Posts Tagged ‘Greek’


We had a bit of dilemma with this. We cook a moussaka every year and never decide if we like this one or this one best. This year we decided to try another recipe. This is different as it includes potatoes and it has a fluffier top with eggs and no cheese. At first we thought it wasn’t as good as the other two recipes but it was so much improved on the second day that we changed our minds. Perhaps all moussaka is good moussaka. Serve with a green salad.

Wine Suggestion: A Greek red would be nice with this, like a nice Xinomavro or Agiorgitiko. However, without these in the rack we pulled out a Quinta de Chocapalha red from near Lisbon in Portugal. Made from indigenous varietals coming from 16th century vineyards this is both thoroughly modern and excitingly ancient. It has a richness and spice, combined with smooth and deep, dark fruits and thoroughly resolved, silky tannins. Very nice indeed with the Moussaka.

Moussaka – serves 6

  • 2 large aubergines, sliced into rounds
  • 4 potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 750g lamb mince
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • a glass of red wine
  • 600ml passata
  • 75g butter
  • 75g flour
  • 600ml milk
  • 2 eggs

Heat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5.

Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil and season. Place them on baking trays in a single layer, then bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, turning over halfway, until tender and golden.

Cook the potatoes in boiling salty water until just tender, then drain well.

Meanwhile, fry the onion in a little oil until soft, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the mince and brown it, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Add the cinnamon, wine and passata, season and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Bubble off any excess liquid.

Heat the butter in a saucepan, stir in the flour and cook for a few minutes. Gradually add the milk, stirring constantly, until you have a smooth white sauce. Bring it to a simmer, then season and remove from the heat.

Turn the oven down to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4.

Layer the lamb, aubergine and potatoes in a large ovenproof dish. Whisk the eggs into the white sauce, then pour the sauce over the top to cover. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until puffed and golden brown. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before serving.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in Olive Magazine, August 2014.)


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This is such a handy yoghurt number. Serve with barbecues, roasts, with flatbreads, as a side, for a starter – it’s an all rounder and it keeps for a couple of days in the fridge.

  • 250g full fat Greek-style yoghurt
  • 30g scallions, green parts only, finely chopped (keep the white parts for something else)
  • about 10g of dill, chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and grated
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 200g cucumber, coarsely grated
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt flakes, crumbled

Put the grated cucumber into a clean tea towel and squeeze tightly to get rid of the excess liquid.

Tip the cucumber into a bowl and mix with all of the other ingredients.

(Original recipe from Chasing Smoke: Cooking over Fire Around the Levant by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich, Pavilion, 2021)

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We’re trying to get the most out of our barbecue while the evenings are still bright. This is based on Greek gyro chicken kebabs and it tastes great with some salad and flatbreads. We added some tzatziki too but plain yoghurt would also be good. You need to get started with the marinade the day before.

We cooked these on a charcoal barbecue with a lid, using the indirect heat method which we’ve explained below. If that’s not your thing you can cook in a hot oven (200C/180C fan/gas 6) on a wire rack over a roasting tin for 45-55 minutes.

Wine Suggestion: We recommend a white with a bit of phenolic texture and body or a mid-weight red with a fresh crispness. Thymiopoulos’ Xinomavro Jeunes Vignes is a current favourite that falls into the latter camp. From north-eastern Greece we think this grape needs to be better known.

Greek Chicken Kebabs – serves 6

  • 12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • flat breads, salad and yoghurt or tzatziki to serve.


  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 lemon, zested and juiced
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • a small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl and season. Add the chicken thighs and mix together well, then cover and chill overnight.

Light a lidded barbecue and let the flames die down. When the coals have turned ashen, mound them up on side.

Thread the chicken thighs onto 2 metal skewers – both skewers need to go through every piece of meat. Push the thighs down well to make sure the meat is well compacted.

Put the chicen kebab onto the side of the barbecue without any coals underneath. Cover with the lid and cook for 45-55 minutes, turning regularly, or until cooked through. You can pull apart a few chicken pieces in the centre to check or much easier is to check with a meat probe – a barbecue essential in our opinion.

Remove the chicken from the barbecue, cover with foil and leave to rest for 20 minutes before slicing.

