Athena Lamberis

Posts Tagged ‘Greece’

The history of your Favorite Foods: Pizza, Ice cream . . .

In Stories, Travel on November 3, 2014 at 18:30
 So how do we track back in time to find the origins, the stories of how our favorite foods began?
  Who put fortunes in cookies and tomato sauce on spaghetti?
 Food pairings and cultural dishes have a long history.  From spice trades, to climate regions, culinary history continues to evolve.  Natural food traditions complement what was in season – what was in season also supports exactly what our immune system and our overall physical nutritional health.
 Steamed winter greens such as spinach drizzled with olive oil and a lot of lemon juice is a Greek food staple known as Horta.   If the greens were eaten with cheese or just salt, for example, you wouldn’t get the benefit of  absorbing the high levels of Calcium and Iron in the vegetable.  When lemon juice or other foods high in Vitamin C are added to the greens, this assists the body for absorption – plus spinach is delicious with lemon juice anyway! Win-win.
So that’s just the nutritional side . . . on the history side, this info-graphic produced by Cheapflights.ca tells it how it is.  Anthropology of Food . . . .  I love it!  Appetite for variety – I celebrate all things real food.  Enjoy!
the history behind your favourite foods 53cd2cdd68e9e w640 How and Where the Worlds Most Beloved Foods Started (INFOGRAPHIC)

Sushi photo (slider) via Shutterstock

Baklava Recipe of Hellenic Cuisine Cook book – Detroit, MI

In Recipe, Stories on July 8, 2013 at 11:45

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The Culinary Linguist Baklava from Hellenic Cuisine

Baklava from Hellenic Cuisine
pic by http://www.foundmichigan.org/
Copyright 1956 Sts. Constantine and Helen Book Fund 4801 Oakman Boulevard Detroit, Michigan

It started with an urgent recipe book search, followed by a Whatsapp message to my mom,

“Hey, I’m making baklava and was thinking about yiayia’s recipe book.  Did you give me a copy?”

My Yiayia Christina was a legendary cook.  It’s a family fact that Yiayia and Thea Toula (her younger sister) were a culinary force.  They created delicious Greek food feasts for our families, fed generations and instilled life lessons like great food is made with love (and a whole lot of butter or olive oil).   Their culinary contributions are found in the 1956 recipe book, Hellenic Cuisine, created in Detroit, MI.  You can read more about the history here.

This collection of Greek culinary tradition displays the way women of St. Constantine & Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Detroit raised funds to make change in their community.

The culinary memory of my Yiayia and Thea live on when I recreate a recipe inspired by them.  Making baklava this past weekend was one of those moments.

It transported me back to the kitchen counters of my childhood, painting melted butter on phyllo sheets and chewing on raw phyllo dough when my mom wasn’t looking.  I always loved the way each baklava diamond was adorned with a clove and that eating baklava for breakfast was totally acceptable. 🙂

The honey drenched crunch of baked baklava even featured at our wedding.  My mother-in-law had a baklava tasting party to make sure the best one was shared with our family and friends.

To recreate baklava in South Africa meant we adapted a recipe to the ingredients we had available.

We substituted walnuts with ground up cashew, almond, brazil nut and pumpkin seeds.  Raisins and cranberries were chopped in the food processor because we were lazy to pick them all out of the trail nut mix.  Instead of using any sugar, we decided to use a honey and farm butter mixture to paint on the phyllo layers.

We even added organic rose water to the mixture from our friend’s at Kuhestan Farm.  I couldn’t resist dipping uncooked phyllo strips in the honey, butter, rose water mixture while lining the pans with all the ingredients.

In addition to the baklava layers in a pan, I rolled some into baklava cigars for variation of shapes.

In the throws of making the sweet layered masterpiece, my mom sent an adapted recipe from the Hellenic Cuisine cook book that my dad claims,  “Jackie Kennedy had a copy.”

In sharing this recipe with you, I hope you get a chance to make baklava and evolve it to your heart’s desire.

Experimenting with tradition creates new memories.

The Culinary LInguist Baklava Recipe

The Culinary Linguist Baklava Recipe Hellenic Cuisine

Mom’s email:

   By popular demand, here is the baklava recipe:
This is the family’s secret recipe but what the heck, if you don’t share good things what else can we share…..

