This is a blog post to share with you some of the magic which exists in Greek cheese. Most of us often see cheese as an interesting ingredient to cook with or have as part of our cheese platter. And it is of course that. But so much more.

Next time you get a piece of cheese, before you eat it or start grading it, stop. Look at it. Smell it. Cut a small piece and put it in your mouth. When you taste cheese, an entire world opens up. The cheese that you taste is more than its taste and aroma. It’s more than an ingredient to be used in salads or soufflés. It carries within it all the characteristics of the place where it is coming from. Of the animals whose milk created it. Of the time of the year when it was made. Of the cheesemaker whose art turned the milk into cheese. Of the culture of that place in the world where it comes from. Each cheese carries a story. If you pay close attention, you can experience it.

Today we will share with you the story of our graviera cheese from Naxos.

The cheesemaker Emmanuel Koufopoulos lives on the island of Naxos. His cheese room operates from 1990 in the area of Saint Isidoros Galanadou at the intersection of Melana and Potamia. You know, if you are ever around. His graviera cheese has been awarded protection under the European Union’s Protected Denomination of Origin (PDO) status. What does this mean? It means that only the cheese produced there can have that name.

Koufopoulos puts together family heritage and modern technology and creates his cheese using local cow’s, sheep’s and goats’ milk. Almost daily, he collects milk from his own cows, and from animals living in the mountains of Naxos. Kinda gives you a glimpse of how cheesemaking was done in the past. He also uses vegetable rennet (yes, this cheese is vegetarian!). Of course, there are no preservatives or additives.

He usually talks about his love for cheese, which, yes, comes through once you taste it. Aged for minimum one year, this cheese has a semi-hard texture and a rich aroma, a creamy and buttery mouthfeel, and a mellow peppery taste with nutty undertones.

There are various ways to enjoy this cheese. You can include it in a cheese platter. You can enjoy it in a sandwich, smothered with some chutney or pickled onions. You can use it in cooking. Grade and sprinkle over pasta. Make soufflés, quiches or pies. Cut in cubes and include it in salads. Melt in a cast iron skillet and serve with pickled cucumbers.

Yes, there are many ways to enjoy this cheese. But if you ask me, the best way to savour it is the simplest one. With some good crusty sourdough bread. You can then experience properly this graviera from the island of Naxos.


People often wonder what Greek food is all about. For us here at Oliveology, and for most Greeks maybe, it’s about two things. Greek food is about simplicity. Dishes usually use few ingredients. This is why one should be very careful when selecting these ingredients. When there are only onions, fava and olive oil in a dish, these better be some damn good fava (split yellow peas; not to be confused with fava beans).

The other thing is about simplicity in the cooking method. With a few exceptions recipes don’t usually require spending hours in complex preparations or involve elaborate steps in the cooking process. However, cooking takes a long time. Why is that? Well, we Greeks associate cooking for a long time with care. The food needs to spend a good time in the oven or hob. It needs to become soft and mellow. You need to keep an eye on it, show your care.

This recipe we have for you this week combines both these elements. It only has three main ingredients. Fava, olive oil, onions. You may add some thyme, and of course salt and pepper. Having this solid base, then you can really let yourself be creative with what you pair it with. Caramelise some onions. Chop some raw red onions for an extra kick. Add salty juicy capers. Try different oils. Definitely lemon juice. How about truffle oil even? There are many things you can do with fava. We like onions, capers and lemon. But it’s really up to you.

400g fava (yellow split peas)
200ml olive oil 
2 medium onions, finely grated
salt
fresh thyme (optional)
lemon (to taste)
capers (to taste)
red onions (to taste)

Rinse the fava under running cold water, until water runs clear. Place the fava in a large saucepan and add cold water. The volume of water you add must be approximately the same as the volume of fava. Bring to the boil, removing any white foam as the fava heats up. Once your fava starts boiling, lower the heat to the lowest possible setting. Add the onions and olive oil, thyme if you are using. Salt to taste but bear in mind, the flavours will concentrate. You can add more salt later.  Let the fava cook at very low heat, until it looks like mashed potatoes, stirring occasionally. Yes, fava magically breaks down into mush. If needed add a bit more water as you go along.

Serve with olive oil and lemon juice, capers and raw onions.


