Stuffed Tomatoes & Peppers – Gemista

A few days ago, I had the pleasure of visiting the Olympic Palace Hotel on the beautiful Greek island of Rhodes.  The Executive Chef and his team, were working tirelessly to produce utterly delicious food, day after day.  It is certainly no easy task producing this level of food constantly, add in the hot climate and long hours and I think many of us would be exhausted.  To work at this level you have to have skill and dedication to your work. Eating Gemista in Rhodes

Maybe the answer lies in the fact that they must have a real enthusiasm and passion, for the food and ingredients they were using. It was a true pleasure to see!  Being a person who loves to immerse herself in the culture of a country, I could not resist getting the opportunity to meet with the food and beverage team, and find out more about their superb Greek dishes.  I managed to get a recipe from them too, so if you fancy trying their “Gemista” pronounced yemista then scroll down.

Gemista - Stuffed Tomatoes and Peppers

Still to this day, it never ceases to amaze me at how many tourists go to a country, and yet do not try the national dishes?  To me, the whole point of visiting a country is to explore not just the surroundings, but their way of life.  So I urge you to be a little more adventurous and head to the specialist food sections and restaurants, where local and national cuisine is on offer.  Great food is worth exploring!  For more information on the Olympic Palace Hotel (which is a super place to stay by the way) go to:-

www.olympicpalacehotel.com

 

Greek Feta CheeseEmily at workExecutive Chef and the Food & Beverage Manager of the Olympic Palace Hotel With Emily

Ingredients

6 large tomatoes
3 Green Peppers
1 Egg plant chopped small dice (Aubergine in the UK)
1 Pumpkin chopped small dice (Small Butternut Squash in the UK)
12 Tbl of Carolina Rice (Long Grain Rice in UK)
1 White onion finely chopped
Salt & Ground Pepper
1 1/2 Cups of Olive Oil
1 Leek
Handful of fresh parsley finely chopped
Handful of fish mint finely chopped
1kg Potatoes, peeled and cut into chunky moon shape

Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

Wash the vegetables.  Slice a 1cm layer from the top of the tomatoes and peppers.  This makes a lid, so keep them for later.  Remove the inside of the tomato (carefully so you do not split the skin) and reserve the insides for the next step.  Discard the inside of the peppers.

Sprinkle each tomato with a little salt and turn upside down on a tray so that any excess liquid can come out.

In a deep pan take 1\2 cup of olive oil and fry the chopped onion and leek for around 2-3 minutes.  Then add the aubergine and butternut squash and cook for a further 3 minutes.  Add the rice and combine all together well.  With a hand blender, blitz half of the insides of the tomatoes.  Add this puree to the pan, along with 1 cup of water.  Add some salt and pepper for seasoning, and continue cooking on a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and add in the chopped herbs.  The filling will be quite loose and juicy.

Place the mixture to 3/4 height of the tomatoes and peppers.  You need a little room at the top, as when the rice cooks it will expand.  Place the lids on the peppers and tomatoes, and place in a deep baking dish close to each other.  Place the potatoes around the edge.

Blend the other half of the tomato insides with the remaining cup of olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper, and then place over the potatoes.

Cover the baking dish with tin foil and place into the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes.  Then remove the tin foil and continue cooking in the oven for a further 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Check that it is cooked by gently prodding the potatoes with a knife.

This dish is served both hot and cold in Greece.  In fact they often like it at room temperature the following day.  This will intensify the flavour even more.

Needless to say it is delicious with feta cheese, but another way is to remove the tops and add a slice of mozzarella, then place under the grill until it melts.  However if you are vegan then you can take away any cheese.

 

 

 

 

 

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Cauliflower Curry Recipe

This may sound unappetising but trust me, those curry spices get right into the cauliflower, making a bland vegetable into something super tasty.  It serves 2 and is approx 354 calories per serving, so not bad!

