Vasilopita the pie

“Vasilopita” cake is the dessert – symbol of New Year and is connected with the feast of St. Basil, from which it took its name.

vasilopitaWe find it in many forms and different ways of preparing, in all Greek houses, urban and rural. Made mainly with flour, eggs, sugar and milk and most commonly on the surface is written the number of the New Year with peeled almonds.

Inside the dough is placed a coin and whoever finds it is the lucky person of the year.  In some rural areas instead of coin they used to place a piece of straw, vine or olive strand depending on the production area, and whoever found it would have a good harvest during the year.

The cake is cut and shared with a ritual in the night before the New Year, right after the year change!

There is, however, the Christian tradition for the custom of New Year cake.

When St. Basil was bishop in Caesarea of Cappadocia, the perfector of Cappadocia wanted to plunder the city. St. Basil asked the city’s wealthy citizens to collect cutlery that could deliver as “ransom” to the conqueror. They gathered many valuables. However , according to the tradition the city was saved either because the perfector regretted, or because of a miracle with St. Mercurius and numerous angels removed his army from the province.

flouri_konstantinatoBut in order for St. Basil to return the valuables to the citizens, not knowing who owns what, he instructed to prepare small loaves into which he placed one of the coins or valuables and distributed them to the citizens the next day. The tradition continued in the memory of the day of his death, January 1st.

Newer versions of this tradition from Pontus and Asia Minor show St. Basil winning the collector of taxes on gambling and then distributed them with small breads or a big pie.

In Athens it is common to serve the so-called “Politiki” Vasilopita which is produced mainly from flour, eggs, sugar and milk, manufactured in various sizes and types, but is usually inflatable, fluffy and sweet. Other Vasilopita recipes are served throughout Greece, with spices , fruit etc.

In western Macedonia instead of Vasilopita they serve a cheese or leek pie. Basic but common feature is that inside they have a coin, usually an ordinary one but in some cases gold (“Constantinato”) or silver.

Then Vasilopita is cut on the table, in which the family is sitting. The landlord after the “crossing” of the pie with the knife three times, starts to cut into triangular pieces offered in each attending family member or friends and relatives. First piece is for the house (or the Christ, the Virgin Mary and Saint Basil), and the line continues with the landlord, landlady, family members and guests, with the last piece going for the poor, without of course forgetting any immigrants, patients and other family persons who for various reasons weren’t able to attend.

Vasilopita

Ingredients

850 g. flour
100 gr. beer yeast
6 eggs
180 g. butter
180 g. sugar
 1 level tablespoon salt
100 gr. Sugared fruits cut in small cubes
100 g. raisins
zest of one orange

Preparation

IMG_8705Mix 100 g. flour with yeast, previously dissolved in warm water thereby making a dough and leave in warm place for 3 hours. Knead in remaining flour with whole eggs, butter dissolved, sugar, salt and leaven uploaded. We continue to work the dough for a while until it “thickens”. Add the chopped fruits, raisins and orange zest.

Allow the dough to rise until doubled in volume . Place in mold and bake the pie at 180 Celsum degrees for about an hour. Leave at least for half a day, before serving.

DIY|Summer Mediterranean Salad

hot weather

Officially, summer is here!

Our clothes are fewer, our smiles are bigger, the mood is getting better, and the food portions we consume are getting smaller. We generally try to avoid fatty foods during the summer, our bodies don’t need so much energy to make it through the day. We choose refreshing light meals that won’t keep us down.

So, I have a question for you! How do you feel about legumes salads? Salads with lentils, beans, split peas, peas etc?https://i0.wp.com/www.raw-living-food-success.com/images/Beans.jpg

Legumes are an important part of the Mediterranean Diet. In Greece we are used to consuming legumes at least once or twice a week. We are consuming large peas known as “giants”, lentils as a soup, split peas as a mousse, chickpeas as a soup or in the oven, and many more.

The first time I tasted legumes as a salad, I think I will remember it for a long time. I had not even seen it as a trend around the internet. I was in a comfort-food type of restaurant, in the alternative heart of the city, Keramikos. Since I like exploring new tastes, I ordered it from the menu right away.

It was a lentil salad, with carrot sticks, lots of parsley, feta cut in cubes, vinegar-olive oil dressing and ground black pepper. The taste was so refreshing and interesting, I was so happy to taste “boring” legumes in a different recipe.