Symbols of Greek hospitality, spoon sweets were created to preserve fruits, vegetables, nuts and flowers, in excess. The practice of preserving fruits goes all the way to Ancient Greece. Their name comes from the habit to serving them on a small plate, in the quantity of a teaspoon along with a glass of fresh water. The raw material preserves its original shape, colour, flavours, aroma as well as its nutritional properties. This happens by using few simple ingredients: fruits or vegetables (most commonly), sugar, herbs and a touch of lemon. Try them on your toast, porridge, yoghurt, ice cream or with your afternoon coffee. They are perfect pair to cheese; teaspoon desserts can also be the secret ingredient to your baking and a brilliant way to add flavour to your cocktails.

Butternut squash teaspoon dessert with cinnamon and walnuts (1)

This is an easy introduction to teaspoon desserts through a vegetable not that commonly preserved in Greece. This recipe is inspired by the special cuisine of the vibrant community of the Greeks who have origins from (or still live) in Istanbul.

Preparation: 30’ Waiting time: a night Cooking: an hour

Ingredients (for about a kilo of finished product):

1 kilo (net weight) butternut squash cut in cubes (about 4cm each)
250g sugar
2 small cinnamon sticks (you can also add ground nutmeg, if desired)
About 50 g walnuts/ almonds roughly chopped for serving (2)
Cinnamon powder for serving

Method

Place the butternut squash cubes in a large pot, from the night before. Sprinkle the sugar, close the lid and let it sit throughout the night so it can release its juices. The next day, turn on the heat and cook it over low heat; add the cinnamon sticks and cook for approximately an hour until all juices are absorbed and the butternut squash is soft and tender (3).

Check the mix frequently and add more liquid only if there is none left. It is not advised to stir the pot with a utensil as the pieces of squash may be destroyed. If needed, shake the whole pot carefully.

Remove from the heat and let cool down. Serve with walnuts and cinnamon or pour into sterile jars. Store in the refrigerator and use within one year. Enjoy this sunshine!

(1)  Inspired by “Eleni Fili Nioti, The lady of Istanbul”, Gastronomos , December, 2014: p.100. (2)  For more flavour, lightly toast the walnuts/ almonds for a few minutes in a small frying pan until fragrant. (3)  In Greek we would probably describe this mellowed state of the squash as “honeyed”, a term widely used in Greek cooking.


When asked to name a case of a bud, more popular than the flower or even the fruit, which one comes to mind? I always think about the caper.

Capers are beautiful pea sized, dark green flower buds known since the Palaeolithic-era. In Ancient Greece, Hippocrates mentioned its expectorant properties; Dioscourides advised mouthwashes with an infusion made with capers boiled in vinegar. It was also believed that its skin had toning and aphrodisiac properties. The poet Antiphanis mentions capers as one of the spices along with sesame, cumin, thyme, marjoram, vinegar and olives.

The caper bushes are native to the Mediterranean and usually grow in rocky, dry areas. Other varieties can be found in other places of Europe, as well as Asia and Africa. They are categorised and sold by size. Their price is usually high, due to their laborious harvesting method: not only do they have to be hand-picked but also picking needs to take place quite early in the morning. Then, they are sun dried and either salted or pickled. The unpicked buds, bloom into white- pinkish flowers and in the evenings, they release a sweet, pleasant scent. In Greece the caper leaves are considered a delicacy and are usually added fresh in salads or pickled as mezze. When opportunity comes, do try them- you are in for a treat!

These spice buds with their piquant, salty and sour flavour as well as their floral aroma, act as flavour enhancers. They are great with fish, tomatoes and onions and are often used in conjunction with lemon. Widely used as a condiment or a flavourful garnish, they are essential to dishes like Santorini fava, puttanesca pasta, Nicoise salad, as well as in tartar and remoulade sauces.

Nutritional value wise, they are very low in calories and contain many phytonutrients, anti-oxidants (high in in flavonoid compounds rutin and quercetin) such as and vitamins essential for optimal health. We would advise you to pay special attention to their high sodium levels.

So, what are you waiting for? Treat yourselves to our organic and wild capers in olive oil (not brine); they are hand picked, prepared and packed for us with love, care and expertise by Mrs Love (Κα. Αγάπη) in Southern Crete!


If you have ever travelled to Greece, it’s most likely that you have lost your heart to dakos, like Yotam Ottolenghi, this mouth-watering snack.

Cretan rusk, paximadi or dakos is the basis of the Cretan snack. It might seem confusing but dakos is the word for the Cretan rusk (paximadi) in Crete as well as the salad with it. Paximadi (or the dish with it) can also be found under the name of koukouvagia. Another brilliant version is the one from Kythera, ladopaksimada” (rusks baked with olive oil).

