The first chef I worked with once gave me what I consider to be the most valuable advice since. It’s all about the concentration of flavour he had told me, while preparing some greens with minimal water. You see, in home kitchens we are used to boiling ingredients, then getting rid of the water. Along with it goes much of the flavour. I hadn’t realised how important this advice was, until I started experimenting with various recipes. Like this one here. You’ll see what I mean in a bit.

It’s the end of the summer. Fine, the summer is long gone, but let’s pretend it’s still the end of the summer. September can allow us that. But tomatoes are slowly disappearing from the market, giving their place to autumn vegetables. And what better way to say goodbye to a lovely summer, but with a comforting soup. So this week, we take the last ripe tomatoes, roast them in the oven, concentrating their flavour to make a red, velvety soup. Ah, soups are so nice, remember our pumpkin one from last fall? Or our spring one?

The recipe is inspired by Gordon Ramsey’s own (no he was not my chef in case you were wondering).

For 4 servings you will need

1 large red onion
1 clove of garlic
1.5kg of ripe tomatoes, preferably of the same size
5tbsp olive oil
1tsp smoked paprika *
4tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
salt
pepper
500g vegetable stock

Preheat your oven at 200C.

Finely slice your onion and garlic. Place a large casserole or tray over medium heat. Add your olive oil and gently fry the onion and garlic. Add the smoked paprika, salt and pepper.

As the onions and garlic are cooking, prepare your tomatoes. Remove the core and slice them in half or in quarters if they are large. Once your onions are caramelised place the tomatoes in the casserole, all in one row. Don’t forget all the juices from your chopping board. You want your tomatoes to caramelise, not steam. Add the aged balsamic vinegar and let it reduce.

Place your casserole or tray in the oven, for 20-25 minutes, until tomatoes are soft and caramelised (see, now we have concentrated their flavour!). Remove from the oven and let them cool down a bit, so that you can blend them into a creamy soup.

Here is where you need to be very careful. Laugh not, it may sound obvious but you do not want litters of piping hot soup escape from your blender, like a volcano erupting hot lava all over your face, clothes and walls around you. Yes, this is from personal experience.

So once the tomatoes are cooled down, blend them in batches, using the vegetable stock (also cooled down!). Return your soup in a pot on the hob if you want to serve it hot. It is equally delicious cold though. Taste for seasoning.

Serve with a tablespoon of sun-dried tomato pesto, or drizzle with olive oil and a dollop of Greek yogurt.

——

* You can find smoked paprika at our shop at Borough Market

 

By Nafsika


Don’t you just love oven baked foods? There is something really comforting we find, when smells from the oven fill the kitchen. This week we are feeling very…Greek. What do I mean? Well, if you think of Greece usually what comes to mind is tomatoes, feta cheese and oregano.

At Oliveology we always enjoy experimenting with the various feta cheeses we’ve got at our Borough Market shop. There is the organic one, mild and smooth in flavour and hard in texture. It’s perfect to cube in salads or eat as is, drizzled with olive oil and oregano. Then there are the mature ones by Kostarelos, a Greek artisan producer who’s been making feta cheese since the 1930s. Talk about tradition on your plate. Their feta cheese matures in wooden barrels for six or twelve months. Yes, you heard right. This is not your everyday feta cheese. The twelve month one has a sharp deep taste and an all-round flavour with an intense aftertaste. The six-month feta is milder, with a velvery tanginess. But don’t let me get carried away, come by and taste for yourself.

Now, what does one do with such amazing feta cheese? Well, no matter which one you choose-it really is a matter of personal preference-here’s the recipe for you.

This week we’re cooking our bulgur wheat, in the oven, with pieces of tomato, plenty of oregano and pieces of mouth watering melted feta cheese. Can you think of anything more interesting for this autumn? If so, drop us an email or a tweet, we always love your ideas using Oliveology ingredients!

This recipe serves 2 as main, or 4 as a side dish. You’ll need:

200g bulgur wheat
1tbsp salt

8 tbsp olive oil
2 large tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
200g feta cheese
salt, pepper

Preheat your oven at 200C.

Fill a large pot with water and add the salt and bulgur wheat. Bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and let the bulgur wheat simmer until al dente, around 15 minutes. In the meantime, dice your tomatoes and feta cheese.

Once the bulgur is cooked, strain and place in a bowl. Add the tomatoes, feta cheese, oregano and olive oil and mix well. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Spread the bulgur mixture on a medium sized tray. Bake in the oven for 30-40min, until feta cheese melts and the dish piping hot.

Eat with a spoon. It’s more comforting that way.

