Penne with feta pesto, courgettes & corn

in The Others -

Warm days call for lighter dishes, filled with lots of vegetables and herbs- one of my all time favourites is pasta, like this penne with feta pesto, courgettes & corn.

I love everything about pesto– from its gorgeous colour and irresistible creamy texture and perfect saltiness, to the wonders it can work on any dish it is added to. The few times I’ve used store-bought varieties have left me utterly disappointed. Nothing can compare to a jar of the homemade kind, which is not only a child’s play to make, but also offers almost countless possibilities for additions and variations. And since I always have a pot of basil by my kitchen window, fresh greens and cheese in the fridge and nuts in my cupboard, there’s always lots of pesto experimentations to be enjoyed.

This one is quite straightforward, with feta instead of parmesan, which adds a delicious extra creaminess to the sauce and leads me straight into summer- as I always associate feta with warm weather and the freshest dishes. You can use pistachios, which add a dash of lovely colour, but I’ve gone with the traditional pine nuts here.


You can simply toss this with al dente pasta and be good to go, but come spring and summer, I always crave more vegetables, so I added sautéed courgette and corn which add a slight crunch and sweetness to every bite.

*I recommend doubling the pesto quantity and keep the rest either in the fridge for a few days, or in the freezer for up to a month (defrost in the fridge overnight); apart from pasta, it’s a treat served with roast vegetables, fish and chicken, or simply added to a sandwich.

Penne with feta pesto, courgettes & corn

WHAT

for the pesto:

40g fresh basil (you can substitute some of it with baby spinach or rocket)

80g feta

25g pine nuts

1 fat garlic clove

100ml extra virgin olive oil

for the pasta:

350g wholewheat pasta

1 large courgette, thinly sliced

1 tablespoon olive oil

a pinch of sea salt flakes & freshly ground black pepper

100g corn (about 1/2 cup)

to serve:

parmesan

fresh basil leaves (optional)

freshly ground black pepper

WHAT

To make the pesto, place all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth, scrapping down the sides if needed. Set aside.

Cook the pasta in plenty of salted water according to pack instructions until al dente. Meanwhile, warm the olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat; add the sliced courgette, salt and pepper and cook tossing lightly for about 5′, or until soft. Combine with the corn and et aside.

Drain the pasta, reserving about 1/2 cup of the water to use later if needed. Toss the pasta with the pesto, adding a couple splashes of the pasta water to thin out if necessary. Add the courgette and corn and divide into plates.

Serve with grated parmesan, fresh basil and freshly ground black pepper.

Giant couscous with blueberries, hazelnuts, feta & preserved lemons

in The Others -

Bursting with spring flavours, this giant couscous with blueberries, hazelnuts, feta & preserved lemons is colourful, filling and prefect for these first sunny days.

I love a colourful salad all year round; come spring however, I switch from my favourite winter one, or those filled with roasted vegetables and thick dressings to something which pays homage to the first days of spring: I add fresh fruits and lots of herbs which I barely touch, but merely wash them quickly and toss them with bright green leaves.

This little beauty comes together in almost no time- you start with some cooked couscous (I used the Israeli variety here, as I love it’s wholesome texture, but the regular one would also do, or you may as well use quinoa or barley) and start layering flavours, textures and colours: baby spinach, lots of parsley, big handfuls of blueberries and a couple preserved lemons. Toss and finish off with generous sprinklings of chopped hazelnuts and crumbled feta, so you get a bit of everything in each bite: sweet, acid, salt and lots of freshness.

Giant couscous with blueberries, hazelnuts, feta & preserved lemons

WHAT

300g giant couscous, cooked

2 big handfuls fresh baby spinach, washed
1/3 bunch fresh parsley, washed, leaves picked

50g blueberries, washed

2 preserved lemons, thinly sliced

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
juice from 1 lemon
salt & pepper to taste
1 teaspoon mustard seeds, toasted & crushed

sea salt flakes, to taste
for the dressing:

a pinch of salt

to serve: 60g feta, crumbled, 3 tablespoons hazelnuts, chopped

HOW

Make the dressing by combining the olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper & mustard seeds (an easy way to do this is in a jar- seal well and shake vigorously until well mixed).

Roughly chop the spinach leaves and parsley and toss with the couscous, blueberries and preserved lemons. Add the dressing and top with some crumbled feta & hazelnuts.


