Mung bean soup (ψιλοφάσουλα σούπα ή ροβίτσα )

Mung bean soup

A hearty and humble soup made of nutrient packed mung beans

One of us loves beans; loves to eat them, loves to buy them, and loves to store them in her pantry in pretty glass jars where their various colours, adorable shapes and infinite possibilities can be admired. It was this love of beans, and a commitment to capturing as many of our parents’ recipes as possible, that had us inquire about a soup which we had vague and disturbing memories of. We remembered a childhood where a soup of little green beans was served, and the sadness which it elicited. When we asked our parents about it, they immediately knew what we were talking about. Psilofasola (also called rovitsa) is a Greek soup made of mung beans (pronounced moong) and it is a staple around Kalamata, Messinia, which is near where our parents were raised.

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Herbed orzo with chickpeas (Κριθαράκι με βότανα και ρεβίθια)

Herbed orzo with chickpeas

A delicious meal of fresh herbs, orzo and chickpeas

If you’re looking for a dish to remind you that spring is here, and that the cold winter months are behind you, then this is it.  A simple recipe using orzo and loads of fresh herbs, the colour,  smell and the flavour of this herbed orzo make it clear that sunny days are here…or at least, coming soon.

The fresh taste of this herbed orzo dish is enough to entice you to make it over and over again.  But, an added bonus is that it is quick, easy, economical (super economical if you happen to have your own herb garden) and vegan, making it perfect for meatless Mondays, period of Orthodox lent, and any other time you want a plant-based meal.  The addition of chickpeas ensures that the dish is full of protein and that it is satisfying.

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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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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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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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Black-eyed pea soup with kale (Σούπα με μαυρομάτικα φασόλια και κατσαρό λάχανο)

Black-eyed pea soup with kale (Σούπα με μαυρομάτικα φασόλια και κατσαρό λάχανο)

This nutritional powerhouse of a soup will have you feeling great, and full!

Black-eyed pea soup with kale (Σούπα με μαυρομάτικα φασόλια και κατσαρό λάχανο)

 

If you are a regular reader of Mia Kouppa, you may already be aware that we have a love affair with black-eyed peas.  We are actually fond of all things bean and legume, but the darling black-eyed pea holds a special place in our hearts…because it is so darn cute.  Take a good look at these beans, with their perfect small shape and perfectly situated black “eye” and we’re pretty sure you will agree, they are adorable!  Still, if you’re more mature than us and not that interested in appearances, we think we can convince you to love black-eyed peas anyways, because they are delicious, versatile and so, so good for you.

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Vlita (Βλήτα ή βλίτα)

Vlita (Βλήτα ή βλίτα)

Vibrant vlita! Quick, easy and so very good!

Vlita (Βλήτα ή βλίτα)

 

When is the last time you had boiled spinach for supper? Or a plate piled high with steamed collard greens?  Not as a side to anything, but as the actual meal.  Like, that was the only thing on your plate.  Well, if you’re Greek, then the answer might be, earlier this afternoon.  And if you’re not Greek, then this type of pauper, bland meal might seem a little strange, and sad.  But trust us…it’s not!

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Fennel salad (Σαλάτα με μάραθο)

Fennel salad (Σαλάτα με μάραθο)

Fennel salad (Σαλάτα με μάραθο)

 

This summer we were so fortunate to have our cousin visit us from Australia. His mother and our mother are first cousins, but if you ask our mom, they were actually as close as sisters.  Raised in the same house, they grew up sleeping in the same room (actually, the same bed), eating at the same table, and living similar experiences, from schooling to household chores, to family joys and struggles.  When our mom left Greece to come to Canada she fully expected that her sister-cousins (there were 2) would soon follow her, as would her own siblings.  Unfortunately, Canadian immigration laws at the time prevented her cousins from coming to Canada as they were too young; they instead immigrated to Australia.  Although the cousins speak often, they have not seen each other since they were young women.

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Chocolate halva (Χαλβάς με σοκολάτα)

Chocolate halva (Χαλβάς με σοκολάτα)

Chocolate halva (Χαλβάς με σοκολάτα)

 

Have you ever heard of halva?  If you’re Greek, you probably have, as this is a staple dessert during periods of lent when many abstain from eggs and dairy.  This delightfully vegan dessert is a breeze to put together and when it is done in chocolate as it is here, you’ll find yourself desperate to come up with an excuses to make it over and over again.  We think that I just want to…is reason enough.

Not only is halva delicious, it is also so versatile.  We have previously posted a halva recipe which was flavoured with orange and raisins.  Super delicious! The lovely thing about halva is that once you get the basic recipe down, you will find it pretty easy to experiment with other flavours and combinations of ingredients.  So here, we did just that. We decided to mix in some cocoa powder, dairy free chocolate pieces and finely chopped walnuts to create a chocolate lovers halva.

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Koulourakia with orange (Νηστίσιμα κουλουράκια με πορτοκάλι)

Koulourakia with orange (Νηστίσιμα κουλουράκια με πορτοκάλι)

Koulourakia with orange (Νηστίσιμα κουλουράκια με πορτοκάλι)

Our parents make so many types of koulourakia (Greek for cookies that are great for dunking into coffee or milk) that it is almost hard to keep track of them all.  To help differentiate one koulouraki from the other, they often refer to a key ingredient.  So here, we present to you koulourakia with orange…because, you guessed it, they contain a fair bit of orange juice.  They also often refer to different koulourakia by the person who prefers them over all others.  So these, along with being koulourakia with orange, are also affectionately referred to as “Georgia’s favourite”.

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