When we first posted our parents’ rizogalo recipe we explained that this was a food which was so deeply connected to our childhoods that we couldn’t help but find comfort in a bowl of warm, creamy, simply delicious rice pudding. And that is still so true; rizogalo, the way our parents make it (and the way we now make it), is comfort in a bowl.
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.
Here it is….our first entry in Our Kouppes, the space we have carved into Mia Kouppa to share our own recipes. As we mentioned when we introduced Our Kouppes, many of the recipes you find here will be inspired by the food that we grew up with, and this grilled octopus is definitely that! We have vivid memories of summers in Greece, where we would see freshly caught octopus drying in the sun by the port, and sun-kissed fishermen eager to sell their bounty to locals and local restaurants.
Most of the recipes we have shared thus far come from our childhood, but our parents’ cooking has evolved. As years rolled by they would introduce new meals into their repertoire and onto our family table. This chickpea soup for example, despite being a staple in many Greek homes, was not something that we had as little children. In fact, we think we were both teenagers when our parents first served us a bowlful of this delicious meal. This led to a pretty significant “Huh?!” moment.
Like many Greeks, we are a gardening family. In our experience, it is rare to find a Greek who has access to even a little bit of land, who doesn’t then use it to plant some sort of vegetable or herb. Even when all that is available is a balcony, eggplants and tomatoes find themselves growing in pots, next to the basil. Gardening is a lovely heritage, and although our parents are the master green thumbs, we do pretty well ourselves; we had wonderful mentors after all.
We know, we know, we have probably already told you that some other dish we have previously written about is our absolute favourite…but here we go again! Black-eyed peas and spinach is our true absolute favourite food (until the next favourite comes along that is).
We believe that black-eyed peas (also called cowpeas) are the Queen of Legumes, and apparently we are not alone. They are awesome enough to have a music band named after them, to be the conduit with which to poison an abusive husband named Earl in the Dixie Chicks hit, “Goodbye Earl” (we do not condone murder by the way) and to have a franchise restaurant in Texas and Tennessee named after them. The restaurant, of course, serves black-eyed peas. We don’t think any other legume has received as much popular attention. There must be something to these little gems.
Sometimes in life, you have to take risks. Think outside the box. Blaze a new path. It can be scary and uncomfortable, but the rewards are usually worth it. That’s what we have done here. Manestra, a simple, tomato-based pasta soup, is usually made with orzo, but we decided to use pasta shaped as little stars (cue gasps). We were brave. We were ground breakers. We were unintimidated. We were out of orzo.
No matter what small shaped pasta you use, the end result is sure to be delicious. Manestra’s subtle flavour makes it a favourite amongst picky eaters, and when it is served plain (that is, not topped with grated mizithra) it is a perfect vegan and lenten option – particularly when you are all beaned out.