Well, as most of you may know Greece has a long tradition of stuffing foods with other foods, wrapping foods in other foods and so forth. And this goes beyond Greece and over to various Mediterranean and other countries. A few years ago, a Turkish friend and I bonded over our mutual fascination for foods that you can stuff.

In Greece we have of course the all-famous gemista (stuffed vegetables with rice or meat) that are one example of this tradition. Another example is of course the all-famous dolmades.

So this week, as we open a jar of vine leaves, we set off to make our own version of this classic dish. Traditionally, vine leaves had to be briefly boiled before being used. But these ones require no such preparation. They are ready for you to fill! And we must admit, we love this!

The first few that you will roll are the hardest. Then somehow your fingers and hands learn their way around the vine leaves and before you know it you are rolling dolma after dolma, feeling relaxed and at peace.

Makes 65-70

2/3 jar (around 75) vine leaves
1 large white onion
1 small bunch of spring onions
6 tbsp olive oil, plus 5 tbsp more for cooking
300g Carolina rice
3 cups of water
1 large bunch of dill
1 large bunch of parsley
1 large bunch of mint
juice of half a lemon, plus more for cooking
salt

Finely chop the onion and spring onions.
In a medium-sized pot and over medium-low heat place the olive oil and onions and cook until soft and transluscent.
Add the rice and 3 cups of water. Season with salt and cook until the rice still has a bite, for around 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Finely chop all your herbs. Mix well the herbs with the rice and the lemon juice. Adjust for seasoning. Let the rice cool down completely.

Remove the leaves from the jar and carefully rinse under cold water. Pat dry.

In a chopping board or clean surface, lay a vine leaf, veins down, bottom side down and the pointy sides facing away from you. Place a quite large teaspoon of the rice mixture in the middle. Carefully fold the vine leaf bottom edges forwards, then the two sides inwards. Then roll it away from you, like a cigar. Make sure to roll them as tightly as you can, otherwise they will fall apart during cooking -trust me, I have been there!

Place the dolmadakia tightly together, seam side down, in concentric circles in a pot and in one layer. If you have more and need to continue to a second layer, place some vine leaves between the two layers.

Pour over the dolmadakia around 5 cups of water, so that they are just covered with water. Drizzle 5 tbsp of olive oil and more lemon juice, around 4 tbsp. Bring to the boil and then lower the heat and let the dolmadakia cook until the rice and vine leaves are tender, for around 40 minutes.

Serve with more olive oil, lemon wedges and some Greek yogurt.


This year we decided to create a very festive recipe using our newest dried fruits and nuts! We selected the word stuffing when categorising this recipe, but this will make for a wonderful side dish, or vegan dinner. It is somewhat a combination of our other Christmas stuffing recipes. It is made with rice, just like our vegan stuffing from a couple of years ago, but also leeks, like the less ordinary stuffing we made last year. But this year we decided to take it up a notch.

We went full on with our dried fruit and used colourful nectarines and cherries. The bright yellow-orange nectarines are very aromatic and sour enough to add an additional dimension to this dish. Our cherries are moist and intense, full of natural sweetness. And what better pairing than our roasted and slightly salted almonds! And of course, many fragrant spices. It is Christmas after all.

We served our stuffing in an old serving dish, as we are somehow feeling more retro and nostalgic during Christmas. Somehow using old platters or bowls to serve our Christmas food brings us closer to all those moments of food sharing of the past. You know, these dishes do carry their own histories.

But before we get carried away, let’s get to our recipe!

Serves 4 as a side
1 large leek
4tbsp olive oil
200g Carolina rice
600ml vegetable stock
50g dried nectarines
50g dried cherries
50g almonds, roasted and slightly salted
1 tsp spices (we used a combination of cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, nutmeg)
salt, black pepper (to taste)
lemon zest and fresh parsley (to serve)

When it comes to the dried fruit or nuts, you can select to finely chop them, roughly chop them, or for the more adventurous out there, leave them whole.

