This week we’ve got something special for you! A sneak peak into our March Cooking workshop! For this one, Marianna teamed up with lovely Despoina Siahuli, for a 3-hour Greek feast! Despoina shared her skills and Oliveology Cooks learned to make delicious Greek dishes. Marianna talked about our favourite Oliveology ingredients and their stories. Everyone gathered together and shared food and wine in the end.

In case you missed it, there will be more!
But to give you an idea, this week we have prepared for you one of Despoina’s recipes from the March workshop! Despoina put together a beautiful combination of flavours: dakos rusks, grape molasses, feta cheese, hazelnuts. All of these coming together with seasonal greens!

We’ve adapted her recipe, steamed our greens and used more dakos and feta, but the core flavour palet is the same. And it’s delicious!

So make the recipe and sign up for the next two cooking classes with Despoina and Marianna! We look forward to having you there cook with us.

Serves 4 as a side or two as main

Salad
300g of spring greens
50g roasted hazelnuts
100g dakos croutons
100g feta cheese

Dressing
¼ clove of garlic, minced into a paste with salt
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp grape molasses
4 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper

In a large pot with salted, boiling water blanch your greens for 3-4 minutes. Remove and place in a bowl with iced cold water. Let them cool.

To make your dressing, whisk together the garlic, vinegar, grape molasses. Slowly add the olive oil. Taste and season with salt and pepper (but remember, feta will add a layer of saltiness too).

Crush your hazelnuts and crumble the feta cheese.

In a large bowl toss together greens, hazelnuts, dakos croutons, feta cheese and dressing.

I liked this salad more the next day, the flavours all blend together and dakos is soft. Try it both ways and let us know which you prefer!

 

 


How was your Easter? We are all now well rested from the long weekend last week and getting ready for our own Greek Easter. Easter in Greece is one of the most important holidays. Starting from Clean Monday, the days of lent prior to Easter prepare us all for this week. Going to church, making sweet tsoureki and painting eggs are only a few of the traditions we uphold during those days.

On Easter Sunday, families gather together for the Easter lunch. Lamb is served, alongside a simple salad with lettuce, spring onions and plenty of dill. Then, each family has its own additions. Some will prepare pies, others will have various types of meat. At Oliveology we always go for tzatziki. This refreshing dip balances perfectly the intensity of lamb. And we make ours with plenty of garlic of course.

So, in the classic recipe the main ingredients are yogurt, cucumber, garlic and dill. But we are going to take this one step further this Easter. Marianna’s very own family recipe swaps the cucumber for raw beetroot, giving this pink tzatziki sweetness and crunch.

For a large bowl you will need

500g yogurt
3 cloves of garlic, minced to a paste (if you love garlic then feel free to add more)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil plus more to serve
1 large beetroot
3 tbsp. fresh dill, plus more to serve
salt  (to taste)

Grate the beetroot. Place in a bowl, squeezing away any excess liquid (you can use the liquid for smoothies, soups or cocktails). You can skip this step if you prefer a less thick tzatziki. Add the yogurt and dill and stir well. In a separate bowl whisk together the olive oil, vinegar and garlic. Combine the two. Mix until all flavours have blended together. Taste and season with salt. Serve with plenty of dill and olive oil.

 


Well, after a weekend of snow here in London, we might have been a bit hasty celebrating spring last time. But the sun is shining again, so let’s just wait a bit and see, maybe it’s finally here!

This week we’ve got a salad for you. I’m not sure recipes like the one below should be called salads (remember, we’ve had this discussion when we made our pasta salad last spring). But anyhow, these are dishes that feel healthy, are eaten without making you want to fall sleep after and give you energy to get through the day. Just like salads. Yet more filling.

The writer of this blog post grew up hating our main ingredient, gigantes beans, cooked in the traditional fasolada (bean soup). But things change as one grows older, and often we see the same things very differently. And all of us at Oliveology love discovering new ways to cook familiar ingredients.

These beans become soft and buttery when cooked. They are, I must admit, so flavourful that they can stand on their own. However, we’ve added a few things to brighten up their smoothness. Think of roasted broccoli and green peppers, zingy lemon zest and juice and our favourite lemon and herbs kalamata olives. So let’s get started before the weather turns cold again.

1 small head of broccoli
1 large green pepper
a few pinches of dried thyme
1 clove of garlic, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
salt, pepper

100g gigantes beans
vegetable stock or herb stalks, vegetable scraps
salt, pepper
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
zest of 1/2 lemon
½ tub lemon olives

The night before soak your beans in plenty of water.

Cut your broccoli into florets. Use the whole vegetable, just cut the stem in smaller pieces. Cut the pepper into large chunks. In a bowl toss broccoli, green pepper, thyme, garlic, olive oil, salt and pepper. Spread onto a baking tray and bake at 180 for 30 min or until broccoli is charred and soft.

