Sandy's Kitchen

Lifestyle//


//A land of blue dances with the sun with a glint and sparkle,
its fringe laps against an island of thirsty browns and olive greens. Trees grow as bent as its inhabitants, with their crumpled faces,
they wander over stony paths, meandering past patches of brilliantly white washed homes doors ajar and blue.


Greece has seen a resurgence of popularity in recent years, with its pull of warm Azure coloured waters, arid sun-splashed landscapes, white stucco walled architecture and of course the weakened economy, this is the perfect island getaway for both the budget conscious, or the all-out luxury holiday. The flavours of the Greece are a hot foodie favourite at the moment, not only is their rich, hearty olive oil infused cuisine delicious, it is probably one of the healthiest ways of eating in the world today.

Greece is a palette of white-clean minimalistic lines, interspersed with shades of blue; dusty, navy, and pale blue, all with a kiss and blush of sunshine, sea. This month’s colour chart is bringing out the goddess in Grecian chic!

Do.

“I felt once more how simple and frugal a thing is happiness: a glass of wine, a roast chestnut, a wretched little brazier, the sound of the sea. Nothing else. – Nikos Kazantzakis

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For this month’s lifestyle blog, I’m drawing inspiration from my recent 2 weeks of languishing in the salty turquoise waters of Greece – where I found myself lost and happy amongst the tiny cobbled lanes, between the glare of white washed houses, feasting on meze appetizers, washed down with the bite of liquorice flavoured Ouzo. Where I found myself quiet amid the buzz and song of the summer time Cicadas, surrounded by gnarled and weathered olive trees that stand protectively on the islands (like old soldiers returning from battle). Lazily banqueting on the spoils of Greek fare, life slowed down to a Mediterranean siesta and with it I came back hungry to share with you the spoils of Greek living.

Today’s tablescape is a Classic Greek one – borrowing from the simplicity and colour palette of the Greek flag – blue and white. I have used a crisp white linen tablecloth as the foundation to the setting and combined blues, whites, a splash of yellow, with fresh cuttings of bougainvillea pink to emulate a Greek getaway.

Building on the white background, I have kept to the simplicity of the theme, by creating layer upon layer of the blue white palette. A checked tablecloth table runner (folded and given a little height) lies as a subtle centre piece, accentuating the glassware, flowers and accessory’s in an informal orderliness. Next come the white underplates (which double up as place mats), topped by Azure Blue glass plates, and held in place by large crisp white napkins emblazoned with bold blue stripes. The cutlery atop the napkins are the silvery full stop to each arrangement, a classic finishing of style and simplicity.

*Remember as a general rule of thumb, match your palette, not your pattern – if the colour works well together, the pattern will work even better! When it comes to mixing patterns, stripes are your magic ace, they go with almost every pattern and are perfect for our Greek themed table setting. 

The delicate Egyptian Blue glassware stand dramatically, offset against the white background. While the candles flicker softly, reminiscent of a balmy Greek night – once again I have applied my rule of three in the set-up of plain white candles housed in clear glass holders. I love candles, I love the warm softness they offer to any setting (day or night). Nothing creates ambience quite like a soft flickering candle. Candles quickly create an intimacy to a tablescape, simultaneously inviting and relaxing the guests.

*Remember it’s not necessary to rush out and buy candle holders, instead, clean out your collection of old jam, olive, or sauce jars and pop in some candles, and place them on the table and turn down the lights for maximum atmosphere.

I have added a shock of pink to the centre piece, a spray of Bougainvillea – this delicate, richly hued flower that is prolific in Greece is a lovely hint of island life. Adding further contrast, I’ve dotted in a few lemons, a collection of glass olive oil bottles and a favourite old, slightly rusted blue tin to finish off an understated and typically Greek table setting.

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This month’s boldly coloured attention grabbing floral arrangement draws from the charming wild and tamed flowers of Greece – naturally I wasn’t able to get my hands on many of the endemic flowers of Greece, but I have emulated colour, texture and shape with our local fauna.