                       Baklava Recipe

5         cups of walnuts, pecans, pistachio or a combination of two or more
( your choice of what you like best, I like walnuts and pistachio)
3/4      cups of sugar
2 T      Cinnamon
1 T       Allspice
2          Phyllo Sheets
1          Lb. sweet butter (yes, 4 sticks – do not cheat on this, otherwise the
ghosts of the past yiayia’s will haunt you)

Blend first 5 ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Spray oil or brush butter a large 15 by 25 inch pan
Apply a sheet of phyllo and butter
Butter 6 more sheets of phyllo and then begin to sprinkle nut mixture between every 2 layers of phyllo until all nut mixture is finished.
Keep 5 to 6 pieces of phyllo for top layer
Cut excess phyllo from edge (leaving 1/2 inch) and fold outside edge under and slice whole Baklava into individual pieces (first rows lengthwise and then diagonally across rows).  Apply 1 clove onto center of each piece.  It looks NICE that way.  Plus it adds some flavor.
Bake in 325 degree oven for about 1 hour.
Make syrup while Baklava bakes.

Syrup:
1  cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes

Or,

Add:
1/4 to 1/2  cup honey And water (after you make it couple of times, you will know which strength of sweetness you would prefer)
Simmer for 5 more minutes

Add:
1   T. Vanilla
1   T. Lemon Juice, 1t of rind
Simmer for 2 minutes

When Baklava is removed from oven immediately spread the piping hot syrup ( it should sizzle)
Allow to cool and store covered in cool place for up to 1 week.

This is the dessert you want to share, or invite your friends for a sweet party.

When I was young and energetic, I used to make 5 pans of Baklava and have a Christmas cookie exchange.  This dessert was the favorite and the fastest to go.

Carry on the tradition, but don’t wait for Christmas.  It is good anytime.  Great with Greek/Turkish coffee too.
Enjoy in Good Health and Good Spirits!
Maria

______________________

Hellenic Cuisine cook book baklava pinwheels, The Culinary Linguist

Hellenic Cuisine cook book baklava pinwheels, The Culinary Linguist

The Culinary Linguist-Hellenic Cuisine

The Hellenic Cuisine cookbook seeks to preserve the culinary traditions of ancient and modern Greece. With well over 300 recipes arranged by category, direction have been simplified for the American kitchen. The book blends new and old. Scores of the recipes were submitted in the Greek language and translated.

How to Cure your Own Olives in Brine: Greek Yiayia Style

In Recipe, Stories on April 25, 2013 at 19:45

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The Culinary Linguist-Homemade-How to Cure Olives-Pickle and Marinate

Olives in Athen’s Greece Farmer’s Market

 

Mom would say, “Only eat 8 olives a day, honey.”  But it was too easy to devour the salty Grecian delights by the dozen. With crusty brown sourdough bread and green virgin olive oil on a flat side plate, nothing satisfied me more than eating Yiayia’s Kalamatas olives in the middle of Chicago’s winter.  To this day, I have a plate solely dedicated to olives and their pips and snack on these pickled fruits year round (and still by the dozen).

Growing up, I’d spin the bottom  shelf of the  cupboard to reveal  Yiayia’s hand-picked, home-cured Kalamata olives.  Purple, green and maroon olives floated in one gallon glass jars of oregano, thyme, vinegar and oil.  As a kid, I was powerlifting  the heavy 2 gallon olive jar off the bottom shelf and onto the counter in order to dip my tiny fingers into the oil and vinegar brine to search for the juiciest olives.  As I got older, I’d use an oversized spoon to fish for the tangiest Kalamatas, and strain the brine from the spoon to reveal my bite-size snacks.  When May arrived, it got harder for the spoon to fish for olives at the bottom of the jar.  I’d spend the whole year snacking on the cured fruits and diminished our Greek food provisions we would smuggle in from Greece.  The empty olive jar was an indicator that it wouldn’t be long before we would pack our dresses and sandals for the summer at Yiayia’s house.  Mom would pack a suitcase within a suitcase when we travelled to Athens.  In August, we would return to Chicago with more olives to fill the jar, and enough oregano to make the beagles sniff us out as drug smugglers.

Now, when May arrives I pick 10-20 kilos of Mission Olives around Cape Town, South Africa.  My childhood love for enjoying home-cured olives, fills my own cupboards with a cultural joy and salty olive treats to share in memory of my grandmother’s tradition.

