Botrini’s Restaurant, Athens, Greece

Σάββατο, 1 Δεκεμβρίου, 2012

I recently visited Botrini’s Restaurant in a suburb of Athens, Greece.

Hector Botrini is one of the best chefs in Greece today. One might call him controversial, as he has followed the “Kitchen Nightmares” trail of Chef Ramsey’s TV show, hosting the Greek version of the show.

But cooking is cooking, regardless of how much you like the personality of the chef. So lets get to the real thing.

Botrini’s Athens restaurant opened in the summer of 2011.

As expected, the menu is short, and is divided in two parts. The “a la carte” and the “set menu” part.

My companion and I both had the set BOE menu.

Amuse Bouche

It all started with a Mediterranean “map on a tray” with the amuse buche. Nice presentation and a fun way to start the meal.

Anchovy and Red Pepper Terrine

The star of the tray was the anchovy and (sweet) red pepper terrine. This was an exercise in balance. The sweet pepper, balancing the sour anchovy. In my view the result was perfect. I would love to see this terrine as a first course.

Olive

Close second the “olive”, accompanied by cheese and pastry concoctions.

Copa with melon and shrimp a la planca

First: Coppa (capicollo) with melon and shrimp grilled on a metal plate (a la planca). The shrimp is hidden under the cone of coppa, sliced very thin. Wonderful combination of surf and turf, with the icy melon bringing you down to earth.

Corfu fritura, feta cheese snow flakes, and stuffed sardine

First: Corfu Fritura with feta cheese snow flakes and stuffed sardine. The inverted fragment of a cone on the left side is a “sponge” that has absorbed tomato juice. The ball to its right is made of “lavrak(i)”, or Mediterranean seabass, next to it is a shrimp, and then there is another ball of seabass, and two pieces of squid. You cannot see the stuffed sardine. On the right side you can see the “snow flakes” made of feta cheese. Overall, a tasty dish. I would have preferred to have less seabass and more stuffed sardines.

Bio chicken

Second: Bio Chicken. Cooked on a metal plate, deskinned, the bio chicken was juicy and tasty.

Goat

Second: Goat served with sea garlic cream, on a bed of koum kouat and sweet and sour “Mavrodafni” sauce. I particularly enjoyed the goat. Perfectly cooked, tender and moist.

Goat detail

I would like to make a special mention to the somelier of the restaurant, who served excellent greek wines from producers who have small volumes and therefore are not available in the retail stores. And the wine was included in the price of the set menu!

Although the restaurant was busy on a Friday night, the service was excellent.

Overall, great value for money, the complete dinner for two costs less than a meal in an ordinary fish taverna.

I will definitely visit Botrini’s restaurant again!

Today I cooked lamb offal.

As it happens most of the time, everything begins with the ingredients. My butcher gave me fresh lamb offal (kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and sweetbread)  and I run to the kitchen to cook it.

I marinated the offal in red wine, a bit of salt and pepper, and fresh oregano.

After three hours I dusted the pieces with flour, let them rest for a few minutes, and then fried (to perfection).

In parallel I baked aubergine in the oven, then mashed it with a spoon and mixed it with a spicy fresh tomato and chilly pepeer sauce.

I served the fried offal with sour lamb’s milk yogurt on the side, dusted with crushed red chilli peppers, and the spicy aubergine mix.

For decoration I used chopped green and red peppers and garlic cubes.

The sweetness of the offal married the sour taste of the yogurt and I got a superb sweet and sour dish!

The aubergine mix was hot and assertive, and matched superbly the yogurt. It provided the textural alternative to the offal.

I recommend a merlot with body to accompany the dish. Patrimo dei Feudi di San Gregorio 2001 is a superb choice.

Enjoy it!!!

Sujuk Borek a la Greque – Μπουρεκι με Σουτζουκι

Τετάρτη, 17 Οκτωβρίου, 2012

This post is about a tasty component of the Eastern Road. The Eastern Road is the gateway connecting the Greek civilization with the East.

