12 July 2011

Rhodes - Yummm!

I couldn't come up with a witty title, that takes too much thinking time, when we're only here for a week and it gets in the way of eating time. Rhodes is a typical mediterranean island, with it's emphasis on vegetables, fresh fruit, olive oil, pulses, grains, fish, poultry and little red meat is a diet low in saturated fat and rich in vitamins and healthy omega 3’s. The benefits of a Mediterranean diet are heralded in a number of studies, the most famous conducted by Harvard University’s school Public Health in the 1990s. Rhodes, part of the Dodecanese Island groups, showcases the best of Greece in terms of the Mediterranean diet and is part of an awesome Aegean Cuisine initiative - a campaign by the Dodecanese and Cyclades Island groups to highlight and protect the traditional foods of these islands.

We took a tour around the island with Nicklos, an Egyptian born half Italian/half Greek Rhodian who has lived in Rhodes for 20 years - how's that for multicultural. Driving through the countryside, we were amazed at the vast number of olive trees. Nicklos proudly shared that Greeks consume more than 18 litres of olive oil per year (seriously! I googled it to check), compare that to what is thought of as the olive oil capital of the world Italy where the amount is roughly 9 litres per person.

Rhodes is a large island, with 220 kilometres of coastline, so it is not surprising that seafood features as a nightly dish here.  Most common are fish like grouper, sea bass, and red snapper, sometimes cooked in sauces, but mostly grilled whole, drizzled with olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and served with a fresh garden salad. A Rhodian favourite is to sandwich freshly sliced tomatoes, green pepper and oregano between two slices of feta cheese, wrap well in tinfoil and pop onto the grill while the fish is cooking, turning it often. What results is a beautiful creamy, salty, sweet (from the tomatoes) and fragrant dip that is fabulous with the fish and freshly baked bread.

We popped into a traditional Greek Taverna in the old city of Rhodes for lunch and were served a vast and varied Greek platter full of traditional dishes including Mezedes. Similar to Mezes in the Middle East or Tapas in Spain, Mezedes are a variety of small dishes. Our platter held some fabulous dishes like taramoe salad (a delicate fish roe spread), melizanosalata (a smoky aubergine salad), dolmadas (stuffed vine leaves dripping with olive oil and fresh lemon juice), keftedes (tender beef and lamb meatballs) and saganaki (creamy baked feta). There was also a hearty helping of olives, greek salad, tzatziki (creamy cucumber dip) and a glorious melt in your mouth Moussaka (a cheesy beef, tomato and aubergine dish).

We're loving Rhodes, it's a beautiful island with so much to offer - thousands of years of eventful history (I still can't figure out who 'controlled' Rhodes and when), super-friendly locals, crystal clear seas, fantastic scenery, and absolutely fabulous food, cooked simply and perfectly, using the freshest ingredients.

Keftedes with Tzatki

·         4 slices white bread, torn into pieces
·         2 tablespoons milk
·         1 clove garlic, minced
·         1 onion, quartered
·         2 tablespoons fresh mint
·         1 teaspoon salt
·         ground black pepper to taste
·         250 grams minced beef
·         250 grams minced lamb
·         3 eggs
·         1/2 cup flour for dredging
·         vegetable oil for frying


1.    Moisten the bread pieces with the milk in a large bowl, and set aside.
2.    Place garlic, onion, mint, salt, and pepper. Process until the onion is finely chopped. Add the onion mixture to the bowl with the moist bread, along with the beef, lamb, and eggs. Mix with your hands until thoroughly blended.
3.    Roll the mixture into balls measuring 4 to 5 cm in diameter. Place the flour in a shallow pan, and roll the balls in the flour to coat. Shake off any excess flour, and place the meatballs onto a plate or baking sheet, pressing to flatten slightly. This will keep them from rolling away.
4.    Heat 2cm of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the meatballs, 8 or 10 at a time, and cook until nicely browned on the outside and no longer pink in the center, about 10 minutes; drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Repeat with remaining meatballs. Alternatively, place the uncooked meatballs on a lined baking tray, spray with oil and bake for 15 minutes at 180 degrees Celsius, turning once.