Every step of the curing processes makes me wonder of when and how people discovered this ancient practice.

My Grandparents in Greece, 1930-40', Athena and Elias

My Grandparents, Yiayia Athena and Papou Elias Soupos

My Greek grandmother Athena culinary traditions

Greek love under the olive groves

Mission Olives in South Africa on Francolin Farm

Mission olives growing on branches in South Africa

Was it Athena’s olive tree branch that broke off during an autumn storm?  The branch that fell into the river bed and carried it for weeks into the salty estuary of Poseidon’s sea.  For weeks it may have soaked along the shores until a small family fishing boat arrived near Kalamata and came across the curing olive fruit branch floating in the water.  If they tasted the divine harmony of the Greek Gods’ elements and discovered that the olive fruit tree was not just best for oil, wood and shade, but for it’s fruit too, then let that be the start of a nourishing tradition.

I have been learning about the whole benefits of the olive tree itself recently when I’m not making up mythological stories of food origins. 🙂

With all its rich phytonutrients and phytochemicals (phyto stems from the Greek word-plant), the medicinal compounds from the leaves, fruit, roots and stems, play a major role in fighting bacterial and viral infections/disease as well as boosting the immune system to prevent and treat flus and colds.  The olive tree’s ancient medicinal presence is found in many religious texts such as the Qu’ran, Torah and Bible, and continues to feature in Internal Medicine Journals today.

The oleuropein (the bitter substance in olives) has been founded to inactivate bacteria, and display a number of other benefits in pharmacology research.  Essentially, it is an herbal powerhouse effective for infectious and chronic health conditions.  I like to use olive leaf extract or make olive leaf tea as a preventive agent in my overall health.  Olive leaves are now a staple in my cupboard alongside cured olives. I’ve found ways to use olive leaves in many everyday uses by sprinkling the leaves in salads, porridge, soups, and breads.  Don’t be surprised if I post an Olive leaf smoothie in the near future. I promise it wont be bitter!

For now, I would like to share some delicious combinations of flavours I’ve added to my curing olives over the years.

But first, there are a variety of ways to cure olives.  Check out the Australian Olive Grower Issue #4 for some inspiration.

For the past three years, I have been roughly following a water bath recipe given to me by Francolin Farm.

1. After picking your olives, place rinsed olives in a net bag (the ones you store onion’s  with) and put into a bucket and cover with water. Don’t pack olives too tightly and take care not to bruise them.  I place my olives in a cooler box because it has a spout I can lift open to let the water drain. Some people save water by placing the olives on top of the toilet basin where fresh water gets drained everytime you flush.  Others just fill their bathtub and drain it daily.  It would be nice to find some use for your greywater (olive water) in your garden.  If water shortage is an issue, fill jars with 50% salt and 50% olives.  Gently turn and toss olive jars daily for 2-3 weeks.  Rinse salt and fill jars again with 1 part salt and 10 parts water (see below for olive marinade flavours.)

2. Change water once or twice daily for 2-3 weeks. Simply lift the net bag with
olives out of the bucket and pour off water and replace in fresh water. Taste after two weeks and continue if it is still too bitter.

3. Dissolve 500 grams coarse salt in 5 litres boiling water. Allow to cool.
This mixture is sufficient for approx 2 ½ kilos of olives. Leave olives in this
brine solution undisturbed for one week. Taste, if bitter replace with fresh
brine solution and leave for a further week.  I like to use non-iodized salt or kosher salt.  The other ratio to use is 1 part salt to 10 parts water.

4. Rinse olives several times with fresh water. Cover with brown vinegar for
24 hours. Pour off vinegar and expose the olives to air overnight or a few hours
till dry.  This brings the colour of the olives back to a deep purple/black.  You may notice they lightened in colour when they were soaking.

4. Pack olives in clean warm sterilized jars. Pour over 25 ml olive oil per
jar. Make a brine of  300 grams coarse salt to 4,5 litres water (or 1:10 ratio). When brine mixture boils pour in 250 ml wine vinegar.  The vinegar is not necessary, but many people love the taste of red wine vinegar instead of the rich olive taste.  The art is getting all flavours to balance, in true Grecian culinary wisdom -Everything in Moderation. Pour hot brine mixture over  . . . . .  But wait!  This is where your creative olive marinade flavours get to feature.

