In November, Michalis Georgaras  from Aetheleon Farm in Nothern Greece will be joining Oliveology. On Saturday 25th of November and Monday 27th of November you will get the chance to spend time with Michalis at our shop at Borough Market.

Michalis produces our premium quality oregano organic essential oil in his small family-run farm. Driven by his love for essential oils and especially their therapeutic properties, Michalis started experimenting with growing Greek herb varieties in his small farm in Nothern Greece. Soon after, the first oregano oil production became a reality. The small farm expanded and the production gradually grew.

Oregano is one of the most popular Mediterranean herbs and has been used since antiquity as a food flavouring and medicine. Of the wider category carrying the name oregano (used to define nearly 50 plants available across the world that respond to a similar flavour profile), Aetheleon grows Origanum Vulgare ssp. Hirtum (Greek oregano). This specific variety has great antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties, as well as very potent aroma and intense flavour. Aethelon’s oregano oil is therefore exceptional not only for its unique aroma and taste, but also for its healing properties.

Passionate about organic farming and biodiversity, Michalis is dedicated to maintaining a sustainable ecosystem. Apart from his organic certification, he supports the preservation of nature’s resources, while he is a keen believer in creating connections between his farm, research universities and guests.

Read more about Greek oregano on our blog and join him and Marianna at our Borough Market Shop, where he will share with you his knowledge and expertise. You will get a chance to taste the fragrant oregano essential oil and learn all about its journey from Aetheleon farm to our London shop and to your kitchen.


Oregano might be a humble herb with a glorious name, nonetheless. In Ancient Greek, Ορίγανον: όρος+γάνος = η λάμψη του βουνού is the joy, the brightness of the mountain. Ancient Greeks would crown bridal couples with wreaths of oregano as a blessing of happiness upon their marriage.

Oregano is one of the most popular Mediterranean herbs and one of the foundations of Greek cuisine. Greece happens to be where the most praised varieties come from and Mount Taygetus is home to the most favoured of all Greek oreganos. The herb has been used since the antiquity as a food flavouring and medicine mostly for respiratory diseases.

Have you ever tried an herb called oregano not smelling or tasting like oregano as the authentic one? That is mostly because oregano is a wider category used to define nearly 50 plants available across the world that respond to a similar flavour profile. For example, you might have heard of Lippia graveolens, “Mexican oregano,” also known as Mexican marjoram or Mexican wild sage (not a true oregano), or Thymus Capitatus, “Spanish oregano” and Origanum majorana, “Sweet marjoram”. The authentic Greek Oregano is Origanum Vulgare ssp. Hirtum that has been scientifically proven to have antiviral, antifungal and antibacterial properties, as well as very potent aroma and intense flavour. 

In Greek cuisine, the herb is used dried, usually; there’s always a jar full of it in the Greek home. Oregano is used in tomato sauces, with meats, fish, cheese, egg dishes, salads, cheeses, and with vegetables including tomatoes, mushrooms, onions, zucchini, and green beans. Combine it with minced garlic, sea salt, and olive oil and you have a flavourful marinade for pork, beef, or roasted potatoes.

The ancient Greeks were also the first to realize the amazing healing properties of oregano. It has powerful antibiotic, antifungal and antioxidant properties. It is used as a painkiller and anti- inflammatory. Oregano tea is considered a treatment to treat pain, colds, asthma, indigestion and fatigue. The leaves and flowering stems are natural antiseptics because of high carvacrol content. Oregano is rich in C, E, K, A vitamins, manganese, magnesium, calcium, niacin, zinc and iron among others.

This herb, rich in essential oils, pungent and peppery is quite sensitive when stored. We advise you in store it in glass containers; away from the heat and the sunlight but still, not in the fridge.

Make sure you buy your oregano from a trustworthy supplier. The recent years, a number of illegal harvesters have been stripping Greek mountains of wild herbs and rare plants.  We really hope this issue is solved as soon as possible as this looting stops natural regeneration, threatens delicate ecosystems and leaves entire mountainsides denuded.

In case you are growing the herb at your home, oregano protects the other plants from diseases and harmful ants. That is especially useful during summer, when mosquitos or other ants are hard to avoid.

Talking about the joy of cooking, have you seasoned your meal with oregano, today? Looking for inspiration? Oregano is a match in heaven with tomato, which is a match in heaven with feta which takes us to dakos, without a second thought.

Pop by our shop at Borough Market and smell our exceptional Greek oregano! We supply it in bunches or ground, hand harvested from the wild mountains of Epirus. The oregano as well as all of our wild herbs grow within Mrs. Maria’s organically certified land in Epirus. We also supply oregano essential oil, a premium oil organically produced and organically distilled on the farm Aetheleon outside Thessaloniki. This exceptional oil besides its culinary use as a food flavouring, it is widely acknowledged in the international scientific community for its strong antibiotic, antifungal and antioxidant properties.

