DIARY

SIX OF THE BEST FROM AROUND THE MED.

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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

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Braised Fennel with Tomatoes         Green Beans “Yakhni”

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The Real Greek Cypriot Salad           Gigantes

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NOTES:

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.

Method

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)

Kali Orexi!

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