Slice strips of chicken from the kebab and stuff into pittas or flatbreads, that have been warmed on the barbecue, with some salad and yoghurt or tzatziki.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Greek Lamb with Orzo

A treat for the weekend without too many ingredients. There is also just a tiny bit of work at the start and then this can be left to pretty much cook itself for a few hours. You can serve with crusty bread or just by itself.

Wine Suggestion: we think that a southern French blend like Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre is a really good combination as long as the wine is fresh and not too jammy. Tonight we enjoyed the Domaine de Cébène Faugeres “Felgaria” which had a majority of Mourvedre and was pure, elegant and expressive with spices and warm aromas.

Greek lamb with orzo – serves 6

  • 1kg shoulder of lamb, cut into large cubes
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 1 tbsp chopped oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1.2 litres hot chicken or veg stock
  • 400g orzo
  • freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

Heat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4.

Put the lamb into a large casserole dish with the onions, oregano, ground cinnamon, cinnamon sticks and olive oil. Toss with your hands to ensure everything is coated with oil. Bake in the oven, uncovered, for 45 minutes, stirring halfway through.

Add the tomatoes and stock, then cover and return to the oven for a further 1½ hours or until the lamb is meltingly tender. You can throw away the cinnamon sticks at this point.

Stir in the orzo and return to the oven again, with the lid on. Cook for another 20 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until the orzo is cooked and the sauce has thickened. Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Radish Raita

This makes a nice change from the usual cucumber variety. Good with barbecued lamb or pork and dishes with Greek flavours. We liked it on the side of our giant beans and spinach rice.

Radish Tzatziki – serves 2

  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • ½ tbsp chopped dill, plus extra to serve
  • 8 small radishes, roughly chopped or sliced
  • ½ clove of garlic, crushed
  • juice of ½ lemon

Mix all the ingredients together and season. Garnish with some extra dill.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Spinach Rice

This rice is seriously delicious. The spinach is cooked with the rice from the start, rather than stirred through at the end, which makes it really flavoursome. We served with some barbecued lamb, Greek butter bean stew and radish tzatziki.

Spinach rice – serves 6

  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 500g baby spinach leaves, finely chopped
  • bunch of dill, finely chopped
  • 300g basmati rice
  • juice of a lemon

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook the onion gently until softened but not coloured. Add the spinach and half the dill. Cook over a high heat until the spinach has wilted and any liquid has evaporated.

Stir in the rice and add 600ml of water, then bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a very gentle simmer, cover the pan with a tight lid (or some tinfoil and a lid) and cook for 25-30 minutes or until the rice is cooked and the water absorbed. Check and stir after the first 15 minutes and add some more water if needed.

When the rice is cooked, stir in the remaining dill, season well and add the lemon juice to taste.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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A rich, show-stopper version of a favourite dish. We remain torn between the richness of this version by Neil Perry and the fresh elegance of this Moussaka by Tamasin Day-Lewis. We love both.

Wine Suggestion: As this is a rich dish we looked for a similarly rich, but not too heavy wine and liked the Insoglio del Cinghiale, a Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot blend from Bolgheri. It was nice and lifted with dark fruit, blackberries, plums and hints of spice. The key was the medium weight with a youthful freshness, fine rounded tannins and a smooth finish. We suspect a nice earthy and voluptuous red Burgundy would also do very or a top quality Chianti.

Moussaka – serves 4 (generously)

  • 2 large aubergines, cut into 5 mm slices
  • 2 tbsp olive oil, plus a bit extra for brushing the slices of aubergine
  • 2 small onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 500g lamb mince
  • 90g tomato purée
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • a large handful of flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped
  • 40g grated Parmesan cheese


  • 50g butter
  • 50g flour
  • 500ml warmed milk
  • 80g finely grated parmesan

Salt the aubergine slices on both sides and leave aside for an hour. Rinse the slices under running water and pat dry with kitchen paper. Brush lightly with olive oil and cook in a non-stick frying pan over a medium-high heat for a few minutes on each side or until golden. Set the aubergine slices aside and wipe out the pan with some kitchen paper.

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in the frying pan and cook the onions over a low heat for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook until the onions have softened. Add the lamb, then turn up the heat and stir-fry until browned. Season with salt, then add the tomato purée and cook for a couple of minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, the cinnamon stick and the sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduced the heat, cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove the lid and simmer for a few more minutes to thicken slightly if needed. Remove the cinnamon stick and fold through the chopped parsley.