Photo Credit: Aetheleon

By Lida


It is always exciting when we bring new products into the store. We all gather around as Marianna explains what each ingredient is, where it’s coming from, the story of the producer. This week we are introducing mastiha or mastic! Come by our shop at Borough Market, we’ve got mastiha in crystals, mastiha gum and a pure essential oil that you will find fascinating.

It is often that these foods carry beautiful histories. This week I’ve researched mastiha for you. So join me, as we travel back in time and get to know what mastiha is. So, let’s start from the basics: Chios Mastiha is the name of a resinous sap produced from the mastic tree.

Its history goes back to the depths of time… Legends, traditions, religions, places, voyages, people and cultures compose the myth of Chios mastiha. Ever since the Roman Empire up to the Byzantium, the Venitians and the Ottomans, and from the first Lokum (or Turkish Delight ) produced with sugar syrup, pistachios and mastiha in the 18th c. in Istanbul to the traditional saliq (a type of rice porridge in Saudi Arabia), mastiha enchants people with its unique aroma and taste.

The word mastic derives from the Greek verb μαστιχείν “to gnash the teeth”, which is the source of the English word masticate.

It is a natural, aromatic resin in teardrop shape, falling on the ground in drops from superficial scratches induced by cultivators on the tree’s trunk and main branches with sharp tools. As it drips, this sap appears as a sticky and translucent liquid which falls into the ground. Mastiha starts solidifying into irregular shapes within 15-20 days from the first carving. That solid product is then harvested and washed by mastic growers, giving us finally the natural Chios mastiha. Its colour is initially ivory-like but as due to oxidation a year and a half later changes into yellowish. It is worth mentioning that the mastiha production process has remained practically unchanged over time.

Since 1997, Chios mastiha has been characterized as a Product of Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).This means that the quality or the characteristics of the above are mainly or exclusively due to the geographical environment, including the natural and human factors and the production, alteration and process which take place in the delimited geographical area.

It is only produced in the southern part of Chios, one of the biggest islands in the Aegean Sea, in the so-called Mastihohoria or mastiha villages, which are monuments of cultural heritage.  Soil and weather conditions favour the mastic tree’s cultivation only in Chios and only in this specific part of the isle.

During the Genoese occupation from the 14th century until the 16th century the cultivation of mastiha was properly organised and 22, in all, mastiha villages were actually founded in Southern Chios so as to better exploit the monopolistic product of mastiha.

In the 15th and 16th c. Mastiha was exported to Istanbul, Asia Minor, and the Crimea, to Armenia, Rhodes, Syria, and Egypt, and to Europe and northwest Africa.

During the Ottoman possession, the Sultan kept for himself 70% of the 38 tons of mastiha produced annually. In exchange, he exempted the mastihohoria from most taxes and granted them several other privileges, such as to allow self-government. Each village was managed by elected elders, who decided on the quantity of mastiha that each inhabitant was required to contribute to fulfil the sultan’s revenue. To prevent smuggling of any kind, access to the villages was prohibited to all strangers.

In 1848, the mastiha producers had for the first time the right to sell their products on the free market and pay their taxes in cash, rather than mastiha.

Chios was incorporated into the Greek state in the winter of 1912.

Today, mastiha production is a family affair and the Chios Mastiha Growers Association, a co-operative founded in 1938, assembles the total production, processes the product, packages it and manages the international trade of all mastiha products.

Chios mastiha has a variety of uses and has integrated in the culture of different people and civilizations, especially in the East Mediterranean. It is the basis for the production of a great variety of products such as food and beverages such as liquors and a delicious ice-cream known as kaimaki, which has an unusual chewy and stringy texture thanks to the addition of Chios mastiha as a thickening agent.

It is also used in the pharmaceutical, cosmetics and perfume industry. Chios mastiha, exported from Chios to all over the world. In Lebanon and Syria they make a mastiha-flavoured cheese while for Arabs, mastiha is considered as a great luxury for flavouring food, sweets or milk and is usually added to the local drink Arak. In contemporary Greece, mastiha is used predominantly in baking and in making sweets. Soon, I’ll share with you delicious recipes with this fascinating ingredient. Stay tuned!

by Nafsika Papacharalampous

 


Propolis is a collection of sticky resins that bees collect from sources such as poplar, pine, chestnut etc. The name comes from Greek, and means “in front of the city” as wild beehives often have large walls of propolis extending from the entrance to aid defence and reduce (or channel) wind. Propolis is collected in much the same way as pollen, and packed into small baskets on the bee’s hind legs. However because of its sticky nature, they must get help from neighbouring bees to remove it. Propolis is chewed by bees, mixed with saliva and used in the hive to fill small gaps, either on its own or mixed with wax to prevent parasite accumulation in areas of the hive they cannot access. It is also used to reinforce combs to allow greater strength and to avoid summer softening (propolis has a higher melting point). Its most famous role, however, is as an antibacterial, antiviral, antifungal coating to the hive. It is the substance that makes a beekeeper’s job difficult, if you have ever witnessed how hard it can be to remove cover boards and frames from a hive, due to the sticky nature of propolis.

