Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Dakos recipe, an easy Cretan rusk salad

Dakos salad, Cretan Rusk, blue palace hotel,
This cucina povera recipe from the Greek island of Crete, home of some of best ingredients in Greece, couldn't be easier. I use the Italian term 'cucina povera' 'poverty cooking' because there is an equivalent in Puglia, a dish called variously Frise, Frisa or Frisella.
I was shown this dish by executive chef Alexis Lefkatikis of the Blue Palace Hotel and Spa
He explained that traditionally the hard Cretan barley rusk ('paximathi'), the basis for this dish,  came about because the Cretan women worked in the fields like the men and didn't have much time to bake. So they would make a huge batch of bread then dry it in a low oven. This way it would last a month.
The rusks would be softened by pouring a little water, wine or olive oil on it then skinned crushed tomatoes, oregano, some black olives would be added.
Alexis also mentioned that they would make this barley rusk from a sourdough using water where Greek basil had been soaked.
Summer is over, but if you have a few home grown tomatoes left or can still get hold of some decent tasting tomatoes, have a go at this hearty, peasant-style salad. My kind of food.
You can buy barley rusks in North London in areas like Green Lanes in Haringey which has a large Greek cypriot population. You can also order them online from here at the Isle of Olive.
cretan rusk

Dakos Cretan rusk salad recipe

Serves 2

2 large barley rusks or a stale thick slices of sourdough bread, the harder the better
50ml of water
50ml of Greek olive oil (from Crete ideally, they have around 25 different types. As chef Alexis said of Cretans, they don't eat it, they drink it)
4 large juicy tasty tomatoes, skinned and crushed
2 tsps of Greek oregano
2 tsps of sea salt
100g of Greek feta (good quality), cubed
More olive oil
A few Kalamata olives
Black pepper

Place the rusks on a plate, pour a little water on them.
Drown them in olive oil.
Add the tomatoes (first you have skinned them by placing them in boiling water, cutting a cross in the top, skinning them and crushing them)
Then top with oregano, sea salt, feta and bung a bit more olive oil for good measure.
Finish with black pepper.

Serve immediately.

I'm on this trip courtesy of #discovergreece, the Blue Palace hotel, and Aegean Airlines.

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Monday, 28 September 2015

Tear-apart marigold and pumpkin seed focaccia recipe

marigold and pumpkin seed focaccia

I baked this for my edible flower supper club recently. It didn't last long - guests devoured it. A word about flour. Mostly, one uses strong bread flour with high protein to make bread. Most Italians use tipo 00 flour to make focaccia which gives a fine light texture, a bit like an Aero chocolate bar, and a golden colour. Be aware however that there are several types of 00 flour: the 00 refers only to the grind, i.e. very fine. Look at the protein on the packet and choose a high protein 00 flour, it can range from 6º to 12.5º. Up to 10º, use it for pasta, over 10º, use it for pizza bases, Italian breads and focaccia. More protein, more gluten. Sorry coeliacs but love me some gluten. 
Marigolds are the basis for calendula, the cream which is very good for your skin. Regarding the pumpkins seeds and oil, obviously the very best is from Austria, Styria but ordinary pumpkins seeds and oil will do fine. 

Tear-apart marigold and pumpkin seed focaccia recipe

Serves 8

Prep time: 30 minutes plus rising plus 30 minutes baking time.

500g strong bread flour or high protein 00 flour
10g sea salt
7g quick yeast
1 tbsp of honey
320ml luke warm water
20g coarse semolina
50ml pumpkin seed oil
70g pumpkin seeds
Petals from 2 or 3 marigolds
Marigold petals to garnish