To make the béchamel, melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour and stir over a low heat for a few minutes or until the mixture is bubbling.Gradually pour in the warm milk, stirring continuously, and cook until the sauce starts to boil and thicken. Stir in the Parmesan and season with salt and freshly grated white pepper if you have it.

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF.

Layer the lamb and fried aubergine slices two or three times in a large ovenproof dish, starting and finishing with a layer of aubergine if you can manage it. Spread the béchamel over the top and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Bake for 25-35 minutes or until hot through and golden brown on top. Leave to settle for 5 to 10 minutes before serving with a green salad.

(Original recipe from Neil Perry’s Good Cooking, Murdoch Books, 2016.)

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Greek salad

Perfect with many Greek dishes, but none mores than barbecued lamb cutlets or kebabs/souvlaki. You could also serve it as as starter with some crusty bread. A very popular salad in our house when the days get warmer. In fact, we blogged it here a few years ago and it’s still a firm favourite.

Greek Salad – serves 4

  • 450g ripe tomatoes
  • ½ a cucumber
  • 1 red onion (we only use half an onion)
  • 200g Greek feta cheese
  • 4½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ouzo/Pernod
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill
  • 20 small black olives
  • large pinch of dried oregano – Greek if you can find it

Cut the tomatoes into chunky pieces and cut the cucumber in half lengthways and then across into thick slices. Slice the red onion as thinly as possible (a mandolin is good for this if you have one). Crumble the feta into chunky pieces.

To make the dressing whisk the olive oil, ½ tsp salt, the red wine vinegar, ouzo/Pernod and some black pepper in a large salad bowl. Add the tomatoes, cucumber and onions and toss gently. Add the feta, dill and olives and mix briefly.

Drizzle with more olive oil, sprinkle with the dried oregano and some coarsely ground black pepper.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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Pork Souvlaki with oregano

Have you got your barbecue out yet? We’ve had a few sunny days in Dublin and the cold breeze is gradually starting to ease; the clocks have gone forward and we’re looking forward to much more time spent outside. We have to confess to using the barbecue all year round and have been caught out in the snow or rain grilling up a feast and this is one of our favourite ideas. Nothing beats some good chips with your souvlaki.

Wine Suggestion: to celebrate the Spring sunshine we broke out a Provence rosé from Chateau Vignelaure, a lovely and serious wine that delivers a great texture and structure as well as summer fruit flavours to inspire us.

Pork Souvlaki with Oregano – serves 4

  • 400g pork shoulder, cut into 3 cm cubes
  • 30ml lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 small garlic clove, grated
  • ½ tsp salt

Mix all the marinade ingredients in a bowl and add the meat. Marinate for an hour or so, then thread onto skewers. Cook on a preheated barbecue for about 10-12 minutes.

(Original recipe from Venice to Istanbul by Rick Stein, BBC Books, 2015.)


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Steak & Mushrooms

What could be better than steak, mushrooms & chips? Nothing too groundbreaking here but we do recommend taking some inspiration from the Greeks when cooking your mushrooms.

Wine Suggestion: We always fall for a big red when having steak and this dish caused us to try one of our 2009 Bordeaux’s lying waiting in the cellar; this time the Ch Capbern Gasquetton. Full of flavour and still very youthful but the seven years from vintage has brought it all together and made it a great match.

Grilled steak with village mushrooms – serves 4

  • 4 rib-eye or sirloin steaks (rib-eye would be our preference), about 250g each
  • 50ml olive oil, plus a bit extra for brushing on the steaks
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ a lemon
  • 200g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 5 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 25ml balsamic vinegar

Brush the steaks with oil, season with salt, pepper and half the oregano, then grill on a hot barbecue until cooked the way you like.

Sauté the mushrooms in the 50ml of olive oil with the garlic, balsamic vinegar, ½ tsp salt, 20 turns of the black pepper mill and the rest of the oregano. Serve with the steak (and some chips if you like).

(Original recipe from Venice to Istanbul by Rick Stein, BBC Books, 2015.)

