Spring with the scent of winter


It’s 1st April and feels like Nature is playing with us ~ spring winter spring winter spring winter continuously  whispering to us. Calm and tender, windy and adamant messages reminding us humans that living in contrasts and extremes is perhaps not the way, at least the sustainable and caring one for the years to come. In the last two weeks, the time of the social isolation we have experienced both radiating sun with first optimistic flowering blossoms and some cloudy skies with falling playful snow. Two paralel realities going hand in hand persistently in this astronomical spring of 2020. Beauty that only Nature could create and nurture along with a sublime theatre of disorder where we people have a major role to play. What a splendour to observe and experience all those revelations and transformations and flow with them. As if we have a genuine teacher to guide us in our own human transformations to a new and more meaningful reality of life. It’s simultaneously frightening and inspiring. And if spring and winter could naturally co-exist and grow together to a beautiful blossom why not for us humans to do the same as well. A fantastic possibility to grow and expand. With a smile and a conscious play like Nature is wisely showing us the way.

Those last days of #homesweethome I’ve been cooking a lot ~ validating some of my recipes to be able to share them with you, exploring new veggies, legumes and flavour combinations, utilizing some greens I collected last spring and preserved in the freezer. I sinked into listening to some fascinating and inspiring stories told by authentic chefs and got fulfilled with hope and respect. I dived into some very curious insights about bees and the crafing of honey, growing garlic and avocados’ all year abnormal consumption in the world, along with peanut allergies cotemporary implications impacting the agricultural growers of this traditional legume. All in all thoughtful days and insights related to us people and how we approach food, nature and biodiversity, how we preserve local traditions and nurture the #lessismore phylosophy in our daily life. I also have had many video talks with dear to my heart people every day to enjoy and share little moments of joy together. Well…peculiar and unfamiliar times to live through giving us so many chances of renewal and a fresh start. So human. And yes, I realise how easy the virtual communication is, yet the energy of the tete-a-tete one is so much different and fulfilling, so expressive, even when in silence. May the days of physical connection come, may they come to cherish and praise them even more.

These last days are adorable ~ we care and cook for our loved ones, we explore and surprise them, even ourselves. I’m so much into caring and preparing that I couldn’t resist sharing with you three of my favourite recipes that genuinely fit the spring ~ winter mood. Super delicious and simple, a little perfection😊Let me start with this light airy Mediterranean pie with cheese, tomatoes & fresh basil enrobed with some crispy phyllo layers. So simple and splendid for breakfast, especially on weekends when time is indulging and suggesting long slow conversations and laughter over a piece of this airy pie and a cup of coffee and tea. A deliciousness one could not resist. I love its lightness allowing for the main flavour ingrediends to shine and captivate and already prefer it to the classical quiche with pronounced butter dough notes. I tried it with fresh cherry tomatoes, though the surprise came when experimenting with cherry tomatoes confit (long oven baked with mediterranean herbs and extra virgin olive oil for about 50 min. at 120C). I love the cofit approach for this particular pie and also for souflets, omelettes, pasta sauces and Sirene po shopski (the traditional bulgarian dish that I shared in “Bulgarian vegetarian flavours”) as they tenderly caramelise and delicately concentrate their flavours. We have the sensation of juiciness, sweetness and subte acidity that only tomatoes could gift us with. Divine. Usually I bake some more and use them for other dishes in the day, and sometimes combine them with zucchini and aubergines for a more efficient utilisation of the oven.

