Saturday, 29 March 2014

Day 27: Monastery Honey and Tea Cake - Νηστίσιμο Κέικ Με Μέλι και Τσάι - March 29, 2014

We were passed this recipe found through a church bulletin last month.  We love sharing church recipes because many of our favourite cooks are the church men and ladies! Finally, we are able to make this cake, and motivated because it came from a church!  And, as Greek Orthodox Christians, we believe in sharing our faith, and, for us, it means sharing our special "finds", too.  This recipe is posted on and that was put into a church bulletin.  So, when we were told about this website, we had to look!  And, Ka. Maria (who gave us the recipe) told us that she has already made this cake two times for her grandchildren in this Lenten season!  We are half-way through Great Lent, so she may have to make it a few more times!

This cake recipe is origianally from a Monastery, but we have not found out which one.  It seemed easy enough, and we do like the monastery recipes that we have made in the past, so this would be a "win-win" baking day.  As we read the ingredients, one in particular stood out of the list.  That was the "strong tea".  This was something that we rarely think of for flavouring things, even though we have heard that teas make all kinds of foods tastier.  And, we have used coffee as a flavouring numerous times, so why not try tea for ourselves?

Typically, every house will have some tea bags of some sort.   There was no specified flavour in this recipe, so we thought we should stick to something basic.  When you think about a honey cake with a little cinnamon and sugar, what flavours come to your mind?  For us, we immediately went to the cinnamon spice tea that we have.  Although, we did consider some of the fruit teas, too, because we sometimes drink those with a splash of honey or a sprinkle of cinnamon.  The ones we ruled out immediately included mint tea and lemon tea.  Those flavours did not sound like they would be good here.  After all, if there is cinnamon in the recipe, why not enhance that lovely spice with just a little more!

Although we made half the recipe, we are giving you the full amounts.  It is really that good that you are going to want to make the full recipe!

For this recipe, you will need the following:

1 cup honey
1 cup oil
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups flour plus about 1/2 cup at the end
1 cup strong tea, cooled
1 teaspoon baking soda

The first thing that you need to do is make a cup of tea.  This is not for you to sit and relax, that comes later!  This is so the tea has plenty of time to steep and cool so it can be used in the recipe.  You can drink whatever part of the cup is leftover, if there is any, and relax once the cake is in the oven.  In the meantime, make 1 cup (8 ounces or 225 g) of strong tea.  If you are not sure how to make it strong, you can either use two tea bags in the one cup of water, or make a pot of tea and boil it down so it reduces by half.

In a bowl, mix the honey and sugar well.   You will notice the honey becomes thicker and the colour a lighter shade.

Slowly add the oil, mixing well as you go.  If you are mixing by hand, you may not see this come together as well as it would with a mixer.  But, keep trying because eventually the ingredients become incorporated.

Add the 1 1/2 cups flour and fold the mixture together.  You will notice that the flour binds the oil and the honey together well.  Fold so the flour is mostly combined.  Then, add the cinnamon.  Fold this once or twice to incorporate the cinnamon.  Let this sit for a moment while doing the next step.

Before you add the next ingredients, you must mix the baking soda into the tea.  Give the tea a stir to make sure that the soda is fully dissolved.  Now, slowly pour in the cooled tea to the flour and honey mixture.  As you stir this, you will see everything mixing well.  You may need to make the batter a little thicker, so add a bit of flour to get the mixture to a cake batter consistency.  Start by adding  1/4 cup, then another 1/4 cup, and more if you need.  But, try not to mix vigorously so you don't end up with a super chewy cake!  Fold until the ingredients are well combined.

Grease and flour a baking pan, or use pan spray like we did.  For a full recipe, you will need to prepare a 9" by 13" (22.5 cm x 33.5 cm) pan.  The cake batter should be thick like a traditional cake batter, but thin enough to pour into the baking pan.  For a crisp top, sprinkle some granulated sugar over the top of the cake batter, as many people do when making muffins.  This adds a nice texture to the top, and a smidgen more sweetness to dessert.

Put the cake in a preheated oven set at 350º F (about 175º C).  Allow this cake to bake for 45 to 60 minutes, depending on your oven.  You can check the doneness in the same ways you do a traditional layer cake -- stick a toothpick in the centre to see if it comes out clean, feel the centre of the cake for firmness, make sure the edges of the cake are pulling away from the sides of the pan, and check the top and bottom of the cake for colour and firmness, and the smell, of course!  Oh, and the smell of the cinnamon… mmmm!

Allow the cake to cool before cutting.  It can be served plain or dusted with powdered sugar (icing sugar/confectioner's sugar), or with berries.  You can also serve it with tea!  Any way you serve it, we are sure that it will be enjoyable.  We are delighted that we were able to make this recipe and share it, as it was shared with us.  Thank you to Ka. Maria for passing along her Church bulletin!

