Shrimp saganaki (Γαρίδες σαγανάκι)

Shrimp saganaki

Shrimp cooked in a rich and spicy tomato sauce with ouzo and feta

Shrimp saganaki

 

In Greek cooking there are a whole slew of dishes which are categorized as saganaki.  One of the most popular is cheese saganaki, that meze of fried cheese set aflame with the help of a little ouzo or Metaxa, which causes restaurant patrons to exclaim Opa! in delighted unison.  The term saganaki actually refers to the small, two-handled frying pan in which the food is cooked called a sagani, a derivative of the Turkish word sahan, which means copper dish.  Remember long ago when we told you that Mia Kouppa would also make you smarter?  You’re welcome.

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Greek nachos

Greek nachos

All your favourite nacho elements, with a kick of Greek

Greek nachos

 

A vice that we both share is our love for chips.  Potato chips, corn chips, nacho chips, we devour them all.  When we were young one of our favourite junk food snacks was taking a bowl of regular potato chips (Humpty Dumpty brand was preferred) and dousing them with white vinegar.  Home made salt and vinegar chips! We were clearly meant for recipe developing.  As our taste buds matured and we became more refined, we moved on to other things…like nacho chips, bottled salsa and creamy, is-it-really-cheese?, jarred nacho cheese sauce.  Glorious!

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Vegan spanakopita (Νηστίσιμη σπανακόπιτα)

Vegan spanakopita

Homemade phyllo and spinach filling, perfect for Lent, and anytime

Vegan spanakopita

 

Growing up we lived close to our grade school, and so lunches were eaten at home after a short walk down one street and one lane.  Our mother, who worked at different periods either at home, or in the evenings, was available to meet us at the school and walk the short distance home with us. Once there we would very occasionally be treated to our parents’ newly discovered convenience food; the TV dinner.  We loved those surprise lunches, from the compartmentalized courses to the odd looking sauces and vegetables which were less than vibrant.  We especially loved returning to school and, on those days only, asking our friends “what did you have for lunch?”, knowing that they would probably ask us the same.  Then, we could nonchalantly, but with a quiet glee, say, “Oh, you know, a TV dinner”.  Our non-Greek friends would nod their heads with approval and understanding. Our Greek friends would look bewildered.

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Halva with apple and raspberry (Χαλβάς με μήλο και βατόμουρο)

Halva with apple and raspberry

A semolina based vegan dessert flavoured with apples and raspberry 

Halva with apple and raspberry

 

This is an example of what happens when you take basic principles, and then let your imagination run free.  The basic principle here is halva-making.  Semolina based halva (not to be confused with the tahini based dessert which goes by the same name) is really versatile, and once you understand the basic premise of how to put one together, it becomes very easy to make it your own.  We have already shared with you our parents’ basic halva recipe, flavoured with orange and studded with raisins.  It’s delicious and it’s a very popular dessert during periods of lent (halva is both dairy and egg free).  We’ve also shared with you a vegan chocolate halva, which is a bit more decadent, because, chocolate.  But the halva story does not end there.

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Potatoes yahni (Πατάτες γιαχνί )

Potatoes yahni

A traditional Greek potato stew

Potatoes yahni

 

Raise your hand if you love pototoes! You there, in the back, holding a fist-full of french fries, we see you!  And we love you!  And, we too love potatoes.  Whether they are roasted in the oven, bathed in all sorts of beautiful Greek flavours, or boiled and mashed and then transformed into the very distinctive Greek garlic spread called skordalia, we adore them.  Potatoes are so versatile, so available, so economical, that it’s no wonder that the rustic cuisine of Greece has taken this commonplace vegetable and made it the star of a stew which we know will find a happy place in your hearts and stomachs.

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Pizza

PIzza

We’re not really sure where this recipe came from.  True, it comes from our parents’ kitchen, but before that is anyone’s guess.  We also don’t know where the pizza inspiration came from.  Growing up, homemade pizza was not something that we remember having in our home, and then one day, on a day that we don’t really remember, our parents announced that they had made pizza…and there was no looking back.

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Oven-baked chicken and rice (Κοτόπουλο με ρύζι στο φούρνο)

Oven-baked chicken and rice

A complete and delicious meal of lemon chicken and vegetable studded rice

For us, this is the ultimate comfort food; a meal where the ingredients cook together slowly so that the flavours meld and develop, while you sit back and spend quality time with family and friends as things get perfect in the oven.  This oven-baked chicken and rice dish is that kind of food.  Although there is some active stove top work to do before you can pop everything into the oven and forget it, the work is minimal, and easy.  The result, is most definitely worth it.

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Stewed Swiss chard with vegetables and feta (Σέσκουλα γιαχνί με λαχανικά και φέτα)

Stewed Swiss chard with vegetables and feta (Σέσκουλα γιαχνί με λαχανικά και φέτα)

A perfect mess of vegetables that tastes better than you could hope

Feeling somewhat bloated and heavy after the holidays?  Resolved to eating healthier, including more vegetables in your diet, and to limiting processed foods?  Committed to cutting out all sweets, and eating only food which serves a vitamin and mineral fuelled purpose?  Well, we’re here to help!  And to remind you that we have a whole category of dessert recipes like galaktoboureko, baklava and koulourakia, because cutting out all sweets is dumb (unless your doctor tells you to cut out all sweets, in which case it’s very, very smart).

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Mushroom and chestnut phyllo triangles (Πιτάκια με μανιτάρια και κάστανα)

Mushroom and chestnut phyllo triangles (Πιτάκια με μανιτάρια και κάστανα)

A vegetarian meze that is slightly sweet, light and crispy; perfect two-bites!

Mushroom and chestnut phyllo triangles (Πιτάκια με μανιτάρια και κάστανα)

 

We think that phyllo is the answer to most of life’s food problems.  Although rolling out your own phyllo is a skill which is honed over years of practice (or much quicker if you have a great recipe like this one), store bought phyllo is a breeze! Seriously!  Don’t listen to the stories about how it dries out too quickly or tears easily.  In fact, once you get used to working with store bought phyllo, you’re going to find yourself searching for things to wrap up in it!  True story!

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Christmas koulourakia with yeast (Χριστουγεννιάτικα κουλουράκια με μαγιά)

Christmas koulourakia with yeast (Χριστουγεννιάτικα κουλουράκια με μαγιά)

Savoury Christmas koulourakia

Much of the beauty of Greek cuisine is that it varies from region to region.  In part this is due to agricultural possibilities (think mountainous landscapes versus islands surrounded by the sea), connections with other cultures, and local customs and traditions.  Every recipe tells a story, and offers a glimpse into the rich web of history, both cultural and culinary, that makes Greece and Greek food such an important and fascinating area of study.  Although many of these unique regional dishes are well known (think kalitsounia from Crete or lalagia from Messinia), others are so local that they are known only to isolated villages.  The recipe which we are sharing here is one such example.

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