 

by Nafsika


There is something fascinating about preserving. As you know, here at Oliveology, we love eating what’s in season. However, there is a way to enjoy foods, even when they are not in season. Yes, by preserving them! Over the years we’ve experimented with preserving Butternut squash in sugar or dried figs in olive oil and vinegar. This time around we are making pesto. Yes, we have made pesto before, with pistachios, parsley and basil. But this one is different. It’s made with basil, almonds and sun-dried tomatoes!

It is funny if you think about it. Sun dried tomatoes are tomatoes dried in the sun. Preserved in the sun. Our pesto takes this already preserved ingredient and preserves it even more. Preserving the preserved if you may.

The wonderful thing about pesto is that you can make as much as you want and store it in the fridge. Then, whenever you get hungry all you have to do is open your jar. This pesto is delicious on its own, spread on toasted bread. It also pairs well with white cheese, like our galomizithra cheese. Of course it is ideal for a summery pasta lunch. Just mix it with warm pasta and serve with a glass of wine. Ta Da!

For one large jar you will need:

1 cup of basil (approx. 80g)
50g raw almonds with skin
100g sun dried tomatoes
1 fat clove of garlic
120ml extra virgin olive oil
40gr Naxos graviera grated cheese

In a food processor pulse the basil, almonds, sun dried tomatoes and garlic until coarsely chopped. Slowly add the olive oil and pulse, until fully incorporated. Pesto should be grainy but with no large lumps.

Transfer to a bowl and mix in the cheese. Add some olive oil if needed and taste.

Store in a jar in the fridge.

You can source the almonds, sun dried tomatoes, graviera cheese, and of course olive oil from our shop at Borough Market.


One of the ingredients we really love at Oliveology is bulgur wheat. Not only because these small golden grains have a deep nutty flavour. Not only because they sort of remind us of Greece (remember our gemista?) Not only because we like to think they are the healthy alternative to pasta. Mostly we love bulgur because it’s an ingredient we can use throughout the year. What do I mean? You can make wonderful winter dishes with it; remember our pie ? Check our pie and wait for the first cold days of the fall and you will see what we mean). But also, you can have bulgur cold, in filling summer salads. Combinations are endless.

This week our inspiration comes from something that came into our store recently: succulent dried prunes. Dried prunes and nectarines came in a few weeks ago. We all got very excited as you can imagine. We used the nectarines to make a very Greek granola. You can put prunes there too. But we decided to make something savoury with them. That’s the beauty of these dried fruits. They pair beautifully both with sweet and savoury flavours.

This salad here isn’t really a salad. It’s a wonderful main for a dinner on a warm summer night. You can have it warm too, but cold is quite nice. You can make it in advance, keep it in the fridge and when your guests come you’re all sorted.

Just make sure not to overboil the bulgur wheat (we did in the initial recipe testing). But on our second testing, we decided that al dente tastes way better.

For 4 people you will need:

400g bulgur
1 small orange (juice and zest)
1 small lemon (juice and zest)
2 cups water
salt, pepper
1 small bunch fresh coriander (leaves only, approx. 30g)
1 small bunch fresh mint (leaves only, approx. 30g)
1 small bunch fresh parsley (leaves only, approx. 30g)
200g prunes

To serve:
a handful of raw almonds, roughly chopped
wild flowers honey (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil (to taste)

In a large pot, pour the water. Add the citrus fruits, both juice and zest. Add the bulgur and season with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil. Lower the heat and cook until bulgur is tender, approximately 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly.

Let the bulgur cool down. In the meantime, finely chop your herbs. Roughly chop the prunes. Mix together the herbs, bulgur and prunes. Before you serve, drizzle your salad with olive oil and honey. Taste and add salt and pepper if you want. Sprinkle the almonds. Serve at room temperature or cold.

 


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


Its the time of the year for our short but well deserved break. it is also the best time of the year to visit some of our wonderful producers in Greece and check this year’s harvests.

Our online shop will be CLOSED from 5th -20th of September. Please plan your orders accordingly to avoid disappointment. We recommend to place your orders latest Friday 1st of September. Online and Wholesale Orders placed after the 1st of September will be dispatched from 21st of September. We will have limited access to emails and will reply to all messages and enquiries on our return.

Meanwhile our shop at Borough Market will remain open as usual Monday- Saturday.

Follow us on Instagram @Oliveology  #oliveologyholidays

 

 


Many say that Mastiha is an acquired taste. As an ingredient, these little rocks look like blurry diamonds. It is quite bitter in taste and very, very aromatic. So one needs to use it with care. A little goes a long way. You can make cakes with mastiha, cookies, use it in cooking as well (it actually goes very well with chicken).

When discussing recipes for this blog post, we decided to go for cookies. But not any cookies. These ones are made with olive oil instead of butter, grape molasses instead of sugar. And orange juice! I call them cookies because they have a very soft and chewy interior. I think the secret is the combination of olive oil, grape molasses and water. Oh and yes, these cookies are vegan too!

