Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Elies se Armi - Greek Pickled Olives from my Thirroul Seaside Garden - Global Wanderings in My Kitchen

I've been to Greece  a few times and just loved the food, Spanokopita. Tiropitakia, Dolmades, Tzatziki, Taramasalata, Souvlaki, Greek Roasted Leg of Lamb, Cheeses (Feta & Haloumi), Saganaki, Garithes me Feta (Garlic Prawns cooked in Tomato & Feta Sauce), Baklava & of course the Olives.

Now our local Thirroul Bowlo Club eatery has turned Greek, run by the husband of one my old school mates, Efti, one of the few Greeks in Thirroul in those days. We'd celebrated our wedding anniversary at their inaugural Greek Bazouki & Belly Dancing Night. It was a great night with Greek dancing, even more so to find that some of our old workmates, who are members of the Illawarra Greek community, as well as being friends of friends of Efti's husband, had wandered up to Thirroul to help kick it off.

So enthused by Greek foods, about 10 years ago, I'd planted an olive tree in the front garden of our seaside home on the NSW South Coast. We have a southerly exposure to salt laden winds so everything takes ages to grow - if they survive at all. The olive tree grew & grew - competing with the banksia's that attract Sulphur Crested Black Cockatoos.

We didn't get any olives for a long, long time. And even if we had, I recalled the label on the little bush I'd bought said something about a caustic soda pickling method - surely there was something less nasty ? But most stories I'd heard mentioned the caustic soda method - really offputting.

Finally, 3 years ago we had lots of olives - not enough to press our own oil - but enough to bottle the olives themselves. By then I'd read a few more of my Greek cookbooks, and discovered caustic soda wasn't necessary at all.

So I used Elies se Armi, aka Pickled Olives, pp18-19 from the AWW Easy Greek Style Cookery book - similar to Tess Mallos's Greek Cookbook p98,Angeline Kapsaskis's Greek Commonsense Cookbook p16 & Bourke's Backyard Factsheet - ( full instruction details here ).

The tedious part is making the 2 lengthwise cuts to the stone in each olive, gloves are recommended if you don't want your hands dyed a burgundy-purplish shade. I mentioned the olive slitting to an ABL (Australian Born Lebanese) work mate and she muttered about her father's bottling of olives - not something she wanted to do again too often. Another Macedonian workmate confirmed that the brine pickling was definitely the way to do olives & mentioned that it is common to not get a good crop every year.

Altogether, it really is too easy - all you need is olives, water, salt and, at the end, olive oil. Change the water every day for 5-10 days, depending on whose recipe you follow, then leave them in the dark. I leave them for months, rather than opening after 5 weeks as some recipes indicate. Contributions to the Manisa Turkish website tend to agree - some suggesting keeping them in the dark for 6 months before opening.

My husband's bottled olives from last year's crop were checked by our nephew James, the Apprentice Chef, & he was very impressed that we bottled our own. James liked their flavour too. We'd emailed a copy of the technique to cousins down on their farm in Oaklands, near Corowa in southern NSW. Ann had been a high school cooking teacher, but had left to manage the farm finances. She is deadly with removing avocado stones with quick knife stab - but hadn't worked out how to pickle the many olives growing on their trees in the Home Paddock kitchen garden. But she was very keen to try it out.

So we're finding that we get reasonable crop every second year - depending on how many we lose to storms and alas, the sulphur crested black cockatoos & galahs who seemed to have enjoyed this year's crop. 