Ingredients photos saladSince I knew that legumes is such an important nutrition source, containing significant amount of protein, I was glad that I was able to cook it differently, and set up a new recipe directory with the name “Legumes salads”.

Soon after I discovered it, it was already everywhere. On Pinterest, on foreign and Greek sites as well, in every respectable restaurant of the town, in every salad list etc. It had become a different dish, made with the same old materials that nonetheless gave it a new perspective.

If you know the basics in the kitchen, and you have enough imagination in order to experiment, the road is open and the dogs are constrained. (a famous Greek saying, meaning you are free to act as you will)Salad Recipe

I started experimenting with all kinds of legumes, lentils, chickpeas, peas, splitpeas, green peas etc. Not all of my experiments were crowned with success. However, I found where my taste met my capability, and this was somewhere near the Mediterranean bean salad.

So, from now on when it’s the legumes day of the week, one in two weeks I will experiment with a salad.

Waiting for your thoughts and comments!

Fenia Karkantzou

Marketing Manager | Greek Brands

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Are your ready for a Greek Picnic?

Now that temperature is rising, it’s good to have these ideas handy. A picnic is always a perfect opportunity to prepare something delicious. And of course is a perfect opportunity to relax and enjoy nature with your friends and family.

If picnic had rules, there would be these two: Picnic_Basket_2

  1. Everything should be pre-prepared, in order to enjoy nature without worrying about anything else.
  2. Every food should be eaten easily.

Trying to make your life a little bit easier, we thought of presenting you some interesting recipes for the so called Greek “mezethakia” aka finger food. These can make perfect appetizers at every occasion, they are ideal for a school or work lunch, and of course they are what you’ll need in case of picnic / excursion.

Dolmathes – Dolmathakia – Stuffed vine leaves

3186361_sA world famous Greek snack, made with vine leaves stuffed with rice and herbs, cooked in the pot. Usually in Greece, we make dozens of them. It’s eaten both cold and warm, with lemony sauce or without. It’s eaten by hand, really fast and before you know it you are eating your fourth dolmathaki. That’s magic!

Ps. It’s not an easy recipe, and that’s the main reason why we make dozens of them, when we do.

You can find the recipe here:

http://www.mygreekdish.com/recipe/greek-dolmades-recipe-stuffed-vine-leaves/

Greek Salad

There is no such thing as inappropriate time to enjoy a Greek salad. Surely you’ll need a fridge to save it before you consume it, but the taste result will compensate you. You can cut all the vegetables, pack them into bowls with lid, and add the extra virgin olive oil on top, when you are ready to consume it. A clever alternative would be to prepare your salad by putting vegetable pieces on wooden sticks and make a salad skewer. Again, extra virgin olive oil must be applied right before you consume it.

2 large tomatoes5626146_s
2 cucumbers
1 green pepper
1 onion in slices
6-8 Kalamata Olives
Greek Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Feta cheese (1-2 medium pieces)
Oregano

How to:

Cut in normal pieces all of the vegetables. Mix them well. Add the feta cheese and the Kalamata Olives. Drizzle with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, and add a pinch of oregano. In case you make them skewers (remember: finger food) be sure to chop them into bite – pieces, and not drizzle them with anything until it’s time to be eaten, otherwise they will soak and lose their fresh crunch.

Pies

Yummy in pieces. A homemade pie is the essence of comfort food. You can prepare a large baking pan, so you 27708101_swill enjoy your pie for a few days. There are so many Greek recipes for pies that you’ll be amazed. In a previous post we have gathered some of the most unique ones that also have a local character, so here’s a main idea of what we’re talking about:

  • Mpoureki from Chania
  • Ladenia from Kimolos
  • Cheese pie from Skopelos
  • Mpougatsa from Thessaloniki
  • Kreatopita from Kefallonia

You can find the recipes here: https://greekbrands.wordpress.com/2015/01/15/unique-traditional-pies-of-greece/

Fried Meatballs – Keftedakia

T27253251_she ultimate meaty finger food of Greece is present in every occasion, whether it’s a birthday party, a family dinner or a picnic. Keftedakia is a very famous Greek recipe, made with ground meat and herbs. They are delicious, aromatic and eaten by hand. They are enjoyed both warm and cool, and usually they are made in dozens, because everyone eating meat, seems to enjoy them much.

