Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Egg-in-a-hole with charred red peppers and parmesan

The first time I ever saw egg-in-a-hole was in the film Moonstruck, one of my favorite films of all time. It was when Olympia Doukakis cooked breakfast for herself and her on-screen daughter and protagonist, Cher.

That close-up of the eggs being cracked into the cut-out hole in the bread, sizzling in the skillet with what I presume was red peppers on the side and then served on top, was the first time I’d ever experienced food porn. Mind you, I was quite young when I first saw the film and despised eggs at the time, but I was inexplicably intrigued. What was this? Why haven’t I seen it before? Why haven’t I eaten it?

Some years later, when I was all grown up yet still never having tasted egg in a hole, I attempted to recreate it; I have been making it ever since.

It’s a straightforward and simple dish, ideal for brunch or breakfast, especially after a night out drinking, lunch or light supper.

I kept the red peppers from the original dish in the film, which I charred, but also slightly jazzed it up with the addition of garlic and parmesan cheese. The flavors are simple yet so satisfactory. The savoriness of the eggs —cooked however you like, even though runny would suit the dish best— and the smoky quality of the charred peppers, the umami flavor of the parmesan, the earthiness of the whole-wheat bread and the rich smoothness of the butter, is all you need to have a delicious tasting dish that you can enjoy any time of the day.

Egg-in-a-hole with charred red peppers and parmesan

I prefer using whole-wheat bread or rye, preferably sourdough, as it has more depth of flavor, but any country style bread will do. Please don’t use sandwich bread though, it doesn’t do this simple dish any justice.

Yield: 2 servings

2 thick slices fresh, whole-wheat bread (from a crusty loaf, not sandwich bread)
1-2 Tbsp unsalted butter, softened
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
½ long red pepper, cut into strips
1 garlic clove, minced
2 medium-sized eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
A handful of finely grated parmesan

Butter the bread slices generously on both sides with the softened butter and using a round cookie-cutter or the rim of a small glass, cut a hole in the center. Keep the centers; you will cook them as well.

In a medium-sized frying pan, non-stick and big enough to fit the two bread slices comfortably, add the olive oil and heat over a medium heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, add the pepper strips and cook them, stirring often, until they start to caramelize and char around the edges. Be careful not to take them too far and burn them because they will taste too bitter. About a minute before they are done, add the minced garlic and sauté, stirring continuously. Transfer peppers and garlic to a bowl and set aside.

Keeping the pan hot on the stove, still over a medium heat, add the buttered bread slices, arranging the centers you had cut out around the edges of the pan. Cook one side of the bread until a bit crusty and golden, for about 2 minutes, and then flip it over. Immediately break the eggs into the holes of the two bread slices, put a lid on the skillet (any lid you have that fits the frying pan will do, it doesn’t need to be tightly sealed), and cook until the eggs are done to your liking. For the yolks to stay a bit runny, they’ll need about 4 minutes.

Transfer to individual plates, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the charred peppers on top. Finally, sprinkle with the parmesan and eat immediately.

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Strawberry chamomile sorbet

When I made the chamomile syrup to serve with the meringues and strawberries last week, I immediately thought that it would be fantastic in a sorbet.

I came up with this one, made with strawberries, not only because I can’t get enough of them, but also because the combination of strawberries and chamomile is heavenly, to say the least, with flavors that complement each other in the most unique way.

It’s simple and quick to make and the outcome is a refreshing, incredibly flavorful sorbet, guaranteed to cool you down and sweeten your senses.


Strawberry chamomile sorbet

The sweetest and tastiest the strawberries, the better the flavor of the sorbet.

You don’t need to make popsicles, but I rather enjoy the single serving that makes it also easier to eat. You can alternatively churn the sorbet in an ice cream machine and serve in scoops.

Yield: 10 popsicles (about 90 ml each)

500 g fresh strawberries
200 g chamomile syrup (see here how to make it)

Special equipment: blender or food processor, fine sieve, popsicle molds or vodka shot glasses, wooden sticks

Prepare the chamomile syrup following the instructions here.