Postscript for @misssafet

Psari Lemonato from Tess Mallos Greek Cookbook - which I believe is out of print - possibly in her Complete Middle East Cookbook - recently reprinted

  • 1 whole fish for baking (1kg)
  • juice of 2 lemons
  • salt& pepper
  • 500gm potatoes very thinly sliced
  • 2 teaspoons oregano
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  1. Clean fish & slash each side in 2 or 3 places
  2. Sprinkle inside & out with some of lemon juice & season with salt & pepper
  3. Place in oiled baking dish
  4. Arrange sliced potatoes around fish & pour remaining lemon juice over potatoes & fish
  5. Season potatoes with salt & pepper - pour olive oil over contents of dish
  6. Sprinkle with oregano then cover with foil
  7. Cook at 180-190oC for 40 minutes (check after 30 minutes)
  8. Remove foil & continue to cook for another 30 minutes or until fish & potatoes are cooked
  9. Serve immediately with steamed spinach, green salad and/or Greek salad

Serves 4-5

Pics :
1.Waterfront in Mykonos  2. & 3. : Santorini  4.& 5. Mykonos Restaurant with young Olive Trees on tables 6. & 7. My Olive Tree 8. Pickled Olives from our Tree


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Mosaics - A composite view

Pic 1 Athens

Pic 2 Delphi

Pic 3 Delphi

Pic 4 Istanbul - Topkapi Palace

Pic 5 Istanbul - Hagya Sophia

Pic 6 Istanbul - Hagya Sophia

Friday, March 16, 2012

Turning Japanese - Global Wanderings in My Kitchen

I visited Japan a few times years ago, and really loved how they did Sukiyaki, Teppanyaki & Yakitori. I'd travelled there several times with my husband, David, and once on business. I persuaded our Japanese minder for the business trip to drop the fancy hotel restaurants and instead suggested that we head out on a crawl of Kyoto's Yakitori & Sushi bars. My Australian travelling mates loved it.

Although I love cooking, Japanese is not my specialty at home - David & our daughter, Kat, do most of the Japanese. In fact Sukiyaki became one of David's signature dishes, along with Gado Gado & Saganaki. He's relying mostly on memory of Sukiyaki restaurant dishes from his two visits to Japan with a bit of help from the Complete Asian Cookbook.

We loved going to the Japanese Teppanyaki restaurant in Surfer's Paradise on Queensland's Gold Coast. And of course in Wollongong, there's the Fuji Yama Tepan Restaurant, the ever popular Roppongi (bookings essential) and more recently Moon's in the northern suburb of Woonona.

Kat, has been studying Japanese for about 6 years & acquired a taste for Japanese food, especially Sushi & Sushi Train restaurants. She's often helped out at the Japanese food stall at her school's annual Great Fete. 

When not nibbling on Pocky, Kat often snacks on Nori (dried seaweed sheets) and suddenly we find there's none left for the Sushi

Fortunately David is also a Sushi-maker, with a Sushi mat & all the ingredients - now available from all our local supermarkets - so he teams up with Kat for Sushi-making, for those "bring a plate" functions.

Last year Kat spent a few weeks in Japan on a school excursion, which included a Japanese cooking lesson where they learnt how to make Okonomiyaki - Japanese Pancakes. We are also expecting to host a Japanese exchange student in March 2010 - so we may learn more about Japanese foods.

Recently @mqtodd tweeted about a great blog post on Japanese food : 10 Cool Japanese Foods. My favourite Japanese Food Blog would have to be Shiuoka Gourmet - the cycling gourmet - here's my fav post - and I really love his Bento Box postings too.

But of course there are now others blogging about Japanese food in the English language : 

I actually only have one Japanese cookery book - plus my copy of the Complete Asian Cookbook does have a reasonable Japanese section. Fortunately I have collected many cuttings from magazines, all now carefully filed in the Japanese section of my Asian folders :

  • Chicken Yakitori
  • Curries - Japan style
  • Donburi
  • Gyoza
  • Hotpot - Japan style
  • Miso Soup
  • Okonomiyaki - Japanese Pancakes
  • Ponzu Chicken
  • Rice based dishes with chicken or vegetarian
  • Salads - Japan style
  • Sukiyaki
  • Sushi & Temaki
  • Soba & Udon Noodles
  • Tempura
  • Teppanyaki
  • Teriyaki Beef, Chicken, Fish, Pork, Prawns  etc etc
  • Tonkatsu

And of course Taste, my fav Australian foodie site, features an extensive Japanese collection

Wandering Egyptian Spice Bazaar in Istanbul

We found amazing Turkish Delight and Spices at the Egyptian Spice Bazaar in Istanbul.

