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Chicken and okra in tomato sauce

Chicken and okra in tomato sauce

This is one of the most addictive dishes that I know of. It also appears to be a miracle cure for the common cold and a great relief if you have the flu. It is, however, absolutely vital that you use good olive oil when you're cooking it; cheap oil or any oil other than olive oil will totally ruin the taste and/or upset your stomach. Serves two to three, as usual.

  • ½ cup (125 ml) good olive oil
  • 350 g boneless chicken breast, cut into cubes
  • 300 g fresh okra
  • 1 medium-sized onion, chopped
  • 400 g tomatoes, skinned and chopped (or a can of polpa)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt, pepper

Do not use canned okra. They have a very different taste and will disintegrate if used with this recipe.

Remove the tips and caps from the okra. If they are too large, cut them in half. Put in a bowl, add the lemon juice and fill the bowl with water until the okra are covered. Ideally, let the okra soak for about two to three hours. As a minimum, lert them soak for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a large wok or frying pan, but don't let it get too hot or it'll lose its taste. Add the chopped onion and chicken pieces and fry until meat and onions have a brownish tint. Add the chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper, stir well, then reduce heat, cover with a lid and let everything simmer over low heat for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove the chicken from the sauce and put it aside. Drain the okra and put them into the sauce. Cover and let simmer over low heat for about 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Then add in the chicken pieces, let boil very briefly just to make sure the chicken is warm; then serve immediately, preferably with rice.

The idea behind cooking chicken and okra separately is that the okra and tomatoes get a fruity, slightly lemony taste, whereas the chicken does not. This contrast is essential, and you should not spoil it by cooking okra and chicken together.

Update: At the request of a reader, here is some more information about okra: [1] [2] [3].

Anchovies with skordalia

Anchovies with skordalia
For the skordalia (serves 4):
  • ½ kg (1 lb) floury potatoes
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped;
  • 1-2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • good Greek olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper

For the anchovies:
  • Frozen anchovies, about 3-4" in length (about 12-18 per person, depending on size)
    DO NOT use the salted anchovies in oil that are sold in glasses or tins!
  • some flour
  • oil suitable for deep frying (rapeseed or similar)
  • lemon juice

A few hours before cooking, defrost the frozen anchovies.

Boil the potatoes for about 20 minutes, then skin them, season to taste with salt and pepper, add the finely chopped garlic cloves and mash well.

Stir in the vinegar and olive oil with a wooden spoon. Keep adding olive oil until the skordalia has become smooth and creamy, but not greasy. Put in fridge and let cool down for a few hours. The taste will change and intensify.

If you bought whole anchovies, remove the heads and gut them. To do do, pull back and tear off the head, then insert your index finger where the head used to be and move it quickly towards the tail, thus ripping out guts (you may want to wear vinyl or latex gloves to do this). Rinse well.

You can also buy kitchen-ready anchovies that are already headless and gutted. These can be used as they are once they have been defrosted.

Dry the anchovies with a paper towel and roll them once in flour, so that they are very thinly coated. No additional seasoning is required, not even salt.

Heat the oil well and deep fry the anchovies at high temperature. You don't need a deep fryer or even a large frying pan, you can do it in a small pot, 6-8 anchovies at a time. Just make sure they are well submerged in the oil.

Once the anchovies have a hint of a golden colour, remove them from the oil. 1-2 minutes will do. If you fry them too long, they will become too dry.

Put anchovies on a kitchen towel so that the extra fat is absorbed. Then arrange on a plate together with a serving of the skordalia. Season the anchovies with lemon juice. You can serve this with salad and a dry white wine.

Greek eggplant salad (Melitzanosalata)

Greek eggplant salad (Melitzanosalata)

I've come a step closer to finding out why so few Greek restaurants in Vienna have eggplant salad on the menu, and why, if they do, it's usually not cheap: Three eggplants and 80 minutes' work don't even fill a small tupperware container. However, the result is so yummy that you may want to give it a try. Here's the recipe:

  • 3 eggplants
  • 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • a few parsley sprigs
  • salt
  • ground black pepper
  • 3 tbsp good Greek olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 50 g feta cheese

Preheat oven to 180°C/360°F. Pierce the eggplants several times with a fork and place in oven. Bake for approx. one hour until the eggplants are all soft and the skin is slightly burned.

Cut the eggplants in half and scrape the pulp from the skin using a large spoon, then chop the pulp into very small pieces. Place in a bowl, add garlic, finely chopped parsley, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.

Add one tablespoon of olive oil at a time, keep stirring. Add vinegar to taste. The salad should have a texture that is about half way between smooth and chunky. You may want to use a blender to get the texture right.

Once you have the desired texture, break the feta cheese into crumbs and stir it into the salad.

Serve cold.

Eggplant with tomato rice

Eggplant with tomato rice

A very simple Greek recipe. Contains quite a lot of oil, but then it's all olive oil, which is full of polyunsaturates, so this is actually healthy (IMPORTANT: This only works with olive oil, do not use any other kind of oil, as it will taste utterly awful if you do!). Serves two to three, as usual.

