Thursday, 22 September 2016

Fakes, Lentil Soup, Greek Style.



"Fakes" Greek lentil soup
"Fakes" Greek lentil soup


I love lentils, though I never used to, well, that’s not really true, I don’t know whether I did or I didn’t!

Silly isn’t it?

 But, I decided without even trying them, that this was not a dish for me.

My children do the self-same thing, it drives me crazy, but now we know where they get it from!

Anyway, I wouldn’t eat lentils; my children wouldn’t eat lentils, poor MGG (My Greek God) could only dream about lentils, unless he ate them elsewhere, they weren’t on the menu!



Dreaming of "Fakes" lentils
Dreaming of "Fakes" lentils


 My children grew up, left home, and MGG brought up the lentil subject; again!

To please him, I made them, “Never mind” I thought, “I can have a sandwich”

Where to find the recipe? Best to ask my mother-in-law, after all, it’s her lentil soup MGG’s familiar with.

Keeping in mind her strict instructions, I bought brown lentils, not green, not red, nor orange.



Lentils for every occasion
Lentils for every occasion


“No carrots or celery, and definitely no sausage or pork, and use fresh tomatoes, not juice or puree”, she told me, “Never mind what others tell you, listen to me, do it my way”

So, what could I do? I did it her way.

Everything went smoothly, it looked like it should, and, didn’t smell too bad at all, in fact, it smelled delicious.

So, when MGG, with his mouth watering, sat down to sample my efforts, and give his verdict, I thought “why not? I’ll try them”.



"Fakes" Greek lentil soup and garlic bread"
"Fakes" Greek lentil soup and garlic bread"



What a revelation, what had I been missing all these years, they were delectable!



French Puy lentils, the best! Difficult to find in Greece.
French Puy lentils, the best!
Difficult to find in Greece.

A friend suggested I try Amazon for my favourite, hard-to-find in Greece, French Puy lentils.

Why didn't I think of that?

I had a look, and yes, here they are!

Merchant Gourmet Authentic Puy Lentils 500 g (Pack of 4)


Now, apart from the hot summer months, we eat “Fakes”, Greek lentil soup, at least once a week.

Garlic bread is the perfect partner for lentil soup.

 The days we have lentils, MGG will bring home, two or three fresh, crusty baguettes from out local bakers, which I fill with garlic butter and pop into the oven, ten minutes or so, before we sit down to eat.


Ingredients for lentil soup


Ingredients for "Fakes" Greek lentil soup.
Ingredients for "Fakes" Greek lentil soup.


500 gr brown lentils

2 ripe tomatoes

2 large onions (Chopped)

2 garlic cloves (Chopped)

2 tbs vinegar

1 bay leaf

½ cup olive oil


Aprox 2 litres water

Freshly ground black pepper and sea salt


Method


Put lentils into a large saucepan, add water, bring to the boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes

Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally, and grate, using the largest holes of grater, discard skins.

Add the tomatoes, along with the chopped onion and garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar and bay leaf.



Grated fresh tomatoes
Grated fresh tomatoes

Bring to the boil again, add olive oil, turn down heat to a simmer, and cook for about 1 ½ hours, until lentils are soft, stirring occasionally, take care towards the end, as the soup thickens, it is more likely to burn.


Garlic bread



Garlic bread.
Garlic bread.


3-4 fresh baguettes

200 gr salted butter, softened

4 garlic cloves

Mince garlic, add to butter, and mix well.

Diagonally slice baguettes, don’t slice right through.

Spread garlic butter, liberally, between the cuts you have made in the baguettes.

Wrap in foil, separately, and place in oven, 200 degrees C for about 15 minutes

Remove from foil and enjoy!


By the way, my children still turn up their noses at "Fakes"

If only they knew!



Try your hand at some delicious Greek traditional dishes, with the help of this best-selling book by Diane kohcilas, TV chef and restaurant owner.