Vegan baked feta with olives & thyme

in The Others -

Two of my favourite ingredients combined and baked to bubbly perfection. We’re gonna need a bigger loaf of bread for this one.

I’m in my last week of fasting and I have quite a lot of feelings about it; on the one hand, I can’t wait to have lots of thick full fat Greek yogurt, some shaved parmesan over two perfectly fried eggs, or a full plate of baby potatoes and lots of smoked trout; on the other, I can’t help but think and marvel at how much I’ve enjoyed my diet for the last month or so: the reason I decided to fast (for the third consecutive year) in the first place is purely to challenge my self both in terms of my cooking and eating habits. So my meals were filled with vegetables and herbs, simple, delicious and so satisfying: from saucy green beans to lemony peas, everything but the kitchen sink pasta or fragrant curries.

I am not a very adventurous person in general, but when it comes to food and a few other things, I love to give in, try new things and be completely open. Still, inevitably, there are patterns and preferences and every once in a while, I like to deviate from them and just see what happens. And though my diet is mostly vegetarian, with lots of eggs and some fish and a little chicken on the side, going vegan for these weeks really made me so much more inventive and playful in the kitchen. I relied heavily on spices and herbs, more than I usually do, fell in and out of love with pulses a couple times and satisfied my minor sweet tooth with sliced pineapple and papaya, baked with vanilla beans and pure maple syrup. Last but not least, I discovered (and may have also become addicted to) the bliss of vegan feta

Let me explain: in Greece, cooked pulses are often eaten with a generous side of feta cheese and, as I’ve been eating chickpeas and beans in almost every way possible, I realised that what I was probably missing the most was feta. And then I found it: mildly flavoured, made of coconut, reminding me of another favourite Greek cheese (the name escapes me). And then I wish I hadn’t, since I literally could not stop eating it: for breakfast, over crunchy toast, with a pinch of sumac and a drizzle of olive oil, accompanying baked chickpeas for lunch, tossed with juicy tomatoes and buttery avocados for dinner- you name it, I’ve probably had it with some vegan feta.

Today’s dish is probably my favourite way to enjoy it- and almost definitely the last time I’ll have it for a while: combined with chubby black and green olives (pits on, always!), lots of good olive oil, orange juice and zest, chipotle flakes, bay leaves and fresh thyme. Put it in the oven for merely 15 minutes and brace yourselves for melted, bubbly heaven. And for the love of all things delicious, don’t forget the bread!

Vegan baked feta with olives & thyme

WHAT

200g vegan feta (I used this one)

about 3/4 cup black and green olives

130 ml extra virgin olive oil

juice & zest from 1/2 orange

1/4 teaspoon chipotle flakes

3 small bay leaves

3 fresh thyme sprigs

4 small garlic cloves, skin on

a pinch of sea salt flakes (taste your olives first and season accordingly)

HOW

Preheat the oven to 180ºC (160ºC FAN).

Place the feta in a deep-ish baking dish and arrange the olives around it.

Add the olive oil, juice & zest, sprinkle with the chipotle flakes and then add the bay leaves & thyme sprigs.

Season and bake in the preheated oven for about 15′, or until the “cheese” is bubbly.

Remove from the oven, let it sit for about 5′ and serve immediately either from the baking dish or after transferring it (carefully! Vegan feta melts quicker and more than the real thing, so try to transfer it whole as much as possible) on a serving dish. And, again, don’t forget the bread!

Baked beans with harissa, chorizo & sun dried tomatoes

in All recipes, Savoury -

Comforting as they are simple, these baked beans with harissa, chorizo & sun dried tomatoes remind me of home and speak to my heart. 

Baked beans with harissa, chorizo & sun dried tomatoes

How happy am I to be back here after what seems like forever! I have been working on projects almost non stop for the last couple of months and even though I much enjoy collaborations and the challenges and joy they bring, cooking purely for pleasure, following a craving or inspired by an ingredient is always what I love the most. That and sharing it all here. [READ MORE]

Brussels sprouts, pear & spinach salad with feta & croutons

in Savoury, Taste -

Brussels sprouts, pear & spinach salad with feta & croutons- aka my new favourite way to pack tons of vegetables and colours onto one dish.