"Leave all human injustices to the Lord, for God is the Judge, but as to yourself, be diligent in loving everybody with a pure heart..."

From St. John of Kronstadt (My Life in Christ: Part 1, Holy Trinity Monastery pg. 270)

Friday, 28 March 2014

Day 26: Green Olive Tapenade - Πράσινη Πάστα Ελιάς (Tapenade) - March 28, 2014

When we first read this recipe, we thought it was a little different to include cashews in an olive tapenade.  We thought that the olives would make up the tapenade, and traditionally, there is a combination of fish, cheese and capers that make up the texture of the spread.  Cashews gave this dish a lovely, mealy texture that really made it stand out at as a dip.  With crackers, this was a very appealing spread!

Veffa is so well known for being a classic cook.  Most of her recipes are traditional, as are her methods.  We know the recipe was solid, time tested, and generally well-liked.  So, when we saw a tapenade receipt that did not include cheese or anchovies, we were thrilled.  We code to make this with green olives, but know that we could use sliced black olives as well.  Combining the two made a very unappealing colour, so we could not proceed with it.  The green olives left a hue was light enough to be attractive by itself.  You can experiment for yourself to see what you like, green, black, or a combination.  Since this is made in a food processor, it is quick and easy to put together, and you can spend the extra time experimenting with the different colours or combinations.  This recipe makes dip that will feed 6 to 8 people comfortably as an appetizer.

For this recipe, you will need the following:

1/2 cup cashews
3 1/2 cups sliced, pitted olives
3 TBSP oil
1 to 2 TBSP red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1 clove garlic
A Food Processor

The directions are simple enough, since there are only three steps, we thought we would fill the page with pictures so you can see that you are doing the right things.  First, grind the cashews in a food processor.  We used salted cashews, but you could choose the unsalted ones, too.  Grind the cashews so they still have some texture to them instead of making them a complete paste.

Add the garlic to the food processor.  Rinse the olives with water to remove some of the salt.  Add them to the food processor.  Olives become very salty, or if you have some that are a little older and very soft, this is the time to use them!  They get mixed into the cashew chunks which neutralize some of the salt, too.

Now, add the other ingredients to the food processor.  That is, add the oil, red wine vinegar, oregano, and garlic .  Pulse the food processor several times to get an even consistency.  You do want some texture to this paste dish, and since the food processor is doing the work, you should stick to the pulse function to assure the texture remains.

Check the seasonings.  Add more vinegar, oil, or garlic as needed.  You want to make sure that you can taste the olives, not only the vinegar flavour.

Serve with crackers, pita bread, or use as a sandwich spread.  It took five minutes to make, and will take five minutes to eat it, too!  We had several people taste this recipe for us before posting it here.  Each one commented on the level of salt in this, including statements like, "It's surprisingly NOT salty!" and "I thought it would be too dry for crackers." and, our favourite, "Love this and need to have the recipe!" Yes, we will invite those people again to taste our recipes!

"No one has seen God at any time. If we love one another, God abides in us, and His love has been perfected in us. By this we know that we abide in Him, and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit. And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent the Son as Savior of the world. Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him. Love has been perfected among us in this: that we may have boldness in the day of judgment; because as He is, so are we in this world. There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves torment. But he who fears has not been made perfect in love. We love Him because He first loved us."

1 John 4:12-19

Thursday, 27 March 2014

Day 25: Black Eyed Pea Salad - Σαλάτα με Μαυρομάτικα Κουκιά - March 27, 2014

We often refer to the recipes of Diane Kochilas.  Lately, we have been using Country Cooking of Greece as our "go to" book.  The recipes are reliable, tasty, and easy to follow.  If there is one thing we know, when we want to try something new, Kochilas is an author to read for instructions!

Many times before we have made bean salad.  We have made them with canned beans, dried beans, even the pre-made bean salad in a jar, and we "doctor it" to be our own.  We have always considered other ways to make bean salad a little more interesting, without being too pungent with vinegar.  Well, we found a recipe that was lovely and light.  The dill and the garlic in this recipe blend together so nicely, it tastes elegant and you don't realise how easy it really can be to make!  This is good for using the black eyed peas in a way that is not soup.  They bring their own colour to the dish, so you do not need a variety of beans to make this one pretty!

One note of mention, if you are using the dried black eyed peas, you should start this recipe the day before to soak the beans.  Soaking beans of any kind will cut down the amount of cooking time by half.  If you don't soak them that's fine, just allow for the extra boiling time needed to make sure the beans are not at all crunchy.