You can find the recipe here:

http://www.greek-olive-oil.com/greekmeatballsrecipe.html

Olive bread / Fresh Bread with Olive tapenade

24981128_sIf you like Greek Olives then this is a must. You can either prepare from the previous day many olive bread rolls, or alternatively you can bring fresh warm bread, and bring along your homemade olive tapenade in order to spread it on.

Olive bread recipe:

http://kalamataolivesgreek.com/olivebreadrecipe.html

Olive paste / tapenade recipe:

http://kalamataolivesgreek.com/olivespatepasterecipe.html

Greek appetizers are very common in our daily diet, in our dinners, in taverns and in restaurants. It’s a perfect way to explore more tastes and add variety to your dishes. Greek appetizers are offered for a finger food occasion, whether it’s a party or a casual picnic. Feel free to explore more Greek recipes, and learn more about Greek products here:

http://www.greekbrands.com

Ambassadors of the Greek Cuisine

Greek Brands is an international company, serving the world with Greek fine Foods, since 1999. Our love for the Greek cuisine has remained unchanged over time. We are keen on tasting new & unique products, made with natural ingredients of the Greek Land.

Traditional Greek cuisine exists for thousands of years. Pure ingredients like extra virgin olive oil, wine, homemade cheese and domestically grown vegetables, were the main materials for many of typical Greek dishes. Over the years, Greek cuisine has altered, and is still transforming, following current trends and matching fusion cuisines etc. Being in the food business for quite some time, we have come to notice that there is an interesting swift. There have been some pleasant changes in quality and raw materials selection, interesting taste combinations and lots of creative inspiration.11602899_s

However, its core has remain unchanged. It still relies on basic ingredients, on healthy eating patterns, fresh vegetables of the season and generally has retained its authenticity.

Greek cuisine has always inspired chefs and cooks, either in the Greek borders or out of them. Being Greek is alone a culinary legacy you can’t ignore. The way you learned to eat will give you the motive to cook, and the love for your food, will inspire you to cook it with passion.

This is a part of the inspiration of Michael Psilakis, a Greek-American chef/restaurateur.
He is the creator, executive chef and owner of Kefi , Fishtag and MP Taverna in New York, Long Island and Westchester. He is starring in the American culinary scene since 2006 and has gained numerous distinctions such as “Best New Chef” & “Chef of the Year”, and also a Michelin star for the restaurant “Anthos”. He also starred in many TV cooking shows like Iron Chef America, No Kitchen Required etc. His mother taught him all about flavors and indulged him into classic Greek cooking.

Mr. Psilakis talked to us more about his Greek origin and how it affected his work and accomplishments:

http://www.michaelpsilakis.com/about
http://www.michaelpsilakis.com/about

Growing up, life revolved around being Greek, it was paramount to the way I was raised. My palate and life were influenced in early childhood. Church and food were center of universe. Both of my parents cooked. For my mom, food was like a gift to her. She was emphatic about sharing meals and having family time to talk and for us to socialize as a group. My father used food to pass down traditions. For instance, roasting whole animals and what food meant to people in those days. Slaughtering animals in order to survive and the life lessons that this taught.”

What do you think is making Greek cuisine popular and beloved, from a  global consumer perspective?

“In simple terms, Greek cuisine is a reflection of time, history and geography. It is a Mediterranean country that puts us in the realm of Mediterranean products and is influenced by history, in particular the Turkish occupation for 4 centuries that fused Middle Eastern and Moroccan, Italian… it makes for a unique flavor profile.”

According to our opinion, Greek cuisine is not only good marketing material. It has been advertised with the most efficient way, from talented Greek chefs that succeeded abroad with Greek inspired dishes. Many of them were so talented & distinguished professionals that have filled us with prizes and pride. Some of them have managed to become very successful, either establishing their own restaurant, or through cooking TV shows etc. The common factor in these examples is that all of them have created staple dishes with strong attributes to the Greek cooking.

It’s obvious that the Greek gastronomical heritage is carried in the mind of every Greek chef. Chefs with Greek roots, treasure traditional taste memories, and transform them with inspiration into new authentic dishes with pure ingredients. This Greek spark is the driving force and the motive, for even more interesting dishes and combinations, ready to be enjoyed from guests all over the world, making Greek cuisine one of the world’s favorites.

www.greekbrands.com

A typical Greek dish for March 25th

Tomorrow is a big day for Greece, as like every March 25th we celebrate the Greek Revolution that took place in 1821 and liberated us from the Ottoman Empire.

