The sun is shining. We are now officially in the beginning of summer. Summer is always better if one is by the sea. But most of us are not. So when one lives in a city, summer foods make it all better. Around the market you can now find watermelons. For us, it is the ultimate summer flavour. We spend the entire summer with this pink, sweet fruit. Eaten as is, straight from the fridge is dreamy. Some say it’s even better at room temperature. But you know, it’s summer, one wants something cold to balance the heat.

The last few years, recipes using watermelon are popping up. Think away from smoothies for a bit. Watermelon’s sweetness and crunch balances perfectly with something creamy and salty. You guessed it. Feta cheese and watermelon can become best friends!

And while in Greece usually watermelons are massive-a few kilos each- here, you can get a lovely small watermelon at the market for the salad we are suggesting.

This salad is quite simple. Went for the classic flavour combinations. Watermelon-feta cheese-mint. However, you can use whatever herbs you prefer. How about fresh coriander? Hm! The measurements for watermelon and feta are balanced, but you can obviously add more cheese if you want. Try it and see.

Here, we used our 18oC olive oil. Its grassy, fruity flavour is the perfect pairing for these ingredients.

And whatever you do, don’t forget the vinegar. It really makes all the difference, brightening up the entire dish. Something like the early summer sun, brightening up our lives. You can of course experiment more, add a bit of chilli for spice, lemon or lime for acidity.

For 2 people
400g of watermelon flesh
150g feta cheese
2 tbs olive oil
dashes of red wine vinegar
a few springs of mint
pepper

Remove the peel from the watermelon. Cut the flesh in cubes. We prefer large bite-sized pieces. Place in a bowl. Cut the feta cheese in identical cubes. Fine, they don’t really have to be identical. Add to the watermelon. Pour over olive oil and splashes of the red wine vinegar. Finely chop the mint and sprinkle on top. Add some freshly ground pepper.

This salad makes for a perfect summer lunch. We tried it for breakfast actually. Trust us, it works!


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!


Foragers will perform the waggle dance during swarming season to propose suitable new nest sites. The waggle dance is also the way successful foragers share information with the colony about nectar/pollen sources, water or propolis. For close sources less than 50m from the hive, bees tend to use a round dance, although confusingly this can also have a short waggle segment! Dancing bees release a pheromone to alert their siblings nearby of the importance of this message. Dancing bees will indicate the quality of their source by the frequency of the waggle and the amount of pheromone release. They can also provide small samples of the source product to nearby bees to allow independent assessment of the quality. These bees will also perform the dance if they approve of the source. In this way, when multiple dances are occuring simultaneously, a democratic process ensures the best, closest sources are exploited first.

As all comb within the hive is orientated in the same direction, the angle of the dance in relation to vertical represents the angle of flight in relation to the sun. The length of the dance is proportional to the distance involved, with 1s of dance roughly equal to 1Km of flight. This allows observer foragers to work out the correct direction and distance to fly.

This is all remarkably clever for such a small navigator, considering we as humans pride ourselves on our complex communications. What is more amazing is that observer bees can also remember a time component, as if they try to find the source hours later, the sun will be in a different position in the sky. The bees understand this and change the angle of flight accordingly so they can find the source.

Photo Credit © Stamp Design Royal Mail Group Ltd (2015)


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 interesting about spring, is that it is an in-between season if you wish. Between winter and summer. During spring one gets to experience the best of both worlds. Winter is not completely gone. There might be rain or cold. Summer is not completely here. There might be sunny and warm days. That’s spring for you. Which sometimes makes what to cook very confusing. It is not the time of the year for a hearty lentil soup. It is not the time of the year for aubergines.

Then what time of the year is it anyway? Well. You know that spring is here when you are suddenly surrounded by greens. Green broad beans, wild garlic, peas, spinach. The market is now officially deep into the new season. What can you prepare with these spring greens? Well, this week we are making a soup. Yes, you heard right. A soup for the cooler days of spring. One which however, you can have at room temperature and will be equally satisfying. You see, the trick in this recipe (inspired by epicurious.com by the way), is not to overcook anything. In this recipe, we will use fides ( also known as angel’s hair) a very thin handmade pasta that cooks in seconds. There is a bit of chopping in the beginning and then before you know it, you are presenting an impressively looking dish to your dining companions. Or yourself for that matter.