Finely chop the leek. In a medium-sized pot and over medium-high heat gently fry the leek in the olive oil until transluscent. In the meantime, rince your rice under cold running water. Strain and set aside. Add the rice to your pot and stir until coated with olive oil. Add the dried nectarines, cherries, almonds and stir again. Season with salt and pepper. Be mindful, the almonds are slightly salted!

Pour the vegetable stock, bring to a boil, and then turn down the heat and cook your stuffing simmer half-covered until the rice is cooked and the fruits are plump and rehydrated.

Serve with lemon zest and fresh parsley or other fresh herbs.

Merry Christmas everyone!!!


Yes, it’s spring! After our weeks of asparagus love (did you make our asparagus frittata? How about the bulgur wheat salad?) we were very tempted to cook again with asparagus. But you know, spring has so many other beautiful vegetables. So this week we decided to make a delicious spinach and rice stew! Spanakoryzo, as we call it in Greece, is the simplest yet the most delicious dish. I think the reason is that, as with most Greek recipes, very few ingredients come together, and each shines.

In spanakoryzo, you can taste how the lightly metallic taste of spinach mellows in slow cooking. We paired it with sweet spring onions and leeks (yes, we love it when spring vegetables all come together). In the end, we put loads of dill and squeezed plenty of lemon juice. The aniseed and lemon notes of dill pair perfectly with the warm stew and the lemon brings the sun into your dish.

We used our carolina rice. This is the one we use for our rice puddings. As the rice absorbs all the fragrant juices from the vegetables, its high starch content gives the spanakoryzo a creamier texture.

Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more for serving
5 spring onions
1 medium leek
1 large onion
1 kilo fresh spinach
200g Carolina rice
500ml water
1 large bunch of dill, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon, plus more for serving
salt

Finely chop the spring onions, leek and onion. Finely chop your spinach.

In a large shallow pot, pour the olive oil and over medium low heat gently fry the spring onions, leek and onion until translucent.

Add the spinach and stir until half in volume.

Add the rice and stir until it’s well mixed in. Soon after pour in the water. Stir and season with salt.

Let your stew simmer for 20-30min or until the rice is cooked through.

Turn off the heat, add the dill and lemon juice. Serve with more lemon juice and a generous drizzle of olive oil.


Remember a few weeks ago we were discussing where our inspiration for recipes comes from?
Often, Marianna is the one who provides this inspiration. This week she came to me with our aromatic sample of mastiha oil and a glass of water. She gently tilted the tiny bottle and a drop fell in the glass. Drink this, she said. What can we make? Maybe rice pudding? I like rice pudding, she said as she walked away, the smell of mastiha all around me.

I, too, love rice pudding. Especially variations of it. Yes, there is the classic one which we prepared last year.
But this week, things get more exciting.

As you may remember from our mastiha cookies, mastiha is an aromatic sap, coming only from the island of Chios in Greece (read more here!). For this recipe, we didn’t use mastiha oil, but instead, we combined mastiha and mastiha liqueur.

Traditionally, in order to use mastiha in baking you have to grind it. But not all of us have a pestle and mortal at home. And in this blog we believe that when we cook we need to make the best with what we’ve got. So you don’t have a pestle and mortal at home. You’ll use the mastiha as is. This recipe asks for slow cooking, so your mastiha will slowly melt and dissolve in the velvety milk. Just make sure you stir every so often. You know, you can always give more love.

Don’t be tempted to use more mastiha, your rice pudding will become bitter. We know so because let’s say that our first batch of rice pudding was not on the sweet side. Learn from our over-excitement.

Serves 2

50g Carolina rice (you need rice with high amylopectin -starch- content such as Arborio or other risotto rice)
50g white powdered sugar
600ml whole milk
one very small rock of mastiha
2 tablespoons of mastiha liqueur
raw pistachios (to serve)

Put all your ingredients in a medium sized pot. Stir and place over medium high heat. Once the milk reaches a near boiling point immediately turn down the heat (be careful not to let it overflow). Let it simmer, stirring every so often, so that mastiha dissolves and evenly offer its aroma to your rice pudding. Once the rice is soft and the mixture feels like porridge remove from the heat. Add the mastiha liqueur and stir. Serve with raw pistachios. Mastiha likes that.

