Sunday 25 May 2014

Călușari Romanian wine

The Călușari are a secret society who are said to ward off dark magic through their dance. It's also the name of this Romanian wine you can buy here or in certain wine shops dotted around the UK
It's light-bodied yet full of dark flavour - the sort of tobacco and cherry notes you'd expect from a more full bodied wine. And well worth a try!
You can see how transparent it is up there, but on closer inspection you'd also notice a hint of violet round the edges, a note echoed in the aftertaste. I'm not a wine expert and this is the first time that I've tried a Romanian wine, yet I find it fascinating how a good wine can reflect it's country and culture. This one is vibrant and light, but also deep and melancholy, with a hint of magic... It just dawned on me as I was writing that sentence that a friend once described me in similar tones! The exact phrase was "chirpy, with a hint of melancholy". Perhaps this is why I love this wine

Tuesday 20 May 2014

Nettle soup with chickpeas and feta

If your garden is anything like mine then you'll have plenty of stinging nettles in it at this time of year
This is in fact the ideal time of year to cook with them, as they are still young. Once they have flowered, they are too old
Pick them with gloves on, obviously, then pour some boiling water over them, and they're ready to use! I added mine to this refreshing, zingy soup, but you can use them in any recipes that require spinach or greens
For the soup, you will need to soak the chickpeas and peas over night (you can also use lentils instead of the peas), then simmer in a large pan of boiling water with some fresh ginger and the chopped red chilli for about an hour, taking any scum off the top when it starts bubbling up. At the same time, cook the rice. After about an hour, add the halved cherry tomatoes and the chopped nettles to the soup and squeeze in one of the limes. Season with fish sauce, black pepper and paprika and allow to simmer for another half an hour or until the tomatoes have completely disintegrated. To finish, squeeze in the remaining lime and serve on top of the rice, crumbling feta cheese on top. The amounts below are all approximate, use whatever you feel is appropriate to your tastes


200g dried chickpeas
50g dried peas or lentils
Large handful of nettles
100g cherry tomatoes
2 limes
Red chilli pepper, chopped finely
Tablespoon fish sauce
Inch of fresh ginger
1/2 teaspoon paprika
Black pepper to taste
200g feta
50-100g cooked rice per person

Saturday 10 May 2014

Greek feta cheese pie

I have brought you a little gift from Greece - cheese pie. This recipe belongs to Vaso's mum, but I have had to adapt it slightly to suit UK ingredients
Make the filling by squishing the feta and lightly beaten eggs together. Add black pepper and squish some more (I did this with my hands but feel free to use a fork or any other squishing device), until it's nearly smooth, then grate the cheddar in. The pastry here is different to the Greek stuff. I used the pre-rolled sheet and rolled it out even more on a floured surface, until it really couldn't get any thinner. It was 60cm in length and I cut it into four equal strips. Take three of the strips, oil them and lay on top of one another on some foil. Place the filling on top, flatten and cover with the last sheet. The original recipe calls for 6 layers at the bottom and 5 on top, but this is not possible with this pastry. If you make your own or find the super thin sheets (I have since found out that you search for these in the freezer) then you can try it. You could use two sheets of the pre-rolled stuff, but it will make it too pastry heavy in my opinion. Fold all the sides and corners in, sticking them together with oil, before baking in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C for around an hour
Greece was magical as always. I must have been to Greece about a dozen times over the years and each time it leaves me with unforgettable memories and a hankering for more. Always that same herby smell, the connection to antiquity, the warmth of the people and the air. I started off in and around Athens, spending quality time with my beloved old friend, Karina, her family and friends. In Oropos, I watched a breathtaking sunset, swam in the crystal Aegean and celebrated Easter with an egg fight; in Athens, I sunbathed on a massive terrace not far from the Acropolis, drank Greek wine here and delved deeper into the city. The delving brought immediate rewards as in Monastiraki, after years of dreaming about it, I found Stavros' the poet sandalmaker's shop where I bought a pair of the best Greek sandals in Greece
I met my new love on Mykonos. We visited the gods on Delos, got to know one another intensively and at times brutally, ending up in hospital on the last day. No we didn't beat one another up, thankfully, but we did crash the bike

Cheese Pie - Ingredients

1 sheet filo pastry, pre-rolled
400g feta
100g cheddar
2 eggs
Black pepper
Olive oil
Plain flour