Has all this warm weather got you dreaming of a taste of the Med? MasterChef 2019 champion Irini Tzortzoglou shares three seasonal and sumptuous recipes…
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Rizi e Bizi
I have always loved the name of this dish and I remember eating it long before I became aware of risottos which is when I came to the UK in 1980. Courtesy of the Venetians via Corfu, this dish was easy to make with abundant bizelia in the Athens market in the spring and Carolina rice (no Arborio or Carnaroli in Greece in my teenage years, not that I was aware of anyway.)
So, very simple, very fresh, and perfect if you are vegan although I do love the added flavour of the butter and the strong cheese in it!
Ingredients (serves 2-3)
150g Carnaroli rice
200g frozen peas
4 spring onions, finely sliced
½ fennel bulb, finely sliced and then finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
550-600ml vegetable stock 100g butter
A small bunch of dill and parsley, finely chopped
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100g parmesan cheese
½ lemon, zest only
- Keep the stock on a low simmer on the stove.
- Bring a large sauteing pan to a medium heat and add the olive oil. Add the white parts of the spring onion and chopped fennel and sweat for 4-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for a minute and then add the rice. Stir for 1 minute and start adding the stock a small ladleful at a time. Cook on a low to medium heat and only stir about once per minute. When you have a couple of ladlefuls of stock, add the peas and the green part of the spring onions to the pan and continue cooking until the rice is creamy, loose and with still a bit of a bite. Season with salt and pepper.
- Finish by adding the butter cut in cubes, the herbs, lemon zest and parmesan. Stir to mix well and serve with extra chopped herbs and grated parmesan.
Courgette, potato and cheese bake (Cretan Boureki)
This is a classic dish from the West of the island of Crete. The combination of courgettes, cheese and mint make a delicious side dish or lunch in its own right. Occasionally the dish is topped with sprinkled sesame seeds before baking.
Ingredients (serves 4)
2 medium sized courgettes, approx. 300g, thinly sliced
1 large or 2 medium size potatoes, approx. 300g, thinly sliced
75g graviera cheese, grated
200g Greek feta cheese
200ml full fat milk
3 heaped tbsp plain flour
3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
A small bunch of mint, finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1-2 tbsp sesame seeds
- Brush the bottom of an oven proof dish, approx. 20×26 cm
- Put the courgettes in a bowl and season generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add the chopped mint and dust with 1 tbsp of the flour. Mix well so that everything is well incorporated.
- Put the potato slices in a second bowl and dust with 1 tbsp flour and season with salt and pepper.
- Place the potato slices in one layer in the greased dish and crumble over them the feta cheese. Top with the courgette layer and finish with a layer of sliced tomatoes.
- Break the eggs in a jug containing the milk and add the olive oil , remaining flour and dried oregano. Whisk well and pour all over the vegetables. Finish with the grated cheese and the sesame seeds. Preheat the oven to 200C.
- Cook the boureki for 15 minutes, lower the heat to 180 and continue cooking for a further 50-60 minutes.
- Check and cover with some silver foil if the top browns too much. Leave to stand for 15-20 minutes before slicing to serve.
(from Under The Olive Tree (recipes from my Greek kitchen), Headline, £25)
In this salad I am using golden beets, as their sweetness is reminiscent of the purple ones of home – whatever flavour shortfall there is, the aromatic, zingy citrus dressing addresses perfectly!
I would advocate roasting the beets with aromatics. Concentrating their flavour is paramount and helping this delicious root vegetable lose some of its liquid by cooking it dry will do just that.
a handful of pistachio kernels 4–5 golden beetroots, preferably with their stalks
olive oil, for drizzling
1 sprig of fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, in their skins
1 packet of watercress
2 baby gem lettuce
½ a fennel bulb
For the stalks
1 tbsp olive oil
a squeeze of lemon juice
For the dressing
300ml freshly squeezed orange juice
zest of 1 orange
20ml lemon juice
1 tsp orange blossom honey
50ml virgin olive oil
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
- Preheat the oven to 180°C/350 oF/gas 4. Roast the pistachios for 5-7 minutes and put aside to cool.
- Cut the stalks off the beetroots and set aside. Wash and dry the beets and place them on a piece of foil large enough to wrap them completely. Drizzle them with a little olive oil, season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, then add the sprig of thyme and garlic cloves, wrap well and place in the oven. Check after 60 minutes by inserting a knife into the beets, but they may need as long as 90 minutes depending on their size.
- Wash the stalks and cut them into pieces about 5cm long. Drop them into some boiling water with a pinch of salt and cook for a few minutes until soft but still with a bit of crunch, then drain and rinse under cold water. Put them into a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon, and season.
- Take the beetroot out of the oven when cooked and leave to cool. Peel, slice thinly and put into a bowl. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season.
- Cut clean segments off the oranges and keep aside. Rinse and drain the watercress. Trim the ends off the little gem lettuces and slice them horizontally into ½cm thick rings. With a vegetable peeler or a mandolin, shave the fennel.
- To make the dressing, bring the orange juice and the orange zest to the boil in a small saucepan and reduce by half. Place in a small blender and add the lemon juice, honey oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, and blend to a thick consistency. Add the crushed cardamom seeds and ginger and give it a good stir.
- On a flat serving plate, arrange the beetroot, watercress, fennel shavings, orange segments and baby gems in layers, scattering some of the beetroot stalks here and there. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and scatter over some roasted pistachios.