Seventeen chapters and two hundred and fifty, easy-to-follow, mouthwatering,  traditional Greek recipes.


The Country Cooking of Greece



"The Country Cooking Of Greece" Diane Kochilas
"The Country Cooking Of Greece"
Diane Kochilas


More recipes

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

How to Make the Perfect Panna Cotta


Panna Cotta
Panna Cotta


Creamy, milky desserts are my weakness.

I choose, crispy-topped crème brulee, a wicked piece of custard tart, or a good, old-fashioned milk pudding, over “Death by chocolate” every time.

 A wobbly panna cotta though, beats them all.

 What is panna cotta, this delicious delight, which in recent years, seems to have taken the world by storm?

 Panna cotta, in Italian “Cooked cream”, has its roots in the Piedmont region of Northern Italy, and, consists of cream, or a mixture of cream and milk, sugar and gelatin.

 A pure and simple dessert, but wait, this sounds familiar!

 Isn’t this the “Shape” or blancmange, brought to the afternoon tea-table, by my grandmother, many moons ago?


Blancmange Panna Cotta with an Italian accent, Photo by SKopp
Blancmange
Panna Cotta with an Italian accent,
Photo by SKopp


Yes, it is panna cotta, blancmange with an Italian accent!


 Moving further East, Greece and Cypress have their own panna cotta, called mahalepi, flavoured with rose or orange-water, drenched in rose-water syrup.


Mahlepi
Mahlepi


 Turkey, Lebanon and other Arab countries call it muhallebi, and top it with chopped pistachio nuts.


Muhallebi
Muhallebi

All variations on a theme.



Just to be trendy, I’ll call it panna cotta!

 Such a simple dessert, how can you go wrong, when making it?

With no trouble at all, apparently.


 Unless I have sampled it there before, I never order panna cotta in a restaurant.

 I have consumed some terrible “Fails”, even in Italy, home to panna cotta.

 I have been shocked, by “Rubbery lumps”, presented to me on a plate!


 So, when Master Chef, Theodoros Aletris, offered me panna cotta, I thought twice before answering;

“Oh, yes please”

Wow!

 This had to be the best panna cotta I had ever tasted, the flavour, the texture, (That's what makes or breaks a panna cotta) the strawberry sauce adorning it, everything was perfect!



I shouldn’t have doubted Theo, as he is an excellent chef, who, by the way, began his career in confectionery.


Theodoros Aletris Master Chef
Theodoros Aletris
Master Chef


 Anything Theo has cooked for me, has been “Heaven on a plate”

 I just had to pick Theo’s brains!

 Well, as great chefs tend to be, he was a bit cagey, guards his recipes with his life!

 He must like me, he caved in!

 So, clutching Theo’s secrets close to my heart, I hot-footed it home, to find out if I could create the perfect panna cotta.

 Yes, I could!

 Remembering Theo’s tips and secrets “Take it easy with the gelatin” and don’t be “Heavy-handed” with the sugar, I did it!

 I made the perfect panna cotta, well, alright then; maybe it was a notch below Theo’s!

 It was creamy, not rubbery, it wobbled, just as it was meant to wobble, and it was not too sweet, it was just right!

 The secret is in the amount of gelatin used, too much, and it loses its creaminess, too little and it’s a sloppy mess.


Gelatin soaking in cold water
Gelatin soaking in cold water


 In my opinion, if you can slice panna cotta, or, when turned out of a mold, it doesn’t “Spread” then, it’s a failure.


The perfect texture of panna cotta.
The perfect texture of panna cotta.


 Here is the basic recipe I use, Theo tweaks it a bit, here and there, adds flavoured sugars, he experiments with diverse tastes, adds a soupcon of that “Je ne sais quoi”.


Ingredients for panna cotta
Ingredients for panna cotta


I use half cream and half milk.