This cluster of soft pastels and garden-fresh flowers create a delicate and whimsically romantic arrangement. The ruffled loose petals of the Bougainvillea is the perfect floral partner to roses, poenies, and even orchids. I’ve used the Bougainvillea as a small accent to the arrangement, as this vividly coloured flower can quickly overpower a bouquet if used too much. The green-toned variety of foliage holds the arrangement together as it purposely spills from its rectangular container. The colours are distinct, while they are mixed, I have intentionally kept colours together to create a more dramatic effect. This simple arrangement of heavenly colour and scent is arranged with a playful and fun intent.

Eat.

Greek food is one of my favourite cuisines – its an uncomplicated and simple way of eating that bursts with rich buttery textures, garlicky flavours, and olive oil drenching’s. So, I’ve decided to treat you this month with my favourite selection of glorious Greek recipes.

Tzatziki yoghurt with cucumber and garlic

I will eat this with everything. An absolute favourite.

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 small cucumber
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 350g greek yoghurt
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons chopped mint

Method:

  • Using the flat side of your knife, crush the garlic with a pinch of salt into a paste. Put into a small boil with the oil and leave it to marinate while you attend to the next few steps.
  • Top and tail the cucumber, and peel it. Using the large holes of your grater, grate the cucumber into a sieve.
  • Scatter with salt and leave it for 30 minutes, more or less, to drain. I would recommend turning it over a couple of times and even squashing it down with your hands or a wooden spoon.
  • Put the yoghurt into a bowl for serving. Add the garlic and oil, the mint and a couple of grinds of black pepper.Fold the cucumber through and taste to see if you need anymore salt. And there you go.

Makes a good bowlful

Tirokafteri, Spicy Feta

This recipe is great for a tapas evening or as a quick snack with a piece of bread.

Ingredients:

  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 mild green chillies
  • 240g feta, broken into smallish pieces
  • Olive oil to serve
  • A pinch of ground chilli

Method:

  • Preheat your oven the hottest it will go. Peel the garlic and bruise it with the flat side of your knife and put it into a bowl with olive oil. Let it steep.
  • Trim and de-seed the chillies. Put them on a sheet of foil and dry roast them in the oven for about 10 minutes, until soft and blistery.
  • Chop the chillies finely and put them in a blender with a tablespoon of the oil and blend to a paste.
  • Add the feta and pulse until all the lumps are gone.
  • Scrape into a bowl and stir in the olive oil without the garlic. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of the ground chilli.

 

You can spice it up as much as you like. My family and I enjoy a little more heat and therefore I have a heavy hand with the ground chilli.

Makes roughly one cup.

Dolmades, Stovetop Stuffed Vine Leaves

We often cook these for our functions and clients who can’t resist Mediterranean-inspired cuisine. They are easy to make, bit-size nibbles that you can enjoy during any occasion. I definitely prefer them with a glass of white wine and friends, catching some sun around a garden table.

Ingredients:

  • 35-40 good whole vine leaves, and a few torn ones
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 red onions, grated in the large holes of a grater
  • 200 medium-grain rice
  • 4 large tomatoes, 3 grated on the large house of the grater (skins stay behind in your hand) and 1 for the topping
  • 1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon dried mint

Bottled and pre-packed vine leaves are already blanched and are available from large supermarkets.

Method for fresh vines:

  • Collect the vine leaves from the last 20cm or so of unsprayed young vines. Choose leaves that are roughly the size of your hand and are tender, unmarked and not torn. Cut them off leaving just a few millimetres of the stem at the base of the leaf. Rinse well. I would say drain them at least twice.
  • Put in stacks of 20 or so, then roll them up into a loose cigar and tie with string. Dip each roll into a pot of boiling water. This is a quick in and out, then drain and let it cool. If you are not going to use them straight away – you can put the rolls in an airtight container and freeze them over time.

Method if store brought vines:

  • Put your leaves in a large bowl of cold water and soak them for a bit. A few minutes should do. Drain, pat them dry and then stack in piles for later.
  • Heat 5 tablespoons of the oil in a large frying pan with a lid. Once the oil is hot, turn down the heat to medium and sauté your onions until they are nice and golden. Next, add the rice and stir until coated.
  • Now it is time to add the tomato, parsley, lemon juice and mint. Remember to season well with salt and pepper. Put the lid on and leave to simmer for more or less 10 minutes. Keep an eye on the rice, when it has softened, plumped up, and most of the liquid has been absorbed, it is ready. Remove from the heat and leave it to sit for another 5 minutes with the lid on.
  • Use a few torn vine leaves to cover the bottom of a wide heavy-based pot. Lay a few whole vine leaves at a time on your work surface with the shiny side down. Spoon heaped tablespoons of your filling, about 20g, into each leaf and roll it up neatly. Tuck the sides in after the first roll and continue to roll them. This will ensure your rolls stay snug.
  • Put them in the pot in concentric circles, starting on the outside, and make a second layer if necessary.