Let your imagination go wild.  In addition to your brine (whether it is the vinegar and salt, or just 1 part salt to 10 part water ratio.  The salt ensures that the olives cure without bacteria growing and spoiling the fruit.  If you notice some white film, don’t stress.  You can scrape it off or leave it to add flavour as some people believe.  Before filling the jars with olives, add your favourite pinches of spice and intuitive amounts for your olives to marinate in. Then, place olives into the jar, filling the jar to the brim. Pour your salt brine over and seal jar immediately whilst the liquid is hot. Some people pour oil over to seal the jar.  This is optional.

Olives in a Moroccan marinade

Olives are tossed in salt, lemon, bay leaves, pickled garlic, and rosemary in a barrel marinade

Some flavour marinades I’ve done in the past:

Smoked Chipolte Chili Powder and Rosemary

Mustard Seeds and Laurel Leaf

Greek Traditional: Lemon Juice, Lemon Rinds, Rosemary and Garlic cloves

Herbaliser: Basil, Oregano, Lemon and Thyme

Nasturtium and Peppadew

Lemongrass and Ginger

Cumin seeds, Cayenne and Lemon

Miso and Ginger

Celery Seeds, Bay Leaf and Tarragon

Sage and Rainbow Peppercorns

Acha Masala

Smoked Paprika and Lemon Slices

Lavender Flowers, Cloves and Cumin

Cardamom, Peppercorn and Cinnamon

Red curry powder and Turmeric

Carraway Seeds, Celery and Carrot

Spices and Herbs to put in Olive marinade

Food as our medicine: Herbs sold at in Athens, Greece Farmer’s Market

Olives sold in Athens, Greece

Different types of Olives: Brined, Pickled, Dried, Salted, Cracked, etc.

Share your olive marinades and enjoy!

What to Eat when Visiting Greece’s villages: Nourishing Food Traditions

In Stories, Travel on February 5, 2012 at 13:24

Greek village food on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece   Summertime and road tripping lead to some of my favorite food adventure memories.  In Greece, you can drive on national highways and come across Greek village tavernas that serve greek horiatiki salads under grapevines.  Roadside stalls are piled with local fresh, dried, and preserved food that have been made and celebrated for centuries.  Tradition, food sovereignty, and pride for fresh Greek food is celebrated in most Greek villages you visit.  It certainly reigns true in the Greek village of my Greek summer food memories, Alepohori.  My grandmother, Yiayia Chrissy was born there, and I have grown to know the similar tastes and smells she must have enjoyed in her youth. From the chestnut tree forests and oregano-lined mountains, everything was grown organically and families shared the fruits of the Arcadian soil.  Visiting Alepohori today provides me with hundreds of simple food pleasures.  Today, I am sharing a few of my many favorites that you can enjoy.

1. Drink Ouzo.   If you can find local and homemade, even better.  In the village, drinking ouzo is pastime and for some . . . an immune booster 😉 You could claim that walking down to the tavern or to your neighbour’s house for  glass of ouzo on the hill is the reason why people live to 100 here, not to mention consuming a fresh medley of mezedes everyday.   If you like to enjoy long afternoons with traditional tiny plates of food and company from your neighbours, drink ouzo.

Greek Ouzo on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece

2. Pick figs and eat them.  If you are lucky enough to be in Greece during the months of July, August, September then you will be in wild food harvesting heaven.

Greek figs on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece

3.  Keep an eye out for summer fruit trees.  A simple mountain walk in the afternoon will lead you to picking fresh public produce from the fruit trees.  Below is a modest harvest of bite size Grecian yellow plums.

Picking plums on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece

Greek food on The Culinary Linguists blog #GreeceGreek village cats on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece

4.  Visit the local cheese dairy and choose the best tasting Feta made from Goat’s milk.  If there are different cheese varieties, buy a small portion of Manouri cheese and fry it up on a skillet at home.

ImageGreek food and cheese on The Culinary Linguists blog #GreeceImage

5. Pick fresh tomatoes from the vine and prepare a traditional Greek village salad:

 Greek salad recipe

2 large tomatoes (cut into bite size chunks)

Put in a medium-sized bowl and add salt to taste.  Toss the tomatoes so the salt draws out the juices.

