Posts Tagged ‘Thessaloniki’

Greek Cookery Class – first session of the Jan course 2012

January 9, 2012

New year and new classes!! After running cookery classes teaching Greek food for almost three years, what started as a simple cooking class, evolved into me hosting and cooking for supperclubs and private dinners and birthday parties, teaching at other cookery schools like Divertimenti and Leith’s and finally starting my own little Greek Cookery Class Course.

Gigantes

On the first class of 2012 we made Gigantes, fasolia – butter beans – from Florina! For the first time we had more boys than girls in the class, it’s pure coincidence I am sure! The cliché that boys prefer to eat rather than cook and that girls want to learn cooking might not be true after all!

Comparing the butter beans you get in most big supermarkets in London/UK with the real deal, Gigantes or giant beans from Greece, the price is the first thing that hits you, they’re more expensive, but they’re worth the price as they taste much better and also look much better.

Gigantes - Butter Beans

Gigantes - Butter Beans

One place to buy the Greek butter beans that we call gigantes is in Bayswater, there’s a small little shop on Moscow Road called Athenian Grocery! So if you plan to cook this dish it’s worth using Greek beans, instead of normal butter beans. And since we’re talking about Florina, we also baked piperies Florinis, red long sweet peppers for one of our salads.

Nothing goes better with beans than some home-baked bread, but being busy with cooking all the dishes for the class, there was no time for the students to get into bread making as well. So I prepared that in advance, and baked bread using white spelt flour, wholemeal spelt flour, sea salt and of course Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Home baked spelt bread

Home baked spelt bread

During a long cooking session we’re all being teased and tempted by all the smells from the food slowly simmering away. So at some point we had a 5 minute break and a tasting with some bread and Extra Virgin Olive Oil from Greece but also some pieces of the vegan banana bread cake I had made the day before.

Banana bread cake - vegan

Banana bread cake - vegan

There was no plan to make this class vegan, but realising we’re so soon after Christmas and New Year’s when most people have been stuffing themselves with all sorts of goodies, meats, cheeses and chocolates, I thought it’d be a good idea to introduce an all vegan meal, where the olive oil plays a very important role.

I prefer the olive oil (extra virgin always) to any margarines or spreads containing some small amount of olive oil, not only is the pure olive oil healthier it also tastes so much better. In my opinion, most spreads (not including the real 100% butter) leave an aftertaste which is not very pleasant.

Aside from the beans, the class also made pereski, this is a pontic dish that my mother and her mother always made as a starter or light snack for meals including soups or beans. Pereski is usually made with a dough that you then use to make little pies that you stuff with a mix of potato, onions and herbs, before you deep fry them in olive oil! But we used phyllo pastry for the pereski and we baked them in the oven instead of frying them in loads of olive oil.

Preparing the filling for pereski - onions, boiled and mashed potato and spices.

Preparing the filling for pereski - onions, boiled and mashed potato and spices.

As I told the class, this is hardly an item you’ll find on the menu in a restaurant. Usually, only a grandmother – the Greek giagia – will be making those and offering to her guests and mainly family. Having said that there is a small little restaurant in Thessaloniki, serving Pontic and Cretan dishes!! So they might still have it on their menu.

Pereski

Pereski

Finally, we made a simple salad of winter vegetables, Politiki Salata, it’s a salad whose name refers to the big city Poli, Constantinople or Istanbul as it’s now called. The salad from the Town, Poli, consists of cabbage, carrots and celery and a dressing of olive oil and vinegar.

Chopping, slicing and grating the ingredients for the Politiki Salad

Chopping, slicing and grating the ingredients for the Politiki Salad

And here it is ready, garnished with some piperies florinis:

Politiki salata

Politiki salata

Next week we’re doing Kleftiko!

A thank you goes out to Kenwood, whose blender was used to grind the nuts used in the banana bread cake.

If you are interested in booking yourself in for a course or joining a supperclub, contact me to be put on the mailing list for future events.

Or read more details on the classes for January and how to join here: https://greekcookeryclass.wordpress.com/2012/01/05/greek-cookery-class-three-sessions-in-january-for-gigantes-beans-kleftiko-and-mousaka/

 

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Hot and cold – the secret behind baklava!

April 18, 2011

Travelling from Greece each time, I’d always carry 3 kilos of baklava from Thessaloniki with me! I don’t know how I managed, but my arms were almost coming out of their place from baklava, carry on luggage and suitcase.

The syrup would stay within the package if I was lucky, otherwise I’d leave a small trail of sugar stickiness behind me.