For this recipe, you will need the following:

2 cup dried black eyed peas
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 cups dill fronds
1/2 cup oil
2 to 3 TBSP red wine vinegar

If you have soaked the peas or not, you still have to boil them.  Start them in cold water and bring it up to a boil.  Allow the peas to boil in this water for about 15 minutes.  You will see the water turn a murky blackish colour, and that is when you know you must change the water.  The water turning grey and murky is a sign tat some of the starches are coming out of the peas and less gas in your system!  It is a good practise to rinse beans a few times while boiling, specifically to save you the gassy after effects!

So, strain the peas from the dark water and rinse them well.  Return them to the pot with fresh water, and bring it all back to a boil again for another 10 minutes. This time, you will notice the water will be cloudy, but not as blackish and murky.  You will still see that it is tinted, and that is how you will know it is time to strain the peas and change the water.  After about 10 minutes, drain the water and strain the peas. Rinse the peas well, and put them back in the pot with fresh water.

On this third time boiling, add about a tablespoon of salt to the water and bring it all back to a boil unit the peas are soft and buttery.  The salt will help break down the rest of the starch, and will add a bit of flavour to the dish.  Notice there is no other salt in the recipe.

You want to make sure that all the black eyed peas are cooked through the centre, and that they are soft.  There is nothing worse than biting into a raw bean!  Sometimes, the skin off the black eyed peas will start to peel off, or peel away from the heart of the pea.  Do not worry about that, just keep them all in the sieve to use.

Allow the peas to cool to a temperature that you can comfortably handle with bare hands.  It is not that we are using our hands to mix, but you want the black eyed peas cool enough so they do not cook the remainder of the ingredients.

Now, let's prepare the remaining ingredients.

Chop the onion into a fine dice.  That means that the pieces of onion are as small as the black eyed peas.  You do not want big onion pieces with little beans.  So, cut them about the same size as the peas.   Put the onions in a mixing bowl.

Pick the dill fronds.  The fronds are the fluffy part at the end of the stems.  That is the part of the dill that is commonly used, and "frond" is the real name for it.  The stems become too chewy and stringy, so we use only the fronds.  Once you have cleaned the dill, put that in the mixing bowl with the onions.  You do not need to chop the dill, but you can if you want to.

Next, add the minced garlic to the mixing bowl.  Minced or chopped will depend on how you like your garlic.  Sometimes, we just slice the garlic, but that is very powerful when biting into the salad.  We usually like a mild garlic flavour, so we mince the garlic well.

Once you have the onion, dill, and garlic in the mixing bowl, add the cooled peas.

Mix the ingredients well.  Make sure the onion and dill are evenly distributed throughout the black eyed peas.  You will start to see the different colours and textures all around the bowl.  Now, add the vinegar. It is red wine vinegar, but you could use apple cider vinegar or white vinegar.  Red wine vinegar is lighter in flavour than the other two, and has a more gentle tartness.  We add the vinegar first to make sure that it is evenly coating all the black eyed peas.

Lastly, add the oil.  You can pour the oil all around the mixing bowl to try to coat all the ingredients.  Or, you can add some oil, mix, add a little more oil, mix again, and continue that way until all the oil has been added and all the black eyed peas are coated.  We like to pour the oil in spiralling circles around the mixing bowl, thinking that we are covering everything.

The black eyed peas salad you have just made is ready to serve.  It can be served warm or at room temperature.  If you put it in the refrigerator and it gets cold, you may notice the olive oil become slightly solid.  Allow the salad to come to room temperature before serving.

This is a delicious, light salad that gives a good serving of protein and flavour!  We are still impressed with how pretty the green dill and white onions look against the black eyed peas.  This is one salad that can be served as a side dish in any season, but would be perfect for a picnic lunch!  We look forward to having the occasion to make this salad again.

"You should secretly give from what you have to those in need, so that you receive from God, Who sees in secret, a hundred times more, as well as life eternal in the age to come (cf. Mt. 6:4; Mk. 10:30)."

From St. Gregory Palamas (The Philokalia Vol. 4; Faber and Faber pg. 329):
Source of quote:

Wednesday, 26 March 2014

Day 24: Calamari Kokkinisto (Calamari with Red Sauce) - Καλαμάρι Κοκκινιστό - March 26, 2014

Tonight's dish, our calamari kokkinisto (Calamari with red sauce),
on top of one of favourite pasta varieties - Scooby Doo!
Some people really love kokkinisto!  In fact, in our house, it is a topic of conversation regularly.  We talk about the many foods that we can make kokkinisto - the famous Greek red sauce, including vegetables, seafood and even meats.  We are trying to find the best kokkinisto out there.  We have tried various cookbooks, family recipes, friends' suggestions-- and we like many of them.  But, we are in search of the best.  Today, we are adding to our research by trying another recipe, this one from an online source at  The recipe was for Octopus (Octapodi Kokkinisto), but we had kalamari (squid) and thought that was close enough.  It's funny how the two are very different animals, but cook in a similar way.  You can use various cooking  methods to get squid or octopus to turn into a delicious, velvety seafood dish.

