Cooking Classes at Aphrodite’s Island

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Welcome to Elizabeth’s class

Kythera is a magical place in Greece, also known as the birthplace of Aphrodite.  There are many beautiful places to see and things to do on the island.  The opening lines in Vilana Studio’s website state: “Kythera. For some the centre of Europe, for others the world. This is where three seas meet, the Aegean, the Ionian and the Cretan. It is also where these seas meet with the sun”.

 

I attended a cooking class held by Elizabeth Stais from Vilana Studios located in the southern part of Kythera. Elizabeth demonstrated how to make the greek Mizithra (soft style cheese) using raw goats milk produced on the estate.  Elizabeth also demonstrated how to prepare homemade vegetable and sweet pies using the fresh cheese.  We also tasted some of Elizabeth’s other homemade specialities such as Fatouratha, a sweet spice liqueur made from a grape spirit.

We were shown an old stone hand mill used to split peas and to grind grain.  The estate also has a special field called a “babakia”.  This is a unique farming practice used in Kythera where the fields are treated in a particular way so that the crops do not require watering after they are established.  This field grows tomatoes, melons, beans and other produce in a seemingly magical way and the flavour is more intense due to this special method of agriculture.

Elizabeth’s classes are conducted throughout April, May, June and September. For details and enquiries please contact Elizabeth Stais at vilanastudios@gmail.com.

 

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Stirring the curds for Mizithra

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Ready to eat

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Home made vegetable pie.

 

 

Photos: Sophia Poulos

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Memories of a Greek Family Gathering

As we head towards Christmas, I am reminded of gatherings many years ago at our Grandparents house with all the extended family.  I can almost taste my Grandma Kalliopi’s chicken pieces in fragrant spiced tomato sauce.  Grandma would add chicken wings and necks for flavour, but they weren’t removed, these would be nibbled on just as a nice addition to the legs and thigh pieces.  Grandpa Anthony’s snake beans would be picked from the garden, they were around 40 cm long, and tied in bundles with string. They were prepared, boiled until tender and drizzled with olive oil.  Smoky flavoured lamb chops and sausages were cooked on the home built barbeque.  There were also great Aussie prawns, Greek Salad, preserved sardines in oil, black and green olives, cheeses and boiled greens. Added to the table were beer and wine, and of course bread, there was never a meal served without it.

When we had our fill, there would be fruit and dessert.  We always brought a cake to these celebrations (you can’t ever go a Greek house empty-handed) and I would often be encouraged to cook something.  My signature dish became Caraway Seed Cake, made with olive oil and light and fluffy.  It was tough presenting this cake to my two uncles, both of whom owned restaurants in Sydney at the time.  The cake wasn’t very sophisticated, but no one seemed to mind.

Kokkinisto Tomato Chicken Braise with Pasta

Kokkinisto means “reddened” and refers to the rich tomato colour and flavour of the sauce.  This recipe is made with chicken pieces and is often served as a sauce with spaghetti pasta, but feel free to use any pasta you like.  It is also an economical dish to make for the family.

Serves 6

Ingredients
1 tablespoon olive oil
2kg (4 pounds) chicken pieces, including legs, thighs, wings (tips removed)
5 chicken necks, optional
1 large onion, chopped finely
3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 teaspoon sugar
400g (13 ounces) canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 cup red wine
2 cups water
500g (16 ounces) pasta, uncooked
grated parmesan, to serve

Method
Heat oil in a heavy based pan and cook chicken pieces and necks in batches, until browned all over.  Remove chicken to separate plate. Season chicken with salt and pepper.
Add onion and garlic to pan and cook briefly. Add paste, tomatoes, spices, salt, pepper, wine and water and stir to incorporate.  Add chicken and juices back to pan and cover.
Bring to boil and then lower heat to simmer for approximately 1 hour.  The chicken should be tender and starting to fall off the bone.
Cook pasta according to packet directions.
To serve, sprinkle some grated parmesan on a warmed plate. Top with a portion of cooked pasta and chicken pieces.  Spoon some of the sauce over the top and sprinkle with additional cheese.

Note:  The chicken may be cooked earlier in the day and cooled in the refrigerator.  This will allow the flavours to meld.  Remove any excess fat which may rise to the surface.  Reheat gently until hot to serve with cooked pasta.