Baklava by Greekfoodlover

Baklava by Greekfoodlover

In London I have tried many baklavades (the plural form for baklava in Greek) but never found one that is like the Greek ones I have had in Thessaloniki. Now there are many opinions as to which Zaharoplasteio (Ζαχαροπλαστείο) does the best one in the Greek culinary capitol, but London is starved of what I regard as the proper baklava. Either it’s too dry, or the syrup has no flavour, or not the right flavour.

Baklavadakia

Baklavadaki

The funniest thing that happened to me was years ago, in St Christopher’s place at a Turkish Restaurant there. The waiter brought me what he called to be the syrup, separately: a slice of lemon, two tea spoons of sugar and a cup of hot water. The idea was that I mix the sugar in the hot water and add the slice of lemon and then pour it over my dessert. Just like that!

Are you confused, or are you laughing?

The ingredients are more or less correct for making syrup but the ratios are totally wrong. You need a lot of sugar to make the syrup and to get it to combine well with the baklava one of them needs to be hot and the other cold! Ideally, you’ll pour the very hot runny syrup over a well cooled down baklava. Never hot syrup on hot baklava and never cold syrup on cold baklava either.

My search for the baklava has ended now that I’ve been making my own baklava, and usually we serve it in the Greek Supper Clubs or as a small treat in some of the Greek Cookery Classes.

But now with Easter week and the preparations for one of the biggest religious holidays in Greece, Easter being as big if not bigger than Christmas, we’re holding the first ever Tsoureki Greek Cookery Class! The aim is to bake Tsourekia from scratch and see the whole labour and process behind making these wonderful braided sweet breads.

Tsourekia

Tsourekia

If you’re not able to join the Greek Cookery Class 20 April, we have home-made Tsourekia available this week to save your Easter. Place your order via greekcookeryclass(AT)gmail.com

Limited availability but place your order in time to also arrange delivery/pick up, if you’re London based.

Sarah Jessica Parker of Sex and The City loves Greek food and Greece!

December 17, 2010

Could this be true? Well according to the interview she did recently on promoting the new Sex and The City movie 2 for this year, the character playing Carrie simply adores Greece and its food. Watch her say which her favourite Greek dishes are:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xvMk8CyEw0&feature=player_embedded

All the dishes she mentions in her interview, we’ve either cooked in a Greek Cookery Class or I’ve cooked and served them in a Greek Supper Club.

But what surprised me the most is that she notices the difference between the authentic Greek food and the fact that she is knowledgeable about dishes that even Greeks don’t know about, like fava.

Fava at Greek Cookery Class

Fava at Greek Cookery Class

I personally tasted fava early this year for the first time in London, when a Greek chef from Crete – Tonya Karandinou – visited the UK to showcase some real Greek food from her region. And I’ve been hooked since. I went to Thessaloniki on a couple of occasions and was ordering fava and then back in London I thought let’s introduce this dish to the Greek Cookery Class. So we’ve cooked it once in a class, it takes about 2 hours of stirring and giving all the attention to the fava. But it’s worth it. I also made it as one of the 5-6 starters at my last Greek Supper Club, where the guests loved it.

For those who have not tried fava, it’s like houmous, but much tastier. The fava bean in itself, apart from being tasty when prepared and cooked the right way, has a lot of nutritients and benefits as well for our body and health.

 

Horta, is greens, those things Greek ladies in Greece pick up in their gardens and boil gently and add some lemon juice and Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil to. We made this as a starter once in a Greek Cookery Class as well and some students thought it looked like a Japanese dish. Others were less impressed with the looks of the dish. None of the fava or horta have the perfect look, but their taste is way superior compared to their humble appearance.

And as for Sarah Jessica Parker’s love for the real Greek salad, that’s becoming hard to get back anywhere outside Greece, and even in Greece where the feta cheese is sometimes sprinkled over as if it were oregano…

Greek Salad at the first Greek Supper Club ever!

As the year’s coming to an end, I hope more of you will find time to spend the last days of 2010 to cook those dishes you love for yourselves and those around you. The best spice and herb you can add to any dish, is to eat it in company!

I’ll be cooking both at Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Christmas is a smaller party for family and dear ones, but New Year’s Eve will be the final Greek Supper Club for 2010. The menu includes a lot of Greek dishes and desserts and somewhere in there we also have added a Swedish surprise, renskav, reindeer with roasted parsnips…

The full menu is in my blog NYE Supper Club and also on Total Greek Yoghurt’s website as they’ve been a regular sponsor of my Greek Cookery Class and Greek Supper Club events with their yoghurt.

To book a space for the supper club on New Year’s Eve here in London, get in touch on greekcookeryclass(AT)gmail.com

And a Merry Christmas and happy holidays to all the Greek and other food lovers out there!