We love tasting local cuisine when we’re off on our hols, but the good news is, you can enjoy those tempting dishes all summer long…even when you’re back in Blighty! MasterChef star Theo Michaels knows a thing or two about great food, and has shared some delicious Greek recipes with us. A lovely taste of the Med from your very own kitchen – it’s time to banish those summer holiday blues.
Each recipe also includes a handy video from Theo on how to whip up a fuss-free Greek feast (that’s our kind of dinner!) – enjoy!
Kleftiko – Succulent slow cooked Greek lamb
Nothing will send your tastebuds to a Greek Cypriot taverna quite like Kleftiko. Slow cooked lamb that remains totally succulent and literally falls off the bone (you can cut it with a spoon, seriously, you can) and it’s almost impossible to get wrong! Kleftiko roughly translates to Stolen Meat; legend has it, the outlaws or bandits in Cyprus would steal a goat and take it up to the Troodos Mountains where their hideaway was to cook. To avoid being caught they would dig a large pit and make a fire during the day when the flames wouldn’t be seen, eventually the fire would burn out leaving just the glowing embers. The beast would be placed on top of the ashes and covered until the next day, by which time they would unearth their feast and tuck in! Nowadays this is a meal in a bowl; usually cooked with potatoes to soak up the juices (I prefer to cook mine separately but if you can’t be bothered – just follow my recipe below and throw some spuds in before you wrap up the lamb!)
YOU WILL NEED:
1 shoulder of lamb
2 large ripe tomatoes cut into thick slices
1 onion sliced
3 bay leaves
5 cloves of garlic cracked open
6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
Few heavy glugs of extra virgin olive oil
Tablespoon of dried oregano (preferably Greek of course!)
Few pinches of sea salt
Teaspoon of smoked paprika (OK, not a traditional ingredient but I think it adds a little smokiness that is missed by cooking it in the oven)
HOW TO MAKE IT:
1. First; season your meat all over. Then lay out a large piece of foil; and prepare the base to sit the meat on. Drizzle some olive oil, sprinkle half the sliced onion, a bay leaf, some rosemary, some of the oregano, some of the tomato slices and a couple of slices of lemon and half the garlic. Season well and place the meat on top.
2. Drizzle olive oil over the top of the meat and place the rest of the ingredients all over the top. Squeeze lemon juice all over the meat before slicing the rest into thick chunks and layering on top. Season well and sprinkle the smoked paprika over the meat.
Point to remember – cut the tomatoes quite thick and use the majority on top of the meat; they will almost turn into sundried tomatoes; very concentrated and rich… lovely!
3. Wrap in foil several times to ensure it is sealed. Pop on a rack on a roasting tray, stick a pint of water (or two) in the bottom and pop into the oven at 170 degrees for about 5 hours for a whole shoulder (about 4 hours for only half a shoulder) – if in doubt – leave it in longer rather than less.
4. Once the 5 hours is up; remove the meat from the oven, turn the oven up to 200 degrees and let the wrapped meat sit for 20 minutes. Then cut the foil wrap open at the top, peel away as much as possible and pour the juices into a saucepan to make some gravy.
5. The oven should be to temperature by now (200 degrees), so return the unwrapped meat to the oven for another 10-15 minutes (check it after 10 minutes – you want the meat to start to crisp but not burn).
6. Remove the meat and pop it on a serving dish and stick it in the middle of a table for people to help themselves – this is all about sharing the pleasure.
Watermelon Carpaccio with Feta and Spinach Balls
This is a new dish I created inspired by the flavours of Greece; it looks stunning but is surprisingly easy to make and utterly delicious. It is great served on a hot sunny day (or a rainy day when you want to create your own bit of Greek sunshine!)
YOU WILL NEED:
1 packet of Feta cheese – crumbled, then mashed with a fork
2 handfuls of fresh baby spinach
1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg
Few turns of black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 cup plain flour
2 eggs whisked
2 cups breadcrumbs
Slices of watermelon
2 tablespoons of course salt – for salting the watermelon
Vegetable oil – enough to deep fry the balls
Couple of pinches of ground chilli (or cayenne pepper)
Few pinches fresh mint sliced
Squeeze of lemon juice
Drizzle of olive oil
HOW TO MAKE IT:
For the watermelon carpaccio:
1. Slice pieces of the watermelon about 3 mm thick (give or take), place the slices of watermelon in a colander, sprinkle liberally with salt and leave for 10 minutes. Rinse the watermelon and pat dry (this is quite delicate and if you are also pushed for time, simply slice the watermelon and don’t bother salting it) then lay it out on a plate.
2. Sprinkle the watermelon with a couple of pinches of ground chilli, a light squeeze of lemon, scattering of mint and a gentle drizzle of olive oil.
To make the balls:
1. Crumble the feta cheese into a bowl. Blanche the spinach for literally a minute in boiling water, drain, let cool then squeeze as much liquid from the spinach with your hands and finely chop.
Combine the spinach, feta cheese, nutmeg, black pepper and oregano in a bowl and mix together.
Take a tablespoon size of the mixture into your hand and form into a ball (about the size of a ping-pong ball).
2. Then dip the balls into the flour, then into the egg wash – do this twice (so flour, egg wash, flour, egg wash then breadcrumbs)
3. In a deep fat fryer or in a saucepan with enough vegetable oil to deep fry; on a high/medium heat gently place the balls into the hot oil for literally a few minutes until the breadcrumbs are golden. You can test the temperature of the oil by dropping a few breadcrumbs into the oil – if they sizzle immediately but don’t burn the oil is ready.
4. Remove the balls and drain on a paper towel.
5. Place the balls on top of the watermelon – eat and enjoy!
For more mouth-watering recipes from Theo, click here.