Mix the flour and the salt.
Mix the water, the honey and the water separately. Leave to froth.
Then mix everything together, add the semolina, marigold petals, pumpkin oil and seeds. Knead for ten minutes.
Leave in an oiled bowl covered with cling film to rise for one hour or leave it overnight in the fridge to rise slowly.
Then tip the dough carefully out onto a floured surface and cut the dough into 8 pieces. One will be the centre and the other 7 will be shaped, delicately by pinching, as petals. Join the petals to the centre round and using a sharp knife slash the shape of the flower as above. Place the dough flower onto a silpat or parchment paper on a flat baking tray. Preheat the oven to 200ºc.
Leave to rise for another half an hour then bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven, scatter marigold petals over the top, the red salt and drizzle over some more pumpkin seed oil. 
marigold and pumpkin seed focaccia

Friday, 25 September 2015

Recipe: fresh floral lasagne with ricotta, sage and butter

How to make fresh floral pasta

Fresh flower pasta with ricotta and sage butter recipe

Fresh pasta is time consuming although remarkably easy if you will have a pasta machine. This is my recipe for flowery herby pasta which is so incredibly pretty. There is a vegan version of this recipe in my book V is for Vegan.

Fresh flower pasta with ricotta and sage butter recipe

300g 00 flour
1 tsp sea salt
3 eggs, beaten
Geranium petals (not Pelargoniums)
Herbs such as sage or dill
Nasturtium flowers
Marigold petals
Fine semolina for dusting
250g of ricotta (if making lasagne) seasoned with salt and pepper
Salted butter
Sage leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
Pecorino or parmesan (optional)

How to make fresh floral pasta

If using a food processor, put the flour and salt in the machine and pulse. With the motor running, gradually add the beaten eggs to the mixture, a large drop at a time. Gradually the mixture should look like couscous. If it is too lumpy, add more flour.
Then remove the dough from the food processor and knead by hand for five minutes.
If making the pasta by hand, put the flour in a mound on a clean work top. Make a well in the centre and add the salt and eggs. Using a fork, mix the sides with the eggy centre, eventualy bringing the mixture together into a ball. Then knead for five minutes.

Cover the kneaded dough with a damp tea towel or cling film and leave it to rest for half an hour. (This stage is very important, leaving the dough to rest you will see that it is far more malleable afterwards).

Screw your pasta machine to a work surface with the handle closest to you. Unwrap the pasta and flatten it with your hand. Run it through the machine on the widest setting, then fold the pasta tongue in half and thread it through again, with the unfolded end going through first. Do this around ten times, you will feel the pasta become more elastic. If you hear a little pop sound at the folded end, you know it is ready.
Then run the pasta through the machine on the narrower setting. Add geranium petals, dill fronds, nasturtium flowers and leaves, sage or other herbs on settings 4, 5, 6. Keep running the pasta through the machine on narrower and narrower settings until the pasta will be very fine, till the point you can see your hand through it.  The flowers and herbs will stretch as you go.  Keep going until the last setting when it will be three times as long. You'll probably need to cut it in half during this process.
When you have rolled it through notch 8, lay the lasagne out to dry on a large clean table, cutting it into sections of about 15cm in length. Leave to dry overnight.
To make fettucini 
Either roll it loosely and cut into noodles or run it through a fettucini attachment.
Now you have made your pasta you want to prevent it from sticking. Sprinkle a thick layer of fine semolina on a tray and spread the pasta in coiled nests on top. You could also hold this tray underneath the machine so that the pasta falls straight into the semolina flour. Sprinkle the nests with more flour.
You can leave this to dry for 24 hours then freeze it if not using straight away.
To cook the pasta, add plenty of sea salt to a large saucepan of boiling water. Cook the pasta for 1 to 5 minutes until it floats to the surface. Don't walk away from the stove! This cooks quickly.
Fettucini version: Drain the pasta and toss with salted butter, sage leaves, salt and pepper to taste. You could also dust a little pecorino or parmesan on top.

Fresh flower pasta with ricotta and sage butter recipe

I cooked 3 to 4 leaves of lasagne per person, draining it in a colander then sandwiching it with fresh ricotta cheese and drizzling it with the sage and butter. I wouldn't cook more than say 8 leaves at a time, you don't want them to stick together. So serve guests two by two.