Happy Easter! Lately, I have been really craving potatoes. I love potatoes any style: baked, boiled, fried or roasted. But, I have to say, these Lemon Greek Potatoes are one of my favourites. They have a lovely creamy texture. And they are loaded with lots of lemon, oregano, and garlic flavours. So good.
I’m a huge fan of Greek food; greek salad, feta cheese on anything, oregano, olive oil, lemon, garlic flavours. I love all of those. If you are too, then you might want to check out my Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad or my Alevropita Feta Tart.
My Lemon Greek Potatoes are quite simple to make, but you do need a bit of time. They are baked in the oven for a little over an hour. Of course, the great thing about baking in the oven is that it’s hand-free and you can spend that hour washing up, setting the table, finishing dinner or relaxing while someone else does all of that.
With only a few ingredients, this dish is so so simple to prepare. I like to use yukon gold potatoes because they turn out soft and creamy without falling apart.
What’s the difference between Yukon Gold Potatoes and Russett Potatoes?
Yukon Gold Potatoes are waxy potatoes. They are slightly sweet and have a creamy, moist texture. Yukon Gold potatoes are good for roasting, making french fries or just boiling. They retain their shape well. A very good, all-purpose potato.
Russett Potatoes have a neutral flavour. Russett Potatoes are considered starchy potatoes. They are best for baking, french fries or mashed. But they do not hold their shape very well, for example: for gratins or potato salad.
How do I know when my potatoes are done?
They are done when the potatoes are very soft. You can test this by poking them with a butter knife. There should be no resistance.
I cut each of my potatoes into quarters. I like this shape because the potato pieces seem to cook evenly. You could also cut them lengthwise, if you prefer. But, it’s personal preference. If you do cut them lengthwise, they may cook quicker.
Place all of your ingredients in the baking dish. Stir everything all around (I used my hands).
After a good mixing, all of the ingredients will be uniformly spread out in the pan. Cover your pan completely with tin foil and then pop it in the oven and check on it after about 45 minutes.
After about 45 minutes, the potatoes should be very soft and a fair bit of the liquid evaporated. If this is not the case, cover your pan back up and place in the oven until the potatoes are very soft (check them every 10-15 minutes, until very soft).
Remove the tin foil when the potatoes are very soft. Place the uncovered dish back in the oven for about 20 minutes. Continue to cook until the potatoes are starting to dry out and most of the liquid has evaporated.
Lemon Greek Potatoes go well with a number of dishes, but I especially like them with pork or chicken or vegetarian entrees.
If you’re a real potato lover like me, here is a great post to read about all the different types of potatoes.
This Fantastic Lemon Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad fits the bill for a meal anywhere, anytime…especially picnics. Horiatiki is the traditional greek salad made without lettuce. Many restaurants will list Greek Salad on their menu, but they always contain lettuce. This salad is chock full of crispy red onion, fresh cucumber cubes, briny black olives, salty feta, tangy tomatoes and vinaigrette infused pasta. This salad is sure to have your family reaching for more! It is perfect picnic food, but is also a treat as a packed lunch during the week.
This dish also perfectly solves the dilemma of choosing pasta or salad. So, with this easy to pull-together meal, you get both.
My first introduction to really really good feta cheese
My friend Bonnie and I visited Greece many years ago during our year long adventure. You can read more about our travels in my earlier post about Egyptian Basboussa. I had chosen Greece as the warm place that I wanted to spend my always cold January birthday. I can still recall the briny olives, the anise scented bread and the licorice flavoured ouzo. But what I can still vividly recall to this day was the amazing creamy, salty feta cheese that we ate at many outdoor cafes.
Feta cheese is a very important component of Greek food. And this pasta salad is loaded with it. While we were in Greece, Bonnie and I worked at an orchard near Corinth, Peloponnese picking oranges to make some money so we could continue travelling. After breakfast, we would walk over to the orange orchards from our campground. We always worked alongside a few of the local greek women. Everyday they would bring a packed lunch with them to share with us. Their lunch always included homemade Greek bread and big hunks of creamy, salty sheep’s milk feta cheese for lunch, as well as bottles of red wine. Heavenly! And so kind.
Different Types of Feta
There are many different types of feta cheese available in Canada and other countries around the world. But, it’s very difficult to get true Greek feta cheese outside of Greece as they just don’t produce enough. If you would like to learn more about Greek Feta Cheese or want another delicious recipe using feta cheese, head over to my blog about Alevropita.
