Souvlaki inspired dishes. Serve inside or out, sunshine or rain, barbequed or grilled. Easy meals to share with family and friends.
Soak your kebab sticks in water for a couple of hours before use.
Monkfish Souvlaki – cut the monkfish into chunks (Tip: get your local supermarket to take off the membrane so that the fish does not shrink when cooked). Grab a handful of cherry tomatoes and put in a bowl with the fish and drizzle in some basil oil to coat the pieces. Alternate toms with monkfish on the skewers. Grill on a high heat (it doesn’t take long at all) and serve with basil pesto.
Drunken Chicken Souvlaki – marinade chunks of chicken overnight in white wine, good quality olive oil, thyme and chopped garlic. Thread onto skewers, leaving a little space between each chunk to ensure the chicken cooks thoroughly, barbeque or grill and before serving squeeze on some lemon juice and add a sprinkle of fresh thyme. To accompany the chicken homemade bruschetta…to good quality olive oil add a clove of garlic and dried mixed herbs. Leave to infuse overnight. Slice some ciabatta bread and before serving the chicken soak the slices of bread in the infused oil and cook in a flat or griddle pan on top of the stove. Place the bruschetta on a plate, cover with rocket leaves and place the chicken on top.
Hawaiian Tuna Souvlaki – chunks of fresh tuna skewered either with chunks of green mango or fresh pineapple coated in a little oil. Serve with a sweet chilli sauce (or if you like more spice use a red hot jalapeno sauce) and some coriander leaves.
Cajun Spiced Veggie Delight – your favourite veg, e.g. mushroom, artichoke hearts, mini bell peppers (green or red) in a bowl mixed together with some dry Cajun spice mix and some olive oil. Serve on some saganaki (grilled Greek cheese). To make saganaki take slices of Graviera or Kasseri cheese. Prepare a bowl with whisked egg and a plate with semolina. Dip the cheese in the egg then the semolina. Cook in a pan on top of the stove until both sides are golden brown. Before serving squeeze a little lemon juice over it.
This week in school we have been doing a little bit of Greek cooking. While we cook we shall be learning a few simple Greek words – very useful if you are going there for your summer holiday this year. The children have been making the typical Greek Salad, using spring onions instead of sweet salad onion (the only reason for this is that sweet salad onion is not available at the moment) and we are finishing it off with some Greek mountain herbs which I lovingly picked myself.
Quite often the locals like to eat caper leaves with their Greek Salad (which at present is very difficult to get hold of in England). They also add some dill which is totally delicious when in season. Greek salad would often be eaten by the Greeks to start a meal.
Greek Friendship Salad:
Simple but delicious, my Greek friends make this for me when I visit them…one watermelon chopped in chunks with sprigs of fresh mint and chunks of Feta cheese all mixed together.
Serve with giant croutons…slice a baguette, ciabata, or pitta bread into chunky strips, add some crushed garlic to good quality olive oil leave to marinade at room temperature for one hour. On each piece of bread paint your garlicky olive oil then sprinkle some oregano and lemon juice then cook under a hot grill or oven until crisp and golden.
Most young children wake up snuggled to their favourite teddy but Valentis (chef extraordinaire) woke up surrounded by lobsters. Why? Because Valentis’s father is a fisherman and at the age of six he would take Valentis in his boat fishing with him. As Valentis slept in his hammock his father was busy catching lobsters. The noise of the clapping lobsters used to work well as an alarm clock to wake him up! I think I will stick to the traditional way of waking with an alarm clock and a very kind husband’s lovely coffee.
To prepare a lobster for cooking: when I was training as a young commis chef we were taught to use a sharp knife to dig straight into the lobsters head right between the eyes killing it instantly. For me this appears to be a far more humane way, others prefer to immerse them in boiling water.
Cooking lobster at Valentis’s grill bar: You can cook lobster in many different ways; in Halki they do a wonderful lobster spaghetti where all of the lobster, including the shell, is used to produce a most delicious flavoured sauce which soaks into the spaghetti making a most sumptuous, flavoursome meal. However I prefer mine grilled and at Valentis’s grill my lobster was cooked beautifully. The Greeks say that the meat in the lobster’s head is the sweetest. My lobster was also full of beautiful pink roe which tastes most delicious, a sweet delicate flavour, with a smooth light texture. The lobster was served with a sauce in a separate bowl of lemon and olive oil with oregano . Now lobster is one of my most favourite foods to eat and this was the best lobster I had tasted in 15 years. It was fresh Halki lobster, not brought in from another island, and was like a fresh fruit handpicked from a tree, ready and ripe to eat. It was truly divine and a thing of (unusual!) beauty to look at.
Valantis has an exciting new menu. Livanio Roditis, a chef with 24 years experience and specialising in fish, has joined them. He also kindly taught me a few things about his local fish dishes.
The Scorpion fish comes from the family of the world’s most poisonous fish. As it’s name suggests it has a sting – sharp spines coated in venomous mucus. However properly prepared this fish makes a delicious Greek fish soup rich and creamy. Red snapper and Sea Bream (which tastes a lot like Sea Bass) are two other fish prevalent in the Dodecanese.
There are always new adventures to be had, things to do, places to go, people to meet and so very much to learn. That is the great thing about life! Take my friend Yannis and his family who run a beautifully appointed café called Costa’s on a Dodecanese island. They are such lovely people and if I had not visited this island six years ago I would have never had had the wonderful opportunity of meeting them. Not only do they serve the very best ice cream milkshake (made from a choice of over 16 different flavours - mastic, tiramisu, caramel and of course chocolate to name but a few). According to my children Yannis makes the ‘bestest’ ice cream milkshake in the world! Let me clarify that by saying my children are fairly well travelled and have taste tested many ice creams, glaces and gelato so apologies to the Italians amongst you.
Being a health fanatic I try to resist yet find myself taking a slurp, with my children looking at me in great disgust resenting being deprived or separated from their beloved milkshake…even to the extent of the miniscule droplet that I steal of its deliciousness.
Yannis not only makes fabulous milkshakes but he has a terrific knowledge of this island and its secret treasures. And when I say treasure maybe you imagine a trunkful of glistening jewellery with stones, blood-red rubies and diamonds so bright that you have to put your sunglasses on to gaze at them. But to me treasure comes in the forms of food made with love and passion and tasting mighty fine. Yannis has this knowledge that I seek and I feel very privileged that he shared one of the items of my desire – Kouleria (Greek bread, a special recipe for this particular island). Having said that I am not sharing that recipe with you guys – but I will share his knowledge on a spice called mastic cultivated only in the Greek island of Chios…this is what it looks like: Mastic is a resin obtained from a tree. It has a very distinct flavour and has numerous uses such as in chewing gum, ice cream, soups and sauces, cakes and a special liquor in Greece called Masticatois. Mastic also has medicinal properties and can be used as an antibacterial and antifungal. It is also used in ointments for skin disorders and it is said that mastic is able to aid in the fight to lower cholesterol. All this and much more from a small tree – what an amazing world we live in.