1 litre double cream, or, 500 ml cream and 500 ml milk

100 gr sugar

10 gr gelatin

 (Sheets or powdered ,sheets give a better result) 

If using gelatin leaves, soak in cold water for about 5 minutes.

If using powdered gelatin, add 2 or 3 tsp cold water, mix, leave 5 minutes

1 Vanilla pod


(Scrape out the seeds, and add them, together with the pod, to the milk, before boiling.


Don’t forget to remove the pod afterwards!)

Method

Put the cream in a pan, add the sugar

Bring to the boil, stirring continuously

Remove from heat, squeeze excess water from the gelatin, if using leaves, and add to pan, stir until dissolved.


Pour into molds, refrigerate for at least four hours, or, best I think, leave overnight.


Vanilla pods.
Vanilla pods.

Mold ideas for panna cotta
Mold ideas for panna cotta


 To remove the panna cotta from the mold, run a sharp knife around the rim, immerse in very hot water for a few seconds, and turn out.


Some recipes suggest you lightly oil the molds, don’t!
Vegetable oil can affect the flavour of the panna cotta.


The list of toppings, which enhance the flavor of panna cotta, is endless.

 I have my favourites, any fruit coulis or purees, plus, what you see below.


I try my best to support the many young Greeks, bringing back tried and trusted, healthy Greek products, which along the road to "Progress", have been forgotten.

I admire their integrity, no cutting of corners, no use of chemicals and preservatives, using only good quality, fresh, local produce.


Panna cotta with homemade lemon cheese
Panna cotta with homemade lemon cheese

Lemon cheese made by me!


Panna cotta with pomegranate petimezi
Panna cotta with pomegranate petimezi

Petimezi is a sweet syrup, made from concentrated grape, or, pomegranate juice, this petimezi is made by Panagiotis.


Panagiotis Giannakainas Photo courtesy of http://www.tallisvacations.com/
Panagiotis Giannakainas
Photo courtesy of
http://www.tallisvacations.com/


Panna cotta with grape petimezi
Panna cotta with grape petimezi


This delicious grape petimezi is made by another Panagiotis


Panagiotis Mantzioros
Panagiotis Mantzioros




Panna cotta with black cherry spoon sweet
Panna cotta with black cherry spoon sweet

Mouth watering, black cherry spoon sweet, made by the company, To Filema Tis Lelas, run by Sophia  and Georgos.


Sophia Dimitriou and Georgos Tassinopoulos
Sophia Dimitriou and Georgos Tassinopoulos


And, thank you Mamatsita for introducing me to these mouth watering, balsamic creams, not only perfect on salads, but absolutely delicious drizzled over panna cotta or ice cream.

I tried the fig one on my yogurt this morning, mmmmm!



Flavoured, balsamic creams
Flavoured, balsamic creams


 Maybe panna cotta, (Or, rather the gourmet chefs who make it), is getting “A bit above itself" 


 It has such a simple, pure taste, it should be left alone, kept simple, not drowned in strong-flavoured sauces and syrups, such as 
  three-chocolate sauce with chilies, or, salted caramel with rum, which absolutely blot out the delicate flavor of panna cotta.

MGG (My Greek God) has got it right.

This is how he likes his panna cotta;


Panna cotta, no frills.
Panna cotta, no frills.


 Left alone, with no fancy frills.

As they say "If it's not broken, why fix it"

And

"Less is more"



Want to make more perfect Italian desserts?


With this fabulous book, chock full of beautiful illustrations, written by Lidia Bastianich, you will have success after success.

Learn the secret to perfect rice pudding, Italian-style, TV chef and storyteller, Lidia Bastianich, reveals tips and secrets handed down from her mother Ermina and her grandmother, Nonna Rosa.


 
"Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking" Lidia Bastianich
"Lidia's Commonsense Italian Cooking"
Lidia Bastianich.