  • 1 large eggplant (about 300 grams), cut into small cubes
  • 1 medium-sized onion, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (~125ml) olive oil
  • 250 grams pureed tomatoes or passata
  • 1 cup rice
  • 3 cups water
  • salt
  • ground black pepper

In a large pot, heat the olive oil and fry the onions until they have become transparent. Add the eggplant cubes and fry some more. Then add the pureed tomatoes, cover the pot and let cook for about 15 minutes over low heat, stirring from time to time.

Add the water, salt and pepper, stir well and bring to boil. Then, add the rice. Let simmer until the rice is ready and has soaked up almost all of the water, stirring from time to time. Serve with white or brown bread.

Chicken in lemon sauce

Chicken in lemon sauce

This Greek dish requires very little preparation and is a remarkable example of simplicity. Be sure to use good olive oil for this, it is the major condiment in this dish. Cooking time approx. 50 minutes, serves 3-4.

  • 6-8 potatoes
  • ½ cup (125ml) olive oil
  • 4 chicken legs
  • salt
  • juice of 1 large lemon
  • pepper
  • 2 teaspoons origano

Preheat oven to 200°C.

Cook the potatoes in boiling water until they are almost, but not quite done. Then peel them and cut them into thick slices.

Salt the chicken legs. While the potatoes are cooking, heat the oil in a large frying pan and fry the chicken legs until they are brown on both sides. Then put the chicken and the oil into an oven pan (the pan should be big enough so that it can accommodate the chicken and the potatoes). Pour the lemon juice over the chicken as well. If the bottom of the pan is not completely covered with oil or juice, add some more olive oil.

Sprinkle pepper and origano over the chicken. Put in the oven for 25 minutes. From time to time, open the oven and pour the sauce over the chicken pieces with a spoon.

After 25 minutes, add the boiled potatoes to the chicken, put back into the oven and cook for another 20 minutes. Again, pour the sauce over the chicken from time to time.

Remove pan from the oven and serve.

Beef stifado

Beef stifado

This Greek dish serves 4.

  • 800g small onions or shallots, peeled, but left whole
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1kg beef, cut in 1" cubes
  • 125ml red wine
  • 375ml water
  • 2 tablespoons concentrated tomato paste
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, but left whole
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 piece cinnamon bark
  • pepper
  • salt

Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the whole onions for about 5 minutes until brown, then remove with a slotted spoon and put aside.

Add the beef cubes and fry for about 10 minutes until brown on all sides.

Add the wine, water, tomato paste, garlic, vinegar, bay leaf, cloves, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Stir well and bring to boil. Then reduce heat, cover and let simmer for one hour, stirring occasionally.

Add the onions and let simmer with the lid on for another 20-30 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and cinnamon bark, then serve with bread.

Bifteki yemistó

Bifteki yemistó

Greek restaurants often mistranslate this on their menus as "steak", and indeed, "bifteki" sounds close enough to "beefsteak" to warrant the misunderstanding. But while it is made of beef, it is more of a burger than a steak. "Yemistó" is Greek for "filled" or "stuffed". Leave away the feta cheese, and you have plain bifteki. It's the perfect meal for the last few warm summer evenings. Serves 2.

  • 350g minced beef
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 thin slices feta cheese
  • 2 thin slices from a fresh tomato (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon origano
  • ⅓ teaspoon cumin
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • lemon juice

In a bowl, mix the minced beef with the onions, origano, cumin, pepper and salt, then divide into 4 equal parts.

Using the four parts, form 4 burgers, which should be be slightly larger and thinner than your average burger. On two of these, place one slice feta cheese and (optional) one tomato slice. Then use the remaining two burgers as "lids", applying some pressure to make sure they stay on, and close the resulting two burgers on the sides to make sure the feta doesn't fall out.

Ideally, this should be grilled on a charcoal barbecue. Alternatively, pour some olive oil into a frying pan and fry over moderate heat for several minutes on both sides. While on the barbecue/in the pan, repeatedly sprinkle some of the lemon juice over it. Be careful when turning the bifteki over, as it has a tendency to fall apart.

Serve with French fries, roast potatoes or rice.

Fish stifado

Fish stifado

Stifado is a Greek dish (a kind of stew) that involves a lot of onions. The usual stifado is prepared with beef or rabbit; here's a variant with fish. It's a pretty easy, straightforward recipe. Serves four.

  • 1kg sea bass slices or similar fish
  • 5 medium-sized onions, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ cup (125ml) good olive oil
  • 500g puréed tomatoes (or passata)
  • 4 tablespoons red wine
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon bark
  • salt
  • pepper

Heat the oil to moderate temperature and brown the chopped onions and garlic. Add all the other ingredients except the fish plus 1 cups of water and let cook for 15 minutes. Then add the fish and let simmer for another 20 minutes.