I confess that I am eternally fascinated by the multivaried taste of sujuk.

A good sujuk is like a door opening to a new world, for you to discover.

(Sujuk is a dry, dark, spicy sausage produced in the Balkans, Turkey and other countries like Armenia. It can be eaten raw, but I prefer to eat it cooked.)

I was lucky to receive a wonderful sujuk the other day, and by association I instinctively decided to create a sujuk borek.

The warmth, the enveloping flavours, the melting texture, make borek one of the all time favourites in my kitchen.

(Borek or Bourek is a baked or fried filled pastry made of thin dough.)

The filling of the sujuk borek comprises in addition to the sujuk: sliced tomatoes, sliced hard yellow cheese (I used Greek gruyere), and mint leaves.

The phyllo for the borek is made with flour, water, salt and a touch of olive oil. It has to be crispy and dry.

I place the sujuk on the phyllo, then the tomato slices, the mint leaves, and on top of everything the cheese.

I prefer to give the borek the shape of a baguette, as it is easier to bake and serve. If you prefer you can fry it, but baking is far superior for this dish.

The borek needs 20 minutes in 250 C and immediate serving, steaming hot.

It can be one of the most satisfying eating experiences.

Crispy crunchy phyllo, the Spartan side of the dish, partnered by the succulent flesh of the sujuk, flavoured by the mint leave, lubricated by the melted cheese and bound by the acidity of the tomato.

Accompany it with a glass of ouzo. Bon appetit!

Lunch of 26th December 2011 in Marathon, Attica, Greece

Δευτέρα, 26 Δεκεμβρίου, 2011

Sunrise of the 26th December 2011

The day of the 26th December 2011 is special. My best man “koumbaros” Manolis celebrates his name day. In addition, it is the anniversary of his wedding to my “koumbara” Marion. As it happens, this year it is the 20th anniversary of their marriage. One more reason to celebrate with a lunch that is a tribute to life and its enjoyment.

The first dish of the menu has a name that resounds with passion: “Besame Mucho”. It is a new creation of my humble personality, invented in the middle of dark winter nights.

Raw Kokoretsi

The first ingredient of the dish is kokoretsi, lamb’s intestines wrapped around liver, heart, and sweetbreads of the lamb.

My butcher prepares them on 30 cm sticks. I bake them after I season them with coarse salt and black pepper.

Cooked kokoretsi

Once baked, I take them off the stick and cut them in small chunks. They are now ready to be served with the second ingredient of the dish, which is lentils.

Lentils – detail

I boil them with a lot of chunks of pickled celery root and leafs, carots, a bit of onion and a bit of garlic.

The first dish: Besame Mucho

I serve the lentils in the middle of the dish, and place the chunks of kokoretsi around it, with some fresh chopped home grown coriander and a few drops of vinegar.

After the enticing experience of “Besame Mucho”, the palate needs a thorough cleaning.

Rucola outside my front door

This is accomplished by the green salad made with lettuce, spring onions, dill, coriander, and home grown rucola.

Ojos Verdes

Add a good olive oil, some lemon, and coarse salt, and you have one of the most refreshing and tasty salads in the world! I name this salad “Ojos Verdes”.

And now to the second dish, as the ojos verdes were an interlude, albeit a very tasty and flavorful one!

This dish is the marriage of roasted piglet and mixed pickled cabbage, white and red, and bears the name “Love me tender, love me sweet”.

Pickled cabbage

I prepare the pickled cabbage at home, and all I do after I Take out of the jar where it has been pickled, is to let it simmer gently for a couple of hours, adding a bit of olive oil.

Roasted Piglet

The piglet is roasted in the oven, with rosemary, coriander and garlic stems. I also add coarse salt and pepper.

Last but not least, the “breads” of the lunch. We had corn bread (in the upper half of the picture) and piroshki made of potatoes (the lower half of the picture).

Both were prepared by a good friend.

