This article titled “From cocktails to cake: eight recipes for a Mediterranean summer feast” was written by Interview by Molly Tait-Hyland, for The Observer on Sunday 17th June 2018 15.30 Asia/Kolkata
This menu was created on a sunny day while sitting in the garden,” says Marianna Leivaditaki, head chef at Morito Hackney Road. “I wanted icy drinks and lots of punchy salads and vegetables. It’s the perfect feast to share with friends and family. I felt as if I was back in Crete.” Crete was where 36-year-old Leivaditaki grew up, spending her childhood gutting fish, peeling potatoes and taking orders at her parents’ restaurant Akrolimano in Chania. “In the summer, we finished at three or four in the morning,” she says. “When we got tired, we put three chairs together to sleep and used tablecloths for a blanket.”
Akrolimano means “end of the harbour”, and guests would sit outside on an elevated wooden platform a few metres from the sea. Every night her father went out on a small boat to catch bream, bass and grouper, while her mother was front of house. Akrolimano has now closed but her father is still a fisherman. Her mother, who died five years ago, also ran a pub in Crete. Leivaditaki first came to London 18 years ago to study forensic psychology. While working for the NHS, she became frustrated so packed her bags and went travelling.
During a four-month cycling trip through France and Spain, with a barbecue on the back of her bicycle, writing diaries about food, she realised her passion was cooking. Several years with Sam and Sam Clark at Moro followed, and she’s now running the kitchen at the Hackney Road sister restaurant, where she combines the food of her youth with Middle Eastern flavours. “It was,” she says, “the best childhood on earth.”
Greek anise spritz
Ouzo is a classic Greek liqueur made from grapes and flavoured with anise. This recipe is also delicious without alcohol.
Makes 1 cocktail
ouzo 25ml (or Lebanese arak or Spanish sweet anise liqueur)
lemon syrup 40ml (see below)
sumac water 60ml (see below)
sparkling water about 40-50ml or to taste
For the lemon syrup
(makes about 500ml)
fresh lemon juice 250ml
basil ½ bunch
caster sugar 250g
For the sumac water
(makes about 600ml)
water 1 litre
caster sugar 400g
For the garnish
basil or mint leaves
• Place all the syrup ingredients in a pan and bring to the boil. Boil for 20 minutes, then remove from the heat. Pass the syrup through a fine sieve and allow to cool.
Make the sumac water by boiling the ingredients for 15 minutes. Take off the heat and allow to cool.
Place ice in a glass and add the ouzo, lemon syrup and sumac water, and top up with sparkling water. Garnish with fresh basil or mint leaves and a wedge of lemon.
Fava bean pure, boiled egg, red onion, olives and parsley with crispbread
Delicious eaten hot or cold and leftovers are perfect in sandwiches as a healthy spread. Fava beans vary in cooking time, so you may need to add more water during cooking.
For the fava bean puree
fava beans 200g
water 1 litre, more if needed
bay leaves 2
white onion ½
olive oil 200ml
salt 2-3 tsp
For the topping
organic eggs 3, boiled for 6 minutes, cut in half
red onion 1, diced finely
black olives a handful, with their stones
parsley leaves a handful, chopped
olive oil 2 tbsp
crispbreads see flatbread recipe (page 36), then crisp in a low oven (150C for about 20 minutes), or buy ready-made Moroccan-style flatbreads and do the same
• Place the fava beans in a sieve and wash well under cold water. Put them in a pan with the water, bay and onion, and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook gently for about 30-40 minutes. Stir the fava quite often to make sure it does not stick to the bottom of the pan. When the beans begin to break up and look almost like a puree, add the olive oil and about 2-3 teaspoons of salt or to taste. Cook for a further 10 minutes then remove the onion and bay and take off the heat.
Just before serving, gently mix the eggs, onion, olives and parsley in a bowl with olive oil and a pinch of salt and place on top of the fava. Serve with half a lemon and the crispbread on the side.
Courgette flowers stuffed with goat’s curd and anchovies
I grew up looking forward to the arrival of courgette flowers. In Crete, the grannies add them to massive trays of stuffed summer vegetables. They are incredible deep fried, too. There is a special lady in a little fishing village called Hrisoskalitisa that stuffs them with her own goat’s curd – mizithra. She batters them, fries them and coats them in thyme honey. This version is baked and a bit lighter, but still savoury and delicious.
For the stuffing
goat’s curd 300g, or a 50/50 mix of crumbled feta and ricotta
courgettes 300g, grated
cured anchovies 6 fillets, chopped
sun dried tomatoes 50g, chopped finely
fresh mint leaves a good handful, chopped
For the flowers
courgette flowers 8-10
• Place all the ingredients for the stuffing in a bowl and mix well. Using a teaspoon, carefully stuff the courgette flowers. Do this by gently opening all the petals to reveal the hollow part in the middle, add the stuffing and then bring each petal back to the centre to seal the hole.