Place your beans in a medium sized pot, cover with new water and vegetable scraps or stock. Bring to a boil and simmer until beans are tender, around two hours. Season with salt after the beans have softened up.

Drain and let the beans cool. In a salad bowl toss together beans, broccoli, green pepper, olive oil, lemon juice and zest and lemon olives. Taste and add more salt and pepper. Serve and enjoy in the sun. Or snow, who knows anymore?


Well, spring is officially here! You may be reading this on every blog post for the next month, but bare with me, I absolutely love spring. How do we know that spring is here? Well, more flowers, much more light, warmer weather and…wild garlic!

I first encountered these fascinating leaves here in London. They have a bright green colour and an intense garlic flavour. Since I discovered them at Borough Market, they mark the beginning of spring for me. And what’s more interesting is that you can find them only for a few weeks in spring. All of us at Oliveology love it when some foods appear for a very short time at the market. We always try to eat seasonally, and anticipating unique vegetables, fruit or leaves like wild garlic is quite exciting. So when Marianna brought me a bunch of these last Saturday, I knew the time for one of my favourite things (and seasons) was here.

What does one do with these aromatic leaves? Well, garlicky pesto of course! You may remember our pistachio pesto from last year, or the sun dried tomato pesto from last fall. This spring we are making wild garlic pesto!

For this recipe we used walnuts and kefalotyri cheese. As for herbs, well, even though basil is traditionally used for pesto, we went for parsley. Its hebry notes blend perfectly with the wild garlic. But also a large bunch of parsley is much more affordable than these small bunches of basil you find at London markets. Now, if you are those lucky people who have pots with herbs then feel free to use whichever combination you prefer!

For a large jar of very garlicky pesto you will need:

½ cup wild garlic leaves
2 cups parsley leaves (save the stalks for stock)
1 cup walnuts
1 cup olive oil
kefalotyri cheese (optional)

Here is what you need for the recipe

If you prefer a subtle garlic flavour, then I suggest you halve the quantity of wild garlic leaves. But you know, a very garlicky pesto is better. So, in a blender or with a pestle and mortar place the herbs and walnuts. Sure, you could toast the walnuts first. But don’t. Trust me, these walnuts can proudly stand on their own. Raw. Blend, adding slowly the extra virgin olive oil until your walnuts are crushed and combined with the herbs. Season with salt and pepper and add as much cheese as you like.


Spring is here! Well, let’s not be hasty, but it seems so. The snow that surrounded us here in London last week has now melted and the sun is shining. The first flowers appear in the green parks. We timidly stop to smell them once again.

I always think of bees when I smell flowers. Imagine living a life surrounded by aromatic flowers. But let me not get carried away, our favourite beekeeper has more to say on bees.

But bees bring us to this week’s recipe. We will make a delicious spring breakfast using bee pollen! And not only to welcome spring. As many of us at Oliveology have been ill the last few weeks, bee pollen is our go-to superfood to boost our immunity. And ideas on how to incorporate it in our lives are always welcome (let us know if you’ve got any!). Bee Pollen is a source of essential vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids and enzymes including iron, protein, Vitamin B1, B2 and B3. Sounds like it’s very good for our bodies.

Collected by honeybees from the forests and flora of Northern Greece, our bee pollen is carefully dried to preserve all the vital nutrients. If you’ve never tasted bee pollen you’re in for a treat! These golden granules look like small rocks. But they are powdery, creating a silky dust in your mouth. And you can read a bit more here too!

This week we are pairing bee pollen with pairs and our favourite white soft galomyzithra creamy cheese. In an open sandwitch! Talk about pumping up your morning toast! Oh and for future spring breakfasts, bee pollen is great sprinkled on Greek yogurt, porridge, cereals and salads or added in milk, juice or smoothies.

Spring bee pollen toast for two

1 large pear
2 slices of qood quality bread
60g of galomyzithra cheese
2 teaspoons of bee pollen
sage honey (optional)

Finely slice the pear. Spread the galomyzithra cheese on your bread. Place the pear slices on top. Sprinkle bee pollen. Drizzle some honey if using.


Clean Monday or Kathara Deftera as we call it in Greece is the day of the beginning of lent prior to Easter. It’s a moveable feast, moving every year with Easter. As such, its name means exactly that: leaving behind anything “unclean”, including non-fasting foods.

A public holiday in Greece, clean Monday is the day when families gather together and set the table with foods made especially for the day. If the weather is nice, tables are moved outside and picnics are planned. And along with delicious food, kites come out. Yes, clean Monday is the day when we fly a kite, kids and grown-ups together. It’s a day of being around nature, eating fasting foods and seafood, celebrating the beginning of spring and of the pre-Easter period.

