HUMOUS STUFFED PEPPERS
The best peppers to use for this dish are the long red Romano peppers but with a bit of care you can use any kind of sweet peppers. Take care to keep the heat very low while you are poaching the peppers or they may start to burn. The stuffed peppers are particularly nice serve chilled but this is not necessary if you are in a hurry.
4 long red Romano peppers
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
4 heaped tablespoons humous (see below)
200g cooked or canned chickpeas
50g tahini paste
35ml lemon juice
35ml extra virgin olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
- Place the whole peppers with the olive oil in a large deep frying pan with a lid. Set to a medium heat and stand over the hob until the peppers just start to sizzle. Immediately lower the heat and leave to poach very slowly for half an hour until tender. Leave to cool.
- Meanwhile place the chick peas and tahini paste in a food processor. Start blending and gradually add the lemon juice and olive oil. If the mixture is too thick add a little water with the lemon juice. Season to taste.
- When the peppers are cooked remove the loose skin and cut in half lengthways. Remove the seeds and arrange two halves on four serving plates.
- Place a heaped tablespoon of the humous at one end of each half pepper and fold over the other half to make a semi-open parcel. Drizzle with olive oil before serving
This very popular soup comes from Andalucia where the tomatoes are so ripe that they do not need anything to add to their flavour. Elsewhere you will probably to add tomato passata or a mixture of tomato juice and concentrated tomato paste.
The recipes for Gazpacho are so many and varied that you can virtually make up your own. Half the fun of the dish is in the garnishes, so if you have the time fry up a couple of slices of bread in extra virgin olive oil with garlic and dice into small crutons.
450g ripe tomatoes. roughly chopped
1 large clove garlic, peeled and chopped
4-5 large spring onions, trimmed and chopped
1 medium-sized red pepper, seeded and chopped
10cm cucumber, roughly chopped
450ml chilled tomato passato
juice of 1lemon
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
5cm cucumber, diced
red or green pepper, diced
1 tbs chopped onion
Sprigs of fresh coriander
- Place the tomatoes in a blender with the garlic and process for about a minute. Add the rest of the vegetables and process again until you reach the consistency you prefer. Over-processing may make give an unpleasant texture to the mixture.
- Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in the rest of the ingredients. Mix well and place in the fridge to chill for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Prepare the garnishes and place in small bowls. Keep on one side.
- Just before serving stir the ice cubes into the soup. Serve the garnishes separately with more olive oil, allowing everyone to help themselves.
SPAGHETTI WITH COURGETTES AND PARMA HAM
This recipe comes from Maria Paola di Lorenzo who, with her family, runs the Disisa olive estate in northern Sicily. Their oil is pleasantly herbaceous with a touch of tomatoes in the aroma. The recipe uses Caciocavallo cheese but any semi-hard sheep’s milk cheese can be used. It also uses Parma ham which is one of the few salted and air-dried product that is cured without the use of sodium nitrite which has been implicated in possible increase in heart disease and bowel cancer.
4 small to medium sized courgettes, sliced
100g extra virgin olive oil
50g very thinly sliced air-dried ham
150g Caciocavallo cheese
- Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water until ‘al dente’.
- In a separate pan cook the sliced courgettes in plenty of Disisa olive oil until the slices just begin to soften. There should still be a slight crunchy bite.
- Once the spaghetti is cooked, drain well and add to the pan with the courgettes, adding in the very thinly sliced ham.
- Toss together with plenty more of the olive oil, and grate the cheese. Over the top.
- Add plenty of black pepper and a little salt if required and serve at once.
GRILLED TUNA WITH PRESERVED LEMON QUINOA SALAD
Preserved lemons have a very distinctive taste of their own so it is worth the effort to find a jar. They are often on sale in shops specialising in middle eastern and north African food. If you cannot find fry three slices of fresh lemon in a little olive oil until softened. Then chop and use in place of the preserved lemon.
