Origins of a foodie

Everyone has that one person who pushed them from a simple eater to a true food explorer. For me that one person was my brother. Although 5 years apart in age, and living on separate continents, we are extremely close and the first hour of our catch-up conversations revolve around food (and then usually another hour of discussion about TV shows and movies!). I don’t know that I can pinpoint the exact moment when we moved into the realm of foodies but I can clearly remember that he was always willing to try anything as a kid; lamb’s brain and eye balls, squid cooked in ink,  various animal parts ground, seasoned and wrapped in intestines; and he was always eager that others should do the same. It is not surprising that his food journey has led him to deeply fall in love with places like Japan, and as much as I would love for him to live near me, I know in his heart, he could never leave the culinary excitement and adventure of a big city like London.

And, I don’t blame him when there are places like Borough Market at London Bridge to explore your every specialty food indulgence. My husband and I were treated to a day of wondering, sampling and purchasing with my big brother and we had a blast! I am not sure if every person who stepped down off the bus with us had originally planned to go to the market, or if they were helplessly seduced by the aromas wafting into the streets above, but as one unified mass, we all eagerly bustled into the culinary oasis together.

Borough Market

After all, who could resist. The market sports all kinds of masterly crafted cheeses, meats, chocolate, freshly shucked oysters and clams, baked goods, olive oils, vinegars, micro brewery beers and fresh produce not to mention all the stands weekly conjuring up delicious meals to feed the already mesmerized (and sometimes free sample stuffed) crowds.

.Here are just some of the stands we stopped at to indulge:

oysters and clamsFresh oysters and clams served with Tabasco and sherry vinaigrette.

cheese soaked in red wine

A sampling feast of the Italian L’ubriaco Drunk Cheese. Cheese aged and soaked in Wine-how can that be bad?!

Chocolate

Artisan du Chocolat. Probably my favourite stop along the way. My brother bought one of their incredible boxes  with a creative selection of chocolates which he generously shared with us later that evening. (Also, for about $5 you can buy a bag of their misshapes and try a variety of their treats at half the price). Did you notice the Tobacco dark bar?

olive oilA unique olive oil blend from Oliveology. We all know how I feel about good olive oil…so yes.. I did want to just drink this!

duck confit sandwichesA tasty duck confit sandwich for lunch with some mulled wine.

the marketWhat a perfect Christmas season trip on a chilly wintery day. This really is just a very tiny sampling of the incredible vendors we enjoyed. I have never had such a difficult time making a lunch choice! Honestly you can’t beat a trip to Borough Market if you love food.  I am so grateful for all the ways my brother keeps expanding my culinary experiences. If there is anyone to blame (thank) for my grumbling belly- it’s him!

Advertisements

Trick and Treat!

My family is originally from Cyprus where olive tress are literally everywhere. It is not unusual to be walking down the street in a city neighbourhood and come across black spotted heavy laden branches hanging over the “sidewalk” from somebody’s front garden (they don’t really believe in sidewalks much so it’s more like the edge of the road!). In fact, my parents (who now live in Cyprus) used to have them growing in the front of their house and had a few friends who volunteered to collect and press the olives into fresh olive oil. If you’ve never had freshly pressed olive oil before, you are seriously missing out. It’s so smooth and rich that you are almost tempted to just skip the bread and use a teaspoon.  (I am not being hyperbolic, I have actually thought about doing this! and maybe even done it!).

A poor man’s food coming in from a day working in the fields would often be olives and bread so it is no wonder that somewhere in history, the two were combined and eliopita (olive bread) was created. Every household and bakery in Cyprus (and Greece) has their own version of this marvelous marriage of olives and  bread, served warm and fresh. Some people chop the olives, leave them whole, add onions, don’t add onions, use fylo or puff pastry or bread dough. None of these versions are wrong or unauthentic because each bares a regional/cultural/familial mark, and more importantly, they are all usually extremely delicious making it impossible to find your favourite. 

The ghastly truth is that I actually don’t like olives! There, I have said it and will no doubt be shunned from all respectable Greek communities around the world! But it’s true. I have tried desperately to like them to the point where I still always eat one whenever our paths meet in the hopes that my taste buds will have somehow adjusted since the last time. (I even ate one as I was preparing this recipe over the weekend and it still made me shudder in horror!)

But yet, for some unknown reason, when olives are remastered into eliopita form, something magical happens. My taste buds are tricked, confused, lost and suddenly I am transported to heavenly food bliss! Resisting is futile! I can’t explain why this happens, or what it is about the combination that makes me go weak at the knees but I have fallen in love with so many versions of this traditional Greek bread.

My Grandmother (Giagia) makes an Eliopita that my whole family devours. We make a massive 14×14 round pan each time and it is usually gone within a couple of days because any time one of us (cousins, spouses, and children) pass through the kitchen, no one can resist a slice. It really is that addictive. Giagia’s version is one she has modernized over the years (as you will see by the list of ingredients) so I can’t tell you it’s the real Cypriot old village deal but I promise that it is easy, delicious and a big crowd pleaser.

Giagia’s Eliopita:

2 onions chopped finely with 1tbsp salt

4 cups of self rising flour

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 bunch of cilantro (fresh coriander) chopped

3 tsp baking powder

1 1/2 cups pitted black olives

1 can of orange soda

Salt the onions and lay aside to drain excess water for about at least an hour. Sift the flour and baking powder together, then rub in the olive oil until it is like breadcrumbs.

Make sure you use a good quality extra virgin olive oil, it really makes a difference.

There is no rule about the olives you use. Obviously the more particularly wonderful they are, the tastier the Eliopita BUT this recipe is so good, that even the canned not-so-great varieties are masked in complete yummy-ness. I tend to chop my olives up but you can use them whole if you prefer. Add the olives, onions, cilantro (fresh coriander) to the flour/olive crumbs.

and mix together with your hands

Then add the special ingredient- orange soda.

I love to watch the bubbles all fizzing away.

 I know this sounds like an odd touch but you don’t taste the orange, it just helps make the dough light and adds a lovely sweetness that accentuates all the other flavours. Don’t panic if your dough/batter is a bit sticky- it’s meant to be that way.

Add to a greased, parchment lined pan.

Wet your hand and then smooth out the dough so it’s spread evenly.

Bake in a 350 F oven for about an hour. It will be golden brown and a toothpick should come out clean when it’s done.

It’s the appealing aroma of freshly baked bread and olive oil gently wafting around your kitchen (and pretty much the whole house) that make this recipe so unbelievably comforting. Waiting for an hour after being entranced by this smell means that the hardest part about the whole recipe is waiting for it to be cool enough to eat once it comes out of the oven!