A Tess Mallos Slow Food Easter Weekend - Garithes and Pastitio

I love the Easter holiday long weekend in Australia - cool weather kicking in and the chance to do some slow food without the pressures of the usual weekends.

Good Friday had kicked off with my Significant Other doing his speciality Garithes (Prawns) me Feta (& Tomatoes) from Tess Mallos's legendary Greek Cookbook - see Big Oven - Garithes Yiouvetsi blog post - for close approximation - based on Tess Mallos Complete Middle Eastern Cookbook - I am not sure why she gave the recipes different names. I am a great fan of Tess Mallos and have her Cooking  Moroccan book in addition to these Greek & Middle Eastern cookbooks.

In fact Garithes me Feta, aka Garithes Yiouvetsi, is not really a slow food item - but is so very yum. David drew his inspiration from Yorgies where we first enjoyed Garithes. Yorgies was a ( long since departed) restaurant in the village of Coledale in Wollongong's north  - where the hugely popular Chedo's (Mediterranean - Croatian influences) is located (Chedo is the husband of TV reporter Stella Lauri who can be seen doing maitre d'  & waiting at tables after she's driven back from the Sydney TV studios !)

For our family Easter Sunday Night Dinner I had planned Prosciutto, Basil & Boconncini Bites as starters - to be followed by Tuscan Bean Soup with Crusty Cob Bread from one of our local Thirroul Vietnamese Bakeries.

As mains I settled on Pastitio from Tess Mallos's Greek Cookbook - which is quite similar to the Rick Stein version used by Almost Bourdain in her recent blog post. This is one of my favourite foodie blogs & I like her foodie pics - a blogger's beautiful pics. It's nevertheless probably a little more stylish than the home foodie blogs over at Jamie Oliver's web page - which have an honesty about them. In fact I think that's great when you consider Jamie's Ministry of Food campaign to get folks back to home cooking.

On Sunday nights I usually do Mains & Nan brings along a dessert - this Sunday she also brought along one of our nephews - who was at a loose end with the rest of his family interstate or overseas.

I quickly discovered that the Prosciutto, Basil & Boconncini Bites (from Australian Gourmet Traveller - Feb 2001) were going to be Greek Style with Haloumi when Saffron's, our local Deli in Thirroul, had already run out of baby Bocconcini. Fortunately I had Haloumi in the fridge. These Bites are so easy - take a strip of prosciutto and place a small piece of Baby Boconcini or Haloumi on it - follow with a basil leaf (our's are fresh from our garden) - then a quarter of artichoke heart. Roll up and secure with toothpick. I did about a dozen and let them sit in the fridge until later (Pic 3). They can be grilled - but I was going to bake them (on a baking tray lined with baking paper) along with the Pastitio - checking every 3 to 4 minutes and turning a couple of times. They need to be warmed through - but I don't like them crispy.

Having done the Bites I moved onto the Tuscan Bean Soup - from the Oz Family Circle Magazine - a few years back. Such a shame that one of the older Oz foodie mags, FC,  is no longer available as a monthly mag - but sometimes there are still special winter & Christmas editions.

So I started chopping 2 onions, 1 carrot, 2 celery sticks & 2 zucchini. Heating 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil ( I used less than the 3 specified) and sauteing all the veges, except the zucchini, along with 2 bay leaves from the small bay tree in a pot outside our backdoor, as well as some shakes of dried sage- for about 5 to 10 minutes. Finally throwing in the chopped zucchinis as well as a 400g can of diced Tomatoes along with a drained & rinsed can each of Borlotti Beans & Cannellini Beans (400g each) (Pic 1). Then simmering for about 20-30 minutes. (Pics 2 & 3). Should be served with shaved parmesan.

