry it's got all the right ingredients to enter the realm of Greek cuisine, don't you think?

My stew mixture was still a little watery when I transferred it to the pie dish. After cooking the pie, the pastry at the bottom was a bit soggy but this can easily be avoided. I've adjusted the instructions below to suggest not pouring all the liquid from the stew into the pie dish. You could also cook the cabbage stew a little longer to evaporate some more of the liquid before filling the pie.

You can adjust the cayenne pepper to your liking, or omit it altogether. You could probably also use some whole fennel seeds, rather than ground, or even better, substitute half the amount of cabbage with fresh shredded fennel. I would have done this if I could be bothered getting out of my pyjamas today to go down to the shops.

Greek Cabbage Stew Pie

Serves 6–8


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 2 large cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
  • 1/2 cabbage, finely sliced
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Salt to taste
  • 100g feta cheese, crumbled
  • 50g melted butter for brushing pastry
  • 8 sheets filo pastry


  1. In a large pot, fry onions in oil over low heat with the lid on until soft and transluscent – around 15 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and ground fennel seed and fry for a minute or so.
  3. Place cabbage over onion mixture, pour 1 cup of water over cabbage, replace lid on pot and allow to simmer on low heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove lid and stir cabbage to combine with onion mixture below, replace lid and cook for another 20 minutes or until cabbage is tender. Stir occasionally.
  5. Add tomatoes, cayenne pepper and salt to taste. Stir thoroughly and allow to simmer over low heat with the lid off for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until there is very little liquid left in the bottom of the pot. Remove from heat, transfer to a large bowl and set aside.
  6. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius and grease a 26 x 16cm (10 x 7 inch) rectangular baking dish.
  7. On a clean bench, lay out 3 sheets of filo pastry and cut them in half. Set aside, covered with a damp tea towel so they don't dry out. Have the remaining 5 uncut sheets of pastry ready to use.
  8. Lay one uncut sheet of pastry in the baking dish, ensuring pastry comes up over the sides of the dish, and brush with melted butter. Repeat with remaining 4 sheets of uncut pastry without brushing the fifth sheet.
  9. Carefully spoon half the cabbage mixture over the pastry.
  10. Sprinkle half the feta cheese over the cabbage mixture, then spoon remaining cabbage mixture over feta, being careful not to include any of the liquid at the bottom of the bowl. Sprinkle remaining feta over cabbage mixture.
  11. Gently lay one of the cut pastry sheets over the filling and brush with melted butter. Repeat for remaining 5 half-sheets then fold or roll the sides down onto the pie, trimming if necessary, and finishing with melted butter. Pierce pastry a few times to allow air to escape while cooking.
  12. Cook for about an hour or until pastry is golden.

I know it's Wednesday but I love the concept of Meatless Monday so much that I'm calling this Meant-to-be Meatless Monday. I'm also linking up with Veggie Mama's wonderful blog today where you'll find an endless array of veggie main meal ideas and inspiration.