A rusk is twice-baked, dehydrated bread, in order to be maintained and eatable longer than fresh bread. It was considered a staple in Greece, especially for all those families who couldn’t knead daily. This product was essential to the diet of sailors, shepherds, farmers and all those who would spend a lot of time away from home. Consequently, this food is considered to be one of the first standardised products in Greece.

This tasty alternative to bread is flour-based of course, except that it is made mainly or exclusively out of barley flour. In addition, it has a high nutritional value; as it is rich in a number of vitamins of the B complex including folic acid and B6. As far as barley rusks are concerned, they are rich in magnesium, selenium, amino acids, fibre, phosphorus, silica, chromium and antioxidants. It has no preservatives but, it does have salt.

It is shaped either in thick wedges, rounds split horizontally in the middle, or into smaller crouton bites. Mind your teeth though, rusks are quite hard and must be softened with either water, wine, olive oil or broth before eating.

A secret for the best dakos you’ve ever had: sprinkle water on the rusks in order to soften them before adding the tomatoes. Make sure you use ripe, juicy tomatoes, grated over the rusks so it absorbs all the juice. Season and drizzle with some evoo. Finish the dish with crumbled feta or mizithra cheese (or a mix of both), a generous drizzle of evoo, some wild Greek oregano, Kalamata olives, capers or kritamo, if desired.

Serve immediately and enjoy!

But don’t limit yourself to dakos: add your rusks to salads and soups for volume, enjoy them with delicious yoghurt, a sprinkle of sea salt and a drizzle of olive oil, great with a fried/ poached egg as well, a classic when combined with cheese or charcuterie; a product that is wise to keep in your pantry, always.

Find our Cretan barley rusks  at Borough Market and start your delicious story from there.

Photo credit: Psilakis N.& M., Kastanas I., O politismos tis elias-To elaiolado, Karmanor, 2003.


What is so special about Greek mountain tea (tsai tou vounou)? It is freshness and wellness in a tea; you might find yourself feeling as if you were just trekking on the Greek mountains.

Sideritis also known as ironwort, shepherd’s tea and mountain tea is a genus of flowering plants widely known for their use in herbal medicine as well as an herbal tea. This special tea is historically known as “Shepherd’s Tea” because Greek shepherds would make a brewed tea out of the plants while directing their flocks on the hillsides.

This tea consists of select handpicked dried flowers, leaves and stems of the native Sideritis plant which grow wild throughout the mountainous regions of Greece. The specific plant is found on rocky slopes at very high elevations (over 1000 meters). According to the researchers, Sideritis genus includes over 150 available species. Not to be confused with regular tea rich in polyphenols, caffeine and a smoky, bitter flavour due to its tannic profile; this humble tea has a sweet, floral and earthy flavour and is caffeine-free.

The herb was well known to ancient Greeks, particularly to the pharmacologist/ botanist Dioscurides, philosopher Theophrastus and to the father or modern medicine Hippocrates. Back then it was used as a toning herb, commonly used to treat wounds –especially those from iron swords or arrows. Nowadays, it is mostly consumed in Greece and Spain; in Greece you can try about 17 different varieties from mountains around the country. Of these only one is cultivated, all others are wild. Its essential oils are used in a variety of herbal medicine and cosmetic products.

One of the main reasons of ironwort’s popularity has definitely been its wide range of health benefits. Since the antiquity, it was considered as a remedy for colds, aches, allergies, indigestion, respiratory issues and a boost for your immune system. All these claims proved to be true; an increasing number of researches confirm that mountain tea is packed with flavonoids and antioxidants as well that it lowers blood pressure. Recent studies at the University of Magdeburg argue that not only does Sideritis prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease but it also acts forestalling osteoporosis.

According to the a study published in 2011 at the “Journal of Ethno-pharmacology”, all Sideritis species plants were shown to have anti-microbial, anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and antispasmodic properties. They were rich in a number of natural antioxidants, including flavonoids, and almost all species also contained essential oils. In addition, according to a 2012 publication of the “Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology” found that extracts made from Sideritis helped lower blood pressure levels while helping blood vessels to relax.

The brewing process is rather simple: you simply need to pour some freshly boiled water in a cup with a couple of mountain tea twigs inside. Excellent with a spoonful of honey, it is also lovely with cinnamon or lemon. Since it’s naturally caffeine-free, it can be enjoyed any time of the day. Fresh, aromatic and flavourful – can be enjoyed either hot or cold. We stock 100% organic and wild, without any added ingredients, colourings, or flavourings from the mountains of the Epirus. Pop by our stall in Borough Market, find us at Spa Terminus or order it online. Make a fresh start this year and switch to herbal remedies, like this ancient one.