Tiropita Cheese Pies

Some days you feel like something light. Pair these pies with a salad and your easy lunch is ready to be served.

Ingredients:

  • 27 sheets of phyllo pastry, final dimensions 23 x 25cm
  • Olive oil for brushing

Filling:

  • 450g feta, grated coarsely
  • 200g ricotta
  • 80ml milk

Method:

  • Start with the filling. Put the feta, ricotta and milk in a bowl and mash it well.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C and grease a 32 X 20 cm ovenproof dish. Cut the phyllo sheets to size and keep them covered with a tea towel to prevent them from drying out.
  • Put some olive oil in a small bowl and get ready to work quickly. This is very important, because you don’t want the pastry to dry and crack. Always cover the phyllo you are not working with, with a tea towel.
  • Lay 1 phyllo sheet flat on a work surface and brush it with olive oil, completely cover it. Lay another sheet neatly on top, brush it with olive oil and repeat once more. You should have 3 layers.
  • Spoon 2 flat tablespoons of filling onto the end each cut piece of phyllo and fold to make a triangle. 
  • Brush the top with olive oil and bake until golden brown.

Makes 9

Yigandes, Baked Giant Butter Beans

I fell in love with these butter beans during our holiday in Greece. If you can’t find the giant beans, Cannellini beans will do just fine.

Ingredients:

  • 500g dried giant butter beans
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 garlic cloves, 2 whole, 2 chopped
  • 125ml olive oil
  • 1 large red onion, chopped
  • 400g tin crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 heaped tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 4 thyme sprigs

Method:

  • Put the beans in a bowl with plenty of cold water and soak overnight. Drain and rinse, then put into a spot and cover well with water. Bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that comes to the surface. Drain and give the beans a good rinse in a colander.
  • Wipe off any scum from the sides of the pot, cover with plenty of water and add the bay leaf and the 2 whole garlic cloves. Bring to the boil again, lower the heat and cook, partly covered, for about 1 1/4 hours, until the beans are tender.
  • Skim the surface when necessary. Add the salt just towards the end. Now, preheat the oven to 180°C.
  • Meanwhile, heat the oil in a flame-proof casserole dish and sauté the onion until golden. Add the chopped garlic and cook until it smells great, then add the tomato and tomato paste. Season with some salt and pepper. Swill the tomato tin with a few tablespoons of water and add to the tomato. Simmer uncovered for a few minutes.
  • Add the parsley and the thyme sprigs, and remove from the heat.
  • When the beans are tender, transfer with a slotted spoon to the casserole. Add enough water to just cover. Turn through gently. Taste for salt and pepper.
  • Cover and bake for 45 minutes or until beans are creamy and there is some thickened sauce left in the pot. Take the lid off and bake until a bit crusty on the top. It should take 15 minutes or so.
  • Cool a little before serving.

Serves 6 to 8

Salata Horiatiki, Greek Salad

The quality of your ingredients are really important for this classic Greek salad to shine.

Ingredients:

  • 8 small ripe tomatoes, quartered
  • 1 cucumber, sliced thickly on the diagonal
  • 1 small-medium red onion, sliced
  • More or less 17 drained kalamata olives in brine
  • 1 heaped tablespoons capers
  • 2 small handfuls of glistrida if you can get it
  • 150g slab of feta
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, optional

Method:

  • Put the tomatoes, cucumber, onion, olives and capers into a serving bowl. Add the glistrida and season with a little salt and a few grinds of pepper. Put the slab of feta on top and crumble the oregano over with your fingers. Drizzle the olive oil and red wine vinegar over. Done.
  • Serve with delicious, freshly baked bread.

Serves 2 to 4

Psari Ladolemono, Grilled Fish with Lemon Oil

With spending so much time on the beach, you constantly crave fish. This recipe is easy and so delicious that no matter where in SA you prepare it, you will feel like you are dipping your toes into the ocean.