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Ingredients:-

Approx half a medium sized cauliflower broken into segments par boiled for about 6 minutes until still slightly firm but starting to cook. Drain off properly.
Olive Oil
1 Large onion chopped
2 Good handfuls of chopped mushrooms
2 Cloves of Garlic chopped
1 Red/Green Pepper chopped
100ml of chicken/vegetable stock
15g of Medium curry powder (or hotter if you wish)
40ml of double light cream (or substitute accordingly)
120g of Wholegrain brown basmati rice.
Salt

Start cooking your rice as per the pack instructions.  Brown rice usually takes longer than white, so its worth getting it on early.

In a large heavy bottomed pan add a good couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  Then add in the onion, mushrooms, pepper and garlic.  Place on a low-medium heat until the onion starts to soften.  Add the curry powder, then the stock and mix well. Place in the drained cauliflower,  and gently turn it into the mixture so that it gets coated in the sauce.  Cook for a few minutes and then add the cream, making sure you are gentle around the cauliflower.  Make sure you add the cream on a low heat otherwise it will split.  Continue gently cooking until the desired consistency with the sauce is reached.  Sometimes you may need a little extra water to loosen, or cook a little longer to thicken.  Test for seasoning.

Serve on brown rice and with mango chutney of you have it.

 

 

 

 

Scones

Scones are not just simply delicious but can be whipped up in next to no time. They can either be plain or include raisins and can be smothered in butter or my personal favourite whipped cream and jam. Scones are great for just eating at home but are the star attraction of a tea party. Without them, a tea party seems incomplete. I have made so many versions of scones over the years in my pursuit of perfection. Finally, I think I have managed to achieve a scone which has good height and great taste. There are a couple of tricks though. Firstly when you push the cookie cutter into the dough, do NOT twist the cookie cutter to get the scone shape out. Lift it from the rest of the dough and gently tease the dough from the cookie cutter. Secondly, when rolling out the dough ensure that it is just over 2cms thick. If you roll it too thin, the scones will not get the height. I also find using a finer flour “OO” Italian grade flour makes the scone lighter. Do not worry if you cannot find any (although most supermarkets now stock it), its just that I use it quite a lot for light fluffy cakes and delicacies, so always have it to hand. Plain flour thats been well sieved will give a good result.

scones

 

Ingredients

500g of “OO” Italian Flour or plain flour
2 heaped tsp cream of tartar
1 heaped tsp bicarbonate of soda
130g chilled salted butter
50g caster sugar
1 egg beaten
275ml of milk
3 tbsp of Demerera sugar
Optional: 40g sultanas

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees centigrade and lightly grease a baking tray.

Sift the flour, bicarbonate of soda and cream of tartar into a large mixing bowl.  Rub the butter into the flour mix until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.  Light airy motions are best for this.  Stir in the caster sugar.

Mix the beaten egg and milk together.

With the beaten egg/milk, you want to retain a couple of tablespoons for brushing onto the tops of the scones later.  The remaining egg mixture along with the milk can be added and mixed until a dough forms and the mixture comes together.  If adding the optional sultanas do so at this stage.  On a lightly floured surface roll or even better gently press the mixture to just over 2cms in thickness.

Using a 6cm cookie cutter press down into the dough (please see narrative notes above).  The dough will give you between 10-12 scones.  Just keep rolling the dough until its all gone and you cannot make any more scones.  Transfer the scones onto your baking tray.

With the remaining egg/milk that you set aside brush the tops of each scone.  Sprinkle the demerera sugar on top.

Bake in the oven for around 10-15 minutes.  Check after 10 minutes.

Eat warm with butter or cool with cream and jam!

Simnel Cake

This is a traditional Easter cake, which certainly makes a great centrepiece for your Easter dinner table.

simnel cake

Ingredients

500g marzipan
180g butter
180g light muscovado sugar
3 large free-range eggs
250g plain flour, sifted
½tsp baking powder
60g ground almonds
300g mix of raisins, sultanas and currants
50g candied peel, chopped
zest 1 lemon
2 tsp mixed spice
2 tbsp milk
1 tbsp brandy
1 tbsp rum
1 small egg beaten
A couple of teaspoons of smooth apricot jam

Pre-heat the oven to 150 C fan oven.  Prepare a 7 inch loose bottomed cake tin by greasing and double lining it.  As the cake takes a while to cook, double lining helps to stop the cake burning on the outside.