250 ml water
80 ml orange juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp finely chopped preserved lemon
50g toasted pistachio nuts
6 spring onions, trimmed and chopped
2 tomatoes, diced
2 tbsp each chopped fresh coriander and parsley
4 x 200g tuna steaks
And for the dressing
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
juice ½ lemon
1 tsp caster sugar
- Place the quinoa in a bowl covered with plenty of cold water and leave to soak for 15 minutes.
- Drain in a sieve and transfer to a saucepan, add the water, orange juice, cinnamon and 1/2 teaspoon of salt and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer gently for 15 minutes, remove from the heat but leave undisturbed for 10 minutes. Fluff up the grains and leave to cool for 15 minutes.
- Combine all the remaining ingredients except the tuna in a large bowl, stir in the quinoa.
- Whisk the dressing ingredients together, pour over the quinoa and stir well until evenly combined.
- Brush the tuna steaks with a little oil, season lightly and sear on a preheated ridged grill pan for 30 seconds each side or until cooked to your liking.
- Rest briefly and serve with the quinoa salad.
WARM CURRIED TOMATO SALAD
This is a really versatile combination which does not take very long to prepare. Serve these quantities for a good first course or you can double up for a larger main course salad. I also serve these curried tomatoes on toasted sour dough bread for a quick snack.
8 small to medium sized tomatoes
100ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons mild curry powder
2 teaspoons ground coriander
Freshly ground black pepper
Pinch dried oregano
A handful rocket and other baby leaves
50g Parmesan cheese shavings
- Cut the tomatoes in half round the middle.
- Heat the extra virgin olive oil in a shallow frying pan and add the tomato halves, cut side up. Sprinkle with the ground spices and herbs.
- Cook over a medium heat, turning the tomatoes from time to time, until the tomatoes have softened somewhat.
- Arrange the tomatoes on serving plates and top with the rocket, baby leaves and Parmesan shavings.
Serve at once.
The name of this Greek recipe refers to the “covering” of the pot in which it is cooked. It’s a traditional casserole, from the Kalamata region of the Peleponnese, which is cooked slowly over a low fire. It is usually cooked with lamb or beef but hare, rabbit or chicken can be used instead. I decided to go for the beef version but chicken or rabbit might be lighter for a spring or early summer meal.
In Greece the dish would be served on thick spaghetti with sfela kalamatiani. This is a feta-like cheese from the region of Kalamata but the flavor is sharper and the texture is harder. A mature hard goat’s cheese such as Ticklemore could be a good choice.
Choose a good, well flavoured, Greek extra virgin olive oil such as Iliada PDO Kalamata which is widely available in the UK.
1kg of beef brisket or chuck steak cut in medium pieces.
100ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and grated
3-4 medium size fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped
1x150g can of tomato paste
1 cinnamon stick
1/3 tsp mixed spices
Salt and freshly ground pepper
- In a big pot, heat half the extra virgin olive oil over a low fire and add the meat. Stir for 4-5 minutes until the meat is sealed.
- In a separate frying pan fry the grated onions with the extra virgin olive oil.
- Next add the fresh tomatoes, the contents of the can of tomato paste, 2 cups of water and a cinnamon stick to the meat. Season and then add the fried onions.
- Cover the pot with a lid and leave it to cook slowly for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes until the meat becomes tender, adding a small amount of water if necessary so the meat doesn’t dry out.
It is important not to top the shortcake with strawberries until just before serving or the shortcake will go soft.
175g plain flour
1 level teaspoon baking powder
75ml extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon runny honey
1 egg, beaten
25 small strawberries, cut into pieces
250g thick Greek yogurt
- Set the oven to 180˚C/Gas 4
- Sift the flour and baking powder into a bowl. Mix the olive oil and honey.
- Place the beaten egg in a measuring jug, make up to 75g with water and add to the oil and honey and whisk well together. Add this mixture to the dry ingredients and mix with a wooden spoon.
- Shape into a large soft ball with your hands. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to make a round shortbread shape. Transfer to a baking tray and cook for about 20 minutes until golden brown in colour. Leave to cool on a wire rack.
- Just before serving with a thick layer of yoghurt and top with strawberries and serve at once..