Wednesday, 7 September 2016

Lost In Translation: Ichor. The blue blood of the Greek Gods



Blue-blooded Greek God
Blue-blooded Greek God


Here I am, early September, sat outside, under a canopy, enjoying the rain.
It hasn’t rained for what seems like months, after weeks of scorching Greek sun, what a welcome relief.

How peaceful it is, sat here, listening to the patter of rain on canvas, hearing the squish of tires on wet tarmac, watching rain drops, slowly making their way down the sharp, green leaves of a yucca, to drop onto the thirsty, parched earth below.



Enjoying the first September rain.
Enjoying the first September rain.


Above all though, the smell, a smell that takes me back to my childhood, wet, wooden garden fences, and the musty aroma of sodden, autumn leaves, damp concrete and the sweet smell of soaked earth.

Did you know that this unique smell has a name?

Petrichor, originally the word I was going to write about today.

Though not a true Greek word, as it was invented by two Australians in 1964, it is derived from two genuine Greek words;

These two words are “Petra’, meaning rock, and “Ichor”, the blood running through the veins of Greek Gods.



Petrichor The sweet smell of rain on parched earth.
Petrichor
The sweet smell of rain on parched earth.


This wonderful aroma, petrichor, produced by rain falling on parched earth, derives from “Ichor”, oil, produced by certain plants, which is absorbed by the earth.

As a Greek word, petrichor seems a bit of an imposter, so, I am going to tell you about “Ichor”, a truly ancient Greek word, and oh, so much more interesting!

Thousands of years ago, caves existed in Crete, which were created in such a way, as to catch the light of Sirius (Derived from the Ancient Greek Σείριος (Seirios), meaning "glowing" or "scorcher"), also known as the Dog Star, the brightest star in the night sky.



Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky . It shines in the constellation of Canis Major and is visible from most everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months.
Sirius is the brightest star in the night sky.
 It shines in the constellation of Canis Major and is visible from most everywhere in the Northern Hemisphere during the winter months.



Dwelling in these caves were sacred honeybees, who, in the blue-white glare of Serius, created a mystical, golden honey, containing nectar and ambrosia, food of the Greek Gods, which is believed to promote longevity, and immortality, to whoever consumed it.




Honeybees Creating nectar and Ambrosia Food of the Greek Gods
Honeybees
Creating nectar and ambrosia
Food of the Greek Gods


 “Ichor”, the fluid running through the veins of Greek Gods, is said to contain this wondrous concoction of golden honey, nectar and ambrosia, said to be poisonous to mere mortals, killing them on the spot.



Nectar and Ambrosia
Nectar and Ambrosia



One of the most known myths, concerning “Ichor”, is of Talos, a Cretan God.



Talos Bronze, winged giant of Crete
Talos
Bronze, winged giant of Crete


Talos, a bronze, winged giant, created by Hephaestus, at the request of Zeus, to protect his daughter, Europa, (Some sources have Talos forged from bronze by the inventor Daedalus, father of Icarus and creator of the famous Cretan labyrinth, inhabited by the Minotaur), had “Ichor”, running through a single vein in his body.

This single vein, containing the “Ichor” in Talos’ body, was stoppered by a nail, to prevent this magical liquid from escaping.

All was going splendidly; Talos protected Europa, by hurling rocks at pirates and invaders, until one day, after the acquisition of The Golden Fleece, Jason and The Argonauts arrived on the scene.




Jason returns with the Golden Fleece,  shown on an Apulian red-figure calyx krater, ca. 340–330 BC
Jason returns with the Golden Fleece,
 shown on an Apulian red-figure calyx krater, ca. 340–330 BC



Battle ensued, in which Media, the sorceress wife of Jason, pulled out the nail in Talos’ back, releasing the “Ichor”, killing Talos instantly.



The death of Talos depicted on a 4th-century BC krater  now in the Jatta National Archaeological Museum in Ruvo di Puglia.
The death of Talos depicted on a 4th-century BC krater
 now in the Jatta National Archaeological Museum in Ruvo di Puglia.



I was going to finish with “Ichor” here, but then, things became really interesting!


Read on!


As you probably know, Greek Gods frequently cavorted with humans, any offspring resulting from these shenanigans, had a fifty fifty chance of inheriting their blood group from either the mother or the father, as is with humans today.



  Gods cavorting with mere mortals!
Gods cavorting with mere mortals!


We aren’t talking about any old blood here; we’re talking “Ichor”, if a child, resulting from an affair between a God and a human, was lucky enough to end up with “Ichor”, running through its veins, it was a very special child indeed, set apart from us ordinary humans, he was a king!



Set apart from humble humans
Set apart from humble humans


Now “Ichor” is blue in colour, you can find it mentioned as black, or green, but this is to be found in books, such as Dungeons and Dragons, or, Harry Potter.

The “Ichor” of the ancient Greeks is blue.



Blue Blood


Blue blood, the colour of the blood running in the veins of Greek Gods and of European royalty!

A large percentage of European royalty have the blood group rhesus O negative, only five percent of the world’s population, have this blood group.

The blood group, rhesus O negative, certainly has special properties, a person with this blood group, can receive blood, only from this group, but, can give their own blood, to absolutely anybody, regardless of blood type!

It has been said, people with rhesus O negative blood type, have rather a bluish hue about them!



Rhesus 0 negative maybe?
Rhesus 0 negative maybe?


Rhesus O negative, differs enormously from other blood groups, and, allegedly, scientists have no explanation for this difference.

It is even said, the CIA, have files, obtained through hospitals, birth registers and identity cards etc, on all rhesus O negative people, and are keeping a close eye on them, trying to discover, just what makes these special people tick!

Could European royalty have descended from Greek Gods?

Remember the bees in ancient Crete, creating “Ichor”?

The bee is a sacred symbol of many ancient and not so ancient royals.



The Minoan Bee was found in the Old Palace cemetery at Chrysolakkos,  outside the Palace of Malia, the 3rd largest Minoan Palace on the island of Crete (after Knossos and Pheastos)
The Minoan Bee was found in the Old Palace cemetery at Chrysolakkos,
 outside the Palace of Malia, the 3rd largest Minoan Palace on the island of Crete (after Knossos and Pheastos)



 Agamemnon, ancient Greek King of Mycenae, was buried in a “Beehive tomb”.




Treasury of Atreus Agamemnon's Tomb  An impressive tholo beehive shaped tomb on the Panagitsa Hill at Mycenae
Treasury of Atreus, Agamemnon's Tomb
 An impressive tholo "beehive shaped tomb" on the Panagitsa Hill at Mycenae



 Napoleon used the honey bee as one of the most important symbols of the power and prestige of his empire.




Napolean's bee emblem
Napolean's bee emblem



Sarah Ferguson, wife of Prince Andrew of Great Britain, former Duchess of York took the bee as her personal symbol and had the motive embroidered on her wedding gown.




Linda Cierach replica of the bridal gown worn by Sarah Ferguson, 1986,
Linda Cierach replica of the bridal gown worn by Sarah Ferguson,
 1986,



Could anyone with the rhesus O negative blood group be descended from Greek Gods?
Food for thought!


There is so much stuff concerning this subject, out there on the internet, I’ll give you a couple of the least “Sci-Fi” articles I came across. 

Read the articles here and here.

Make up your own minds!

Before I go, let me tell you something;




MGG My Greek God
MGG
My Greek God


I always knew MGG was a true Greek God, and my daughter, Nais, a true Greek Goddess.

They are both rhesus O negative!





MGG My Greek Godess My daughter, Nais
MGG
My Greek Goddess
My daughter, Nais


My son Johnny and I are mere mortals!


Have a look at some more interesting Greek words:

Arcadia

Eucharisto

Eudaimonia

Sophrosyne

Meraki

Philotimo





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