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Greek Lemon roast chicken

Sooo delicious! We never tire of variations on a roast chicken dinner and the potatoes are the best bit here which doesn’t take away from the delicious chicken! This variation has been made multiple times in our kitchen which says something as we’re always trying something new.

You need to roast chicken for 20 minutes at 190C/375F/gas 5 for each 500g, plus an extra 10 minutes.

Wine Suggestion: a rich white is the business with chicken, and Chardonnay is the usual go-to variety. For this dish, however, we’ve successfully opened oaked Godello from Spain, the Dominio de Tares Bierzo; and an oaked Alvarinho from Portugal, the Soalheiro Alvarinho Reserva. Both brought delicious nuances to the chicken and are really worth seeking out.

Greek lemon roast chicken with potatoes & oregano

  • 2.2kg chicken
  • 4 lemons
  • bay leaves
  • 2 large red onions, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 1kg small waxy potatoes, halved
  • 2 heads of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
  • dried oregano

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5.

Season the outside and the cavity of the chicken. Put half a lemon and a few bay leaves inside and place in a very large roasting tin.

Drizzle some olive oil over the skin, squeeze over the other lemon half and roast for about 1 hour and 50 minutes.

Cut 2 of the lemons into wedges and put in a bowl with the onions, potatoes and garlic cloves. Add some olive oil, salt and pepper, ½ tbsp dried oregano and the juice of half a lemon. Toss everything together until well coated.

45 minutes before the roasting time is up, put the vegetables around the chicken, sprinkle another 2 tsps of oregano over the top and return to the oven.

(Original recipe from Food From Plenty by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2010.)


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The classic spinach & feta combination never gets tired. These savoury Greek pastries are delicious and very easy to make. We worked out a production line (thanks Tricia & Orla) and had them assembled in no time! Great as a starter or snack with drinks. Perfect entertaining food.

Wine Suggestion: If you can find an Assyrtiko,  a crisp and delicious Greek white, then you’ve got a great match. Unfortunately it can be hard to find good Greek wines so stick to the Mediterranean and search for a Fiano or Greco di Tufo from Italy. Failing this we’ve had crisp Touraine Sauvignon Blancs with this as well to great effect.

Spanakopita (Spinch, mint & feta pastries) – makes 18-20

  • 500g spinach
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 100g Greek feta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp finely grated Greek kefalotiri cheese or Parmesan
  • a pinch of finely grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 250-275g pack of filo pastry (about 6 sheets)
  • 100g butter, melted

Wash and dry the spinach (remove the stalks if they look tough). Finely shred the leaves.

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook gently until soft but not browned. Gradually add the spinach, a handful at a time, until it has all wilted. Tip into a colander and drain, pressing out the liquid with a wooden spoon, then return to the pan with the scallions and cook for 1 minute. Leave to cool.

Crumble the feta into a large bowl and roughly mash with a fork – you can leave it a bit chunky. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan, the spinach mixture, nutmeg, mint and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

Unroll the sheets of filo and cut the stack lengthways into strips about 7.5cm wide. Brush the top layer with melted butter. Put a heaped teaspoonful of the filling in the centre of one strip, at the end closest to you, and fold one bottom corner of the pastry diagonally over the filling, so that the corner touches the opposite side to make a triangle. Then fold over the filled triangular corner, and keep folding it along the whole strip in a triangular parcel. Repeat to make all the spanakopita.

Brush the undersides of each parcel with more butter and place on a lightly buttered baking tray. Brush the tops with butter and bake for 25 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.

These are best served straight from the oven while the pastry is still crispy but they are also good at room temperature.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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This is a really lovely moussaka which rates as one of our “comfort” dishes. We especially like roasting the aubergines in the oven rather than frying them which always seems to require vats of oil. The combination is a classic and is not difficult, but it does take a little time to bring together. It is always well worth it.

Wine Suggestion:  We’ve been inspired to drink wines from the Eastern Mediterranean with this and have found that top Lebanese wines, like Chateau Massaya, with their bramble and plum fruits plus velvety spices work very well indeed.

Moussaka – to serve 6

  • 3 aubergines, sliced 1cm thick
  • olive oil
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 1½ lb (675g) lamb mince
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tomato, skinned, seeded and chopped
  • 2-3 tbsp tomato purée
  • a bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • a few tbsp dry white wine
  • Parmesan (optional)


  • 1 pint (600ml) full-cream milk
  • 1 onion, peeled and stuck with a couple of cloves
  •  bay leaf
  • 2oz (55g) unsalted butter
  • 1 heaped tbsp plain flour
  • nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 180ºC/350ºF/Gas 4.

Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil on both sides then put on a baking tray in a single layer and roast until soft. You will either need to do this in batches or on two trays. They should take between 10 and 20 minutes but don’t let them get too brown.

Meanwhile, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a heavy-bottomed frying pan and sauté the onions until soft and golden. Add the garlic and continue to sauté for another few minutes, then add the mince and fry for 5-10 minutes or until well browned. Season and add the cinnamon, then add the chopped tomato, tomato purée and chopped parsley. Stir well, add the wine and simmer for 15 minutes or until most of the wine has been absorbed.

While the meat is simmering make the béchamel. Put the onion, bay leaf and milk in a small pan and bring slowly to the boil. Take the pan off the heat and leave to infuse for 20-30 minutes with the lid on and reheat just before starting the sauce.

Melt the butter over a gentle heat in a small pan. Just as the butter starts to foam, add the flour and stir gently for a few seconds. You want a thin bubbling base – if the butter hasn’t amalgamated with the flour, add a tiny bit more. Bubble for a couple of minutes or until it turns a pale biscuit colour. Add about half a cup of the hot milk and whisk hard until the mixture becomes thick. Add more milk and repeat – it will take longer to thicken each time.

Cook the sauce more slowly and stir with a wooden spoon – add more milk until you get the right consistency. You want the sauce to be thick but not solid. Cook gently for 20 minutes, stirring often. Season and grate in a little nutmeg about half way through.

When the sauce is ready put alternate layers of aubergine and meat sauce in a deep baking dish or roasting tin, staring and ending with a layer of aubergines. Pour a thick layer of béchamel over the top; you might not need it all. Sprinkle over some grated Parmesan if you like then bake in the oven for about 45 minutes or until brown on top.

(Original recipe from Tamasin’s Kitchen Bible by Tamasin Day-Lewis, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2005.)

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This is a bit like lasagne but easier to make and you can have it all done in advance, ready to throw in the oven when your guests arrive.

Pastitsio (beef and macaroni pie with cinnamon, red wine and cheese) –  generously serves 8-10

  • 500g pasta tubes (we used big macaroni or rigatoni would be good)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50g finely grated Parmesan
  • 2 tbsp melted butter
  • 10g fresh white breadcrumbs


  • 115g butter
  • 115g plain flour
  • 1.2 litres full-cream milk
  • ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg


  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 2 celery sticks, finely chopped
  • 1 kg lean minced beef
  • 200ml red wine
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 10cm piece cinnamon stick
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 2 tbsp fresh chopped oregano
  • 3 fresh bay leaves

For the meat sauce, heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion, garlic, and celery, and fry until starting to brown. Add the mince and fry over a high heat for about 4 minutes, breaking up the lumps. Add the red wine, tomatoes, tomato purée, cinnamon stick, ground cloves, dried and fresh oregano, bay leaves, 100ml water, 1½ tsp salt and some black pepper, and simmer for about 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened but is still nice and moist. Throw away the cinnamon stick and bay leaves.

Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and add plenty of salt. Cook the pasta for a minute less than it says on the pack (as it will cook a bit more in the oven). Drain well, transfer to a large bowl and leave to cool a little.

For the white sauce, melt the butter in a non-stick saucepan, add the flour and cook, stirring, over a medium heat, for 1 minute. Gradually beat in the milk, then bring to the boil, stirring, lower the heat and leave to simmer for 5-7 minute, stirring occasionally. Season with nutmeg and some salt and pepper.

Stir 250ml (about one-fifth) of the white sauce into the warm pasta with the beaten eggs and half the grated cheese. Keep the rest of the sauce warm over a low heat, stirring now and then and adding a bit more milk if it gets too thick.

Use the melted butter to grease a large, ovenproof dish (about 23 x 33 cm across and 7 cm deep) or baking tray. Spread one-third of the pasta over the base of the dish and cover with half the meat sauce. Add another third of the pasta, then the rest of the meat sauce, then cover with a final layer of pasta. Spoon the rest of the white sauce over. Mix the remaining cheese with the breadcrumbs and sprinkle this over the top.