These last days are adorable ~ we care and cook for our loved ones, we explore and surprise them, even ourselves. I’m so much into caring and preparing that I couldn’t resist sharing with you three of my favourite recipes that genuinely fit the spring ~ winter mood. Super delicious and simple, a little perfection😊Let me start with this light airy Mediterranean pie with cheese, tomatoes & fresh basil enrobed with some crispy phyllo layers. So simple and splendid for breakfast, especially on weekends when time is indulging and suggesting long slow conversations and laughter over a piece of this airy pie and a cup of coffee and tea. A deliciousness one could not resist. I love its lightness allowing for the main flavour ingrediends to shine and captivate and already prefer it to the classical quiche with pronounced butter dough notes. I tried it with fresh cherry tomatoes, though the surprise came when experimenting with cherry tomatoes confit (long oven baked with mediterranean herbs and extra virgin olive oil for about 50 min. at 120C). I love the cofit approach for this particular pie and also for souflets, omelettes, pasta sauces and Sirene po shopski (the traditional bulgarian dish that I shared in “Bulgarian vegetarian flavours”) as they tenderly caramelise and delicately concentrate their flavours. We have the sensation of juiciness, sweetness and subte acidity that only tomatoes could gift us with. Divine. Usually I bake some more and use them for other dishes in the day, and sometimes combine them with zucchini and aubergines for a more efficient utilisation of the oven.

Here is the recipe ~ Mediterranean pie with cheese, tomatoes & fresh basil  ~ for 2-4 portions

For the filling

~ 200g white brine cheese/feta desalted (sliced & soaked in water for 30 min. prior to preparing the pie) & mashed with a fork

~ 3 medium eggs

~ 3 t.s. of yoghurt mixed with a pinch of baking soda for a lighter texture

~ oregano & black pepper to taste

For the pie

~ 14 cherry/campary tomatoes (raw) or 20 (confit)

~ 10 basil leaves (torn in smaller pieces)

~ 4 phyllo pastry layers (wholegrain ones is a preferred option too)

~ 8 t.s. of more simple extra virgin olive oil

~ baking form or ring with d=20 cm*

*in case a bigger pot is used for more portions we increase the ingredients proportionally, same for the phyllo pastry layers to secure the complete wrapping of the pie on the top

Preparation steps to follow

Mix the cheese, eggs and spices well and add the baking soda yoghurt. Mix all carefully to preserve the light airy texture. The filling for our pie is ready.

Coat the walls & bottom of the pot with some extra virgin olive oil and place thre phyllo layers over each other with some extra virgin olive oil in between. Shape a phyllo shell towards the walls of the pot while the corners remain outside as we need them for the wrapping at the end (as shown on the picture above).

Spread half of the filling, place some tomatoes & basil leaves. Fold one phyllo layer on top to separate the two filling spreads, sprinke it with some extra virgin olive oil and put the remaining of the filling, tomatoes and basil. Wrap the pie by placing each four corners on top of each other and seal them well with some extra virgin olive oil ( leave 3 t.s. of evoo for the final wrapping of the pie)

Bake at 180C for about 30 min. in a preheated oven. In case we use just a ring placed on a baking paper remove it carefully and bake for 10 min. more in order the pie to get golden roasted on the sides. If a classical pot is used keep baking for 40 min. In my oven I use bottom heat + ventilator mode and the pie bakes well and without getting burned on top (the phyllo is tender & thus sensitive to strong top heat).

Leave the pie to rest for 15-20 min. and it is ready to serve and be enjoyed!

Let’s now continue with another favourite recipe for Mini pies with potatoes, cheese & herbs or just potatoes with eastern spices. They are very suitable for the whole family also when having guests at home as they are small like muffins and very convenient for enjoying them in 2-3 bites using our hands. We could also prepare them involving the kids as they are fun to make and cultivate new usefull skills (of concentration and patience most of all😊). My observations tell that kids are very curious and love participating and helping in the food preparation at home. Those mini pies are a perfect way to get them started with cooking and love for it.

Here is the recipe ~ Mini pies with potatoes, cheese &  herbs ~ for 12 pieces

~ 5-6 potatoes steamboiled in cubes & mashed with a fork after

~ 4 phyllo pastry layers (wholegrain ones is a preferred option too)

~ mix of Mediterranean herbs (a pinch of thyme & oregano), mix of eastern spices (freshly ground cumin seeds & turmeric ½ tea spoon each)

~ 50g of white brine cheese/ feta (desalted & mashed with a fork) or cream cheese. It gets fantastic with more pungent creamy cheeses

~ pinch of salt for the mashed potatoes

~ 6 t.s. of more simple extra virgin olive oil

~ muffin moulds

Preparation steps to follow

Split the boiled potatoes in two for the two different flavour mixes ~ one with cheese and Mediterranean herbs and the other one with eastern spices.