The traditional lagana bread is being prepared, and platters with salads, some shellfish, taramosalata and other fasting foods are laid on the Clean Monday table. This year, Marianna herself has prepared  taramosalata for her team. Using her gran’s’ great recipe with boiled potatoes the consistency is more creamy.  However there is another version using stale bread instead of potatoes. Marianna experimented using Dakos croutons to replace the stale bread. Dakos worked wonders and gave taramosalata a thicker consistency and deeper flavour! We are waiting for the team’s verdict to decide which one works best! Watch this space.

Ingredients:

200g cod roe
200g boiled potatoes  or stale bread or Dakos croutons.
1 onion
Juice of 2 lemons
300ml extra virgin olive oil

Kalamata olives to garnish

Soak the bread or dakos in water. Squeeze out all water. Peel and roughly chop the onion. Blend together the potatoes/moist bread/dakos, cod roe, onion, lemon juice, adding a bit of water if needed to loosen the mixture. Slowly add the olive oil. Taste and add more lemon juice if needed.


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.


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!


After some time the swarm will depart to the new hive in one or more steps, and may even bivouac outside if the weather is fine. The swarm is usually extremely passive in nature. They will defend themselves if threatened, but will usually tolerate gentle handling and close proximity. This is due to the fact that they need every bee to work towards the new hive, and cannot afford to loose bees unnecessarily.  They need to preserve the young bees within their numbers (only these can produce wax) and they need every drop of honey the swarm carries to manufacture new wax comb (7-10Kg of honey per kg of wax), and obviously a larger swarm will find it easier to defend their new site until the queen can start laying. Aggressive swarms may deplete their numbers to such a point that they are no longer viable, and may have to rejoin the old colony. Once they are inside the new site, and have begun to produce comb for stores and brood, they will no longer be so passive. Now they will readily defend their new home with their lives.

Back inside the old hive site, once the excitement of the issuing swarm has died down, the remaining colony prepares to welcome their new queen or queens. Around two weeks before swarming, worker bees will have prepared multiple peanut-shaped Queen cells, complete with an egg. These are fed exclusively on royal jelly and pollen, and around swarming time the new Queens will be close to emergence. The first virgin Queen to emerge will sting her regal sisters to death in their cells, in a brutal battle royale before they can challenge her rule. The Queen is unique in that she has no barb on her stinger and so can sting multiple times.  If the colony is still large and well stocked, they may prevent the Queen from destroying her sisters and instead issue one or multiple subsequent swarms.

Virgin Queens will wait for good weather before flying to a drone congregation area, where they mate with multiple males, storing their sperm in a spermatheca (sperm bladder)to use later. Fertilised eggs (diploid) result in workers and Queens. Unfertilised eggs (haploid) result in drones. Virgin Queens must make their mating flights within a week of emergence, or the duct leading to the spermathecal will narrow, not allowing normal mating function. This will result in a drone-laying Queen and the colony to fail.


Welcome to a series of blogs about bees, beekeeping and the natural environment by our resident beekeeper.

Welcome to spring! We are nearing the start of the swarming season for bees, and the busy season for beekeepers. Swarming is the process by which bees occupy new areas and increase their numbers by forming a new colony.  The decision to swarm is made the previous summer. A well located colony (dry, well ventilated, proximity to forage) combined with a fair summer will give enough stores to last the winter, and allow the colony to start quickly in the spring. Foragers will look for new nest sites and communicate these using the waggle dance in a similar way to nectar/pollen, water or propolis sources. Experienced foragers are more trusted in this crucial process, and can be spotted by their damaged wings. In particular they are looking for a cavity of around 15-20L in volume, a defendable entrance, raised off the ground to reduce damp, facing the morning sun (E/SE) and preferably close to the existing colony to reduce chances of predation to the Queen.

In swarming, the Queen bee leaves the hive accompanied by mostly workers (females) with some drones (males).  However the Queen is initially not ready for her departure. She is an egg-laying machine (1500+/day at peak fertility) and as such is extremely well fed by her courtiers. She must go on an extreme diet to slim down for flight. To achieve this they chase her around the hive for several days prior to swarming. Nipping her with their mandibles and reducing her rations until she is an appropriate weight for flight.

Before leaving, the departing bees gorge on honey, filling their stomach and crop. At around midday on the hottest day of the year so far, they spill from the hive in vast numbers, usually clustering on the front of the hive, before taking to the air en masse. They will then fly to a congregation spot chosen by foragers, where they cluster for warmth and protection, with the Queen somewhere in the centre, to minimise the risk of her predation. She is the only one capable of laying viable eggs at the new site, and they must protect her. Sometimes multiple queens can be found in the swarm, this may be a strategy used in areas with large numbers of predators.

A cluster of bees is an amazing sight. Foragers will be sent out for nectar and pollen. It is a fascinating to see foragers return to the cluster, and perform a waggle dance on the backs of her siblings (as obviously at this point they have no comb).

To be continued…