Monday, 27 April 2015

Gemistes - Greek Stuffed Tomatoes

I adore Greek food and this is a dish I first tried on the island of Crete, in a lovely little village called Gouves about six or seven years ago. I've since experimented and made my own versions of 'Gemistes' (stuffed vegetables) and I think this version is the definitive one. 

It goes down well with veggies and meat-lovers alike and you could of course adapt it to include some minced beef, pork or lamb or make it slightly more indulgent by including some feta cheese which will melt and make it unctuously delicious. 

You can also use bell peppers instead, but I prefer the texture that the tomatoes take on once baked. 

This is one of the many dishes I make for 'Greek night' at my house and my girlfriends love it - it transports us to sunny holiday memories.

This makes enough for six people and is best served with some 'horta' or salad leaves and some Tzatziki.

Gemistes Greek Stuffed Tomatoes

Gemistes as part of a Greek feast
  • 6 beef tomatoes
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 courgette
  • 1 green pepper
  • 1 red or yellow pepper
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Handful of fresh mint
  • Enough rice to fill the tomatoes (will depend on the size - I used about 100g dried rice here) 
  • Fresh vegetable stock (optional)
  1. Firstly place the rice on to cook - preferably in some fresh vegetable stock for added flavour but in salted water is also fine.
  2. Next carefully slice off the tops of the tomatoes, retaining the green part as it just looks nicer at the end. Use a sharp knife to gently score around the inside of the tomatoes to loosen up the inside, then scoop out the flesh with a teaspoon and discard. Add a tiny amount of salt to the inside of each tomato then turn upside down on a plate to allow some of the moisture to trickle away.
  3. Next dice the onion, courgette and peppers and crush the garlic and add to a pan on a low heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Gently saute for about five minutes until just softened
  4. Chop the fresh mint finely.
  5. Once the rice is cooked, drain away any remaining water, place into a bowl and use a fork to fluff up a little. Add the mint and the sauteed vegetables, the pinch of salt and black pepper and stir thoroughly so everything is evenly distributed. 
  6. Place the tomatoes into a baking dish or tray, the right way up now, and scoop even amounts of the rice mixture into each, right up to the top. Use a spoon to tap firmly down so the tomato is completely full of delicious rice. 
  7. Place the lids of each tomato on top and then loosely cover the whole dish with tinfoil to protect the skins from charring. 
  8. Place into the oven and bake for 30 minutes. Allow to rest for a few minutes when they come out of the oven as they will be piping hot, and then serve with your accompaniments and preferably a crisp glass of white wine or a bottle of Mythos Greek beer and allow yourself to be transported to holidays gone by. 

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Baby Bites Herby Courgette and Feta Fritter Cakes

I experimented with making these like 'cakes' in the oven rather than frying as I thought they would be less calorific and greasy than the usual tupe of fritter and they came out rather well. 

As well as being a great and unusual finger food for your little one they can be enjoyed by the whole family too. They certainly went down well with my girlfriends on Saturday night who were over for a Greek feast night.

These are very easy to prepare and the below makes a good 12 cakes, they keep well in the fridge for a couple of days and are great with the below yoghurty dip or with some classic Greek Tzatziki

2 medium sized courgettes
1 pack of feta
1 heaped tbsp fresh chopped mint
1 heaped tbsp fresh chopped dill
1 egg
Pinch of black pepper
2 tbsp Greek natural yoghurt
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Pop the oven on at around 180.

Cut the ends off of the courgettes then grate them both into a bowl, discarding only when the floppy, middle part is left.

Squeeze out any excess moisture from the grated courgette with some kitchen towel.

Crumble in the cheese - this is a completely 'rustic' affair, so don't spend time cutting into equal shapes and sizes, just crumble in as it falls. 

Chop the mint and dill and add the bowl with the black pepper and give a good stir. 

Beat the egg in a separate bowl and add to the courgette mixture to bind and again stir.

Use a pastry brush and a little olive oil to brush the cavities of a cupcake baking tray to prevent sticking. 

Spoon the mixture evenly into each hole and once all distributed, use the back of the spoon to press down on them to ensure the 'cakes' keep their shape during cooking.

Finally place in the oven and allow to cook for 20-25 minutes or until nicely golden brown.