Place the four phyllo layers on top of each other and using scisors cut them attentively in squares with the size 13x13cm. Take three squares and seal them  together with some extra virgin olive in between, ideally using a cookin brush. In case some narrower pieces remain from the cutting use them in the middle helping the bottom of the mini pie to get more stable.

Coat the moulds with some extra virgin olive oil and place each three layered phyllo square shaping it well with fingers towards the walls.

Split the filling evenly in the moulds, two generous table spoons for each pie in average. Fold the corners on top sealing them with some extra virgin olive oil. Bake at 180C for about 20 min. in a preheated oven until golden roasted.

Serve the mini pies warm and crispy . They are so simple, tasteful and so delightful to the senses!

To give a sweet indulgent Mediterranean final of this spring-winter story, let me share a very splendid orange cake that I recently prepared for my birthday. The inspiration came from the recipe of Michela Chiappa where she uses pears instead. I adore citrus fruits for their bright zesty sensations and especially oranges and very naturally chose to prepare this cake with them, to give it a genuine seasonal flair. Oranges are aromatic and juicy,  they transmit their light and optimism and gift us with a sunny mediterranean mood.  Such is the pie itself ~ a true representation of the flavours of the Mediterranean ~ oranges, almonds, honey and extra virgin olive oil. Lavish, tempting, dreamy and healthy, gathering all the sun and generosity of Nature. Just for an indulgent feast during a #homesweethome quarantine😊

I shared it virtually with my friends and hope to be able to prepare it again soon and bring joy to palate and heart in a live together mode.

Here is the recipe ~ Orange cake with almonds and honey ~ for 8-10 pieces

~ 3 eggs, separate the yolks and whites (keep the eggs at room t for 2-3 hours)

~ 50ml more simple extra virgin olive oil ( I use the delicate Arbequina cultivar from Spain)

~ 100ml liquid honey

~ 225g of ground raw almonds (leaving some bigger 1-2 mm pieces leaves a pleasant nutty bite). Peeled/blanched almonds or a ready almond flour is also an option

~ 1 tea spoon of baking powder

~ ½ tea spoon baking soda

~ 1 tea spoon powdered cinammon

~ ½ tea spoon sea salt (finer size is more suitable)

~ fillets of 3 oranges (circa 270g after leaving them for 1 hour in a sieve for the juice to drain). Keep the peels to prepare fresh orange zest for decoration prior to serving

~ 3-4 t.s. of fine sliced almonds for decoration

~ baking form with a removable ring d=20 cm

Preparation steps to follow

Beat the yolks with the rest of the ingredinets until getting a smooth mix. Add gradually the foamed whites with a large table spoon. Spread evenly the light ready mix into the oiled & flour dusted baking form.

Bake at 160C for about 30 min. in a preheated oven. Monitor the baking process and at the 20th minute check with a tooth pick the readiness of the cake ~ if some dough still remains on the tooth pick. It’s very important not to take the cake out from the oven thus keeping the process uninterrupted.

Sometimes the golden colour and the pleasant baked aromas in the kitchen (that I assure you are adorable) could mislead us for the readuness of the cake. When the tooth pick is dry it is ready! Ovens are different and therefore we need to observe the surface of the cake not to get burned. I used the bottom heat + ventilator mode for 15 min. until the cake getting a nice golden colour. Afterwards I left only the bottom heat mode and covered the top it with a baking paper. The mix is very delicate and gets easily golden on top. In the original recipe Michela Chiappa bakes the cake with the sliced almonds. In case you try this option, cover with baking paper not to overburn the almonds and use bottom heat mode (as described above).

Leave the ready cake to cool down, take it out of the form and place it carefully on a serving plate.  Decorate it  with the sliced almonds and fresh orange zest to compliment the Mediterranean flavour richness. It’s ready to be served and its speacialness shared.

I wish you ultimate delight for the senses!

~ we are what we live ~ we are what we eat ~ food for change ~