The dish is now ready for the oven. When you’re ready, bake it in a preheated oven at 180ºC/Gas Mark 4 for 40 minutes or until bubbling hot and nicely browned.

Serve with some salad.

Drink with: a glass of good Bordeaux but from a warmer vintage, like the atypical 2003. One of our guests kindly brought an ’03 Domaine de Chevalier.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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This has such great flavours that we made it two days in a row – it’s even great cold the next day so don’t be put off by the large quantities. Serve with barbecue lamb or just some feta cheese.

Briam – to serve 8 

  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit extra to grease the tin
  • 500g waxy potatoes, peeled and cut lengthways into ½ cm thick slices
  • 6 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 large courgettes, sliced
  • 1 large aubergine, cut into 1cm thick slices
  • 1 large green pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 large red pepper, cut into chunks
  • 1 large red onion, thickly sliced
  • 15-20g dill sprigs
  • 15-20g flat-leaf parsley sprigs
  • 200ml passata

Preheat the oven to 190ºC.

Oil a large roasting tin (about 26 x 36 cm) well and spread the potatoes on the base in a single layer. Season with salt and pepper, then scatter over the garlic and courgettes. Season again, then add a layer each of the aubergine, peppers and onion, seasoning between each layer. Scatter over half the dill and parsley sprigs, cover with tomato slices and then add the rest of the herbs and season again. Pour the sieved tomatoes over the top, followed by the olive oil.

Cover the roasting tin tightly with foil and bake for about 1½ hours or until the vegetables are tender.

If you have a lot of juices in the tin, carefully pour them into a wide pan and boil until reduced and concentrated. Pour back over the vegetables and leave to cool a bit before serving.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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These Greek kebabs are easy and delicious when barbecued and served with Tzatziki (a Greek yogurt dip), sliced tomatoes, pickled chillies and sliced gherkins.

Souvlaki – to serve 8

  • 2kg boned shoulder of lamb
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 large lemon, juiced plus wedges to serve
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • Paprika for sprinkling

Trim excess fat off the lamb and cut into bite-sized pieces. Put into a bowl with the oregano, lemon juice, olive oil, 2 tsps salt and some black pepper and leave to marinate at room temperature for about an hour.

Preheat the barbecue. Thread the lamb onto metal skewers and cook on the hot barbecue, until browned on the outside but still juicy in the centre. Sprinkle with a pinch of paprika and a squeeze of lemon juice to serve.

Drink with: a southern Italian red such as Negromaro or Primitivo. Italian wines from Puglia and Calabria complement Greek foods very well which is not surprising given the very strong historical and social links between them. In this case there is a good balance of warm ripe fruits, earthy tannins and medium weight.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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The best Tzatziki we’ve made with great flavour and a really thick creamy texture. Totally different to the watery shop-bought versions. Serve with lightly toasted pitta breads, for dipping, or Greek lamb kebabs.

Tzatziki – to serve 6 

  • 1 large cucumber
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 500g natural Greek ewe’s milk yogurt (‘Total’ if you can find it – don’t buy a low-fat version for this)
  • 75g scallions, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh dill or mint
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp white wine vinegar

Peel most of the skin off the cucumber but not all of it. Coarsely grate the cucumber, put into a clean tea towel and squeeze out most of the excess liquid.

Crush the garlic into a smooth paste by adding a large pinch of salt and crushing on a board with the back of a large knife.

Put the yogurt into a bowl and stir in the cucumber, garlic, scallions, dill or mint, olive oil, vinegar and some seasoning.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

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We hadn’t thought of using Pernod or ouzo in a salad until Rick Stein inspired us in his Mediterranean Escapes book. Good enough to make twice in two weeks.

Salata Horiatiki (Greek salad with tomato, cucumber, olives, dill and feta cheese) – to serve 4

  • 450g ripe, red, tasty tomatoes
  • ½ cucumber
  • 1 red onion
  • 200g Greek feta cheese
  • 4½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a bit extra to serve
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ouzo or Pernod
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill
  • 20 small black olives
  • Large pinch of dried oregano
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Crusty fresh bread, to serve

Cut the tomatoes into chunks, and cut the cucumber in half lengthways and then across into thick slices. Very thinly slice the red onion. Crumble the feta cheese into small chunks.