Add a half a long thin cucumber (cut into half slices)

1/4 of red onion (cut into thin slices)

1/2 green pepper (cut into thin slices)

Mix the salad together.

Drizzle Extra Virgin Olive Oil over the salad and a pinch of fresh or dried oregano.

1 slice of your fresh feta cheese (portion to your desire)

Place feta on top of the salad and sprinkle more oregano and drizzle more oil.

Add 5-7  marinated olives to the salad.

Grab forks and dive in.

(Note: Once you’ve finished you salad, leave an extra piece of Greek village bread and soak up all the golden juice: salt, tomato juice, oil and oregano, leaving your bowl clean.

Greek salad on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece #recipe

6.  Visit the local farms in the village.  Most are private plots and operate on biodynamic systems that yields incredible organic produce, beautiful to photograph and even tastier to eat straight from ground.

Greek food and natural farms on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece

Greek food and honey on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece

Be sure to taste honey made in the Peloponnesus mountains

Greek food on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece
Greek men on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece
Greek child on The Culinary Linguists blog #GreeceGreek donkey on The Culinary Linguists blog #GreeceGreek Sunflower on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece

7.  Find out where your honey comes from.  Greek honey is so fragrant that getting a chance to see where all the flowers are in bloom makes your next spoonful a visual and sensory treat and a proud locavore.

Greek bread on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece

8. Buy Greek village bread.  Next to Alepohori, there is another village, Blakhokeresia, that makes delicious authentic bread.

9.  Learn from your grandmothers.  Every house you visit, or path you cross is an opportunity to learn, taste and enjoy traditional and personal Greek food favorites.  Practice your culinary linguistics and enjoy the range of hospitality that is shown through the food and culture.  Greek village woman on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece

10.  Share a delicious Greek village lunch feast with family and neighbors.  Digest it all by taking a nap-preferably in a hammock, underneath the chestnut trees.

Greek food on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece

Souvlaki, rice, Greek Salad, baked lemon oven potatoes, sauteed tomato and green beans and anything else that may get piled onto your plate. It will be tasty!

Greek food and village on The Culinary Linguists blog #Greece

To Cook or Dehydrate: Raw Food Recipes and Creativity

In Friend's Kitchens, Recipe on November 8, 2011 at 11:54

Rawlicious on The Culinary Linguist Blog #rawrecipes

I just learned how to harvest Aloe Ferox from the ‘cook’ book Rawlicious-Recipes for Radiant Health.  It’s a recipe book that encourages you to make colourful and vibrant food by encouraging you to put aloe in your smoothies, have sprouts as a kitchen staple,  and make edible flower salads that look like birthday confetti.  Who wouldn’t want to pick flowers and eat them too? 

I’ve enjoyed some great raw food dishes from this book made by friends who have created delicious versions of the Mango-gooseberry cheesecake and savoury snacks. The Rawlicious team, Lexi, Beryn and Peter, have put together a beautiful book that makes it fun and intriguing to incorporate raw dishes into your daily graze.  I don’t think I’ll ever substitute pancakes on the griddle for dehydrated ones but I most definitely will enjoy the creativity that goes into making other raw food dishes.  It’s a proudly South African Raw Recipe book that even attempts biltong in the form of aubergine. Props to that! I most definitely am going to try it out and attempt the beetroot ravioli too. I love having a recipe book that experiments with all the possibilities that food in it’s natural element has to offer.  Stay tuned for some posts on making these raw recipes come alive in true culinary linguistic style.

Raw Food on The Culinary Linguist Blog #rawrecipes

Do you have any great raw recipes to share?  I’d love to hear your tips, post your links, methods, and pics right here. The food pictures posted are from home gardens in my paternal grandmother’s village, Alepohori, Greece in the Peloponnese.  A place where radiant health is determined by the food you grow and the food you eat.

