Lahanorizo*: Cabbage and rice cooked in a light tomato sauce.
How wonderful Greek food is when everyone’s gathered round a table and it’s transformed into a feast, a mother trying to coax her little one to eat more, placing a bite into your loved one’s mouth, delicious mezes all around, a hunger than needs appeasing, so as you’re not left wanting, complaining or with an empty stomach. Local food prepared with care, pure, home-cooked, small portions, seasonal, well thought out, and the morsel of food one gives to their cat under the table.
That’s what I’m talking about. All the rest, I leave to professionals and more experienced hands. All I can say is: Greek cuisine is spontaneous and oozing with love, frugal, seasonal and nutritional – no need for fresh cream… It goes hand-in-hand with the Greek way of life, however this may change. The more one tries to separate the cuisine from its people and the way they live, then the further away they move from its true essence.
As long as a group of friends drinks a glass of wine and rummages around for ingredients to create an appropriate meal for any given moment, then, I believe, there’s still hope…
(That’s the best way I can describe what I mean by ‘spontaneous cuisine’!)
Cabbage and Rice
Roughly chop ½ a cabbage and 1 onion.
Rinse them well and steam in their own juices for about 5 minutes stirring continuously.
Discard whatever water remains (so it’ll be lighter) and in the same pot with the, now softened, cabbage and onion, add a little olive oil and a cup of mixed rice (brown, wild or white), and a pinch of salt and pepper.
Brown rice needs more time to cook than the white, and the wild rice even longer than the others, that’s why you should soak the rice in warm water for about an hour before cooking.
Stir the rice and cabbage so that they’re well mixed together.
Lower the heat and let the food simmer for about 15 minutes until the juices start to thicken.
Add 1 teaspoon of tomato paste diluted in ½ a cup of hot water and continue cooking for about 5 minutes over a low fire.
Splash a little BIOLEA bitter orange scented olive oil* and grind some fresh pepper…
It’s perfect with meatballs and sausages, but just as tasty on its own as a warm midday meal.
Add some freshly squeezed lemon juice and coarsely ground walnuts or pistachio nuts for a little extra…crrrruunch!
Hmm…maybe I’ll take some to Pavlos who’s decided to plant the peach tree that Costas gave me as a gift today, in the freezing cold (yes, yes, I’m talking about that Costas, the one who keeps his chickens in a coup on his terrace in Psirri…)
How wonderful Greek cuisine is…
* BIOLEA is a Cretan company (from Chania) that produces and exports amazing extra virgin olive oil scented with lemon or bitter orange. It’s the equivalent to… ‘oil scented with truffles’ the Italians have – they use truffles, we use bitter orange! It goes without saying that this oil is added raw and at the end of all the cooking.
*Lahano in greek means cabbage