·         3 tablespoons olive oil
·         1 tablespoon vinegar
·         2 cloves garlic, minced finely
·         1/2 teaspoon salt
·         1/4 teaspooon white pepper
·         1 cup greek yogurt, strained
·         1 cup sour cream
·         2 cucumbers, peeled, seeded and diced
·         1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill


1.    Combine olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and pepper in a bowl. Mix until well combined.
2.    Using a whisk, blend the yogurt with the sour cream. Add the olive oil mixture to the yogurt mixture and mix well.
3.    Finally, add the cucumber and chopped fresh dill. Chill for at least two hours before serving.

1 July 2011

Filling the Biscuit Tins

I was born in the wrong era. I should have been born in the 50s when donning a frilly apron and spending all day in the kitchen baking was the way to fill the biscuit tins.
I have really fond memories of baking day with mum. Once a week she'd pop the oven on, get out her lovely old kenwood mixer with porcelain bowls and start mixing. At the end of it she'd have filled tin after tin with gorgeous home made biscuits (cookies for you American folk).
My favourites were:
  • afghan biscuits - delicious chocolate treats with sweet chocolate icing and a piece of walnut (never figured the walnut thing out, we always took it off to eat them)
  • hokey pokey biscuits - delightly soft and chewy golden syrup morsels, popped onto the tray as balls and squished down with a fork, they look and taste so wonderfully home-made
  • melting moments - which did what it said on the tin, and 'melted' delicately in your mouth. The trick was to shove the whole biscuit in, and let it dissolve while munching - a bit gross if you were watching, but hey, we were kids, and we didn't care (actually I still don't when it comes to scoffing bickies)
  • and finally, shortbread, so soft and buttery and divinely crumbly (mum would cut it into squares - I like to cut it into shapes, but then I don't have 6 kids to deal with and clean up after, so have lots more time)

It was the little chefs last day at nursery and school this week, so the 3 of us baked the teachers thank you gifts. Actually little chef number 2 got bored in the first 5 minutes so he went upstairs to play the Wii, followed about 10 minutes later by little chef number 1. That's ok, as much fun as it is baking with them, it's a teensy bit slower, and I had a lot to cook. I had so much fun recreating my favourite biscuits. I dusted off the Edmonds cookbook, a NZ institution - every household has one, so all credit for these recipes goes to the Edmonds team. I plugged in my fire engine red Kitchen Aid (I love my KA) and baked the afternoon away.
So here's the recipes.
  • 200 grams butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup cocoa
  • 2 cups cornflakes
  1. Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Sift flour and cocoa together and stir into creamed mixture
  3. Fold in conflakes and put mounds of mixture onto a tray lined with baking paper
  4. Bake at 180 degrees celcius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 15 minutes.
  5. When cold ice with chocolate icing - mix 2 cups icing sugar with 2 tablespoons water and 1 tablespoon cocoa
Hokey Pokey biscuits
  • 125 grams butter
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  1. Heat butter, sugar, golden syrup and milk in a pot until butter is melted and mixture is nearly boiling, remove from heat and allow mixture to cool to lukewarm
  2. Sift flour and baking soda together and add to cooled mixture, mix well
  3. Roll tablespoons of the mixture into balls and place onto a try lined with baking paper. Flatten with a fork
  4. Bake at 180 degrees celcius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 15 to 20 minutes until golden brown.
Melting Moments
  • 200 grams butter, softened
  • 3/4 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • buttercream icing or raspberry jam
  1. Cream butter and icing sugar until light and fluffy
  2. Sift flour, cornflour and baking powder together and mix into creamed mixture, stirring well
  3. Roll dough into small balls the size of large marbles and place on a tray lined with baking paper, flatten slightly with a fork
  4. Bake at 180 degrees celcius (350 degrees fahrenheit) for 20 minutes.
  5. Cool and sandwich two biscuits together with buttercream or raspberry jam
oops - no photo here, there aren't any left over - excuse me while I wipe the crumbs off my chin.
  • 250 grams butter
  • 1 cup icing sugar
  • 1 cup cornflour
  • 2 cups flour
  1. Cream butter and icing sugar together till light and fluffy
  2. Sift flour and cornflour together and mix into creamed mixture
  3. Knead well
  4. Roll out to about 1.5 cm thickness (it mightn't roll well, mine started to break apart, so as I rolled it, I squidged it together)
  5. Cut shapes out or cut into squares, pop onto a tray lined with baking paper, and prick all over with a fork
  6. Bake at 150 degrees celcius (290 degrees fahrenheit) for 30 minutes until golden brown

I packed them all into jars and popped labels on, this one was for little chef number 1's  teacher Mrs Daniels - a great big thank you.