When buying squid, there are a few things you want to look for.  First, try to get the squid cleaned.  It really is so much easier for you.  And, unless you are making a squid ink pasta or squid ink sauce, then why suffer the smells from your garbage can when the fish monger can clean the squid and dispose of the icky parts for you?  Also, look for fresh looking squid.  The fresh ones will have clear eyes and moist flesh.  The smaller squid are going to cook faster.  Some may say that the smaller ones are more tender, but we believe that the tenderness generally has to do with the cooking method.  This time, we bought just the tentacles.  If you can buy fresh seafood, that's great.  If not, then buy the frozen stuff-- it is really just as good in the end!  If you cannot find squid, octopus, cuttlefish, even conch are good substitutes.

For this recipe, you will need the following:

4 large calamari tentacles (squid)
12 ounce (355 ml) can whole tomatoes (we used canned San Marzano plum tomatoes)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 cups white wine
1 Tablespoon basil

First, wash the calamari well, removing any residues.  If the squid was not cleaned for you, then make sure to remove all the cartilage and the ink sack.  We cut out the beak and any remaining cartilage that was attached at the top of the tentacles.  You will be able to feel these pieces -- they are like plastic.  Use kitchen shears to work your way around the cartilage.  Rinse the calamari very well and feel carefully to make sure you removed all the cartilage bits.  Then, put the calamari in a dry pot.

There is no oil or water in the pot, just calamari.  This is to allow the squid to stew in its own juices for a moment.  We want those juices to flow out of the calamari so we can add flavour to our sauce.  Allow the calamari to cook for a few minutes until it is bright pink in colour and the juices are collecting in the pot.  You will even see that the ends of the tentacles start to curl.

Next, take the calamari out of the pot and set it aside.  Also, set aside the liquid.  We want to return to having a dry pot to make the sauce.  It is fine if the squid and the liquid are aside together, we want them both to cool a bit.  

Now, prepare your onion and garlic.  Both should be chopped.  We are going to start the sauce with the first step of sautéing the onion in the oil.  Add the garlic and allow this to cook for three minutes.  You should smell the onion and see it turn translucent.

Add the bay leaves.  We put the bay leaves in now so they have a chance to heat and infuse the oil into the onions and garlic.  The bay leaves actually cook a little, too, and will add more flavour.  Allow the bay leaves to simmer for two minutes.  Then, add the basil.  The aromas in the kitchen will be powerful, but lovely.  

At this point, add the liquid from the canned tomatoes.  Add the liquid first because this gives you a minute of simmering the sauce to reduce it a bit before adding the solid tomatoes.  We removed the whole tomatoes from the can, put them on a plate, and chopped them with our kitchen scissors.  This was an easy, clean way to chop the tomatoes.  You could use canned chopped tomatoes, but if you cut the whole ones yourself, you can control how big the chunks of tomato are.  Many of them will cook down to paste, but some will remain in chunks.   Once they are all cut up, put the tomato pieces into the sauce and allow this to simmer for about 20 minutes.  And, add the wine to the pot.

While the sauce is cooking, this is the time to continue preparing the calamari.  We have it sitting aside in its juice, but now, we have to prepare the calamari into the size of pieces we want to eat.  So, pour the liquid from the cooked calamari into the pot so it has a chance to simmer while we cut the calamari tentacles.  We first cut the calamari's tentacles where they are connected, separating all the tentacles from each other. Then, since many of these were quite long, we cut the tentacles into small pieces of various sizes.  Afterwards, we put the pieces of cut, semi-cooked calamari into the sauce.

Allow the sauce with the calamari to simmer with a lid on the pot for the next thirty minutes or so, until the calamari is tender. As the whole dish is cooking, you'll notice that the sauce becomes increasingly thicker and the flavours more concentrated.

While the kokkinisto is stewing, get ready the rice or pasta or bread that you will be serving with this rich and delightful dish!  Then, enjoy!

"Fasts and vigils, the study of Scripture, renouncing possessions and everything worldly are not in themselves perfection, as we have said; theyare its tools. For perfection is not to be found in them; it is acquired through them. It is useless, therefore, to boast of our fasting, vigils, poverty, and reading of Scripture when we have not achieved the love of God and our fellow men. Whoever has achieved love has God within himself and his intellect is always with God."

St. John Cassian