Raw Food on The Culinary Linguist Blog #rawrecipes

The Perfect Beach Snack: Nutella Loukoumades (Donuts) in Parga, Greece

In Stories, Travel on August 22, 2011 at 09:04

Nutella Doughnuts Loukoumades in Greece on The Culinary Linguist Blog

 You can’t get more indulgent than pouring Nutella over fried dough.  Well I wouldn’t mind adding fresh strawberries or crushed almonds into the mix.  Regardless, everyone around the world loves fried dough.  North Americans call it doughnuts, South Africans call it vetkoek, Greeks call it loukoumades.  But not everyone pours Nutella over it.  My friend Georgia took me to Parga, a small coastal town in Northwestern Greece.  We spiraled down the mountain to the beach and swam into the chilling fresh sea. After the dip we shared some beers on the deck of her favorite bar that overlooked Parga’s harbour. She decided before we hit the road we should get Nutella loukoumades for the ride home to Ioannina.  “Yes!” I exclaimed.  We giggled as the storekeeper drizzled the chocolate over the bitesize doughnuts. We skipped through the narrow streets with our road trip snack in hand.  The elderly lady with the fruit stand told us her grapes were just as sweet but we shyly replied that we spent our last euro pennies on our Nutella treat.  Who would have thought that hot oil, dough and chocolate could make grown-up girls skip and squeal. It’s official, I’ll never say no to Nutella or to Nutella with loukoumades.  Maybe next time I’ll throw some grapes in the mix.

Parga Beach on The Culinary Linguist Blog #Greece

Greek Glory: The Kebab Pita at Thanasis

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2011 at 12:54

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I had a layover in Athens back in 2008. The first stop I made when I got out the airport was at Thanasi’s Greek kefta kebab pita joint.  I sat in the middle of Monastiraki square and savoured each bite.  The pita kebab filled my tastebuds with the celebrated spices that have influenced Greek cuisine for centuries. Thank goodness for the spice trades of India and Persia for the saffron and paprika. Thansis’ pita kebab consists of a fresh grilled pita with spiced ground lamb molded and grilled on a steel stick over hot coals. The tzatziki, yoghurt, onion, cucumber, dill sauce, calms the pungent flavours of the kebab and softens the chew of the fire grilled pastry pita. All the delicious flavours fit in the palm of your hand. The pita kebab is a whole moment of all major food groups wrapped tightly in wax paper.  It has the vegetable crunch from the onion and cucumber, fruit of the tomato, diary cream of the yoghurt, and finally the spiced meat kebab grilled on the open fire for the juiciest flavour in the Attica province.  I’ve yet to get the secret spices he puts into the kebab, hmmmm.

Now, fast forward to 2011 in Athens, Greece and I am busy buying shoes with my sister, Koko in Plaka instead of getting the secret ingredients.  The rest of the family sat down to Thansis’ glorious menu of authentic Greek cafe food.  When we did arrive to Thanasi’s with our new Athenian sandals, everyone was pleasantly satisfied and I ended up eating the lasting flavour bites from their plates. The whole place was bustling and I got inspired to do a ‘mini’ photo shoot of “Behind the Grill: at Thanasis”

The owner, Thanasi, was quietly sitting in the back of the restaurant, and smiling for the camera.  The food photographed simple and beautiful but what’s best was what came from the 4 metre grill and the men and women behind the scenes.  I didn’t ask how many kebabs they serve a day, but no doubt they are serving hundreds of amazing Athenian food memories for tourists and locals. Thanasi has been doing the right thing for the past 50 years, supporting a hardworking team that serves a quality product all grilled and rolled up into proud Grecian flavour.

Step by Step-Easy Dolmades Recipe (just like your Yiayia’s)

In Recipe on July 15, 2011 at 13:36

Easy Dolmades on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipeIn less than a month, I’ll be back in Greece buying white peaches from my Yiayia’s (grandmother) neighbourhood laiki (produce market) and learning how to make feta cheese from the thea’s (Aunties) in the horio (village).  But lately I’ve been channeling my ancestors by consuming far too many olives and craving those cultural food comforts like lamb and dolmades.  The craving manifested itself when we decided to have ten friends over to watch some doccies on a projector.  I looked in our fridge and we didn’t have much but some leftover pickled ginger, bamboo shoots, cabbage, carrots, and a jar of vine leaves..

There aren’t many weekends left before we go to Greece, so attempting the dolmades became decided.

When I was fourteen, My Uncle Terry came to visit us from Israel and brought my mom the ultimate gadget: The Dolma Roller.  You place your vine leaf flat and your stuffing in the middle of the gadget, pull a lever towards you and out pops a tightly rolled dolma.  It seemed to work when we tested it out with newspaper and you could even change the size of how thin or thick you wanted the dolma to be rolled.  We were impressed but it was never put to real use, it never made it to the kitchen and was tested to roll other things in the basement.  Dolmades I most enjoyed were at my Yiayia Chrissy and Thea Toula’s house in Detroit, Michigan where they used a lamb/rice stuffing and made an avgolemeno sauce served on top of them.

