Harissa Prawns, Beans & Vegetables Bruschetta

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Sometimes we are inspired to cook something even under the most normal circumstances!  Yesterday my mother was cooking Fasoulada and just before she added the tomatoes (which was the 6th procedure on the Fasoulada recipe) I appropriated a ladled full of cooked white beans. On the recipe that follows I use canned white beans as it would be easier for most people to find this ingredient although if you follow the Fasoulada recipe they are quite easy to make.

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I had once seen a dish with prawns and beans and wanted to do something similar. wondering what else I should put into the dish I immediately thought of northern Greece’s crimson king: the sweet, red Florina pepper. Quickly the other vegetable ingredients came to mind like onions, cauliflower and zucchini/courgette.

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I incorporated these vegetables as I had them on hand, but I might have used others if I had them such as a fennel bulb, snap peas, broccoli or fresh mushrooms. I wanted it to create this dish more as an appetizer rather than a main course and definitely I wanted it to be a very light dish. I only decided on using Harissa paste towards the end of my stir frying. Harissa paste, a spicy North African chile paste, is available even in Corfu but it seems quite easy to make from scratch.  This is readily available in most countries.

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I finished the dish on a bed of garlic bread fried on an iron skillet.

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Alternatively, it can made into a main meal which you could serve with rice, noodles or something a bit more exotic like couscous.

Harissa Prawns, Beans & Vegetables Bruschetta

Ingredients:

2-3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon lemon juice
5-6 garlic cloves, sliced
10-12 medium prawns, peeled, deveined
1 15-ounce cans white beans (such as cannellini), rinsed, drained
1 small onion, sliced thickly
2 red peppers of Florina, sliced thickly
1 zucchini/courgette, thinly sliced on the diagonal and halved
1 small head cauliflower, cut into florets, (using only a quarter of it)
2–3 tablespoons harissa paste
Sea salt, freshly ground pepper
3  tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Grilled garlic bread

Preparation:

1. In a non-metallic bowl, combine prawns, lemon juice, one teaspoon of Harissa. Marinate for 30 minutes to an hour.

2. Break up the cauliflower into large florets, then, using your hands, break into very small florets. Blanch cauliflower for 2 minutes in hot water.

3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a wok or large cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Once slightly smoking add sliced garlic and cook for 1 minute, add marinated prawns. Cook prawns 3-5 minutes, turning, until they change color and are cooked through. Remove prawns and set aside.

4. In the same skillet over medium-high to high heat. Add the oil, then the onions, red peppers and courgette slices for 2-3 minutes. Stir the cauliflower around the pan, allowing it to get very brown in some areas. Add cooked cannellini beans.

5. Add the 1-2 tablespoons of harissa and toss prawn and vegetable mixture well in in the wok. Cook for 3 minutes, add parsley and then turn heat to low. Season with salt and pepper.

6. Fry sliced wholewheat bread on iron skillet or just fry in toaster, rub clove of garlic on one side.

7. For each serving, place garlic bread flat on plate and top with harissa prawn mixture and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon parsley.

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Hotel Nafsika’s Thanksgivings – Summer 2014

On this Throwbackthursday and on this day of Thanksgiving, Hotel Nafsika gives thanks to all of its guests and patrons for making the summer of 2014 special.

Although most of the world does not celebrate Thanksgiving Day, a day of giving thanks for the blessing of the harvest and of the preceding year, we at the Hotel Nafsika would like to give thanks to all of our guests and non-guests alike with this video.  (This video was supposed to be posted yesterday but uploading in this part of the world is a b*tch!)

Summer 2014 was not without its challenges: my father falling and breaking one of the bones in his pelvis; staff getting sick and not working most of the season; the economic climate in Greece not abating in the face of our politicians saying they are seeing a light at the end of the tunnel and local government not providing services even though we are paying them through the nose!

Yet with all these hardships and others, we give thanks to this past season and dare to be grateful for who we are and what we have. Our Thanksgiving is perpetual.

Once upon a rainy day at the Hotel Nafsika.

Corfu is one of the prettiest islands in Greece and one reason for this is that it rains much more on this island than any other island in Greece. Labeled ‘the Emerald Isle’ for its striking sea of greenery and olive groves.

Many people are surprised at how much it rains on the island, some say as much rain as London gets but this only explains its lush greenery and breathtaking beauty. Flowering bushes, shrubs, olive and cypress trees cloak most of its rolling landscape, and in spring the island is bursting with beautiful wild flowers.

