Lunch for the girls, Athens, Greece (Beetroot, orange, walnut salad recipe)

I moved from Bucharest to Athens when I was 7 years old to attend the American Community School.  It was a calculated move on my parents part to give me a better education and so I could finally learn to speak English.It took me a long time to adjust: there was the language problem; the stigma of being both Eastern European and an Arab (children can be as racist as adults); my short unruly hair cut; and my mother’s habit of insisting I wear the same outfit the entire week.  Like we all do, I learned to navigate the playground and insisted on a pair of pink high top reeboks which I hoped would elevate my social standing.25 years later, I’ve gotten into the habit of hosting a lunch for my former play mates whenever I visit Athens.

For this lunch I made: mint lemonade*; beetroot salad, recipe follows; asparagus and potato salad (recipe), courgettes stuffed with mint, breadcrumbs & Parmesan (recipe); a dessert of cherries and strawberries in syrup, chocolate brownie, whipped cream and meringues Read more of this post

Breadcrumbed Grilled Fennel with Serrano Ham

I tell you, the irony…

I used to pray that my daughter would sleep through the night, it took a while, 18 months to be exact. Now the  problem is, I can no longer sleep through the night. I have periods of hour-long lucidity in the wee hours of the night.  Sometimes I stay in bed and fidget, other times I get up and read about food. Last night I woke up at 3 am and couldn’t get back to sleep.

Since I’d been dreaming about that slice of grilled fennel I had at the River Cafe last month, I decided to set about recreating it and making it the star attraction of a warm salad dish.  While researching, I noticed that none of the recipes I found suggested briefly simmering the fennel to soften it before getting it in the grill pan.  Which is odd, because I’m almost certain that is what they did at the River Cafe.   

To me, fennel’s sweet aniseed flavour tends to coat the mouth, making subsequent flavours feel out of kilter (similar to, but not as extreme as, artichokes).  I think it benefits from another strong flavour, Serrano ham is perfect bedfellow.  I liked the neutral wedge of chewy bread that was served at River Cafe but since my flat is surrounded by Thürmann’s, which I generally try and avoid, I thought laterally and used garlic infused pan fried breadcrumbs, to which I added parsley and capers.

Read more of this post

Roast Pumpkin filled with Quinoa, served with Rocket and Pickled Beetroot salad and Tahini drizzle

I met Misterrios at a vegetarian cafe named Die Rebellion des Zimtsterns.  It is a cute cafe, with a fun green wall and big communal table.  I balked at the fact that you could get a warm lunch on a plate for €5!  Mr. Rios looked at me like I was from Mars.  Well I live in Mitte!  And London before that so – yes, I think it is cheap!

It was back when my computer was out of action and he had heroically volunteered to fix it.  So he ordered the pumpkin dish of the day and hunkered down behind my Mac to gently prod it back to life.

Now for a little aside…

Even if I don’t know you very well, I will probably eat food from your plate.  Over the years, I have learned that this drives most people bananas!  I can’t help it though!  Chalk it down to my Middle Eastern upbringing, we share food!  I have since learned that the correct way to approach sticking your fork in someone else’s lunch is to first volunteer they try yours.  The usual response is “No, but would you like to try some of mine?”

Count to 3…

1 Mississippi,

2 Mississippi,

3 Mississippi

…then go for it! Read more of this post

Roast Cauliflower with Raisins and Parsley dressing

People generally avoid cauliflower, even vegetarians.  It’s so easy to over boil it until it’s grey, limp and malodorous.  That is why unless you are a wizard with timing and know how to judge the crucial moment to whisk it out of the boiling water and plunge into cold water to stop the cooking, I recommend roasting. Read more of this post

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