It is also a big day for Christianity, as it is the day of the Annunciation of Virgin Mary, and it is a classic fasting or fish-eating day, since a long time ago.

Typically in Greece we are used to eating desalted cod. We cut the fish in medium pieces, dip in delicious batter and then fry in hot olive oil. This dish is accompanied with “skordalia”, a delicious garlic sauce made with plenty of garlic. mpakaliarosskordalia

These two tastes represent the simplicity of the Greek cuisine, and prove the fact that you can make magnificent flavors with the most humble materials.

We have discovered an easy, delicious recipe for a successful batter and thus a golden crunchy crust, which is also the important part of the recipe.

Just follow these steps:

Ingredients
1 desalted cod around 800-1000 g.
Olive oil for frying
For batter
1 can of beer
300 g. flour self-rising
1 egg
1/2 tsp. Salt
1/2 tsp. Sugar
Pepper

How to:
For the batter
Pour the beer, egg, salt, sugar, pepper and stir. Slowly add the flour to incorporate in the mixture. Mix well until you have a thick, smooth batter. The important thing is that the batter should stay at least an hour in the refrigerator.
For the cod
Cut the cod into pieces. Heat plenty of oil in the pan, dip the pieces in batter, letting the excess batter to run and fry until golden brown on both sides. Once ready place them on paper towels to absorb the many oil and serve with “skordalia” aka garlic sauce.

Skordalia (“garlic sauce”)

Ingredients

3 medium potatoes in pieces, boiled in salted water

1 clove garlic

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil     

2 tbsp vinegar

½ tsp. salt

How to:

Clean the potatoes, peel them and cut in medium pieces. Boil in salted water until done. Pour in the mixer. Smash the garlic and add it in the mixture. Pour the vinegar and the salt, and give it a quick mix. Slowly incorporate the olive oil in the mixture, until smooth. At every point, taste the results until you find the flavor that suits you well.

Good luck!

http://www.greek-olive-oil.com

http://www.greekbrands.com

A Greek tribute to flour

Flour is a substantial part of every cuisine in the world. It comes in many types, and people around the world consume it almost in daily basis. Do you know its meaning?

123Flour drives us to the word “flower” which is derived from the French “fleur”, with the literal meaning “blossom”. This describes the fine product of flour, which was produced during milling. In Greek the world for flour is “alevri”. It is derived from the verb “aletho” which means grind. Flour is obtained by grinding the seeds/nuts/cereals and is thoroughly used in pastry, bakery and cooking. It is an ingredient that plays an important part in global nutrition, and in the past it was used as a measure defining nations’ prosperity. The lack of flour had vast economic and social results for the country.

It is not known when man started experimenting with the milling of wheat, producing flour. In his transcripts, Homer often referred to millstones and milling, as something very common for that time.

The milling works like this: 2 large heavy stones of cylindrical shape, put together, are pressing between them the seeds. The pulverized product is pushed to the sides and eventually is being collected. There were many types of mills used for the flour production. Starting from the hand mill, where the upper stone was hand moved, to mills which functioned with solar or wind energy. Nowadays, the procedure is completed with the help of automated machinery.

Flour is derived by a large variety of nuts and seeds. Semolina, hard, soft, cornmeal, oatmeal, rye, barley, chickpea, almond, soy are a sample of flour types that can be produced. The most common types of flour are: Bread flour, pastry flour, all purpose flour and self-rising flour.

sprouted flour-resized-600The quality of the flour depends on 3 characteristics:

  • Way of milling
  • Grade of panning
  • Seed quality

In Greece, there is a vast variety of delicacies, made with flour. The most significant is bread, which is an integral part of our diet for centuries. Every kind of dough/pastry (phylo pastry, puff pastry) is made with flour. Dough is used in a vast variety of dishes both sweet and savory. Traditional pies, pasta, bagels and breadsticks, cookies and biscuits, various pastries, traditional cakes, halva or semolina pastries and many more, are a small proof of how important flour is to Greek cuisine.

Examples of typical Greek dishes used with flour or flour products

  • Traditional Greek pies like tyropita, spanakopita, and others.
  • Barley rusks, made with barley flour, are used in the Cretan traditional “Dakos” recipe.
  • Traditional sweets like kourabiethes, tsoureki, semolina halva, baklava, Greek custard pie and loukoumathes, are all made with flour.