My grandmother's dolmades on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe

YiaYia Chrissy blowing out candles circe 1977

Luckily in Cape Town, you can buy vine leaves and my friend, Frances, brought them over one day thinking they were ready made dolmades. I had made that mistake once before. She left the jar with me and they sat therefor three weeks waiting to be made until there was nothing left to make but these delicious hand-rolled dolmades.  With some research on rolling styles, I managed to make 50 dolmades and created an easy vegan stuffing recipe that can be creatively adapted to use lots of different legumes that you can experiment with.  With the left over stuffing I made vegan patties to cook on the grill.  Scrumptious!  That recipe later….

Easy Vegan Dolmades Stuffing

3 cups rice

1 cup brown lentil

6 cups water

Salt and Pepper to taste

1 small chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped cabbage

1 large grated carrot

50-60 vine leaves

2 large grated onions

Juice of 5 lemons

Lemon slices for the bottom of the pot

Lots of extra virgin olive oil

Makes enough stuffing for about 50 dolmades

Easy Dolmades using a hot box wonder bag on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe

The Hot Box

Boil water and put in the rice, lentils, salt and pepper, chopped onion, carrot, cabbage.  Lower to a simmer until fully cooked or put it in your hot box for two-three hours.  I never knew how to cook rice perfectly until I made this hot box.  I think it is a must-have and you save a load on electricity.  While the stuffing is cooking, grate the 2 onions into a pulp.  Add this to your cooked rice and lentils and knead it into the stuffing so it creates a wet dough-like consistency you can form into mounds.  Wash the vine leaves off from the preservative water they are stored in and lay it out flat.

Easy Dolmades rice filling on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipePlace about 2 tablespoons of your stuffing mix by the edge of where the stem would start from the leaf.

How to roll dolmades on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe

1 step

How to roll dolmades on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe

2. Place the stuffing on the bottom of the leaf and fold the left corner

How to roll dolmades on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe

3. Fold the right corner over the stuffing

How to roll dolmades on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe

4. Fold the top left corner toward the middle

How to roll dolmades on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe

5. Fold the top right corner toward the middle

6. Roll the leaf from the bottom toward the top of the leaf

How to roll dolmades on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe

7. Roll it tight into your dolma shape

Fold the left bottom corner of the vine leaf over the stuffing.  Fold the right vine leaf over the stuffing, crossing over the left leaf side. Then fold the top left towards the middle of the leaf, and then the right side toward the middle.  From the bottom of the leaf, roll the covered stuffing toward the top point of the leaf, keeping the roll tight and even. Your dolma has been rolled and is ready to be put in the bottom of the pot. Rolled dolmades on The Culinary Linguist Blog #recipe Pack the bottom of the pot tightly with all the dolmades. Jo’s Cypriot tip is to line the bottom and the top of the pot with lemon slices so while the dolmades boil, they soak up the flavour of the lemon and vine leaf juice.  Once your pot is packed with the dolmades, pour water about 2 cm over the top layer. Place a plate that fits into the pot cavity to rest on top of the dolmades, then place a bowl on top of that plate with a heavy rock or brick.

So all your hard work of rolling each dolma by hand isn’t put to waste, the agitation caused by boiling water won’t disturb the dolmades that are securely weighed down by your plate, bowl, rock combo. Place the lid on top of the pan and boil the water on medium heat for an hour, or place in the handy little hot box and open up two hours later…

If there is left over water, drain it and place your steamy dolmades onto a platter.  Pour the fresh lemon juice over the them while they are still hot and then drizzle lots of olive oil to make them shine.  I wanted to take a picture of the final platter, but in 10 minutes, between 12 of us, all the dolmades were eaten and enjoyed. I was hoping there was going to be leftovers, so next time I’ll have all my sisters over to have a troop of us rolling the dolmades for us to eat and take home.  I definitely will be making these babies again, seeing they were so simple to make and with the help of the hot box, it made it super economical to make. Can’t wait to be eating mezedes in Ellada!  If I were to open a sidewalk cafe, it would definitely be made up of mezze platters featuring these super simple lemony scrumptious vegan dolmades.

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