Insider shares 3 summer-pitched recipes from Australian-born Greek Ruth Bardis’ award-winning collection that are guaranteed to make a welcome appearance at your next barbecue or al-fresco feast.
Makes: 1 liter (33 oz.)
Preparation: 35 minutes
Time: Set overnight
Homemade yogurt certainly reminds me of my parents. My father in particular makes an unhurried point of eating it with a fancy, long-handled teaspoon and a good helping of organic honey. The satisfaction is evident as he scrumptiously digs in—to him, this is like a luscious dessert.
The thought of making your own yogurt does not need to intimidate or alarm you. I can reassure you that after attempting it once, you’ll grasp how stress-free and satisfying it is to make. The uses of yogurt in Greek cooking are numerous. The most common way we ate it as children was with a good helping of organic honey, nuts, and a sprinkling of cinnamon.
- 1 L (33.8 fl. oz.) whole milk
- ¾ cup Greek yogurt (preferably sheep’s yogurt)
In a saucepan, heat the milk over medium heat until it starts to boil. As soon as the milk rapidly rises to the top of the pan, remove from the heat. Submerge the saucepan in a cold-water bath and stir until the milk has started to drop in temperature. To test if it is cool enough, place your pinkie finger into the milk—if you can count to 10 comfortably without getting burned, the milk is ready. (Make sure it’s not too hot, or the milk will curdle as soon as the yogurt is added.)
Remove the saucepan from the water bath. In a small bowl, combine the sheep’s yogurt and 1 cup of the boiled milk. Whisk to combine well, and then add this mixture to the pot of milk. Stir the mixture quickly to combine. Pour the yogurt into a large jar and cover it with a lid.
Place the jar in a deep dish. Boil some water and pour it into the dish until it is half full. Cover the dish with a large blanket—retaining warmth is the key here. Allow the yogurt to sit overnight, or between 12 and 15 hours. It should now have cultured adequately; refrigerate it and use it as desired.
Suggestion: If you desire flavored yogurt, add jam, honey, or fruits to the jar, add in the yogurt, and allow it to set per the recipe.
Lemon-Dressed Potato Salad
Makes: 1–2 servings
Time: 45 minutes
Potato salad is definitely a classic, one that I ate consistently growing up and one that has endless possibilities. This recipe is unpretentious and easy to prepare. Greeks love potatoes—in more ways than one. Yes, we make dips with them, we fry them in olive oil, we add them to our moussaka, we roast them with our spring lamb, and the list goes on. Though a modest ingredient, potatoes dressed with the simplicity of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice, and dried oregano taste sublime.
Potatoes can be boiled with the skins on to add a little texture. If you prefer not to sauté the onions, they can be submerged in cold water for 20 minutes to mellow their intensity. Pat them dry and add them to the salad.
- 1 large onion, thinly sliced
- ¾ cup olive oil, divided
- 3 medium potatoes
- 2 tablespoons capers
- ¼ cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley
- ½ cup halved Kalamata olives
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1–2 lemons, juiced
- Salt, to taste
- Black pepper, to taste
- 1 spring onion, chopped
Sauté the large onion in ¼ cup of the olive oil until the onion is caramelized and soft. Set the onion aside.
Peel the potatoes and cut them into 8 pieces each. Place the potatoes in a pot of salted water and cook them until they are soft but not falling apart. Drain them and set them aside in a bowl. To the potatoes, add the sautéed onions, capers, parsley, and chopped olives. In a separate bowl, whisk together the remaining ½ cup of olive oil, oregano, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Pour the dressing over the potatoes and gently mix. Scatter the spring onions on top of the salad and serve it immediately.
You can make the salad in advance and dress it just before serving. This potato salad can be eaten cold or warm.
Orange-Apricot Semolina Pudding
Halva me Portokali
Χαλβάς με πορτοκάλι
Makes: 25 pieces
Time: 45 minutes
My mother-in-law always remembers this recipe using this method: “One, two, three, and four!” She would say “one” for oil, “two” for semolina, “three” for sugar, and “four” for water. I have opted to lessen the sugar and additionally include dried fruits and citrus zest. This cake really resembles something closer to a pudding than a cake. Its texture is fascinating. The semolina flour, which is toasted in olive oil, feels like tiny balls in the mouth and has a punch of spice, nuts, citrus, and fruit. This pudding is made on the stove and then unmolded to expose an array of nuts and the scent of cinnamon. It consists of humble ingredients that transform into an exquisite dessert. Once again, it shows the complexity and versatility that olive oil brings to Greek desserts. This dessert is best served cold or at room temperature.
- 1 cup light olive oil
- 2 cups coarse semolina flour
- 3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon powder
- ¼ cup slivered almonds
- ½ teaspoon vanilla powder
- ¼ cup sultanas or raisins
- ½ cup dried apricots, chopped
- Zest of ½ an orange
- ½ cup desiccated coconut
- 1¼ cups castor (superfine) sugar
- 4 cups water
- 1 tablespoon orange blossom water*
- Rind of ½ an orange
To prepare the syrup, place all the ingredients in a pot and bring them to a boil. Simmer the syrup over very low heat while you work on the rest of the dessert.
In another pot, brown the semolina flour with the olive oil and sesame seeds over medium heat until the semolina begins to change to a golden-brown color and it starts to smell a little. Do not rush this step—it should take approximately 10–15 minutes. The semolina must be browned; otherwise, the taste of the completed dessert will be doughy.
When the flour is golden brown, add all of the remaining ingredients. Mix the ingredients well to combine, and then immediately take the mixture off the heat.
Discard the orange rind from the sugar syrup and pour the syrup into the semolina, standing back as it will bubble and splash a little (be very careful not to burn yourself). Start stirring the mixture vigorously until it comes away from the sides of the pot and has thickened into a pudding-like consistency.
Pour the pudding into a 25 cm (9.8 in.) diameter nonstick mold, pressing down with a spoon so that it is distributed evenly. Allow the pudding to cool before unmolding it onto a serving plate. Dust it with a sprinkling of cinnamon powder. This dessert is best served cold.
*Orange blossom water is sold at all international delicatessens.
These recipes have been taken with the kind permission of Ruth Bardis from her award-winning book “Hellenic Kanella: Memories Made in a Greek Kitchen”, which is available from Amazon (£47.95).
Insider Weekly, July 4, 2017.