Rinse the strawberries and hull them. Place them in a blender or a food processor and blend until smooth. Pass through a fine sieve and into a bowl to get rid of the seeds. Be careful not to throw away even a drop of the precious strawberry pulp!
Add the chamomile syrup and stir to combine. Give it a taste and if it’s not sweet enough, add a bit more syrup or, alternatively, you can add a bit of icing sugar. Mix well, especially if you added any icing sugar in order to dissolve it completely, and empty the mixture into the popsicle molds or shot glasses, filling them by ¾.
Place in the freezer. Once the sorbet begins to set, add the wooden sticks. Leave the sorbet popsicles in the freezer for 3-4 hours or until completely set.

Taking out the popsicles from the molds or shot glasses is a piece of cake as long as the sorbet has set properly. Run the sides of the mold/shot glass under cold running water and holding the wooden popsicle stick with your hand, pull the popsicle out. You’ll probably feel some resistance at first, but it will eventually come out.

Alternatively, you can pour it into an ice cream machine and then in a suitable container and into your freezer, thus making simply a sorbet and not pospicles.

You can keep the sorbet in the freezer for up to 1 month.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Meringues with strawberries, crème fraîche and chamomile syrup

Dutch strawberries are divine, a word I don’t normally use to describe anything, let alone fruit, but there is no other word to accurately describe them. I am amazed each and every year by how beautiful their flavor is and those perfectly ripe, juicy ones are unforgettable and you want their taste to last for hours, much like the first kisses with someone you really like.

I wanted to incorporate them in a dessert but nothing that would mask, overwhelm or hide their flavor, so this unassuming yet scrumptious dessert came to life.

Meringues, crème fraîche, strawberries, mint leaves and a chamomile and lemon syrup. Subtle flavors, floral, fruity, aromatic.

While the crackly meringue that’s marshmallowy and chewy inside and crispy outside is quite sweet, the crème fraîche comes in to bring balance with its tanginess. The juicy, slightly tart and sweet strawberries lend their freshness and the chamomile syrup ties everything together with a gentle, calming yet intensely aromatic hug with hints of acidic lemon. Topping it off with a few leaves of bright mint that are not there as a garnish but a true flavor addition, completes the dessert.

It’s a great dessert to close a dinner with friends or to enjoy with your significant other.

Meringues with strawberries, crème fraîche and chamomile syrup

These meringues are large individual ones; that’s how we like them, voluptuous and plump. For some, perhaps, they may be too much for one serving, so unless you share it, then you may want to make them a bit smaller.

The chamomile syrup, which is not thick, would also work perfectly in cocktails and sorbets.

Yield: 5 generous servings


for the meringues
See recipe here (make sure to read the whole post for tips on how to successfully make them)

for the chamomile syrup
200 g granulated white sugar
250 g water
Zest of 1 lemon (in strips, not grated)
4 tsp dried chamomile flowers

to serve
About 200 g crème fraîche
Fresh strawberries
Small fresh mint leaves


for the meringues
See recipe here and make sure to read the whole post for tips on how to successfully make these meringues.

for the chamomile syrup
You can make it 4-5 days ahead.
In a small saucepan, add sugar, water and lemon zest, and place over a high heat, stirring continuously until the sugar dissolves. Bring to the boil and remove immediately from the heat. Add the chamomile and stir. Put the lid on and let the syrup infuse for 1 hour. Then, pass the syrup through a fine sieve and into a clean bowl and discard the chamomile.
Allow the syrup to cool completely.
Keep it in the fridge, tightly covered. It keeps for a month.

Place the meringues on individual serving plates. Crush the centers with the back of a spoon and top them with a good dollop of crème fraîche. Arrange a few strawberries on top, halved if they are big.
Drizzle with 2 Tbsp of the chamomile syrup or more to taste. Add a few very small mint leaves and enjoy immediately!