Whilst cooling enough for little one to handle - combine the yoghurt and lemon juice and place a teaspoon full onto a child-friendly plate with two of the cakes broken into bite sized pieces. 

Baby Bites Avocado On Toast

Ok so this isn't strictly a recipe, but it is a great idea for a healthy breakfast or lunch idea for your little one, and one that you can have at the same time.

Avocado is filled with nutrients and particularly high in vitamin E, potassium and iron - all important components in our diets. Also whilst they are quite 'fatty' they contain mainly all 'good' fats.

The below makes enough for two slices of Avocado on Toast, one cut up into small pieces will be more than sufficient for your baby, so enjoy the other half yourself - I add fresh chopped red chilli to mine! 

1 avocado
1 slice of wholemeal or granary bread
Squeeze of lime or lemon juice

Firstly pop the bread under the grill or into the toaster and lightly toast.

In the meantime, cut the avocado in half, remove the stone (you can do this by pressing into the stone with a sharp knife, then simply lifting the stone out whilst holding onto the half of avocado).

Scoop the flesh of the avocado out into a small bowl and gently mash with a fork, leaving some small lumps so it still has some texture and isn't completely pureed.

Add a squeeze of either lime or lemon juice, which as well as helping the avocado to keep its’ trademark green colour for a while, also adds a lovely zingy freshness to it. Give another stir through to ensure it all has a citrussy zing running through.

Once the toast has cooled for a few moments, spoon on half of the avocado and spread over the toast evenly. There's no need to use butter as well.

Cut into bite-sized pieces and allow baby to feed him or herself one at a time. 

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Feta and Spinach Open Filo Tart

This is a lovely open tart based on the classic Greek ‘spanakopita’ comprising feta cheese and spinach. It’s very easy to prepare, looks great and is a crowd pleaser.

200g spinach
1 clove garlic
20g salted butter
200g feta
2 eggs
4-5 sheets of filo pastry
Bunch of spring onions
Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp nutmeg
Salt & pepper
1 tsp oregano (dried is best)

Pre-heat the oven to about 180⁰.

Firstly use a pastry brush and completely oil up your tart dish. You can use a tart or flan dish, mine broke recently so I instead used a 20cm deep baking sandwich tin (what you’d use for a Victoria Sandwich cake), which is perfectly sufficient.

Next place one layer of filo over the tin, pressing down so it moulds to the tin and scrunching over the sides so you get the lovely crunchy exterior. Brush with oil and repeat until there are 4-5 layers. And brush each layer with a little oil too.

Crush your garlic and chop the spring onions and add to a frying pan with the butter on a low heat and allow to soften.

Wash the spinach then dry off with a tea towel or kitchen roll and try and remove as much moisture as possible to avoid the dreaded soggy bottom. Once dry add to the pan and wilt down in the garlicy butter.

Pop the spinach into a bowl or jug and add the two eggs (beaten first), dice the feta and add to the mix. Add the grating of nutmeg and a good pinch of salt and black pepper plus teaspoon of dried oregano and mix well.

Pour into the tart base and allow to stand for ten minutes.

Place into the oven and bake for 25-30 minutes or until the top is golden brown and the cheese has begun to melt.

Allow to cool a little and serve – preferably with a simple salad. 

Baby Bites Salmon and Dill Potato Pancakes

These are lovely, soft and fluffy potato based pancakes that go great with a squeeze of lemon and some natural yoghurt. Perfect as a weekend lunch for baby but with the addition of a big pinch of salt, these work as a great brunch dish for the grown-ups too.

Once cooked, allow to cool, and cut into smaller, bite-sized pieces and they make a great finger food for little one. The below makes approximately 5-6 pancakes. 

Salmon and Dill Potato Pancakes with Lemon Yoghurt

1 large potato
1 fillet of salmon
1 egg
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1 heaped tbsp fresh chopped dill
1 tbsp chopped spring onions
1 tbsp Greek natural yoghurt
1/2 lemon

Pop the oven on at 180⁰C (ish), prick the potato all over and place into the oven to bake for 30-40 minutes or until the inside is soft and fluffy.

For the last ten minutes of cooking, wrap the salmon fillet in some tinfoil, pop into an oven proof dish and cook in the oven.

Chop the dill and spring onions whilst everything else is cooking.