Below you will find the recipe from the Greek traditional Halva, which is made with semolina flour.

1

Semolina Halva
Ingredients
1 cup olive oil
2 cups coarse semolina
3 cups sugar
4 cups water
cinnamon
almonds
pine nuts
blonde raisins

Heat the olive oil in the pot, and add the semolina. Slowly roast the semolina, constantly stirring. When it has a darker richer color, add the sugar and water. Be careful, big hot blisters of halva are going to pop, so use an oven glove and protect your hands. Stir constantly over low fire until the mixture is detached from the pot. Add ½ spoon cinnamon, some pine nuts, almonds and raisins and give it a few more stirs. Pour the mixture in a form and let it cool. Serve and enjoy!

What’s your favorite flour delicacy?

Waiting for your thoughts and opinions.

http://www.greekbrands.com | http://www.greek-olive-oil.com

Sources:

http://www.wheatworld.org

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flour

Olive oil tastes Greek

32580916_sOlive tree is the most valuable tree of Greece and its value is counted in the numerous generations that have been raised and blossomed with it. It has been strongly connected with the country for thousands of years. It is a symbol of peace, wisdom, fertility and victory. It nourishes, inspires and heals. The olive tree is considered blessed. Along with the tree, our land is also blessed with the millions of olive trees that survive and produce their valuable fruit, even under difficult conditions.

According to the earlier mythology, the first olive tree was planted on Acropolis by goddess Athena in the temple of the Erehtheion and was named Morea olive. Others say it was a gift of the goddess Athena to residents of the city of Athens, when quarreled with the god Poseidon, for the name of the city. Then, citizens gave its name to the city and the goddess taught them the cultivation of olive trees. The Athenians in their currencies depicting Athena with an olive wreath on her helmet and an amphora with olive oil.9720507_s

Athenians considered themselves civilized and were holding olive branches, while the barbarians and slaves kept an oak twig, as more primitive tribes. The messengers of peace held an olive branch. The winners of Olympic Games were awarded with an olive wreath and a large container of olive oil that had so big value that automatically made them rich.

9844105_sHomer in his writings, called it “pure liquid gold”. The Greek philosophers, Dioscourides, Diocles, Anaxagoras and Empedocles studied the medicinal properties of olive oil, while Aristotle revealed the science of oil production. Moreover, Solon created laws that banned the cutting of more than two olive trees, to protect olive growers. In ancient Greece, olive oil has kept the leading part in many commercial action, and it is said to be the backbone of trade in the ancient world.

But olive oil was more than a symbol of virtue and wealth, as it is was also used in other applications. The ancient Greeks rubbed their bodies and hair with olive oil and used it to heal wounds and treat diseases. Apart from the food products that it produced (olives and olive oil) its wood was used for fuel and wood carving. According to mythology, Hercules, in his 12 labors, kept a bat that was made of olive wood, and that when he finished his battles with success, he planted an olive tree in Ancient Olympia. Nowadays, a lot of wooden furniture and tools are handmade from olive wood. The 17603164_sgrowing of the olive tree was also a measure of time. When a child was born, an olive tree was planted. By the time the tree bared fruit for the first time (6 years later), they knew that the child had reached school age.

Altogether, the history of Olive oil is weaved together with the history of Greece. Olive oil can be found in many human activities, and above all in our nutrition. It is beneficial for every age, it is the basis of the Mediterranean diet (wins the first place in medical researches), has multiple applications and is deeply appreciated.

It is now, more than ever, a necessity to highlight Greek olive oil at a global level, as a certified quality product, symbol of the Greek agricultural production for thousands of years.

http://www.greek-olive-oil.com

http://www.greekbrands.com

Sources:

http://www.greek-olive-oil.com/history.html
http://www.foodbites.eu/j15/food-lovers/istories/1448-
http://elia-eleolado.blogspot.gr/2014/10/blog-post.html
https://theancientweb.wordpress.com/2014/03/14/%CF%80%CE%B1%CF%81%CE%B1%CE%B3%CF%89%CE%B3%CE%AE-%CE%B5%CE%BB%CE%B1%CE%B9%CE%BF%CE%BB%CE%AC%CE%B4%CE%BF%CF%85-%CE%B1%CF%81%CF%87%CE%B1%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CE%B5%CE%BB%CE%B1%CE%B9%CE%BF%CF%84%CF%81%CE%B9/