A tip for raw red onions
My recipe for this Fantastic Lemon Greek Horiatiki Pasta Salad also has raw red onions in it. If you love onions, but don’t always enjoy them raw, I have included a really handy tip in this recipe for people just like you. If you soak diced red onions for ten minutes in boiled water, it removes the strong, bitter onion flavour, but maintains the crunch and the sweeter milder flavour of onions. I love this technique.
This salad comes together in a snap. While the pasta is cooking, you can slice the tomatoes, cube the cucumbers, crumble the feta and drain the olives. After you have drained the pasta, pour in the lovely veg, drizzle on the vinaigrette and lunch is ready!
You can eat this salad slightly warm or at room temperature.
I made a batch of these Glazed Mocha Donuts a few days ago when it was grey and drizzling. Even though I’m not a super-crazed donut lover, there is nothing quite like fresh warm home-made donuts on a cold grey day. Donuts were one thing that my Mum never made when we were small. Even still, I have some very special memories of sharing a brown paper bag filled with mini-donuts with my sister when our parents took us to the St. Lawrence Farmer’s Market . I also enjoyed watching mini donuts being made at various Farmer’s Markets with my sons when they were small. The hardest question wasn’t whether we should stand in line to buy some fresh, warm, fragrant mini-donuts but whether we should have them coated in icing sugar or cinnamon and sugar. Hmmm. Still a toss up.
If you have been following along some of my other posts such as Madeleines, marmalade, or Anzac Cookies, you will know that I have a love of food history. So, naturally, I started to wonder where do donuts come from? How did they become so popular?
People have been eating fried dough for centuries. Ancient Greeks and Romans coated their dough with honey or fish sauce while Arabs drizzled their fried dough with sugary syrup. By the 1400s the concept of fried dough eventually made it to Germany, England and the Netherlands. The Germans even made savoury fried treats filled with mushrooms or meat in the 1500s when sugar was scarce.
Dutch settlers brought the the first donuts (olykoeks – oily cakes) to America. They became so popular that during WWI two women who were volunteers with the Salvation Army came up with the brilliant idea of baking things for the American soldiers that would remind them of home, including donuts. These women were eventually called The Donut Lassies . They made donuts, cupcakes, pies and hot cocoa and sometimes had to dodge bullets to serve them to the men on the front lines. How’s that for service?
Speaking of service, I saw on the news the other day that people were lined up in their cars at Tim Horton’s for 2-3 hours for donuts. And I thought to myself, really, how hard can they be to make at home.
As it turns out, they are quite easy.
I decided to make Glazed Mocha Donuts, because well, chocolate and coffee. These Glazed Mocha Donuts have an intense chocolate coffee flavour and are covered in a thin crispy sugary coating of icing. So good. And they hit the spot when you need a wee pick me up. And who doesn’t need that these days.
Glazed Mocha Donuts are easy and made from pantry ingredients: flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and espresso powder. If you don’t have espresso powder, you can leave it out, or add in some coffee that is leftover from your morning pot and just use less milk.
Mix together milk, eggs, brown sugar and vanilla (I was out of vanilla, but they still tasted fine).
The batter for the donuts is like a thick cake batter. It mixes together in a bowl with a wooden spoon very easily.
My son took one bite and told me they tasted exactly like a Tim Bit. But better!
The flavour and texture of homemade donuts is so much better than store bought. These Mocha Glazed Donuts are dense and cake-like with a lovely crumb. And the size is perfect – I could eat just one with a tea or coffee and feel completely satisfied. These days, homemade is the best service around.
about 1 litre of a mild oil for cooking (such as rapeseed, canola or sunflower or a mix of the last 2)
In a medium size bowl, mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cocoa powder and espresso powder.
In a different medium size bowl, combine egg, buttermilk, brown sugar, melted butter and salt.
Add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. Stir together with a wooden spoon, until dry ingredients are fully incorporated.
Measure out the donuts with teaspoons. My donut batter weighed 30 grams and I made 18 donuts. (consistency is key so they all cook the same length of time. You can make these donuts smaller. You will obviously make more, but they will cook faster)
Roll the donuts in your hand to make a round shape. They will be quite sticky. But don't fret. After they sit for a few minutes, they will dry out a bit and you can fix their shape. They will puff up about 2X their size while cooking. (Do Not wet your hands, as the extra moisture on the donut batter may cause splattering when cooking in the hot oil).