Brussels sprouts, pear & spinach salad with feta & croutons

Happy New Year everyone! I hope it’s filled with everything y’all wish for. I wish for health, laughter and delicious meals shared with loved ones- as cheesy as that may sound (oh! And cheese! I wish for lots and lots of cheese!). These past few weeks have been very intense, emotional and quite frankly very difficult for me for a number of reasons. So along with the above, even though I don’t do new year’s resolutions as they don’t make much sense to me, I really hope I slowly learn to be calmer, more accepting of how things evolve, but also more assertive and active. [READ MORE]

Dried & fresh mushroom tagliatelle with white wine

in Savoury, Taste -

These dried & fresh mushroom tagliatelle with white wine are exactly what a plate of pasta should be: simple, delicious and good enough to go for seconds.

Dried & fresh mushroom tagliatelle with white wine

Dried mushrooms are by far one of my favourite ingredients to use; I do so sparingly though, keeping the precious dark gems at the back of my cupboard, waiting for the right moment to soak some of them in water, toss with few other ingredients and marvel once again at their rich, deep flavour and power to transform any dish into something wonderful. [READ MORE]

Mandarine, beet & pistachio barley salad

in Savoury, Taste -

Colourful and filled with flavour and textures, this mandarine, beet & pistachio barley salad is a super star all around. 

Mandarine, beet & pistachio barley salad

It’s not always clear to me how a recipe comes to happen; often it’s something I crave or miss- usually my mom’s food or a dish I’ve tried in a restaurant and left a lingering taste in my mouth. Other times inspiration stems from recipes seen in cookbooks or online. More often than not though, everything starts with ingredients: it can be something not very exciting I have in the fridge or cupboard, or fresh seasonal produce first making a timid appearance in market stalls. These are my favourite ones: I feel almost haunted by colours and shapes, I touch and smell and a dish, or a faint outline, more like a desire, starts coming together. For this salad, it all started with mandarines- of which I used to not think much  for quite a long time. Then suddenly, a while ago, I started finding them utterly irresistible. I love when that happens- it’s like having a new friend and start making all sorts of exciting plans for adventures to share together. [READ MORE]

Baked pumpkins, stuffed with couscous, blue cheese & pine nuts

in Savoury, Taste -

Perfectly seasonal, very easy to make and very hard to resist baked pumpkins stuffed with couscous, blue cheese & pine nuts.

Baked pumpkins, stuffed with couscous, blue cheese & pine nuts

Fragrant herbs and filling grains or carbs is usually my go to for easy lunches or fuss free dinners. A little bit of couscous, quinoa or wholewheat pasta, brown or black rice, faro and barley are on heavy rotation year round, alongside lots of greens and maybe eggs or fish. In the colder months, I like to pair them with thick skinned vegetables, roasted with generous amounts of extra virgin olive oil until they almost collapse, and their flesh is almost sweet as honey. [READ MORE]

Pickled onion & smoked salmon brakfast platter

in Breakfast, Taste -

This breakfast platter with pickled onions and smoked salmon is one of my favourite things to wake up to on a lazy weekend. 

Pickled onion & smoked salmon brakfast platter

I love breakfast every day of the week; I usually wake up quite early, between 7 and 7.30, and after painstakingly following my morning routine, I start preparing breakfast. It may be just yogurt with homemade granola or honeyed fruit, overnight oats or pipping hot oatmeal; oftentimes it’s eggs on toast, alongside the obligatory avocado slices, almost buried under crunchy dukkah or sumac. Or it can be slices of seeded bread, with thick tahini, fruit and sweet Greek honey. Whatever it is, it’s never the same and I devour it with enthusiasm almost without fail. [READ MORE]

Cavolo nero & sun dried tomato mac & cheese with crunchy pecan topping

in Savoury, Taste -

This cavolo nero & sun dried tomato mac & cheese with crunchy pecan topping is what my cheesy autumnal dreams are made of!

My love for both pasta and cooking with seasonal ingredients is well documented here, as is my excitement over what to cook when seasons change. I may miss summer and its bright coloured juicy treasures at first, but by mid September, I have fully embraced autumn, it’s vibrant hues of deep orange, red and orange and I find myself, almost without realising, ready for heartier dishes. This year, up until a few days, we were graced with an unexpected glorious indian summer, filled with sunny days and almost balmy nights. And then, all of a sudden, the weather turned very cold- just in time for my dear cavolo nero to be featured in all its glory in a couple dishes. [READ MORE]