Athena Lamberis

Posts Tagged ‘rice’

Spinach and Agushi: Ghanaian Flavour at the Portobello Market

In Events, Travel on August 10, 2011 at 13:36

Spinach & Agushi at the Portobello Market on The Culinary Linguist Blog #London

As I’m writing this my mouth is watering again.

We went to London to celebrate my Pop’s “Bones” 70th birthday year.  We travelled 9623 km from Cape Town and hopped around the 940 metres of Portobello Market in London.  There were hundreds of stalls to choose from for our varied market food palettes.  I came across the funky chalk-printed sign Spinach and Agushi, The Ghanaian Food Co. I was intrigued by the aroma and liked their Earth-friendly packaging.

 My whole family got order envy when the friendly market vendor from Congo dished me up a super-size portion after I rapped my two words of Lingala to him. I even got extra fresh salad garnish on top.

Exclamations of tastiness poured from my mouth after the first spoonful combo of seasoned rice and spinach& agushi stew reached my tastebuds.  I was a happy chowing tourist. It was most flavour-packed food at the market hands down and made me smile to know I was celebrating the diverse culture and food from the very continent I had just travelled from.

Spinach & Agushi at the Portobello Market on The Culinary Linguist Blog #London

No joke, this dish makes me want to go to Ghana to sample more of the spicy flavourful cuisine.  I’m putting it on my list of things to do. 🙂 I snagged a brochure of their booming London catering biznass, Jollof Pot. They deliver and cater events, serving up amazing dishes like gari foto-grated cassava flavoured in a spicy tomato sauce with roasted pepper and red onions, chilli prawns with crispy sweet potato chips and tilapia and coco yam cakes.

I’ll have to tell you, this stall of Ghanaian seasoned rice and stew put the popular Spanish paella stand to shame. It’s true. I did sample the flashy pan-cooked stuff and it had nothing on Spinach & Agushi . . . I wish I would have gone back or hope to someday eat at the Jollof Pot’s restaurant.  In other words, when Pops says “We’re going to have fish and chips for dinner in London.” I’ll say, “Meet me at the Jollof Pot for chilli prawns and sweet potato chips!”

The Jollof Pot has a online shop: You can order this food hamper or Ghanaian spice kits. 

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.

Rooibos Rice with Smoked Paprika Mussels (Quick Paella-wanna-be)

In Recipe on December 1, 2010 at 12:03

Rooibos Rice with Paella-inspired flavours

I thought to myself, ‘How can I make a rice dish a little more interesting?’ So I started with the idea of color and decided to use all ‘red’ coloured ingredients in my kitchen. So first off, I made rooibos (redbush) tea-flavoured water to steam my brown rice.  I also took flavours commonly found in paella and used deliciously red: smoked paprika, cayenne, tomato paste, and red peppers, to add to the dish. The recipe goes a lil something like this:

2 cups of brown rice

4 cups water

4 rooibos teabags

1 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 green pepper

1 medium carrot

half a red pepper

1 cup of rooibos tea

120 g tomato paste

170 g smoked mussels

Olive Oil

2 tsp cayenne pepper

1 TB smoked paprika

4 artichoke hearts

parsley for garnish



Boil 4 cups water and add 4 bags of Rooibos tea. Add rice and reduce heat to a simmer.

In a deep large frying pan, cover the bottom of the pan with olive oil and let it heat on medium for 1 minute.  Add slices of onion and grated garlic and let them cook until soft and brown.  Add smoked paprika, cayenne pepper with salt and pepper to taste.  I accidentally added cayenne as if it were paprika and the flavour and spiciness was awesome, so don’t be afraid to add more heat if you can handle it.  Add the mussels and slices of carrot, green and red pepper to the oil and let them sit in the oil for minute.

Make a cup of roobis tea and mix the hot tea and tomato paste together in a bowl.  Add this mixture to the pan and stir.  When the rice is fully cooked, add the cooked rice to the frying pan mixture and stir in all the flavours together on a low heat.  Add the artichoke hearts and the fresh parsley for garnish and serve hot.  If there are left-overs be prepared for delicious marinated flavours dancing on your tongue-so much yummier than cold pizza…

Tip 1: If you can’t find little cans of smoked mussels, subsitute with smoked oysters, smoked sausage or smoked tofu.

Always consider flavouring your water when making rice.  Try jasmine tea or cinnamon sticks, anise or fennel!

Rice and Beans

In Recipe on September 12, 2010 at 18:06

The staple diet of beautifully steamed rice and refried or hot steamy black beans is a comfort food and can be eaten with most anything.  I also love a raw salsa as a salad and I picked four vegetables I had in my fridge and chopped them up in a processor.

Using what you have in the fridge helps with overall kitchen groceries management, learning how to get creative with recipes you see and adapting them to your available resources without making a special trip to the store makes cooking SO much easier.  Doing this helps clean out your fridge and lands fresh veggies onto your plate rather than going limp in your produce drawer, poor carrots.  Add cumin, cilantro, lemon, onion and salt and your taste buds will recognize the pungent flava flav, no matter what vegetables you added.


1 cup Rice

1 cup Black beans (soak over night)

half carrot

1 tomato

half red pepper

half yellow pepper

half red onion

Juice of one lemon

half TB of Cumin

handful of cilantro (dhania)

salt and pepper to taste

Boil beans in water with a slice of lemon and bay leaves until soft and drain the liquid. Heat two cups of water with 1 cup rice in a pot until at boiling point and lower the heat to a simmer until water has been absorbed. Just when the water has been absorbed, add 2 TB of oil and cover the pot with a lid.  This will give you a crunchy fried rice at the bottom of the pot which is scrumptious eaten when scooped out and served  with soft smooth beans.

Chop the onion, carrot, tomato and peppers in a food processor to the desired size, on pulse.  Add lemon juice, chopped cilantro, cumin and salt and pepper to taste to the mixture. This will be the rainbow salsa to your rice and beans.  Add tortilla chips to your rice, bean and salsa dish to use as edible utensils.  Garnish with fresh chopped chili peppers or sprinkle chipolte powder.

Tip 1: Grate your favorite mild cheese, queso fresco or white cheddar and fry the cooked beans with the cheese and serve it over rice garnished with the salsa.

Tip 2: Soak a whole bag of beans overnight and boil. Drain the beans and save the bean broth for a soup or as a base to other dishes that require a seasoned broth. Set aside a cup of beans for your dish and store the rest in freezer tight packaging for other rice and bean nights.  This way you will have ready to go beans that can be quickly defrosted in hot water and heated with cheese, yum!  So quick and easy to enjoy your comfort food.

Tip 3: As long as you have lemon, cumin, and onion you can make any type of raw salsa that speaks to your tongue.  Substitute one of the raw vegetables in the recipe with cucumber, cabbage, green apple, celery, green pepper, beet, or chayote

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