The ingredients listed below are the ones we used. But of course, feel free to substitute anything. Or include whatever else you have in the fridge. Keep something onion-y, something sweet like the carrot, and then whatever else inspires you from the market. Definitely green vegetables though. It is a spring soup after all.

Feeds 4 as a starter

1 small carrot
½ leek
1 small onion
1 stick of celery
salt pepper
dried thyme
fresh basil
4 tbsps olive oil
1 handfull sugar snap peas, broad beans or other green beans of your choice
1 cup fides
1 small bunch of spinach

Finely chop the carrot, leek, onion and celery. In a pot place the olive oil and gently fry your vegetables, adding the thyme and basil. Once the vegetables are caramelised, fill the pot with water. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat, letting it simmer. In 20min or so you will have a flavoured vegetable broth. Turn up the heat and add the peas or beans and the fides. Let them cook for 3-5 min. Add the spinach and stir. Leave for a couple more minutes. Serve with a glass of chilled white wine.


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?


As fides (angel hair) is a delicate type of pasta, we love pairing it with light, structured sauces. They are wonderful with broths, consommés, soups, light tomato and dairy sauces. In Greece, it’s the type of pasta that is usually added in avgolemono soup –a lemon chicken soup, thickened with eggs. However we find this type of pasta versatile and fun and we would like to show you more ways of using it. The following recipe is a great light and healthy, spring dinner. Alternatively, omit the noodles and serve as a prawn dressing for crisp salad leaves. This recipe is special as we use petimezi, which adds depth and a hint of spice. Salad with fides (angel hair), spinach and prawns

Ingredients
500g fides
250g prawns fresh or frozen
2 oranges thinly cut in fillets but also juiced
1/2 cup of petimezi
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger or 1 teaspoon of powdered
60ml evoo
250g fresh or frozen spinach
2 teaspoons of fish sauce
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
Optional: more evoo for the pan, 1-2 garlic cloves crushed, chilli flakes, sesame seeds

Method
Steam the spinach for 3-4 minutes, remove it from the pot and set aside the water you used. Alternatively, sauté spinach in a pan, with evoo until softened; put in some crushed garlic and some chilli flakes to enhance the flavours.

Prepare the prawns by removing tails, heads, shells and intestines. Boil them for 2 minutes, as soon as they show any sign of changing colour. In a bowl, mix together petimezi, orange juice, evoo and add the shrimps to the marinade. Boil fides in the water you left previously, according to the package. Drain well and run the pasta under cold water, to stop cooking.

Mix fides with spinach, prawns and the orange fillets. Add ginger and fish sauce in the marinade. Shake up the dressing ingredients in a jar and tip over the salad. Toss gently and check the seasonings; remember that fish sauce is quite salty. Garnish with sesame seeds and dinner is served.
Enjoy!


Orzo, or kritharaki in Greek is traditionally eaten as part of a beef stew. Oven baked pieces of meat, with tomato sauce and orzo. Orzo is usually added towards the end of the cooking, when meat has started falling off the bone. It gets a delicious meaty flavour and mellow texture.

A vegetarian friend recently told us how for him, this is such a wonderful dish that it can stand on its own. Just remove the meat he said. Indeed, now that we are full into spring, maybe something lighter will be better.

This dish can be prepared in the hob, or you can finish it off in the over. We prefer the oven. You can serve orzo al dente. But we feel that there is something comforting in the soft grains, enveloped in tomato sauce. Also, although this shifts our recipe away from vegan, we would add some feta cheese. Take the orzo out of the oven a few minutes before it’s cooked. Crumble some feta cheese on top. Return to oven and bake for a few more minutes, until feta is melted. Trust us, this takes this recipe to a whole different level.
Feeds 4
2 cloves of garlic
1 medium onion
8 tbsp of olive oil 
200gr orzo
1 bottle of tomato sauce (passata)
1 bay leaf
1tsp dried oregano
1tsp dried rosemary
salt
pepper

Peel and finely chop the onion. Mince the garlic. You can use a cheese grater for both if you prefer.
In a medium sized pot, add the olive oil. Yes it’s plenty, to add flavour to the dish. In medium heat, gently fry the onion and garlic until translucent and slightly caramelised. Add the orzo and give it a stir, to cover it in the oil. Season with salt and pepper. Add the tomato, oregano, rosemary and bay leaf. Add 1/2 cup of water. Lower the heat and let the orzo cook in the flavoured tomato juice. Alternatively, cover and place in the oven at 180C. Check occasionally and stir, adding water if needed. When the orzo is cooked through, approximately 15 minutes later remove from heat/oven. Add the feta cheese if using. Serve with warm crusty bread for a wonderful, light spring dinner.