Place on a small baking tray – ideally one that just fits them all – and drizzle with some olive oil and a splash of water. Cover with baking paper and place in the oven at 180C/gas mark 4 for 20-25 minutes. Remove the baking paper and cook for a few more minutes until golden on the surface. Best eaten warm.
Lamb breast with flatbreads and homemade sauces
Feel free to buy ready-made flatbreads, but if you fancy making them, follow the recipe below. You don’t have to make all three sauces to have with your lamb, but they all keep quite well.
For the flatbreads
organic white flour 300g
fine semolina 100g
tepid water 250ml
Greek yogurt 2 tbsp
dried yeast 1 tbsp
olive oil 50ml
salt 1 tbsp
caster sugar ½ tbsp
sumac, za’atar and oregano a sprinkle
For the tomato, red pepper and orange sauce
tomatoes 250g, chopped
red romano peppers 2, chopped
orange ½, chopped, with its peel
orange juice of 1
garlic 4 cloves, peeled
olive oil 150ml
oregano 1 tsp
salt and pepper to taste
For the chilled yogurt, cucumber, dried apricot and pine-nut sauce
strained Greek yogurt 400g
cucumber 1, diced, not peeled
dried apricots 150g, chopped
pine nuts 1 tbsp, toasted
fresh mint leaves a handful, chopped
garlic 1 clove, peeled and crushed
olive oil 100ml
For the sweet chilli and sesame sauce
red chillies 500g, de-seeded and roughly chopped
ripe tomatoes 400g, chopped
caster sugar 200g
white sesame seeds 2 tbsp
For the lamb breast
lamb breast 1kg, rolled and tied (ask your butcher to do this)
salt and pepper
olive oil about 50ml
red chillies 2, chopped
green chillies 2, chopped
•To make the flatbreads, mix all the ingredients except the sumac, za’atar and oregano in a bowl, then knead well for about 10 minutes or until the dough is soft and elastic. Rest for at least 30 minutes.
When ready to roll, flour a flat surface and take a piece of dough as big as a walnut. Roll it out as thinly as possible and fry it in a pan with a touch of oil. Make sure your heat is low and cook it on both sides until golden.
When ready to eat, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle some sumac, za’atar and oregano over the top.
To make the tomato sauce, place all the ingredients in a pan and cook gently until everything is soft and sweet. This should take about 30-40 minutes. Remove from the heat, allow to cool a little and blitz to a smooth paste. This sauce is great hot or cold.
To make the chilled yogurt sauce, place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Adjust the seasoning and chill in the fridge until needed.
To make the sweet chilli sauce, place all the ingredients in a pan and cook gently for 20-25 minutes with the lid on. Everything should be soft and glossy by this time. Allow to cool for a while, then blitz until smooth. If you prefer the sauce to be more chunky, omit the blitzing. It keeps well refrigerated.
To make the lamb breast, place the lamb on a baking tray and rub with salt, pepper and oil. Cut the lemon and orange in half and squeeze the juice over the lamb and leave the fruits in the tray. Add the chillies and about 200ml of water and cover with baking paper.
Place in the oven and cook at 180C/gas mark 4 until soft and tender. This may vary depending on your oven and the lamb. It can take up to 2½ hours, but usually it takes less. The lamb is ready when it’s soft and falls apart when poked with a fork.
When the lamb is ready, remove from the oven and allow it to cool down before putting it in the fridge. You want the lamb to be really cold.
Before you serve it, cut nice thick slices of it and pan-fry on both sides. Do this by heating a non-stick pan over a medium heat and crisping the lamb slices for a couple of minutes on both sides. When you pan-fry the lamb you don’t need any extra oil as the lamb releases enough fat.
Baked aubergines, freekeh, tomato sauce and sheep’s cheese bechamel
aubergines 4 large (about 1.5kg in total), cut in half lengthways, scored and salted – this helps the flesh cook faster and makes scooping it out easier
freekeh 200g (or bulgur wheat), washed well under cold water
For the tomato sauce
olive oil 100ml
red onions 4, diced
ripe tomatoes 500g, blitzed
cinnamon stick ½
salt and pepper
For the bechamel
flour ½ tbsp
mature sheep’s cheese 150g, grated. I use Cretan graviera but a manchego, a pecorino or a mature cheddar will work
nutmeg ½, grated
• Cook the aubergines in a flat pan in a single layer with a touch of olive oil on both sides until golden brown and soft to touch. Remove them from the pan and allow them to cool a little. When cool enough to handle remove half of the flesh using a spoon and place in a bowl.