Put the olive oil, ½ tsp salt, the red wine vinegar, ouzo and some black pepper into a large salad bowl and whisk. Add the tomatoes, cucumber and onions and toss gently. Add the feta, dill and olives and mix briefly, then divide onto plates.

Drizzle the salad with a bit more oil, sprinkle with the dried oregano and a little coarsely ground pepper, and serve with crusty bread.

Wine Suggestion: If you were on a Greek island you would be sipping ouzo or retsina… not sure that we’d recommend either. Maybe try a Vermentino, which is still from the Mediterranean (Sardinia or the Italian coast), a fresh white wine that has a bit of texture to it.

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Prawn Saganaki

This is a Greek mezedes dish which works really well as a starter for 4 with some crusty bread. We divided this onto plates but its also nice (and more common in Greece) to plonk the dish on the table and let everyone serve themselves. Saganaki dishes take their name from a small shallow frying pan used to fry or braise small portions of food, like cheese or shellfish.

Garides saganaki (Prawn saganaki) – to serve 4

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 200g tinned chopped or fresh tomatoes, peeled and diced
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 5 tbsp dry white wine
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 16 large prawns, peeled and deveined
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped parsley or mint
  • 100g feta cheese, diced

Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion and cook over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add the tomatoes, sugar, wine, and oregano and season with salt and pepper. Turn up the heat and cook, uncovered, over a high heat for about 10 minutes, until thickened. Meanwhile, preheat the grill.

Add the prawns to the pan and cook for another few minutes. Stir in the parsley or mint and transfer the mixture to a small flameproof dish. Sprinkle over the cheese and grill for 5 minutes or until the cheese is melted and starting to brown.

Wine Suggestion: Serve with a glass of anise-scented ouzo if you’re feeling really authentic! Or try and search out some of the excellent, new-generation of Greek wines, like a white Assyrtiko.

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Cypriot PastitsioThe warmth of the cinnamon and the dried mint turns this pasta bake into something distinctively Cypriot rather than Italian. Serve it with a big Greek salad on the side for a stress-free dinner party. The Pastitsio takes a while to make but you can have all assembled in advance, ready to stick in the oven when your guests arrive. It is also best served warm, or even at room temperature, so you don’t need to worry if you get behind making your salad!

Tessa recommends a dish of dimensions very similar (and no bigger) than this: 35cm long, 24cm wide and 6cm deep. We used a big roasting tin.

Pastitsio – to serve 10

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 850g minced pork and beef
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 125 ml white wine
  • 400g tinned tomatoes, chopped
  • 450g short pasta (we used penne)
  • about 30g butter
  • 1/2 tsp dried mint
  • 1 tbsp breadcrumbs
Bechamel sauce
  • 120g butter
  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 litre warm milk
  • a little freshly grated nutmeg
Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan and fry the onion until soft and golden. Add the parsley and garlic and cook for a few second before adding the meat. Fry for a few minutes until all the moisture has gone and the mince is starting to brown. Season and add the bay leaf and cinnamon. When it starts to fry and brown, add the wine and cook until evaporated. Add the tomatoes and a cup of water and cook over a medium to low heat for 10-15 minutes. The meat shouldn’t be too dry. Take off the heat.

Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F/Gas 4). Cook the pasta in boiling salted water for 2 minutes less than what it says on the packet. Drain and put in a bowl. Mix in the butter and crumble in the dried mint. Stir well and spoon half over the base of a large ovenproof dish. Pour the meat mixture over the top to evenly cover the pasta, then add the rest of the pasta over the top. Press down with a wooden spoon to make it quite compact. Set aside while you make the béchamel sauce.

Melt the butter in a saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook for a few minutes, stirring all the time, then start adding the warm milk. Work quickly, stirring while adding ladlefuls of milk as each one is absorbed. When the sauce is smooth and not too stiff, add salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg. Keep cooking even after it comes to the boil, for about 5 minutes, stirring all the time. You should have a very thick and smooth sauce. Pour this over the pasta and meat in the dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top and bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden. Let it cool for a bit before you serve or it will run everywhere.

(Original recipe from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros, published by Murdoch Books, 2004.)

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