One my oldest friends asked me to do the catering at her mother’s 60th birthday party and since Greek food is her favourite, I made a buffet full of things inspired by Hellenic cuisine.
What’s on the table?
- Two bowls of Greek salad, with feta, red onion marinated in balsamic vinegar, cucumber, tomato, lettuce and kalamata olives.
- A large quantity of dolmades: pickled vine leaves stuffed with a mixture of rice, dill, parsley, lemon zest and onion.
- Spinach and feta turnovers (the recipe for which can be found here)
- A litre of tzatziki. (Here’s a silly video of me showing how it’s made)
- A pan of artichoke and bean soup with lemon, white wine, clear vegetable stock, caramelised onions, oregano and dill. This soup was an unexpected hit and so many people requested the recipe that I decided to include it at the end of this post.
- They’re not pictured here, but later that evening I also made prawns with ouzo, olives and tomatoes in a garlic butter sauce.
These dolmades were surprisingly tasty and fresh. Making them wasn’t quite as intimidating as I’d imagined and I’m looking forward to experimenting with different kinds of stuffing in the future. These little vine-wrapped morsels were very snackable, but on the preparation side of things dolmades definitely classify as slow food: if my friend hadn’t helped me roll them, I never would have finished everything on time.
Puff pastry vs. filo pastry.
On this occassion, I chose to use puff pastry instead of filo. It’s a little less traditional, but I do have a bit of a weakness for the stuff and hoped it would save me some time – with the emphasis on “hoped”. The weather made a valiant effort to replicate a swelteringly hot, Greek summer day and the buttery puff pastry kept melting in my hands! Using filo pastry suddenly makes a lot more sense.
As promised, here’s my recipe for that zesty artichoke and bean soup. To be honest, I pretty much made it up as I went along, but I’ve tried my best to remember what I did to make this tasty Greek minestrone. This soup is best made a day in advance, as it gives the flavours more time to develop.
2 liters of vegetable stock
1 glass of white wine
2-3 onions, sliced
3 spring onions, sliced
2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 cans of artichokes
2 cans of mixed beans, drained and rinsed (cannellini, chickpea, kidney beans and fava beans)
a large handful of fresh dill, finely chopped
grated zest of 1/4 lemon
extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp of dried oregano
- Start off by caramelising the onions in a layer of olive oil on medium heat for at least 20 minutes: they should be brown and sticky.
- Add the garlic and spring onions and sautée for a few more minutes.
- Add the artichokes and oregano.
- Add the white wine and reduce a little, then add the lemon zest and dill and vegetable stock.
- Add the beans and season with black pepper.
- Reheat briefly the next day.