There was no room for anything after all this, but only for fresh fruits, apples and tangerines.

Many Happy returns dearest friends, and a Happy New Year to All!!!

Today’s post is food for the body and soul, images from Venice’s seafood market in Rialto.

Rialto Fishmarket in Venice

I love fishmarkets!!! As you can tell from a sequence of posts already dedicated to them!!!!

No words or explanations or arguments are necessary.

Red Mullets - Barboni - Μπαρμπουνια

Alici - Γαυρος

Sardines - Sarde - Σαρδελλες

Sardines - Sarde - Σαρδελλα φιλετο

Molli

Orate

Papaline

Monkfish - Rana peskantrice - Πεσκανδριτσα

Palombo

Eel - Anguila

Swordfish - Pesce Spada - Ξιφιας

Skate - Razza - Σαλαχι

Skate - Razza - Σαλαχι

Sole - Sogliola - Γλωσσα

San Pietro

Scorpion Fish - Scorfano - Σκορπινα

Tuna

Scallops - Canestrelli - Χτενια

Scallops - Capesante - Κοχυλια του Αγιου Ιακωβου

Cuttlefish eggs - Latti di seppia - Αυγα σουπιας

Small cuttlefish - Seppioline - Σουπιτσες

Cuttlefish - Seppie Grosse - Σουπιες

Small Octopi - Folpi - Χταποδακια

Octopi - Piovra - Οκταποδες

Calamaretti

Calamari

Mazzancolle

Scampi

Soft Venetian Crab

Canocce

Squilla - Canocce

Today’s dish belongs to the minimalist school, and as such requires tender loving care for the flavors and the textures. It is my own creation, and I am sure that if you like the ingredients, you will love the dish as much as I do.

Although it is the middle of October 2011, I had in the freezer  a bag with fresh string beans and in the middle of a rainy dark day I felt the urge to cook them. I cook them lightly in boiling salted water so that they remain crunchy. I love the texture of string beans and immensely enjoy the crunch. After boiling, I let them cool off in room temperature.

The day before I had put in fresh water two fillets of salted bacalao to desalinate. The marriage was inevitable, even though it was not the result of a plan, but of sheer coincidence. I have learned from my Basque friends to prepare the bacalao in low heat with the skin down, so I cut the fillets in pieces.

Both ingredients are best friends with garlic, so the next step was to chop plenty of garlic. I like very much the combination of garlic and chilli, so I chopped some chilli peppers and through them in a deep pan with the garlic and olive oil.

I place the pieces of bacalao on top and let it cook in low heat, so that all the natural juices of the fish mix with the garlic and the chilli in a mild way that preseres natural flavor to the maximum.

After 10 minutes the fish is ready and there is a fantastic sauce in the pan that is going to dress the beans.

Serve the dressed beans in a deep dish and put on top a piece of bacalao. Enjoy with a “Asyrtiko” white wine from the island of Santorini in Greece.

Leek pie with celery and red cabbage

Σάββατο, 19 Φεβρουαρίου, 2011

Today I cooked a nice light dish for the end of the winter. A leek pie with celery and red cabbage.

The basis of the filling of the pie is the leek, so we need the best fresh and juicy leeks. Cut them in big chunks so that they  maintain some of their texture.

To give the filling some flavor, I got some air – dried wild boar from my good friend Dario.

There is a lot of fat but also a lot of fully flavored meat, so just chop it in small cubes and sautee  until light brown.

Add the leeks and celery and let the mix in strong heat for ten minutes, so that the liquids evaporate.

Add a little bit of sliced red cabbage (I use pickled cabbage) and three eggs. Spread on a baking dish, over hand prepared dough. If you do not know how to prepare hand made dough, you can buy ready made from the food stores, but it is not the same!

Cover with another sheet and mark with a knife so that steam can easily get out. Bake in 200 degreses Centigrade for 30 minutes.

Let it rest for 30 minutes and serve.

Enjoy with a glass of merlot.

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