Happy Valentine’s Day dear Oliveologists! We wish you a glorious day full of love, affection and delightful treats! We are firm believers of this quote by Harriet van Horn: “Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” As we keep finding ways to introduce you to food and wine combinations, we could not forget this divine combination: wine and chocolate.

What if the love potion is actually a combination of wine and chocolate? This blogpost is about two of my favourite foods and how to pair them. Both are fascinating, complex foods, promising special sensory experiences. Terroir is extremely important in both of them; still they’re not sharing terroir.  Most cacao trees are grown in West Africa, Asia, and South America. Specifically, Brazil and Ecuador are producing most of the South American cacao. The terroir of the wines we will be suggesting is mostly Greek, with few international grape varieties, as well.

Wine and chocolate are both synonymous to luxury, uniqueness and closely associated with romance. According to researchers, chocolate has aphrodisiac qualities as it contains a number of compounds associated with pleasure, well-being, and excitement, such as phenylethylamine and anandamide. Did you know that chocolate has tannins? No surprise that most tannins are found in dark chocolate.

According to sommeliers there are few rules regarding chocolate desserts, according to which, ideally they are paired with sweet red wines, aged with full body and velvety texture. The outstanding aromas of cacao and chocolate can be found in wines that aged in barrels, high in alcohol and sweet.

As far as Greek wine is concerned, we love pairing dark chocolate with dry Mavrodafni from Patras. This local grape variety gives deep coloured wines with an intricate aromatic character, that becomes even more complex while ageing and maturing. Aromas of ripe red fruits are combined with the aromas of spices, tobacco and herbs. Let’s not forget the brilliant pairing with aged Goumenissa, and with the international varieties Syrah and Cabernet.

If you prefer milk chocolate, pair it with Muscat of Alexandria. Moscato wine is well known for its sweet flavours of peach, orange blossom and nectarine. The name originates from Italy, but the Muscat grape may be one of the oldest cultivated varieties in the world. Especially when fruits are dipped in a milk chocolate sauce, this Muscat or Muscat Hamburg (Black Muscat) is a glorious pair. A creamy dessert would ask for a Samos Muscat, a Malagouzia, and the international Viognier.

White chocolate is brilliant with Vinsanto, a naturally sweet white wine from sun dried grapes grown in Santorini. Think of sweet spices like cinnamon and cloves going towards dried fruits such as apricots and raisins. Muscat of Lemnos, but also a white Muscat Spinas from Crete, are great choices, as well. Moscato d Asti and soft Sherrys are a great choice for this buttery and sweet type of chocolate.

Join us at Borough Market today and find our selection of rare, unique wines or follow this link and discover more about this ancient elixir!


Luxury is quite a complex word. When it comes to cooking, it’s usually associated with expensive or rare ingredients. Something most of us don’t usually incorporate in our daily cooking routines.

But you know, expensive can be relative when it comes to food. And luxury doesn’t have to be something we save for special occasions. We can add small notes of it in our daily cooking. I’ll explain.

How? Well, all one has to do really is source some good ingredients and combine them in clever ways. And most of these luxury foods go a long way. Saffron is the ingredient we love today. Why? Because of its red, gold colour. Because of its warm, slightly metallic flavour. Because a few threads are enough to add its unique aroma to your food. Plus, it makes us feel luxurious, doesn’t it? The one we are using is from Greece and oh, it’s organic too!

This recipe is inspired by Jamie Oliver’s flavour combinations.

Feeds 2-3 people:

4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 red onions
200g orzo
700 ml water
100g sun dried tomato paste
4 generous pinches of saffron
4 cardamom pods
100g galomyzithra or other soft white cheese
salt, pepper

Preheat your oven at 200C.

Boil your water and add the saffron threads. Once they release their colour, add the sun dried tomato paste and stir. Pop in the cardamom pods.

Finely chop the onions and gently fry them with the olive oil until translucent. Use a heat-proof casserole over medium low-heat. Add the orzo and stir, until the grains are coated in oil. Pour the saffron/sun dried tomato liquid over the orzo. Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer your casserole to the oven and bake, stirring occasionally, until orzo is cooked and liquid is absorbed, around 20-30 min. Check halfway through and add a bit more water if needed. A few minutes before your orzo is ready, add the galomizithra cheese and fold through so that some lumps remain. Bake for another 10 minutes, until the cheese melts. Can you smell the red-gold luxury?

This dish is great served with a simple green salad.

 


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.


Valentine’s day is almost here! A celebration of love as they say. This week calls for chocolate of course. And what a better way to show your love than a home-made gift? Made of chocolate of course.

But one doesn’t have to be in love to indulge. This is perfect to give to any loved ones, friends, family, whoever really. Even yourself.

What are we making this week? A chocolate slab of course!