Ingredients:

  • 4 tablespoons of the best olive oil
  • Juice of 1 large juicy lemon
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 2 500g each sea bream, scaled and cleaned
  • Olive oil for brushing
  • Salt, pepper and oregano (Alatopiperigano) to serve
  • 2 tablespoons roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley, to serve
  • Method:
  • This fish is best cooked on the fire – so, start by preparing your braai.
  • While you wait for your coals to get ready, start with the lemon oil by whipping the lemon juice together in a small bowl until it becomes creamy. Add the whole garlic clove and put aside for the flavours to steep.
  • Rinse the fish inside and out, and cut off their fins. Pat them dry with paper towels. Scatter their insides with salt, and salt and lightly pepper their outer skin.
  • Once your coals are ready, position you rack about 10cm from the coals and brush with olive oil. Lay the fish on top of the grill until the underside is golden and crusty here and there. Then only should you turn the fish over and grill the other side too.
  • Remove and place your fish on a platter. Take the garlic clove out from the lemon oil and give it one last whip before drizzling over the fish. Scatter well with your salt, pepper and oregano mix and then finish it off with a sprinkle of parsley.
  • Serve hot, with an extra bowl for the bones. 

Serves 4

Arni Lemonato, Lemon & Oregano Lamb

This is a dish that is hassle-free. Once it is in the oven, you can sit back for a while and take in the day outside – working up an appetite.

Ingredients:

  • 375ml fresh lemon juice (6 to 7 lemons)
  • 125ml olive oil
  • 1 heaped tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1.5kg leg of lamb, bone hacked in one place and hinged, so it fits in the dish
  • 1.2kg potatoes, cut into nice big chunks

Method:

  • Mix the lemon juice, olive oil and oregano with 375ml of water in a large non-corrosive baking dish. Use your salt and black pepper and rub the lamb well all-over and put it in the marinade. Turn it over a couple of times to coat well. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours, turning it frequently throughout your waking hours.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C. Cover the lamb with a sheet of baking paper and then cover the dish tightly with 3 layers of foil. Bake for 1 hour. Turn the lamb over, cover again and reduce the heat to 150°C. Bake the lamb for another 2 hours.
  • When the 2 hours come to an end, turn the lamb gently as it will be very tender. Add the potatoes to the dish and sprinkle a little salt over them. Cover again and bake for 2 hours, turning the potatoes once during this time. Remove the foil, shuffle the potatoes and put back in the oven at 200°C. Roast until the potatoes are a little golden here and there. This takes about 20 to 30 minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and rest the lamb for 5 minutes before serving.

Greek-style Lamb Meatball Salad

 Ingredients:

  • 80ml olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 1 1/2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup thick Greek-style yoghurt
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped mint leaves, plus extra leaves to garnish
  • 2 baby cos, leaves separated
  • 2 roasted peppers, cut into strips
  • 1 small cucumber, halved lengthways, sliced
  • 1/2 cup mixed marinated olives

Method:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes or until softened. Add the garlic, cumin and paprika and cook for 30 seconds or until fragrant. Transfer to a large bowl and allow to cool. Once the onions have cooled down, add the lamb, breadcrumbs and egg. Season the mix and stir to combine all your ingredients.
  • With damp hands, form the mixture into 20 walnut-sized balls. Once you have used all your mix, chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a a large frying pan over medium heat. In batches, cook the meatballs, turning, for 3-4 minutes until browned all over.  Place on a large baking tray and bake in the oven for 6-8 minutes.
  • Place the thick yoghurt in a bowl with 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 tablespoon chopped mint. Season with salt and pepper, then stir to combine.
  • Depending on the occasion. Arrange the lettuce, peppers, cucumber and olives on a large serving platter or in individual bowls.
  • Lightly whisk remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil with the remaining lemon juice and chopped mint. Season to taste, then drizzle dressing over your salad. Scatter meatballs on top, drizzle with the yoghurt mixture and garnish with mint leaves.

Enjoy!

Baklava

Baklava is a wonderful sweet treat to share with your family on a Sunday or any celebration.