 

 


We recently attended Radio 4’s Kitchen Cabinet recording where one of the foods discussed was rice pudding. In the UK rice pudding is oven baked and links to memories of childhood pasts. In Greece, it’s made in the hob and yes, links to memories of childhood pasts.

Rice pudding basically is made of three things: Rice. Sugar. Milk. But such ingredients scream for something else. Something subtle which will give the whole dish an exciting undertone, without it losing its comfort. Nor the link to a happier past.

What do we mean? When you make rice pudding try adding some subtle flavourings. This dish is the vessel for whatever you can think of. So in the recipe below, try adding a vanilla pod. Some lemon peel (find unwaxed lemons please). Maybe orange zest. A cinnamon stick.

This time, we used some lemon peel and sprinkled some cinnamon on top. Delicious.

The recipe below is by Greek pastry chef Stelios Parliaros.
Feeds 4

100g Carolina rice (you need rice with high amylopectin -starch- content such as Arborio or other risotto rice)
100g white sugar
1.2L whole milk
peel of one lemon (optional)

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to the boil stirring gently. Be very, very careful here. Don’t let your milk boil-turn down the heat in its lowest setting as soon as your milk is near boiling. Why? Well, it sounds obvious but the writer of this blog post, who made rice pudding four different times, at four different kitchens this last month managed to let the milk boil, overflowing the pot, making a mess in two kitchen stovetops. That’s 50% success. You don’t want that. Lower the heat and let your rice pudding simmer, stirring occasionally, until rice is soft and the milk has thickened.

Serve hot, cold or at room temperature- with cinnamon or whatever else you prefer.


Christmas is the time of the year when families and friends come together around the table. Back in the day things were simpler. There was meat, potatoes, vegetables, maybe stuffing.

Today things are a bit more complicated. People love different things. People hate different things. People have food prohibitions they bring to the table. Each guest may need something different.

Yes, cooking for different people can be tricky. But we’re here to help you with that. Choose easy dishes that will satisfy everyone. And maybe bring to the table some of your own food memories.

In Greece stuffing is made traditionally with mince meat, turkey liver and rice, amongst other things. This Christmas however we opt for a vegan version. A simple, delicious recipe with the aroma of tradition. Minus the meat and liver that is. Try it and you will see your vegan and non vegan guests with full bellies.

In the recipe which follows, the measurements are indicative. You can add or substitute according to your taste. Add more nuts, more raisins, chestnuts. Or remove anything you don’t like. It’s up to you. It is Christmas after all.

This quantity is for stuffing one medium turkey.

A few gulps of olive oil
200g Carolina rice
50g raw pistachios
50g walnuts
40g raisins
20 chestnuts
1 small stick of cinnamon
5 cloves
6 tablespoons of olive oil
1lt of vegetable stock
salt and black pepper to taste
½ bunch of parsley, leaves only (use the stalks for stock), chopped

In a large casserole over medium heat pour the olive oil. Add the rice, nuts, raisins and stir until the rice is translucent. Pour the stock and stir. Season with salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and let it simmer until the rice is cooked but not cooked through. Add the cinnamon, cloves, chestnuts, fresh parsley and stir.

Stuff the turkey or continue cooking in the hob until all liquid is absorbed and rice is cooked through, adding more stock if needed. Remove the cinnamon stick and serve. Merry Christmas!


Σπανακορυζο (Spanakorizo) is an old time classic Greek-style spinach risotto. This nourishing dish has excellent health benefits, just on time for Lent.

Bright, vibrant looking, fresh spinach can be found in food markets across Greece, as well as the UK, this time of the year. It is packed with iron and is advised especially for vegetarians, those who experience iron-deficiency anaemia, pregnant women or those abstaining from meat during Lent. In addition, if you combine iron with vitamin C, you’re boosting your body with more energy. Apart from spanakorizo with lemon, you could also have an energy boost when pairing spinach salad with orange slices, bean burrito with salsa and oatmeal with strawberries.