I then started on the Pastitio from the Tess Mallos legendary Greek Cookbook. I had cheated & done a huge batch of meat sauce a couple of days earlier - reserving some for tonight's Pastitio. Likewise with the macaroni. So it was fairly easy to assemble the pasta & meat sauce layers - although I had to separate the individual pieces of cooked macaroni that always seem to clump together when you store them in the fridge. Pastitio is similar to Lasagne - however the Bechamel Sauce is a lot lighter - as it doesn't have the cheese like in Lasagne. With the Bechamel almost done I discovered that I should have added 1/2 cup to the meat sauce before I had topped it with the second of the pasta layers - oops - too late. So I just poured the Bechamel over the pasta - hoping for the best (Pic 2). 

At this point I decided that we really needed a tossed salad - so sweetly asked David would he mind throwing one together - his are usually better than mine anyway. I handed him a couple of fresh basil leaves from our vegie garden. The salad smelled so good (Pic 4), and included black olives from the tree in our front garden which we had home pickled

We gobbled up the Prosciutto Basil & Haloumi Bites & loved the Tuscan Bean Soup - always a favourite - although as usual it really tasted better the next day - note to self - do this a day or two in advance next time.

Then a longish break before the Pastitio was ready (Pic 5) - you have to leave it for 5-10 minutes before cutting & serving - the same as you do with Quiche & Lasagne. I served it at the table with the tossed salad as my tiny kitchen had filled up with the dishwasher already running - and so I was running out of space to plate up. The Red Wine ? Tatler's Archie's Paddock Shiraz (Pic 6) that I had picked up on a recent trip to the Hunter with the nephew's parents - it really complemented the Pastitio. Seconds of Pastitio were served up & the tossed salad demolished.

Another long break.

Nan had brought along Passionfruit Slice - similar to the version in www.Taste.com.au - but without passionfruit in the top layer. Nan had nearly given up on finding her recipe so we nearly had passionfruit iced cupcakes. Anyway the Passionfruit Slice was so yum - I have never seen it disappear so quickly (Pic 7 - half demolished !) Then a phone call from London from another of Nan's grandchildren - a wonderful way to finish the evening.

hmm - and everyone just too full to eat the mini Turkish Delight Easter Eggs I had put aside for later on !


Knowledge Capture in the Kitchen Clouds


Are you one of those foodies who collects recipes from everywhere ? Magazines ? Family members ? Friends ? Foodie web sites & blogs ?

That's me. I pile them and then periodically file them, plus cull a few.

In particular I've made the effort to collect family favourites for my daughter, Kat, from my Mother (Nan) & my Mother-in-law (Nanna). I gave them each one of those dinky A5 "My Favourite Recipe" folders, which came with preprinted cards to be filled in. Nanna busily typed away on the supplied cards using her trusty older manual typewriter. Luckily so, as Nanna has become very frail, hard of hearing and now lives in another state.  How easy it is to lose family favourites in such circumstances. We also nearly lost Nan before her family favourites were collected - in the end I hand wrote many of them myself, while Nan spent months recovering in hospital from lifesaving cardiovascular surgery.

And my sister-in-law, the Apprentice Chef's Mother, was stunned to find out that I had some of the treasured family favourites "captured" from Nanna, in a little A5 "My Favourite Recipe" folder. So I was able to photocopy & pass them on. I've even put a couple on Facebook to share with the widely scattered family.

Over the years the Apprentice's Chef's Mother & I learned that Nanna's tablespoon equals 2 metric 20ml sized tablespoons & her dessert spoon equals 1 metric 20mil sized tablespoon. So, along the way, we both experienced a few very runny disasters with Nanna's usually superb Mango Cream Tart due to our adding insufficient gelatine. But we followed the recipe - we wailed. That was before we did some knowledge sharing & jointly figured out how to convert Nanna's quantities to standard Australian metric's. Disasters ceased.

With so many foodie web sites and blogs, we are now very blessed with the technology to do knowledge sharing in the kitchen, compared with the old days of laboriously handwriting onto scraps of paper or in exercise books. My daughter, Kat, keeps muttering that my own collection of older handwritten items in their foolscap sized exercise book are at risk of fading away. Dropping hints that the contents need to be transferred to one of our pc's & maybe even online - perhaps on one of those nice foodie Cloud apps - so helpful. OK - I've made a start at Taste.com where you can your create own online recipe book - but I've usually been too busy to make much progress. Like Mother like Daughter perhaps ? 