Pour about 3-4 inches of a mild flavoured oil into a medium size pot. You don't want the oil to come up the side of the pan more than half way, as hot oil can sometimes bubble up.
Heat the oil to 350 degrees fahrenheit (measured with a candy thermometer). This may take 5-10 minutes.
While it's heating up, put a plate or shallow bowl nearby and line it with paper towels.
Once the oil is heated, add one donut to start.
Cook the donut for 2-3 minutes, turning it over with a spoon every 30 seconds or so.
Remove it with a slotted spoon and place it on the paper towel. Cut the it open to check if it's done. If they're all the same size, you will only have to test the first one.
Add 4-6 donuts into the pan and cook until done (2-3 minutes).
Use a slotted spoon to remove the donuts from the oil when finished cooking.
Continue to cook 4-6 donuts at a time until they are all cooked.
After draining on the paper towels, remove to a wire rack with a baking pan underneath to cool.
While they are cooling, mix together the icing sugar and milk. You can make the glaze as thick or as thin as you like. My glaze was quite thin.
After approximately 30 minutes or more, when the donuts are cold, dip in the glaze, until all the sides are coated.
Leave on the wire rack until the glaze is dried (if you can wait that long).
* if you don't have espresso powder, you can use 1 Tbsp leftover coffee from your morning coffee, and just use 1 Tbsp less buttermilk.
* cook only one donut first, to check the timing. I cooked mine for 3 minutes exactly. After the first one is cooked, scoop it out, and cut it in half to check for doneness.
* you can make these donuts smaller, but you will have to adjust the cooking time.
* donuts are best eaten on the day you make them. I stored mine in a plastic container for 2 days before they were all eaten up.
Many years ago, my best friend Bonnie and I took off from Canada for a year long travel adventure. We had planned and saved for our trip for many years; we cut out travel stories from the newspaper and collected travel tips from friends. Bonnie and I were only 19 years old but we were ready for a big adventure.
It was a beautiful spring day when we landed in London, England. We spent a few weeks in that lovely old city before continuing our travels through the United Kingdom, Europe and into northern Africa as well.
Europe is a fascinating place to travel at any age, but when you’re 19, it’s magical. We enjoyed all the art museums, comfortable, punctual trains, and the beautiful old buildings but my favourite part was the food: Austrian coffee, italian pizza and gelato in little cups, french croissants, greek baklava and egyptian falafels: all were breathtaking.
Over the course of twelve months, we sampled many delicious dishes and sweets. And my cooking at home is still influenced by that trip so many years ago. This year, while happily remembering our travels, I made one of our favourites sweets from our trip: Egyptian Basbousa Cake. We sampled many slices of Basbousa Cake while we travelled from Cairo to Luxor and to Hurghada on the Red Sea.
Basbousa Cake is a very popular dessert in the middle east. Many countries in this region make their own variation: Revani from Northern Greece, Ravani from Southern Greece and Hareesa from Jordan, the Maghreb and Alexandria. The names may be different, but the cakes are very similar.
Egyptian Basbousa Cake is super easy to make as it only requires a few basic pantry ingredients. It is traditionally made with semolina and has a surprising wheaty aroma and taste. I have also made it with cream of wheat cereal, and while it has a coarser texture, I still really like it.
Basbousa is luxuriously sweet, with a cold lemon-scented sugar/honey syrup poured over the hot-from-the-oven cake. This technique also makes the cake super moist. Because it is a very moist cake, it doesn’t slice as neatly as other cakes, but is so so delicious. A traditional finishing touch to the cake is to place whole almonds in the centre of each slice.
This cake will keep for serveral days. It is excellent with tea or coffee. It would also be an excellent addition to an afternoon picnic on the beach. If you want to ramp this cake up a notch, served it with a dollop thick whipped cream.
2 cups semolina (you can also use cream of wheat cereal)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 cup of yogurt
1 3/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon lemon juice
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a baking pan 9 X 9 inches.
Whip the butter and sugar until well blended and a pale yellow colour.
Add the eggs one at a time.
In a separate bowl, mix the semolina and baking powder and soda.
Add dry mixture and yogurt to butter/sugar mix, alternating between the dry mix and the yogurt.
Pour into greased pan.
Bake in oven for 30 minutes, or until cake tester comes out clean and the cake is slightly golden on top.