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Greek marinated pork tenderloin souvlaki with loquat and dried currant bulgur pilaf, charred red peppers, tzatziki and grilled bread with olive oil and oregano

When I’m inspired by an ingredient, it can lead to the creation of one of the most heavenly cakes (I’m too in love with my loquat cake, I know), but it can also lead me to create a whole savory feast like this one.

It all started with loquats. I wanted to incorporate them in a savory dish and I thought, why not a bulgur pilaf? Yes! That was a great idea; with hot and warming spices, herbs to pair with their fruitiness, dried currants and grape molasses to counteract their tartness, mint to freshen it all up and yes, that was it.

But we are meat eaters in this household, and no matter how great a dish bulgur pilaf can be, I wanted to create a whole feast around it. I immediately thought of pork souvlaki, Greek grilled pork skewers, but I didn’t want it to be heavy, so the classic and insanely flavorful pork neck that’s traditionally used to make Greek souvlaki was out of the question. I opted for pork tenderloin instead, which I use often because it’s lean (even leaner than chicken breast), tender (of course) and extremely tasty and juicy when cooked properly. Marinating it does the trick of adding extra flavor and making it even more tender.

I marinated the pork overnight in a mixture of extra virgin olive oil, vinegar, Greek dried wild oregano, fresh rosemary among other ingredients, and the next day, skewered it with some red onion and green bell peppers.

Together with a proper tzatziki, a few freshly grilled and utterly juicy and scrumptious charred long red peppers, and grilled bread with olive oil and oregano which is a staple side for souvlaki in Greece, it was a feast to surpass many.

Above all, it is balanced in both flavor and texture, and it’s not just a meal, it’s an experience, the way we Greeks do it; sit at the table, share food, enjoy it slowly with good company and a few beers.

Juicy, tender meat, smoky red peppers, thick and vibrant tzatziki, crunchy bread and incredible flavors from the bulgur pilaf; slightly hot and spicy, refreshing from the mint and deeply earthy from the bulgur wheat, juicy from the sharp loquats, sweet from the currants with a honeyed acidity from the molasses, a nice warming flavor from the cardamom, crunch from the almonds and intensely aromatic overall.

There’s such a beautiful array of flavors and textures in this dish. We absolutely and unequivocally loved it and I hope you enjoy it as well!!

Greek marinated pork tenderloin souvlaki with loquat and dried currant bulgur pilaf, charred red peppers, tzatziki and grilled bread with olive oil and oregano

I use a cast-iron grill/griddle that I place directly on my gas stove top. If you don’t have that, you can use a regular grill/griddle pan (use a heavy, good quality pan for best results) or an outdoor grill.

Bear in mind that you will need to start the night before with marinating the pork.

The bulgur can be served also with fish or on its own with some good feta or yoghurt even. Also, apricots would go great in the dish if you cannot find loquats.

Yield: enough for 4 people


for the Greek pork souvlaki (makes 9-10 large skewers)

for the marinade
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tsp Greek wild dried oregano
2 tsp Greek dried mint
1 dried bay leaf, cut into 4 pieces
1 sprig fresh rosemary
4 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tsp sweet red pepper powder
Freshly ground black pepper, 8-9 grinds of the pepper mill

600 g pork tenderloin, cut into small, equal-sized cubes (5-6 cm)

1-2 green bell peppers, cut a bit larger than the pork
1 red onion, layers separated and cut a bit larger than the pork
Sea salt