However there is also the nagging question - you could invest a lot of time setting up online repositories of family favourites & other saved for future culinary experiments - but how can you be sure that they won't disappear without warning - poof ? Especially as Taste.com does seem to have set up a regular recipe deletions initiative - find out more here

Like when my carefully saved SAI Global favourites list, with associated "what's changed" email updates, underwent a massive bi-section. They changed their business model - after 6 years previously with no changes. Another victim of the Global Financial Crisis in fact. Now my list of favourites was too long for their new model - so they arbitrarily chopped it in two for me - before I could choose which sublists should sit where. Much muttering and hours rearranging online.....

Interestingly a recent New Scientist article, provocatively headlined "Digital Doomsday",  questioned the limited longevity of electronic media and basically pointed back to keeping paper records as being more likely to resist the vagaries of ageing. Huh ? Heresy ?  "A century or so after a major catastrophe, little of the digital age will remain beyond what's written on paper.... "Even the worst kind of paper can last more than 100 years," says Season Tse, who works on paper conservation at the Canadian Conservation Institute. The oldest surviving "book" printed on paper dates from AD 868, he says. It was found in a cave in north-west China in 1907."

Hence you keep hard copies as backups - and the kitchen library grows and grows.




Saik Chrouk Ch'ranouitk - Kat's Khmer Kitchen inspired Knowledge Sharing

The Complete Asian Cookbook by Charmaine Solomon was my first big cookbook purchase - made while I still at Uni - just. The Australasian Institute of Mining & Metallurgy awarded me with a cheque for topping the class in my second last year of my Metallurgy Degree - but it was not presented until I was writing my thesis in my final year. Too late to spend on textbooks.

So I indulged myself and lashed out on Charmaine Solomon's 500 + page culinary encyclopaedic work. A big step up from the ubiquitous little high school textbook aka the Commonsense Cookbook.

What I loved about the Complete Asian Cookbook, was the way Charmaine Solomon shared her knowledge - not just on how to cook the food - but also how to serve, what utensils to use and where to buy unusual ingredients. But more than that - I loved the stories she shared in introducing each chapter on the different countries & regions covered. It made it all seem more real.

My favourite pages, in the Indian section especially, are easily identified by their stains and splashmarks - with handwritten comments indicating likes or dislikes - successes or DNCA (do not cook again). There was the time I smoked out the whole block of units with chili fumes when experimenting on Szechwan Chicken (p393) without an exhaust range hood.

We'd travelled to Angkor Wat - Siem Reap in Cambodia, so it was inevitable that my then 13 year old daughter, Kat, would choose a Khmer dish for a school Technology & Design assessment task encompassing cooking "something" with noodles. While the Indian-Pakistan & Chinese chapters in the old faithful "Encyclopaedia" were huge at nearly 100 pages each, the section on Cambodia and Laos was too slender. Dismissed too were the magazines I'd brought back from Cambodia, just in case, for a future school assignment. And there aren't too many Cambodian foodie blogs, other than Phenonmenon. The Cambodian section of my Asian clippings folder consisted of just 2 dishes : Beef Salad and Nhoam Moan Chicken Salad. Nothing at Taste.com either. So past all of these, and to the Net to find something suitable : settling on "Saik Chrouk Ch'ranouitk" aka Khmer Coconut Pork Skewers.

Kat was adventurous even then, in her approach to cooking and she's fiercely independent. Nevertheless I was called on periodically and a whole lot of knowledge sharing took place in our tiny kitchen that night eg how to timetable, adapting from grilling to stir fry-simmer etc.

All served on the requisite bed of noodles & finished with coriander leaves. It looked and tasted great - although be warned - it's heavy on garlic !

Kat learnt some Asian cuisine from me & I learnt from her, that we can't dictate to Gen Y how & what resources should be used, plus it's okay to innovate beyond prescriptive guidelines, if that makes sense. That applies inside and outside the kitchen. 

A metaphor for knowledge sharing, experimenting & innovation between the generations ?