Luckily for the people of Corfu, it has a long dry summer which makes it an ideal destination for holiday makers as it mainly rains in the winter months. Although not tropical in character, it is not unusual for it to rain in the morning and the sun to come out in the afternoon. As this video above illustrates!

 

Avliotes Carnival 2014

This year’s Avliotes Carnival on the north-west side of Corfu in Greece, despite its usual problems of weather and last minute arrangements, went without a hitch.  It was blessed with a mild warm day and a huge turnout even though it was raining in the morning!

This year’s theme, if there was a theme to the carnival,  would be of ‘politicians that don’t keep their promises’!  This of course is nothing new nor is it something which happens only in Greece but it exist everywhere!

This years Karnabalos (Carnival King) is of a politician asking to be re-elected! The carnival participants were satirizing daily life through the various floats in the parade:  for example when will roads be completed ,  filling in the endless pot holes,  trusting political parties since they got us into this crisis,  the graft and corruption which have made our politicians wealthy!

Lampooning these conditions is an outlet for our anger and impotence to change things.  A way to let off some steam, sadly our politicians are immune to our cries of dissatisfaction!

Theodora’s Greek Bean Soup (Fasoulada)

As far as Greek dishes go, Fasoulada, may be one of the most underrated dishes amongst tourists coming to Greece.  Most Greeks when asked the question of which dish represents the country most, would more than likely give the title of Fasoulada as the National Dish of GreeceThis most ancient Greek soup dates back to the time of antiquity where the Ancient Greeks would spend a whole day to celebrating the mighty Fasoulada!  This dish must have saved Greece during World War II as it became the staple diet during the war.  I joke with people in saying that the Germans did not like beans or else they would have stolen them as they did most other foodstuff.

Theodora’s Greek Bean Soup

Theodora’s Greek Bean Soup (Fasoulada)

Fasolada is primarily made with dried navy or white haricot beans.  Its nutritional attributes cannot be overlooked as it contains protein, iron, fibre, magnesium and potassium.  Other ingredients include carrots, celery, onion, tomato paste and olive oil.  The soup adheres to the Mediterranean diet with its legumes and vegetables, rich in antioxidants.

Looking on-line at other people’s contributions to the Greek Bean Soup (Fasoulada),  I noticed that many dishes do not resemble the way most Greeks would cook it.  Many added more vegetables than normal or more tomatoes since the Fasoulada looked too red in color.  I’m quite sure that these dishes tasted just fine and I’m not saying the Fasoulada in these other recipes is wrong (though, I would say the recipes are more a Greek-Style Fasoulada) where as this version here is a more traditional version or should I say Theadora’s Fasoulada. Notice that there is no garlic in this version.  Theodora says that garlic is added only to Fakes (Greek Lentil Soup).   I also like to add a few drops of Tabasco just before I eat it as I like it a bit spicy!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups white beans (may also use navy beans or white haricot beans)
  • 6 cups water
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced finely
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalks celery, strings removed, and sliced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 1/2 Tbsp tomato paste (Again, my mother does not use tomatoes in a can or fresh as they may make the soup bitter and the beans hard.)
  • 1 teaspoon mild paprika
  • 1 vegetable stock
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

PROCEDURE

  1. Soak the beans in water overnight; strain the water, rinse beans and place them in a pot with new water. (I think the soup tastes much better with fresh beans rather than canned beans).
  2. Bring to boil over high heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain beans in a strainer and return to pot. Add 6 cups water. (This is done to make the soup light on the stomach).
  4. Bring to boil for 15 minutes.
  5. Add carrots, onion, celery and red pepper flakes.
  6. Simmer for 1 hour or less until beans are soft and tender. (The time is arbitrary as beans tend to vary according to water softness and even altitude).  Add more water if needed.
  7. Towards the end, add vegetable stock, tomato paste, olive oil, mild paprika and pepper to taste.
  8. Add salt last if needed as the vegetable stock may have enough.  (Do not add salt or tomatoes until the beans are cooked or they will go hard if you do).
  9. Serve with hearty crusted bread, Kalamata olives, spring onions, and white Taramosalata.

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Merry Christmas 2013

Wishing all our friends all over the world
a very Happy and Merry Christmas!

from all your friends at the Nafsika Hotel
in Agios Stefanos Beach, Avliotes,
in Corfu, Greece.