Ingredients:

  • 150g almonds, crushed, but with some texture
  • 150g walnuts, crushed, but with some texture
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 22 sheets of phyllo pastry, cut to the dimensions of your dish
  • 150g unsalted butter, melted to golden brown
  • 30 whole cloves for decorating

For the syrup:

  • 360g sugar
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • Strip of lemon peel
  • 2 or 3 small cinnamon rolls

Method:

  • Preheat the oven to 180°C and start with the syrup while you wait for the oven to heat up.
  • Put all your syrup ingredients in a saucepan with 1 cup of water and bring to the boil, stirring. Let it simmer for 5 to 6 minutes. Take it off the stove and let it cool.
  • Mix the almonds, walnuts, sugar and cinnamon together in a bowl. Have the phyllo sheets ready, covered by a tea towel to prevent them from drying out. Brush the base of your dish, I use a 22x30cm ovenproof dish, with butter. Lay your first sheet of the phyllo at the bottom and brush with butter. Continue layering and brushing with butter until you have a neat stack of about 10 sheets lining the bottom of your dish.
  • Spread half the nut mixture over the phyllo, patting it down firmly and levelling the surface. Now, cover with another 2 sheets of phyllo, again buttering each layer.
  • Scatter the rest of the nuts over evenly and press down gently. Time to lay down the last 10 sheets of pastry, buttering each one and finishing off with the final layer, buttered.
  • Using a small sharp knife, cut diamonds on the diagonal of about 6x6cm. Cut all the way through the layers of the phyllo as this will make it easier to lift out the pieces when serving.
  • Flick just a little cold water over the top to prevent the layers from curling up. Stud the centre of each diamond with a clove and your are ready to go to the oven. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Gently pour half the syrup all over the baklava. Wait for it to absorbed then pour over the rest and leave to cool completely before serving.
  • Your baklava will keep, unrefrigerated, for at least a week – just remember to cover it to keep out those nasty flies.
Sandy’s Kitchen
Recommends
Willow Creek Extra Virgin Olive Oil

The basics of all good Greek food starts with a fabulously good olive oil – My personal favourite and go-to olive oil is Willow Creek’s Extra Virgin Olive Oil – it’s a premium quality robust tasting olive oil. With hints of artichokes, tomato, fresh rocket and salad herbs, all adding to create a smooth combination of bitterness and tingling pungency, giving body to the oil without overpowering the flavour. It complements red meat, hearty soups, pasta, drizzled over salads, and basically is a fundamental ingredient in my kitchen.

Travel.

While an influx of tourists flocked to the Cycladic islands in Greece this year and the renowned islands of Paros, Santorini, Mykonos, and Naxo filled to maximum capacity – we decided to seek refuge in the lesser-known and somehow still ‘secret island’ – Antiparos. This small whitewashed island, with haphazardly cobbled streets, blue doors and Bougainvillea is a bay almost untouched by tourism. The sister island to Paros, Antiparos can be reached by either a quick plane or ferry ride. Once here, you will quickly understand why this small barefoot island is referred to as the hippie island – a term coined after a number of hippies from the 70’s washed up on the shore to start a nudist camp, which successfully still runs today. Antiparos offers the cash-strapped traveller the option of beautiful seaside camping amongst bamboo trees, as well as the top end traveller the choice of luxurious self-catered homes or a handful of luxury hotels.

The village is flat and spread out, with an impressive 1400 Genovese fortress holding court in its centre. Spilling down towards the waterfront is a choice of charming Greek cafes – with smells that have you quickly salivating for their pillow-soft pitas, creamy Greek salads and platters of garlicky and rosemary laden lamb. And if you are in the mood for a home-cooked Greek meal, you can head down to the harbour where local fishermen sell their daily catch, coupled with the sun-ripened fruit and vegetables, which you can buy at the small supermarkets – you’re in for a simple, yet delicious treat.

This rugged and slightly remote island is thought to house the oldest stalagmite in Europe in the Cave of Antiparos. You can now visit and climb to the bowels of this deep cave with the assistance of long windy and vertical stairs. Although there is no elevator to bring you back up, this experience is worth the climb and will have you marvelling at the adventurers who climbed down in the dark, on ropes and pulleys to carve their names into the soft rock.

This island of free spirits and artists offers a rarity in a Greek summer, solitude and peace. If it’s far from the madding crowd you’re looking for, you might just have found your slice of Greek heaven.

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