Spring is in its full swing!  To welcome spring here at Oliveology we brought in some very delicious new ingredients. All from Greece of course. All from small artisan producers. All of excellent quality. We will have plenty more of these in this blog in the future.

For now, we will celebrate spring introducing you to our golden marinated artichokes. Tender, meaty, fresh. Marinated in extra virgin olive oil, with a golden white colour. You can savour them as they are, or enjoy them in wonderful spring salads.

Speaking of spring salads, the amazing thing when following the seasons is that one can experience all sorts of new foodstuffs. What comes with spring? Well, we will pair our artichokes with purple sprouting broccoli. This is a very interesting vegetable, that also happens to be very beautiful. Its dark green and purple stems, leaves and florets complement perfectly our artichokes.

Serves one as main or 2 as a side dish

2 large handfuls of purple sprouting broccoli florets -you can replace with broccoli or cauliflower- (approx. 1 cup)
1 large red pepper or 1 roasted red pepper
A handful of marinated artichokes (approx. 1/2 cup)
A few springs of mint, finely chopped
Red wine vinegar (to taste)
Salt (to taste)

Trim any woody broccoli stems. Slice horizontally any large florets so that all have the same size, to cook evenly. You should have both florets and stem attached together. Rinse under cold water. Boil in salted water for 3 minutes. Test and leave a few more minutes if needed. Let cool.

Roast the red pepper in the oven at 180C until tender and the skin has blackened. Once you are able to handle it, remove skin and seeds and discard. Save the juices from your baking tray. You can skip this step if you are using roaster red peppers from a jar. Slice the roasted pepper in long strips.

Mix the broccoli, artichokes and red pepper. Add the olive oil from the artichoke marinade (no waste here-it’s delicious!) and the juices from the roasting pan of the pepper, or a tablespoon of the juice from the jar. Add a few splashes of red wine vinegar, sprinkle the mint and season with salt. Enjoy!


Over the years many of you who come to our shop or contact us ask for our recipes, tips and advice on how to use our ingredients. Inspired by all of your questions and interest, the time has finally come for us at Oliveology to share our passion, knowledge and spirit of Greek foods with all of you! How? We’ve got many things planned for the future. Think cooking classes, food tastings, wine workshops and many, many more.

How do we kick it off? Well, how else? Teaming up with guest chefs who share our vision, we are beginning a series of cooking workshops. These will have various formats and themes. Some will be shorter, others will be longer. Some will be focusing on specific themes or produce. Others will be focusing on learning different cooking skills. All however will celebrate seasonal Greek cooking. Putting forward healthy, easy recipes you will learn how to create delicious dishes with a hands on culinary experience. Most importantly, you will experience Greek hospitality (yes, there will be lots of food and drinks on offer!) and the way food is used to bring people together. At a warm, social environment you will interact with our guest chefs, us from Oliveology and your fellow cooks having a fun experience, while learning what Greek food really is. Did we mention there will be a surprise goodie bag with Oliveology ingredients for you to take home after the class? Yep!

For our first series of workshops, we will be teaming up with the amazing Greek chef Despina Siahuli who has put together a purely vegetarian cooking experience for all of you. We will be focusing on star ingredients. These are unique artisan produce sourced exclusively from small producers all over Greece. These star ingredients represent the uniqueness of the Greek terroir and culture. During our cooking workshops you will learn how to taste and use them in very creative ways. Our first series of cooking workshops will take place at The Cookhouse, a lovely space at the heart of Borough Market. Full of light and with a fully equipped professional kitchen, this space is ideal to host our culinary adventures.

So join us for a celebration of Greek seasonal cooking. Sign up now for a fun and interactive way to discover the secrets of Greek cuisine and improve your cooking skills.

Price: £45 per person (including food, drinks and a goodie bag)
Duration: 2.5 hours

Location: The Cookhouse, Borough Market, 8 Southwark St, London SE1 1TL

Workshop #1 – Thursday 18th May
10am-12.30pm | 2pm-4.30pm | 6pm-8.30pm

Book your time slot

For more info email us at: cookingworkshops@oliveology.co.uk