Lemon, for serving

for the loquat and dried currant bulgur
3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, grated or chopped finely in a food processor
7 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed
2 dried bay leaves
½ tsp Greek boukovo (hot red chilli flakes) or Aleppo pepper (pul biber)
40 g dried currants
2 Tbsp blanched halved almonds
300 g coarse bulgur wheat
1 Tbsp petimezi (Greek grape-must syrup/grape molasses)
600 g hot water
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
230-250 g fresh loquats (weight after peeling and stoning 200 g), peeled, stoned and roughly chopped (read here how to prep them)
2-3 fresh mint sprigs, leaves picked (keep ¼ of them for serving)

for the tzatziki
500 g Greek yoghurt, full-fat
70 g peeled (and deseeded preferably) cucumber, cut into tiny cubes
3-4 garlic cloves (depending on how garlicky you want it, I prefer it veeery garlicky), peeled and grated
A handful of dill, chopped finely
½ tsp red wine vinegar
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt
Freshly ground white pepper

for the peppers
4 long red peppers
Sea salt
Extra virgin olive oil

for the bread
Sourdough bread or baguette, thickly sliced
Extra virgin olive oil
Greek wild dried oregano

Extra lemon, for serving

Special equipment: wooden skewers, grill/griddle pan


for the Greek pork souvlaki
The night before, start marinating the pork.
In a large glass bowl, add all the ingredients for the marinade and mix well with a spoon. Add the pork pieces and mix well. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place it in the fridge overnight.

The next day, prepare the wooden skewers for the grill by soaking them in water for at least 30 minutes.
Heat your grill/griddle over a medium-high heat. I oil it lightly with sunflower oil before I turn on the heat.
Thread the peppers, onion and pork onto the wooden skewers. Start with a piece of pepper, then 2 pieces of pork, one piece of onion, 2 pieces of pork and finish with a piece of pepper. Don’t throw away the marinade that’s left in the bowl.
Once you’re done skewering all the meat, season well with salt and place on the well-preheated grill. Using the rosemary sprig from the marinade, brush the meat with the remaining juices of the marinade. Throw away the rosemary.
Cook the pork for 6-7 minutes per side, until slightly charred and meat juices run clear. Don’t overcook in order to stay tender.
Serve with plenty of lemon juice squeezed over the top.

for the loquat and dried currant bulgur
Heat the olive oil over a medium-high heat in a large saucepan and sauté the onion until soft. Add the cardamom pods, bay leaves, boukovo or (Aleppo pepper), currants and almonds and sauté for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Add the bulgur wheat and sauté lightly. Then add the grape molasses and the water, season with salt and black pepper and stir well. Bring to the boil, put the lid on, turn heat down to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes. At this point, the bulgur should be almost done. Add the chopped loquats and chopped mint and stir gently. Continue to cook on low until the bulgur is cooked and has absorbed all the water. It shouldn’t be mushy or al dente but it should be fully cooked, tender yet retaining its shape. Remove the pan from the heat and leave with the lid on for 10 minutes before fluffing the bulgur with a fork.
Serve with a few whole, small mint leaves as a garnish.

for the tzatziki
Best made about an hour before serving.
In a large bowl, add all the ingredients and mix well with a spoon. Adjust seasoning to taste.
Keep covered in the fridge until time to serve.

for the peppers
Heat your grill/griddle over a medium-high heat. I oil it lightly with sunflower oil before I turn on the heat. Place the whole peppers on the grill and cook them until they collapse and soften, and they are charred. Be careful not to overcook them, an indication of which is when they start releasing a lot of juices.
Serve sprinkled with sea salt and, if you wish, drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil.

for the bread
Heat your grill/griddle over a medium-high heat. I oil it lightly with sunflower oil before I turn on the heat.
Arrange the bread slices in a platter/pan in one layer and drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with dried oregano (a pinch for each side of a bread slice). Turn around and do the same on the other side of each slice.
Place the bread slices on the grill and cook on both sides until they have grill marks and they are crunchy but not hard.
You can add a tiny squeeze of lemon over each one when you eat them.

Serving the whole feast
You can either serve each individual dish in its own plate/bowl etc., or you can do what I did if you have a huge serving platter.
Add the bulgur in the middle, top with the pork souvlaki (the bulgur will absorb all the delicious juices from the pork) and sprinkle with some fresh mint. Arrange the peppers around the bulgur and dollop the tzatziki in between. Serve with the bread, some extra lemons for squeezing and any remaining quantities of the dishes in separate bowls/plates for extra servings.