It also has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancerous properties and its properties are especially important for healthy eye-sight. As a nutritional powerhouse, it also is an excellent source of vitamin K, vitamin A, vitamin C and folic acid as well as a good source of manganese, magnesium and vitamin
B2. Enjoy spinach raw in salads, roasted (8-10 minutes), slice and stir fried (1-2 minutes) or steamed whole (3-4 minutes).

Serves 4
Preparation: 10’ Cooking: 25’

Ingredients
• 1 kilo roughly chopped fresh spinach -alternatively frozen
• 1 leek finely chopped
• 1 onion
• A bunch of spring onions
• 1 grated tomato
• Juice from a lemon
• ¾ cup of evoo –we recommend using our 22°C
• ¾ cup Carolina rice -could also work with Arborio/ brown rice
• 1 bunch of dill roughly chopped
• Freshly ground salt and pepper

Initially, chop spinach in chunks. In a wide pot heat the olive oil over medium heat olive oil and sauté the onion, the spring onion and the leek for a few minutes until soften. Afterwards, add spinach, grated tomato and rice. Stir in the ingredients until soften. Put in two glasses of water. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 20-25 minutes, until the rice is tender. During cooking, stir the mix once in a while and check if it appears to be getting dry. Pour in some more hot water, if needed. Finally add salt, pepper and dill. Squeeze the lemon. Mix and serve. It goes without saying that feta goes perfectly with this dish. Of course, try it with our raw Kalamata olives; we would recommend our wild green lemony ones or those with lemon and herbs.


Mandarins are much loved from chefs and bakers around the world, for their wonderful essential oil. Following Greek chef’s Evie Voutsina tip -this time of the year that they are at their best- you can grate their skin, store it in the fridge wrapped in cling film and use it throughout the year in various cakes, sauces, breads etc. This risotto is the perfect first course during winter time; it can also work as a side dish for a simple roast chicken and sautéed spinach or as a main dish with a green salad. Let us know how you found this tangy, fruity, colourful, silky dish.

Serves 4-6 persons

Preparation: 25’ Cooking: 15’ approximately

Ingredients

300 g butternut squash (without the skin)

1 almost ripe quince

1 big red onion, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 glass of white wine

½ cup evoo 22°C

80g almonds toasted and chopped

4 table spoons of black Corinth raisins

skin from½ mandarin (ideally organic) and a bit more for decoration (if desired)

2 table spoons of parsley finely chopped

sea-salt and freshly ground pepper

400g/ 2 tea cups of (risotto) Carolina rice or Arborio

5 ½ cups of boiled water

Cut the squash as well as the quince in small cubes. With a spoon grate the inside of the mandarin skin; cut the skin in strips and reserve them in a small bowl. In a heavy skillet or large pan, heat the olive oil over moderately high heat and sauté the onion a few minutes until softened transparent. Afterwards, put in the rice, the butternut squash and the quince along with the garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes. All the rice grains should be well coated with olive oil and opaque. Season the mix with salt and pepper and add the white wine stirring constantly until it is completely absorbed. Put in the raisins as well as the clementine skin stripes.

At this point, begin pouring in the water, about½ cup at a time, stirring and letting each addition absorb before adding more. As the rice begins to swell and after about half of the water has been added, taste for doneness. The rice should be al dente. Continue adding water as necessary. Depending on the desired texture you may mix it at a slow or quick pace. When it’s almost ready, check the seasoning and as a final touch add the parsley and the almonds. Stir and remove it from the fire. Serve immediately, garnishing each plate with clementine sections.

Tip: You could alternatively roast the butternut squash as well as the quince first -with their skins- and when they’re ready you only need to flesh them out and add them to the risotto. It might seem like an extra step in the cooking process, but actually makes it easier.

* Inspired by Voutsina E. (2009, January), Mandarin: fragrant and noble, Gastronomos, 87.

By Lida Papamatthaiaki