While the cake is baking, you can make the syrup. Combine all of the ingredients in a small pot. Bring to a boil, stirring lots to help dissolve the sugar. Simmer for about 10 minutes. Then pour the syrup into a heat resistant bowl or very large measuring cup. Place the bowl in cold water to cool down the syrup. You could also place the container with the syrup in the freezer until the cake comes out of the oven.
Once the cake has come out of the oven, pour the syrup over the hot cake, until it is all soaked up. You may not need all of it, but you will be surprised how much it soaks up. Let the cake cool in the pan until cold.
recipe is slightly adapted from Tess Mallos The Complete Middle East Cookbook
With the big Royal Wedding coming up, it’s hard to ignore the ongoings of the Royal Family. Especially when you have a British Mum.
My Mum always had something to say about the Royal Family when we were growing up. I can remember her commenting on many big royal events: the death of the Queen Mum, the retirement of the Royal Britannia, anything to do with Wallis Simpson or King Edward VIII (My Mum told she she cried and cried when King Edward VIII abdicated the throne in 1936) or trips around the world by Queen Elizabeth. My Mum was the expert on all things royal in our house!
So, it’s no surprise that I have inherited my mum’s interest in this fascinating family. I will be watching the ceremony this Saturday and wishing my Mum was around to watch it with me. I will certainly enjoy the music, admire the Bride’s dress and try and spot the most unusual fascinator, but, like most foodies, it’s the cake that I’m particularly interested in. I’ve seen some photos of Royal Wedding Cakes in the past and they are utterly stunning.
I read in the news a few weeks ago, that the bride had chosen a lemon elderflower cake as their wedding cake. So, to celebrate this auspicious occasion, I wanted to bake a cake with those same flavours. But I didn’t want an after dinner cake, per se: layered and smothered in buttercream frosting. I wanted a cake that Canadians could nibble on alongside tea or coffee while they watch the wedding. There will be much to ooh and aah over such as, the bride’s gown, Queen Elizabeth’s outfit as well as the gorgeous music,
I chose a Savarin cake, because cakes soaked in a sweet syrup after baking are some of my favorites. This cake pairs exceptionally well with fresh fruit and a dairy topping which is so perfect for mid-morning noshing.
Savarin Cake is interesting because it is made with yeast and not with baking powder or baking soda.
The batter is left to rise first in the mixing bowl and then transferred into the cake pan where it is left to rise 3/4 of the way up the pan.
The batter is baked in a greased bundt or savarin cake pan in a medium hot oven for about 30 minutes, until a light golden brown.
When the pan has cooled down a little, turn the cake out onto a cake rack, with a plate underneath. Pour the sugar syrup over the cake.
I filled my Lemon-Elderflower Savarin Cake with whipped yogurt and cream topped with fresh blueberries and strawberries. It’s delicious anytime of day!
While Savarin cake is not British, it does have an interesting history behind it. FOllow the links at the end of this post for more informatiin about this delicious cake.
The Royal Wedding will take place on May 19th at t St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle. Click on the link below to read up on this very interesting relic.
Enjoy the event! I’m sure it’s going to be fun!
If you enjoy reading about food history, here is some interesting information on Savarin Cakes.
Greek food is one of my favourite cuisines. I was lucky enough to visit Greece many years ago. Of course, it’s the food that I remember particularly well: sitting in outdoor cafes sipping espresso coffee in the tiniest cups, nibbling on appetizers of anise scented greek bread, dipped in the best olive oil I had ever tasted alongside small bowls of the blackest olives and the most creamy tangy feta cheese with a big glass of red wine. Pure heaven.
When I’m feeling nostalgic for the time we spent in Greece, I like to prepare a Greek dish at home, like a simple greek salad or this Alevropita feta tart.
To make this dish really shine, try to buy the best feta that you can. I don’t know about you, but in my grocery store there is a wide variety of different feta cheeses to choose from. And I’m never sure which one to buy. As I was writing this post, I thought I would do a bit of feta cheese research and let everyone know a bit about this amazing cheese..
There are many different types of feta available in grocery and specialty cheese shops. I’ll start with Greek feta, as that’s where it all began.
Greek feta was actually granted Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) by the EU in 2005. So, the only place in the world to buy true genuine Greek feta cheese is Greece.