Your Greek grandmother would recommend a cup per day, especially during winter!


Beeswax balm is definitely one of my favourite Oliveology products. It is an ancient remedy, made with only 5 ingredients and has just the perfect size to fit in your bag. I have been sceptical about all these (commercial) “natural” moisturisers for a while. So I felt I could trust this product as it is actually made on our farm using our organic evoo, St John’s wort, honey, beeswax and vitamin E1.

The main active ingredient is handpicked St. John’s wort flowers infused in organic extra virgin olive oil. This is what makes our balm extra special. Traditionally, St. John’s wort oil was used to treat and speed the healing of bruises, burns, sores and wounds.

It is a remarkable healing product that accelerates wound healing due to the powerful anti-inflammatory nature of St. John’s wort flowers. When used externally it also has potent antimicrobial properties. You are most likely to be attracted to its smell, initially; as it is made with wild flower honey. But it also consists of another bee product, beeswax, which has a number of uses in skin products and cosmetics (lip balms, hand lotions, hand creams, moisturisers). Our balm forms a water resistant barrier, to protect you from the harsh winter weather, and seal moisture in the skin. The addition of vitamin E contributes to skin soothing, protecting you against free radical damage.

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How can you not love pistachios? They are a wonderful snack, the main ingredient to crunchy and flaky baklava, make an exquisite ice cream, they lift the flavour and texture of every food they are added to, from dressings to salads, casseroles, puddings and baked goods.

The pistachio is “technically” not a nut. The seed, commonly thought of as a nut, is as a matter of fact a culinary and not a botanical nut. The fruit is a drupe, containing an elongated seed, which is the edible portion. The English word pistachio is derived from the ancient Greek word pist.kion (πιστάκιον). The main producers of pistachios worldwide are Iran, United States and Turkey, while China seems to be the first consuming country. The pistachio tree is native to western Asia and Asia Minor, from Syria to the Caucasus and Afghanistan. Several cultivars exist however, the most popular variety grown for commercial purposes is kerman.

What is so special about the Greek pistachios? It appears that pistachio trees came to Greece from Western Asia. The unique cultivated type of pistachios from Aegina, has been awarded a Protected Designation of Origin (P.D.O) product status, since 1977. It has an almost-white shell, a sweet taste, a red-green kernel and a little bit more closed-mouth shell than the variety found in the United States. The ideal climate conditions of the island and the composition of the soil give these pistachios from Aegina the aroma and taste that make them stand out The specific variety has been systematically cultivated in Aegina since the 1860s. Nikolaos Peroglou organised the first pistachio orchard in Aegina, in the area of Limbones, by the sea, in 1896. He is considered one of the most infuential figures in the island as he dedicated his life to the cultivation of pistachio trees. Author of the book “The Pistachio Tree”, he documented everything that the cultivation of the pistachio tree needs. Determined that the Aeginitans should plant pistachio trees, when he wanted to give a present, he would give a pistachio tree sapling.

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Are you familiar with the song: “Sugar is sweet/ But not as sweet as my baby/ Honey’s a treat but it/ Can’t compete with my baby”? It seems like they have never tried grape molasses! In Greece when we want to say that something/ someone is really sweet, we say they are sweet like petimezi. One great thing about our health awareness and sugar rush/ tax era is rediscovering excellent ingredients like this one. Grape molasses or petimezi, is an ancient food, popular for its nutritious qualities and delightful flavour. Before establishing the use of sugar, petimezi was very commonly used across the Mediterranean and especially Greece, not only as a sweetener but as a remedy as well.

Petimezi’s flavour is sweet with a hint of spice and its aroma is pungent, potent and so incredibly tempting. This excellent product comes from boiling grape-must in low heat for a long time. It is rather expensive since the production process is long and the yield is small. Its texture is quite similar to aged balsamic vinegar; if you are an Ottolenghi fan, then you are definitely familiar with pomegranate molasses and can use petimezi, accordingly.

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Corinth raisins are tiny, black dried fruits, packed full of flavour and nutrition. Cultivated in the South of Greece, the name comes from the ancient city of “Corinth”. They are known as “Zante currants” in the States, Zante currants – Corinth raisins – Corinthian raisins or simply currants in the UK and Ireland.

There are three different types of dried grapes; currants, sultanas and raisins.  Currants are dried, dark red, seedless grapes.  Raisins are dried white grapes.  Sultanas are dried white grapes from seedless cultivars.

All three are produced around the world; Corinth raisins (or currants) are only produced in Greece. Continue reading →