Start cooking the freekeh by placing it in a pan with salted water and cooking until tender (about 30 minutes). Drain any excess water and put to one side.
To make the tomato sauce, heat a small pan and add the olive oil together with the onions. Cook for a few minutes until the onions become translucent and sweet. Add all of the remaining ingredients to the pan, lower the heat and cover with a lid. Allow the sauce to cook for about 20-25 minutes or until nice and sweet. Put to one side.
Making the bechamel is super fast: melt the butter in a small pan and when golden whisk in the flour. Keep whisking for a minute and add the milk, followed by the cheese and nutmeg. It takes about 2 minutes to thicken. Remove and place to one side.
Before serving, mix the freekeh with the tomato sauce and aubergine flesh in a bowl and check the seasoning. Place the aubergines flat, cut side up, on a baking tray and stuff them with the freekeh mix. Pour the cheesy bechamel over the top and place in a hot oven (200C/gas mark 6) for about 20-25 minutes or until golden and piping hot. This can be eaten hot or cold and keeps well in the fridge for a few days.
Fast pickled vegetable salad
kohlrabi 2, peeled and cut into long strips
cauliflower 200g, thickly grated
red cabbage 200g, thickly grated
white cabbage 200g, thickly grated
radishes 1 small bunch, chopped
fresh dates 200g, chopped (you can use dried dates if you don’t have fresh)
carrots 2, cut into strips using a peeler
moscatel vinegar 200ml, or another aged sweet white wine vinegar
caster sugar 2 tbsp
salt 1 tbsp (or less)
• Mix everything in a bowl, adjust the seasoning and serve.
Borlotti beans and grilled vegetables with whipped feta
For the borlotti beans
fresh borlotti beans 1kg, podded
cinnamon stick 1
bay leaves 2
ripe tomatoes 250g, chopped
lemon thyme a few sprigs
olive oil 50ml
water 1 litre
For the grilled vegetables
red onions 2, whole, skin on
red romano peppers 2
English asparagus 8-10 thick spears, cut in half lengthways
aged red wine vinegar
fresh mint leaves, chopped
• Place everything for the borlotti beans in a pan and cook gently until the beans are soft and the sauce has emulsified. This should take about 40 minutes.
If you have a barbecue and are up for grilling on fire then cook all the vegetables until soft. Remove from the heat and peel the skin off the onions, peppers and aubergines. Place in a bowl together with the asparagus and season with salt, olive oil and aged red wine vinegar.
Alternatively, you can make this dish in the oven. Place the vegetables, except the asparagus, in a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil and salt, and cover with baking paper. Place in a hot oven (180C/gas mark 4) and cook for about 25-30 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Add the asparagus for the last 5 minutes. Allow to cool, peel the skins and place in a bowl with the seasoning as described above.
When ready to serve, place the beans on a plate and the seasoned grilled vegetables over the top.
Blitz the feta cheese with a splash of oil and water until smooth, then pour on top of the vegetables and beans.
Finish with some freshly chopped mint leaves.
This dish can be enjoyed either hot or cold.
Orange and broken filo pastry pie cake
This is my favourite cake. I love the fact that you use broken filo instead of flour to achieve an amazingly light yet moist cake full of orange aromas. I love serving this with fresh fruit on the side, keeping with our old family tradition where fruit is simply washed, placed whole in a bowl and served with a knife. Someone on the table will take it upon themselves to peel and cut the fruit and share it.
baklava filo pastry 1 packet (500g)
rapeseed oil 250ml
organic eggs 5
oranges zest of 2
baking powder 1 heaped tbsp
For the syrup
caster sugar 500g
fresh orange juice 200ml
cinnamon stick 1
orange zest of 1
seasonal fruit peaches, apricots or nectarines
• Cut the filo pastry into 1cm strips and place on a baking tray. Dry in a low oven (140C/gas mark 1) for about 20 minutes, then remove.
Whisk the rest of the cake ingredients, apart from the filo, in a bowl for a couple of minutes.
When the filo is dried, combine it with the mixture, pour into in a lightly buttered 24cm x 24cm baking tray and cook in the oven at 170C/gas mark 3 for about 45-60 minutes, or until golden and a knife exits the cake clean.
While the cake is baking, make the syrup. Place all of the syrup ingredients in a pan and stir briefly. Bring to the boil then cook for another 5 minutes. Allow it to cool a little.
When the cake comes out the oven pour the lukewarm syrup over it without removing it from the tray. You may need to make some holes on the surface of the cake to allow the syrup to enter with more ease. This cake is perfect served warm.
Marianna Leivaditaki is head chef at Morito Hackney Road, 195 Hackney Road, London E2, and Casa Moro catering
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