In 2005, the EU’s highest court set very strict specifications for making and selling feta cheese. Genuine Greek feta cheese can only be made in the regions of Macedonia, Thrace, Epirus, Thessalia, Mainland Greece, the Peloponnese peninsula and the Island of Lesvos. Feta cheese is made with sheep and goat’s milk and where the animals graze affects the taste of their milk. This in turn affects the flavour profile of the cheese. If feta is made from sheep and goats that graze in a different geographical region, the flavour of the milk would be different and so would the cheese.
True feta can be made with either 100% sheep’s milk or as much as 30% goat’s milk, but not higher. Also, the average composition must be 52.9% moisture, 26.2% fat, 16.7 % proteins, 2.9% salt and 4.4% pH.
You can still buy feta cheese in the EU, outside of Greece, but any other country in the EU must label it feta-style chesese, or some such label. Outside of Greece there are no specifications for this cheese which can be produced using whatever percentage of sheep, goat or even cow’s milk that they prefer.
Greek feta is salty and tangy with a bit of a lemony flavour. It can be dry and crumbly or rich and creamy depending on how much goat’s milk is in it. The more goat’s milk, the more crumbly it is. It is made using the slower traditional method, not the ultrafiltration method which is used in Denmark. Not very much Greek Feta is exported, there just isn’t enough of it to go around.
Even though the origins of feta cheese began in Greece, you can still buy some wonderful tasting feta cheeses that are made around the globe. Here are a few.
Bulgarian Feta: This is made with sheep’s milk and a yogurt culture. It has a very tangy flavour.
Israeli Feta: This is a full-flavoured, creamy and not overly salty feta. It is usually made from sheep’s milk.
French Feta: This is often made with sheep’s milk. It is mild and creamy. Some feta in France is made with goat’s milk and is usually drier and more tangy.
Danish Feta: This is made from cow’s milk. It has a milder flavour and a creamier texture compared to other feta cheeses. It is made using the ultrafiltration method. This method is used to speed up cheese making. It produces a cheese that is smooth, creamy and closed (no openings between the curds).
Australian Feta: This is usually made from cow’s milk. The texture and flavour can vary. It usually tastes in between salty greek feta and a creamy feta.
American Feta: This is made from sheep, goat or even cow’s milk. It is usually tangy and crumbly.
If you can’t find greek feta cheese in your shop, but want to get one that is as close to genuine feta as possible, the following are some tips for finding a good feta.
Tips on Choosing Feta Cheese
Ingredients: Feta should be made with only sheep’s milk or with some goat’s milk, rennet and salt. Never cow’s milk.
Tasting: If you buy your feta from a cheese shop ask the sales clerk if you can taste some feta. Feta should taste tangy and salty and have a lovely rich aroma. It should not taste sour, bitter or have no taste at all. These are signs that it is old. Feta comes in 3 different textures; hard, medium-hard and soft. Choose the one you like best.
Colour: Feta should be white. If it is a bit yellowish, then it’s been out of the brine for too long and has dried out a bit and become sour.
Holes: Feta cheese should have a few small holes on the surface. This shows that the feta was made in the traditional way with slow even turning and draining.
If feta is too salty for you, rinse it with plain water and then soak a piece of feta in some milk for 1-3 hours, or overnight. Then drain and store in plain water.
Nutritionally, feta cheese is lower in fat and calories than cheddar or parmesan. However it is high in sodium. If you are on a sodium restricted diet, feta cheese probably isn’t a good choice for you. Feta has twice the amount of sodium than cheddar cheese. An ounce of feta has 300 mg of sodium vs 170 mg in cheddar. It also has 75 calories, 1 gram carbohydrates, 4 grams protein, 6 grams of fat (4.2 grams of saturated fat).
Ok, now that you know a few things about feta cheese, you’ll be ready to make this delicious feta tart. Make sure you use really good tasting feta, as that’s the primary flavour in this tart. The other strong feature of this tart is the crispy crust. Make sure that you preheat your oven with the baking pan inside, so that the pan gets really hot. This is what makes the tart crisp.
Make sure you have your oven mitts nearby for taking the empty pan out of the oven and be very careful not to touch the pan with your bare hands. It’s hot!!!
This recipe for Alevropita Feta Tart is very quick to make as the base is made from a batter so there is no rising involved. Yay! The feta cheese will not melt and spread, but will brown nicely in the oven. The salty tangy feta cheese paired with the eggy crispy crust is such a delicious combination. This tart will soon become a family favourite.
And the crust gets nicely browned and crispy.
It is delicious with soup, or greek salad, or even with a pasta dish.
Here are some fun links for additional information about feta cheese and greek culture: