It was a Frenchman who said: “If there’s no food for you to eat…. you should talk about food”, to which I add, “And if there’s no-one to talk to, read about it”. I am never happier than when I am at my stove – and when I am not, the next best thing is either reading or writing about it. After rather many years cooking for myself and my family, I still enjoy all this as much as I ever did.
In winter, yes, I do cook more northerly European stews and casseroles, but my heart is in the Mediterranean. The variety of ingredients, the simple cooking methods and the delights of appearance and flavour combine to make it Numero Uno for me.
From my photo album, here are six of the dishes I love to cook and eat. All are very simple to make – and as you can see, tomatoes are an important ingredient for me. Just think, they’ve only been growing in the Mediterranean for 400 years.
Below: Calamari, freshly fried. Courgettes and Scrambled Eggs
Braised Fennel with Tomatoes Green Beans “Yakhni”
The Real Greek Cypriot Salad Gigantes
Calamari: beginners will need some practice! Generally calamari requires only a minute or two. Over-cooking makes it tough (unless you go to the other extreme and cook it for some time (as in a casserole. It is splendid baked with red wine, onions and garlic).
Many readers have their own, preferred, batter mixture, so use the one you are happy with. I find that unless I have access to a deep fat fryer, my batters are not always successful. I sometimes use a Tempura batter recipe and this is the one I like (enough for four serving of whatever you are frying – shrimp, fish goujons, bits of chicken, and so forth)
100 gr corn flour 150 gr plain flour 10gr baking powder Some iced sparkling water – soda or Perrier – to make a thinnish batter but thick enough to coat your finger.
1. Mix the flours and baking powder together
2. Gently add iced liquid
3. Stir, but not too much, mix is better slightly lumpy
4. Season to taste, then dip ingredients into batter making sure each piece is covered all over.
5. Deep fry in hot oil until crisp and golden
Courgettes with Egg: stir-fry courgette pieces until cooked through and then add the beaten eggs stirring as you would scrambled eggs until you have the consistency you want. Do this quickly because courgettes “throw” quite a bit of moisture.
Fennel or Green Beans with Tomatoes: start by stir frying sliced onion (and garlic if you like) until translucent. Stir in chopped fresh tomatoes and cook through, then add the fennel or beans, cover and gently simmer until done.
Cyprus Salad: Buy FRESH. Keep in a cool place. Don’t wash unless you feel you must. Cut up ingredients as fine or as coarsely as you like. I like it like the salad in my picture.
Gigantes: use canned if you will, when you tip them (minus juice) into an almost cooked-through carrot-onion-celery-tomato mix just a few minutes before serving. Add some of the juice if necessary. Otherwise, and preferably, soak dried beans overnight and proceed (they will need 30 – 45 minutes cooking).
You can buy little round tins of Greek Gigantes Yakhni (sauce of tomato, onion, garlic and herby hints) if you are in a hurry. Or, you can, as I do, make a big pan of it and freeze small pot-size quantities (say 4 -5 tablespoonsful each – which just happens to be enough to spoon over two plates of pasta)
Regular readers will know that I love my food. I enjoy very many kinds of it. This is not to say I am a glutton. I am fortunate in that my disposition is to eat in moderation. As for preferences, I lean very much eastwards – to the Levant to start with, and then to Arabia, Iran and on to India and the Far East. So a large tome that I bought the other day, from an on-line bookstore “The Food of … [Read More...]
These two books have been around for some years (both can be found in both new and good used condition on the Internet – but I bought mine from Moufflon Bookshop in Nicosia in the 1990s) They combine recipes, anecdote and commentary to an excellent degree. I love them both, browse them regularly and have cooked many of the recipes. … [Read More...]
Anyone who watches British television will know of the many programmes devoted to “Baking” – of pies, pastries, buns, caked and bread. Where flour, water and fat are often the basis for inexpensive and filling dishes. In times past, working people, especially in the rural areas, seldom had enough money to eat meat (or fish) more than once or twice a week – a circumstance well known in Cyprus … [Read More...]
Gather round, folks. Roll up. I have a clutch of meaty treats for you this week. Very international in origin, too. In the Middle East (and I include Cyprus in that), grazing for sheep, goats and cows is sparse, to say the least. In consequence, much of the meat can be tough (I except lamb and veal raised in what I call “un-natural” circumstances from this) – and many recipes call for mincing or … [Read More...]
Review – “Sax Stories” by Belinda Moore This slim, well presented book offers profiles of forty citizens of Saxmundham, many of them with photographs. They are a good cross-section of the populace and a helpful and enjoyable introduction for the shorter term residents of the town, like myself and my wife (a mere three and a half years). It is almost Ronald Blytheian in style and feeling for … [Read More...]
Encouraged by the favourable entry in the 2014 Good Food Guide, we went to dinner at the Dennington Queen on Easter Monday. An ample car park, in front of an attractive well painted, attractively illuminated period building, led in to a clean, spacious, pretty and comfortable bar and dining area. Just two other tables were occupied, but the staff were in good form, welcoming, friendly and … [Read More...]
By “SuffolkEater” We are always somewhat suspicious of places that advertise quite widely and extol their own virtues on websites. So we approached dinner at the Sibton White Horse with a little caution. We needn’t have done. Basically what their Promos say you will get is what you do. And that is good, genuine English cooking. With the exception of one or two items, like … [Read More...]
BOOK REVIEW – The Undelivered Mardle, by John Rogers. “A Memoir of Belief, Doubt and Delight”. 158 pages, hard back, published by Darton, Longman & Todd at £12.99, with a foreword by Ronald Blythe..
A “Mardle” is a talk of local interest. The people of Letheringham had asked Rendham resident John Rogers to deliver such a talk to them at their ancient priory church. Early on the day he was to drive to Letheringham to give his Mardle, Monday March 26th 2007, John was struck by a severe heart attack that took him to Ipswich hospital and quickly on to … [Read More...]
Once upon a time… Cyprus wine was a joke. The “leading” white wines, made in factories in Limassol, were largely stale, flat and well on the way to oxidisation. The reds, mostly made from Mavro were dull and lifeless. The reason, of course, was that grapes were grown as a cash crop by village people who only made wine in Pithari, but who sold most of their grapes to wineries 40 … [Read More...]
In Britain, sherry may be a minority tipple, but it is a large enough one for a good range to be stocked in wine stores and supermarkets, whereas in Cyprus it is not easy to find and the range available is quite limited. The demise of what used to be called Cyprus sherry also diminished the market. I find it a drink well worth exploring. Perhaps it is because it was the only alcoholic drink … [Read More...]