Once the potato and salmon are removed from the oven and have cooled slightly, scoop out the soft potato filling into a bowl and gently mash with a fork, allowing some texture to remain.

Flake in the salmon and mix in with the spring onion and dill until nicely combined.

Beat an egg in a separate bowl and add to potato and salmon mixture stirring with a wooden spoon.

Add a little bit of the flour at a time, mixing in, until the mixture resembles a dough.

Drizzle a little oil into a frying pan and place on a medium heat.

Using a large tablespoon, scoop out equal amounts to make each pancake, and place into a hot pan in a round shape.

Fry on each side for about 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown on the outside and completely warmed through.

Remove from the pan and remove excess grease/oil by patting with some kitchen towel.

Squeeze a little drizzle of lemon juice over each pancake.

Squeeze the remaining lemon juice into the yoghurt and serve alongside the pancakes.

Allow to cool slightly, break into pieces your baby can handle, dip into the yoghurt then pass to baby to feed him or herself and let the fun begin. 

Monday, 20 April 2015

Baby Bites Broccoli Cheese

Sometimes for this I use cauliflower, sometimes broccoli and sometimes both in one for a variation - either way this is an absolute favourite. 

The great thing with it is that you can prepare a large portion of Broccoli Cheese and serve as a side dish to the rest of the family too.

This amount makes 4 portions - but if your little one is just starting out or has a smaller appetite will make about six. 

Whole head of broccoli
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1/2 pint of milk
30g of Red Leicester (can also use Cheddar or other mild, hard cheeses) 

Firstly cut the broccoli into small florets and boil until cooked but still firm. Drain and then return to the heat for 10 seconds to remove any excess moisture then place into an oven proof dish.

Turn the oven on to about 180⁰. 

Next you need to make your cheese sauce which is in the form of a roux, which may seem daunting but is actually really easy. Firstly place a small pan on a low-medium heat and add the butter. 

Allow to slowly melt, and then once all of the butter has melted, add the flour and use a wooden spoon to stir through and combine into what will be the 'thickening' part of your sauce. 

Next slowly add a little milk at a time, stirring through each time until combined, and without lumps. 

Once all of the milk has been added and the sauce is without lumps, grate in 30g of Red Leicester (or cheese of your choice), and continue to stir. Cook for a further 4-5 minutes until the cheese is completely melted and the sauce has begun to thicken. 

Then remove from the heat and pour over the broccoli. Use a spoon to turm over the florets and ensure they are all coated in the cheese sauce.

Grate over some nutmeg or use a pinch of ground nutmeg and this can go into the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. 

Once cooled for a few moments, use a potato masher to mash up and get to a lumpy texture or if you are still giving pureed food blitz in the food processor for a smooth consistency.

Baby Bites Nourishing Vegetable Soup

This is a lovely nutritious soup recipe with plenty of flavour despite using just water to make rather than stock – thus removing any salt element immediately. It is particularly good if little one has a cold too as the garlic and ginger are both incredibly restorative.

I serve this with some toast dunked in the soup and allow Bridget to feed herself these while spoon-feeding the rest but this would work equally well with pitta bread or rice cakes.

Equally the beauty of a vegetable soup is that you can use any vegetables you might have lurking in the fridge, parsnips, swede, sweet potato, spinach and cauliflower all work well in this soup.

This makes six portions and this freezes really well too. Just pop out of the freezer in the morning and the small portion will be defrosted in time for lunch or dinner.

1 garlic clove
1 thumb nail size piece of ginger
2 sticks of celery
5 cherry tomatoes
1 carrot
¼ head of broccoli
2 tbsp frozen peas
Drizzle of olive oil
1 bay leaf
1/2 pint water

Firstly crush the garlic and chop the ginger up. Add a drizzle of oil to a saucepan and add both to the pan on a low heat to soften.

Meanwhile peel and dice the carrot and slice the celery (make sure it’s thoroughly washed first) and then add both to the saucepan with the tomatoes.

Allow all to soften and then pour over the half pint of water.

Chop the broccoli into small florrets and add to the soup mixture with the bay leaf and frozen peas and simmer on a low heat for 30 minutes or so.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool for ten minutes, then either use a hand blitzer or place into a blender and liquidise to a thin soup.