Propolis was well known to the ancient Greeks as a cure for dental abscesses, infections, colds and flu and as a general healing remedy, and is having something of a renaissance today as we look for more natural remedies. These days propolis is best collected from insect screens placed at the top of hives, encouraging bees to fill the gaps. This avoids the dangers of scraping wooden hive surfaces for propolis with the associated contaminants.

Oliveology propolis is collected using the insect screen method, and is of excellent quality. Try our propolis tincture (propolis dissolved in alcohol) or our raw propolis for the old school/ hardcore amongst you! It’s the bees knees!


Further to our research project: “Fides –beyond the chicken soup” we developed this comforting and delicious soup.

Combining the excellent antioxidant properties of saffron with mineral-rich tahini bring us to a special soup that you can use as a starter or as a meat free Monday meal. It’s great if you’re fasting too –the main inspiration for this soup is frugal Monastery cooking. We are preparing a special blogpost introducing you this brilliant cuisine, stay tuned!

Ingredients

1 lt water
, 1 1⁄2 cup of fides pasta (angel hair)
1 cup of tahini
Juice from 1 lemon
Pinch of Kozani saffron
3 tbsp toasted sesame seeds
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper

Method

Break fides with your fingers, in smaller pieces. Boil it in salted water. Remove it from fire.

Mix tahini in small bowl and set aside. Add saffron and lemon.

In the small bowl with tahini, add a few spoonfuls of hot soup broth and mix well. Add this back to the soup and stir to incorporate completely. Stir well and boil it for a couple of minutes.

Serve it and sprinkle with sesame seeds. If you feel like going large with your toppings: garnish with grated lemon zest, sesame seeds and chopped scallions. Don’t forget paximadia!

Delightful note:
Did you enjoy the saffron-tahini combination? You can always use it as a salad dressing. We love it with green salads, especially with roasted sweet potatoes or butternut squash. Soften the saffron in 2 tablespoons of boiling water, and let it cool. Put into a bowl with the tahini and lemon juice and whisk to a creamy consistency. Check the seasonings.


What is Dakos you say?

Dakos salad is one of the most iconic Greek dishes and probably one of the simplest to make. For us Greeks, it brings back memories of Greek summers. Of time spent by the sea, in the village. This is why often we eat it all year round. And in the big cities most of us now live.

What is dakos, many may ask. Dakos is a hard rusk traditionally made with barley. Barley mixed with water, salt and sourdough creates these delicious dark brown rusks. Barley gives a more intense flavour. Nowadays many make dados rusks using wheat, or a mixture of wheat and barley. But please try and get the barley ones. Especially if this is your first time tasting this. Barley after all is good for your body. It is a rich source of nutrients, that are essential for you, including protein, dietary fibre vitamins and minerals. So go on, swap wheat for barley for a bit. Dakos is good for your soul, too. The way it is usually prepared in Greece, originating from the island of Crete, forms the perfect filling lunch or dinner. Even breakfast if you prefer savoury flavours in the morning.

Our dakos rusks are made just for us by a family owned bakery in Chania, Crete. They still use their family recipe from 1930’s and bake them in traditional ovens using olive wood. These rusks come in various forms and shapes. The ones we prefer at Oliveology are the round ones that come cut in half.
Tradition has it that the top part of the rusk, slightly lighter in texture as it containing more air, is given to guests. The hosts always take the bottom part. Greek hospitality through food, wouldn’t you say?

There are many ways to use dakos; it is so versatile. During our cooking workshop  our guest chef Despina Siahuli even crumbles it on top of strapatsada (the greek version of shakshuka), a dish made with eggs and tomatoes.

Yes, tomatoes go great with dakos. Ideally you need juicy, ripe tomatoes. But if you can’t find any, our passata is an ideal substitution. Just add a few cherry tomatoes for texture. The way we usually prepare and savour dakos is simple, yet includes flavours that smell of Greece. Tomatoes, oregano, feta cheese, olive oil, olives. We always add capers too. We won’t give you quantities for this recipe, as you should adjust everything according to your own personal taste. Every household in Crete has their own way of making dakos after all.

You will need:
Dakos barley rusks
Tomatoes (or combination of passata and chopped tomatoes)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Feta Cheese
Dried oregano
Kalamata Olives 
Capers

Start by laying your rusks on a platter. You can prepare individual plates, but the Greek way of serving food is sharing it. Drizzle some water and olive oil on top. This will moisten the hard rusks. Scatter the passata and chopped tomatoes, with all their liquids. Don’t worry, the rusks will absorb them all. Crumble some feta cheese. Scatter olives and capers. Add oregano generously. Drizzle with lots of olive oil. Smell it. Smells like Greece, doesn’t it?


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!