My mum’s Giouvetsi (Γιουβέτσι)

This is one of Greece’s most popular ‘Sunday roast’ and restaurant lamb dishes and yet many tourists that visit Greece each year don’t even know about it.  It is often on the menu in truly authentic Greek tavernas, but with the coming of mass tourism in Greece in the 1960’s, it’s now by passed by dishes such as Stifado and Kleftiko.  The dish is called Giouvetsi (Γιουβέτσι) and it conjures to me fond and cherished memories, as with most Greeks, of my mother doing it for the Sunday table.  Incidentally, I had this dish on our hotel menu for 2 years but sadly it was not moving, so I decided to take it off.

Giouvetsi (Γιουβέτσι) with shaved cheese - nothing better!

Giouvetsi (Γιουβέτσι) with shaved Kefalograviera cheese and orzo pasta (kritharaki) – one of last summer’s special dishes!

This dish is traditionally cooked in a clay earthenware casserole pot, a γάστρα (gastra) in Greek, which creates the distinct taste and nutritional value of food cooked in them.  For generations mothers used to wake up early on Sunday, the day of rest for most, to prepare this dish and take it to the baker where they would give him their ‘gastra’ to bake after he finished baking the bread, using the remains of their hot wood-burning brick oven.  In my mothers island of Ereikousa, they did not have a baker but each household had a brick oven in which they would take turns to bake the bread for that day.  In this way, the women would not need to heat their oven every day but only when it was their turn so that on each designated day the women would take their bread to the oven that was working.  After the bread was baked, they would put the ‘gastra’ in the oven and leave it cooking slowly until it was ready to have their lunchtime meal.

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Simmer the lamb shanks until they are tender in stainless steel pot, then bake them in a clay pot.

There is normally one pasta used for this dish,  it is orzo pasta (or in Greek ‘κριθαράκι – kritharaki’).  This rice shape pasta is traditional for Giouvetsi and many a people have confused it for rice but this time my mother used another Greek pasta called ‘κοφτό – kofto’ which is similar to the Italian pasta Ditalini.  She prefers this pasta since you use less of it and it absorbs more of the luscious sauce.  Most people can name quite a few Italian types of pasta but the Greeks have their own types which they use for their dishes and few people realize how many different Greek dishes are made with pasta. On the island of Corfu since it was under Venetian rule rather than under the Ottomans, pasta was often used, which is why we have many pasta dishes.  No one really knows where pasta originates but I would not be too surprised if the ancient Greeks had something to do with it!

After baking in the clay pot (gastra) for 40 minutes!

After baking in the clay pot (gastra) for 40 minutes!

Even though there are many British people who love pasta, I don’t think it is as popular as the mighty potato! This past summer, a person who stayed with us and loved the hotel, on a Tripadvisor review he wrote, ‘only complaint… there was quite a lot of pasta dishes’!   Which reminds me of the Spaghetti Harvest – April Fool’s Day Hoax in 1957 which generated an enormous response. Hundreds of people phoned the BBC wanting to know how they could grow their own spaghetti tree!

Giouvetsi (Γιουβέτσι)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3  lamb shanks
  • Extra Virgin Greek olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 1 kg  chopped (puree) tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1 cup chicken stock (optional)
  • 3 cups of water
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 4-5 whole allspice
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of freshly ground pepper
  • 500 grams of Ditalini (κοφτό) or orzo pasta (κριθαράκι)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  1. Warm the olive oil in a deep casserole and brown the lamb shanks on all sides.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and leave until they are translucent.
  3. Pour the wine in and wait for 5 to 10 minutes with lid on.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes which my mother has blended in a food processor, tomato paste, stock and the water (until it covers the lamb).
  5. Add cinnamon sticks, bay leaves, whole cloves, whole allspice, freshly ground pepper and sweet paprika.
  6. Put the lid on and let simmer for 1h to 1 1/2h until the lamb shanks becomes tender. Replenish with water if it needs it.  Season with salt towards the end.
  7. Boil pasta for 2 minutes, drain and get it coated with a little olive oil. This is for it not to stick to each other.
  8. Add the cooked lamb shanks in the clay pot.
  9. Add pasta and pour the sauce over lamb and pasta.  This should cover the pasta, add water if not.
  10. Bake in preheated oven at 170ºC for 40 minutes until the pasta is cooked and there’s still some liquid sauce.
  11. Add plenty of cheese and serve.