Take the Marzipan and divide it into thirds.  With 1/3rd of the marzipan roll it to the size of the cake and just put to the side.  With another 1/3rd do exactly the same.

To make the cake, cream the butter and sugar until white and fluffy.  This step may take a few minutes, so be patient.  Then add the baking powder to the flour and stir to make sure it is evenly distributed.  Turn your mixer to a slower speed and alternatively add the flour and the egg.  This helps to stop the mix curdling.  I add a small amount of egg, then a large tablespoon of flour until all the flour and egg has gone.  Then fold in the almonds, mixed fruit, peel, lemon zest, mixed spice, milk, brandy and rum, taking care not to lose that air you have whipped into the cake.

Pour half of the cake mixture into the tin, then place the marzipan circle on top that you set aside earlier.  Pour the remaining cake mixture on top.  To make the cake level as possible, make a slight dip into the centre.  Bake in the centre of an oven for around 1 hour 30 – 40 minutes, or until a skewer comes clean out of the cake.  Let it cool in the tin slightly before turning out onto a wire rack.

Once cool you can then decorate the top of the cake.  First glaze the top of the cake with apricot jam.  This helps the top layer of marzipan stick to the cake.  Gently place the other marzipan circle on top.  You can crimp the edges like a pie, leave it smooth or even make lattice patterns on the marzipan it is your choice.

Take the remaining marzipan and roll into 11 balls. It is usually 11, to represent the apostles, Judas gets missed out, for obvious reasons.  Take the beaten egg and just brush a little onto each marzipan ball and stick them to the top of the marzipan on the cake.  You can leave the cake like this or a lovely touch which I sometimes do, is to glaze the cake top with the remaining beaten egg and then use my cooks blow torch on it for a few seconds.  This gives a lovely golden colour to it.

Granola

This recipe for granola may seem slightly decadent with the addition of sugar and golden syrup, however these can always be substituted for something similar if you wish.  It does make quite a large batch, so it isn’t as if you will be eating the whole lot in one sitting.  Granola is crunchy and slightly clumped together, so if you don’t have a sticky substitute like the ingredients in the recipe, it will not be the same.  I also use this as crunchy topping for puddings, see photos below for some inspiration, and you can also check out my video for this recipe on youtube.

IMG_7220

Ingredients

55g Butter
60g Honey
25g Golden Syrup
85g Demerara Sugar
1tsp Vanilla Extract
30g Hazelnuts roughly chopped
80g Pecan nuts roughly chopped
35g Pistachio roughly chopped
60g Flaked almonds
70g Sunflower seeds
45g Desiccated coconut
125g Porridge Oats
Zest of 2 oranges

Preheat Oven to 150 degrees centigrade approx gas mark 2-3

In a saucepan gently melt the butter, honey, golden syrup and Demerara sugar until it is a smooth liquid and the sugar has melted.  Once off the heat, stir in the vanilla extract.

In a large bowl place all the nuts, seeds, oats and orange zest.  Mix round the dry ingredients and then add the butter syrup from the saucepan.  Mix well, this may take some time to make sure there are no dry pockets of oats and nuts around the bowl.

Pour into a roasting tin and level out.  Place in the oven for around 50 – 60 minutes.  Every 15 minutes, remove from the oven and turn the mixture in the roasting tin, then place back in the oven.  This helps the mixture get golden all over.

Once the cooking time has expired, take the roasting tin out of the oven and let it cool down.  Once cool, you will see that it crisps up and goes crunchy, you can see this in the video clip.  Once properly cool place in a sealed container.

 

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I love this crunchy granola on top of a layer of Greek yoghurt and stewed rhubarb.  Simply chop some rhubarb, add a little water, a couple of drops of vanilla extract and a little sugar  (if you want) in a saucepan.  Let it cool and then place it at the bottom, then layer the other items on top!