Friday, 29 January 2010

Cod and spinach bake

For this recipe you can use any kind of white fish, such as cod, haddock or coley.

Fillets of white fish
Lemon juice
roughly 250gr of spinach
Dill (fresh if possible-dried will do)
Mozzarella cheese
Olive oil

In a frying pan, cook the fish gently with the lemon juice and a drizzling of olive oil. About 15 minutes is more than enough, but make sure you have a soft, flaky fillet of fish. In the meantime throw the spinach in a frying pan with another drizzling of olive oil, salt and the dill. Let it sweat on low fire for about 3-4 minutes.

Lay out the fish on a baking dish and also add the juices from its frying pan. Spread on top the spinach and cover with some thick slices of mozzarella. Cook in a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees for about 15 minutes, or until the cheese melts and turns golden. Serve with cous cous or rice.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Dorotheos' Tale

Dorotheos looked at the green land, full of expectation. It was Easter Sunday, 12th of April 1528, and the ship that carried him and the rest of the men from the expedition of Panfilo de Narvaez had finally arrived to the land of Florida. They had heard tales of 7-foot tall men with three eyes, of wild rituals and cannibalism. They had also heard of untold riches, mountains of gold waiting to be had, rivers of milk and honey, endless fertility and even the Fountain of Youth.

Dorotheos had come a long way, longer than most of his Andalucian fellow travellers and soldiers of fortune. The day he left his mother and his native Crete to embark on that Genoese pirate ship in search of glory and, above all, fortune against the Turk, felt like centuries away. His poor mother wanted him to become a man of the cloth, go to the monastery and perhaps help secure her and his sisters. His father had been long lost at sea, and his mother detested the idea that her only son could follow his path. And yet, here he was, about to embark on another conquista, the only El Griego to set foot on this new world.

They had been at sea for a few months, despite the short distance from Cuba. Their first concern was to find fresh water and something with which to tar the ship. 'Don' Dorotheos was sent with three others inland to find some kind of resin for this purpose. All the way to the woods he was daydreaming, full of wonder for this new land. His companions were more concerned with finding something too shoot and eat.

Dorotheos' thoughts flew to his sisters, his mother, his village. He wondered about his friends and his cousins who broke their backs for their Venetian lord and spent whatever time they had left on trying to harvest the fruit of that cruel mistress, the sea. Not him, he managed to escape that fate. Shortly after he embarked on the Genoese barque, they had some skirmishes with some Turks which brought him some money. He was brave and ruthless, and the opportunities abounded. It did not last though. One day the Turks caught him and would surely have cut his head off had he not been able to buy his freedom. He ended up on a Venetian ship, and from Malta he jumped on a Spanish one.

Narvaez brought him to the new world. Dorotheos was as curious and ambitious as the next man, and he swallowed the dream hook line and sinker. He would surely make a fortune and return to his land a lord The musket shot woke him up from his dream. His companions had shot a fowl and were off to fetch it. They made a fire, roasted it and ate it greedily. After their meal they gathered some resin and started heading back to the coast. They weren't alone though. Their hunting had brought them much more than they wished for, as they saw the natives carefully approaching from all directions. They were surrounded. There was no point in fighting, they were too many.

The natives let Manuel go to the coast to bring news of their capture. Narvaez was furious. He sent him back with an interpreter, demanding their release. The Indians did not care for his threats. In the meantime, Dorotheos and his two companions were kept tied up, frequently beaten and humiliated.

Narvaez and his men prepared to attack the Indian village. They had horses and dogs, both lethal out in the open. But in woodland they were of little use: the game was even. They engaged the Indians, and having killed many they managed to capture a chief and retreat. Dorotheos and his companions were nowhere to be found. Narvaez was getting impatient. They had to sail and he couldn't wait for the Indians to make up their minds. He offered to exchange the prisoners but the Indians refused. In a final attempt to terrify them into submission, he had the chief burnt alive. When the Indians didn't respond, Narvaez ordered everyone back to the ships and sailed off with a heavy heart.

Dorotheos' fate was sealed; the Indians had decided to kill them. As he felt the first arrows pierce his wretched body, in that short moment between living and dying, he thought of his friends, harvesting the blue sea, his mother and his sisters alone in the world, his father whom he was about to meet again.

Loosely based on the Narrative of Cabeza de Vaca. Doroteo Teodoro was a Greek, part of the expedition. He was abandoned behind in what is today western Florida and was probably killed by the natives. Real story here. Narrative here.

Sunday, 10 January 2010


The recipe for the base came from my friend Federica (of squash risotto fame).

For the base (serves 2):
250 gr plain flour
130 ml lukewarm water
1 sachet of yeast
1-2 tsp sugar
2 tbsp olive oil

For the topping:
mozzarella cheese
passata tomato sauce

olives, pitted and halved


mushrooms (I precook these in some butter)
whatever you fancy on your pizza

(You can make double or triple the dough simply by multiplying the ingredients, except the yeast. One sachet should be enough for up to 1kg of flour I think...)
Add the yeast and sugar to the water, stir well and allow to rise for about 15 minutes. Run the flour through a sieve to avoid having any clumps. Add the frothed-up water/yeast to the flour, add the salt and olive oil and knead knead knead. Add more flour if you need to make it more workable. I also like adding oregano to my dough, it gives it a nice flavour.

Knead well and allow the dough to rise in a dark and warm place (I usually put it in the oven-oven off of course) for about 30 minutes. In the meantime prepare your toppings and have some more flour handy. Prepare a hard surface such as a table or a large chopping board for making your base. Spread some flour on the table and cut a sizeable chunk of dough. Shape it with your hands to a small, round shape. Using a rolling pin spread the dough out until you're happy with the size and thickness. I like mine not too thick, about 5mm maximum, thick enough to be a bit bready, thin enough to cook well.

Spread some of your passata* on the base. Add your toppings but don't overdo it. Less is more. If you put too much on top the dough won't cook well, especially in the middle. Put some slices of mozzarella around the top. Put your pizza in a preheated oven for 20 minutes and bingo. Not only very easy but considerably more tasty than any crap you'll get elsewhere. Try playing with different toppings.

*If you have no passata you can dilute some tomato paste with water, but don't make it too watery, just smooth enough to spread. Federica would kill me :-)

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