They are quite something. You can play around with the dough and make smaller cookies, or, experiment a bit. Shape the dough like a bagel by taking a large round ball and making a hole. Just make sure to bake the larger cookies a few minutes longer. You can eat them as is, or try them with our soft, creamy galomizithra cheese  and some orange blossom honey. And before you start gathering your ingredients, have a read at the story of mastiha. Somehow, images of mastihohoria, the villages on the island of Chios that produce mastiha from centuries ago give this resinous sap a whole different aroma.

For 45 cookies you will need:

1 cup olive oil 

1 cup grape molasses 

1 cup water

1 orange (both zest and juice)

½ tsp ground cinnamon

1 tsp mastic tear drops (ground)

700g of all-purpose flour

1 tsp baking soda

You can buy mastic tear drops from our shop at Borough Market. These can be ground using a mortar and pestle by adding a few pinches of sugar, so that they don’t stick together. Alternatively you can add 1/4 teaspoon (3-4 drops) of our pure mastic oil. Taste and add more if you want a more intense flavour.

In a bowl, whisk together your olive oil, grape molasses, water, orange juice and zest, until you have a smooth mixture. In a separate bowl sieve the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and mastiha. Mix until well combined until just smooth. Be careful not to over mix the dough.

Slowly incorporate your dry ingredients onto your wet ingredients, stirring with a wooden spoon. You should have a slightly sticky dough that you can easily shape. Using a bit of flour, make small round balls, or larger bagel-shaped cookies.

Place some greaseproof paper onto your baking tray and place the cookies on top, leaving a few centimetres between them.

Bake for 10-15min at 180C until they are lightly brown – the centres will be soft. Once your cookies have cooled down a bit, transfer to a wire rack to cool completely. You can have them straight away (please do!), or keep them in an airtight container.

 


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

 


We quite enjoy attending seminars and educating ourselves more about anything food related. Especially when their subject is a powerful food obsession, like fermentation and the person leading it is the fermentation revivalist. The following blogpost will make you feel as if you were sitting next to me during this workshop.

The last days of May, I attended a Fermentation Workshop hosted by Sandor Katz at Vezene Athens. The latter is a contemporary Greek bistrot, the brainchild Ari Vezené. He is a much acclaimed self- taught chef, butcher and owner of two equally celebrated restaurants in Greece; apart from his bistro bar in Athens, he also owns Trattoria Vezené on the Ionian island of Meganissi.

We have been following the events Ari is hosting for a while now, especially since he developed EMBRACE; “a new series of gastronomic events which aims at introducing some of the most important chefs worldwide to a greater local audience while promoting Greece to these chefs, as well as helping to initiate said audience to a “new chapter of Greek cuisine” through the melding of these various visiting cultural influences”.

Back to Sandor now, who has devoted about 2 decades of his life to this project, even if he is not a trained biologist or microbiologist. You might have heard his first book Wild Fermentation or the second one, The Art of Fermentation. He mentions feeling like a mad scientist at times – I definitely consider him as a fermentation demystifier. He travels the world spreading the word about fermentation and the microscopic worlds of microbes. He is a food lover, who chose to return to the land and live in rural Tennessee and not only uses fermentation to fight food waste but for its “glorious healing power”, as well. Let’s find out more about the world of cold boiling, shall we?

He started off his presentation acknowledging that fermentation is not a new concept to Greece. He mentioning trahanas –fermented pasta that Oliveology cooks loved during our Cooking Workshop- yoghurt and wine. If only he knew about our olives -you might recall our previous blogpost on fermentation, explaining why our Kalamata olives are so special. Too bad we didn’t bring some for him to try!

Fermentation might be happening with or without us; however, he focused on the intentional, the planned attempts. The protagonists of this procedure are diverse communities of micro-organisms. The simplest procedure includes getting the vegetables submerged in their own juices and letting lactic acid bacteria work their magic.

In order for his audience to realise the importance of fermentation he stated practical examples like:

  • Alcohol, which is the most widespread byproduct –think wine and beer,
  • Flavour, examples like chocolate, vanilla and cured meats –impossible to lead a delicious life without them,
  • Preservation –an excellent and very Greek example would be homemade preserves –γλυκά του κουταλιού- among others,
  • Perceived health benefits –through this process extra nutrients are generated. Furthermore, in some cases, foods that used to be dangerous are made edible.He elaborated for a while regarding our relationship with bacteria, nowadays. Even if we’ve got about 1 trillion bacteria in our bodies and there’s no form of life without them, we’re still terrified. Bacteria in our contemporary minds equal with danger, disease and death. Did you know that serotonin –vital for your mood, dreams, appetite and even the flow of thoughts- is regulated by indigenous bacteria from the gut? I had no idea!

Continue reading →