In our very own valentine’s slab, we are using pistachio nuts to add some crunch. And raisins for a chewy texture. Plus, both of these go great with white chocolate which we secretly love.  This white chocolate has vanilla as well!

Chocolate slabs are also a brilliant way to use whatever leftover chocolates that you have sitting around. Same goes for nuts and dried fruit. Or marshmallows. Anything really. This recipe idea is so versatile, you can use whatever you’ve got available.

Three-ingredient chocolate slab

1 bar of good quality white chocolate

a small handful of pistachios and raisins

Melt the chocolate of your choosing in the microwave or using a bain-marie. Be very, very careful to melt but not burn the chocolate. Don’t forget to stir very often as you go along.

Once melted, gently spread the chocolate on a greaseproof paper. Lick the spatula. Place the pistachio nuts and raisins on top of the chocolate. Here you can either sprinkle them or carefully place them one by one. Let the slab cool down so that the chocolate hardens. Once hard, break into pieces and indulge. Or give as gift, we forgot about that!

   


Some flavour pairings are very familiar to us. Take chocolate and nuts for example. It’s everywhere you look, from the artisan hand crafted truffles to the cheap candy-store bar. You probably have thought of pairing honey and nuts. Being used to these flavours it so happens that often we crave for something different. Something completely new. Something that we haven’t tasted before.

Indeed, the thought of pairing tahini, chocolate and honey may never have entered your head. Until now. Until you taste them together. Then you will be in love.Put together the exciting bitterness of dark chocolate, the comforting nuttiness of the tahini and nuts, and the sweetness of honey and you have something truly unique. Oh and gluten free!

As always, we’re here to inspire you. So go ahead, gather your ingredients and as you are melting the dark chocolate think of how exciting experimenting can be. And you know what they say, once you’ve tried something so exciting, you are already on the other side.
For a small tray you will need:

140g tahini
60g honey
100g dark chocolate (we used 85%)
40g pistachios, walnuts or other nuts
200g oats

In a saucepan on very low heat or using a bain-marie melt the chocolate, tahini and honey. Be very careful not to burn the ingredients. Remove from the heat and add the nuts. Stir with a wooden spoon. Add the oats and stir until all oats are covered in chocolate and mixture is compact. Place in a baking tray and press the mixture firmly together. Let it cool. Once cooled down, cut in the shape of your choosing (rectangular, squares). Savour with your eyes closed.


Ingredients:


4 large eggs at room temperature, separated
150 g good – quality dark chocolate, broken  (I used Piura Porcelana by Original Beans. Just note : being raw, it WILL keep you up at night (but it works perfectly with this fruity, award -winning olive oil)
70 ml 17C lemon & thyme infused olive oil
70 -80 g caster sugar (depending on cacao content of chocolate used)
Pinch of instant coffee granules
Pinch of sea salt
1 tsp sumac and a little bit extra to garnish
Chopped, toasted pistachios

Method :
Melt chocolate in microwave (20s blasts, stirring in between), or in bain marie. 
Allow to cool slightly.
Beat egg yolks, 30g sugar, sumac, salt and coffee granules until pale yellow and fluffy. Whisk in olive oil. Slowly whisk in melted chocolate. Beat egg whites until soft peaks form.
Taste chocolate mixture.

Add 40-50g sugar to egg white mix depending on desired bitterness of mousse. 
Beat until hard peaks form. Mix a large spoonful of egg whites into chocolate mix until completely incorporated. Pour chocolate mix into egg white mix, fold in gently. Pipe into desired glasses (as in photos), or into a big sharing bowl and leave to set for a few hours in the fridge /overnight.

Garnish with sumac pistachio mixture. Serve with shortbread (or pistachio biscotti, perhaps?)

by Jackie



Truffles are a subterranean fungi; among the most expensive natural foods and according to the famous French gastronome Brillat-Savarin, the “Diamonds of the Kitchen.”

Truffles are formed underground on the root of the symbiotic plant -mainly some forest species like hornbeams, hazels, pines, poplars, oaks, willows and lime trees. They have a round, irregular form, and their size varies between the size of a pea and that of an orange and, can only be found by specially trained dogs and pigs. Their exorbitant price is justified because of the limited supply, availability only at certain times of the year and, notoriously difficult cultivation.

These mushrooms have been used as delicacies, as aphrodisiacs and as medicines. Truffles are mainly water, with the remaining weight comprising several types of minerals and organic substances such as calcium, potassium and magnesium. Its gastronomical and nutritive merits make this fungus as one of the most exquisite dishes worldwide. With very high protein content, it is also believed that it has healing properties against muscular pains and arthritis and that it lowers  cholesterol levels. Also, it is considered to have powerful aphrodisiac properties. Continue reading →