Black Gold

by Jennifer Gay

Athens News

NOVEMBER marks the start of the olive harvest, when the fields and hillsides of the Greek countryside are filled with feverishly beating figures and the earth is shrouded by huge white sheets that gradually become black with the heavy heaps of olives pounded off the trees onto them. You might not have your own plantation to make use of, but get into the spirit of the season with these recipes that celebrate the pungent power of the humble olive, which bursts with monounsaturated fats and Vitamin E, helping to protect against colon cancer and heart disease.

Olive bread with feta
Yield: 10 servings

2 cups all-purpose white flour
5 grams dry yeast
2 tbs olive oil
1 tsp oregano
10 green olives, pitted
100 grams feta, crumbled
1 small tomato, finely chopped
pinch of salt


In a large bowl, dissolve yeast with a cup of warm water. Add olive oil, oregano, and olives. Gradually add salt and enough flour to form smooth dough. Cover with a cotton kitchen towel and let rise in warm place until double.

Punch down and divide dough in two. Shape each piece into a loaf and sprinkle with feta and tomato. Bake at 180 degrees Celsius for 40 minutes. Eat hot or at room temperature.

Cypriot cups with Kalamata olives
Yield: 7 servings

3 cups bulghur wheat
5 cups water (for soaking wheat)
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup olive oil
1 potato, boiled and mashed

For the filling:

12 mushrooms, finely chopped
2 tbs pine nuts
2 tbs olive oil
1 small onion, minced
10 Kalamata olives, minced
2 tbs parsley, minced
2 cups olive oil for frying
salt, pepper


Soak wheat in water overnight.

The following day, add mashed potato, olive oil, one teaspoon salt and a little warm water to the soaked wheat. Knead until ingredients are thoroughly combined.

In a frying pan, saute mushrooms and onion in a little olive oil until tender. Add parsley, two tablespoons water; season with pepper and let cook for 8-10 minutes until all liquid has been absorbed. Set aside; when cool, mix in pine nuts and minced olives.

Separate wheat into pieces roughly the size of a large apricot. Roll each piece into an oval, egg-like shape. Wet your finger in a little water and poke a hole in the wheat ball. Push mushroom filling into the centre, then seal with wheat mixture.

Fry wheat balls in plenty of olive oil. Drain on kitchen paper; serve hot or cool.

Pork and olives
Yield: 8 servings

2 kilos pork, cut into portions
1/2 kilo large green olives
1 bay leaf
1 jar pickled onions, strained
4 cups tomato juice
1/2 bunch parsley, minced
4 tbs butter


Mix ingredients together in a large bowl. Transfer to clay pot. Bake at 250 degrees Celsius for about one hour. Reduce heat to 150 degrees Celsius and bake for another 60 minutes.

Serve with pasta cooked al dente.

(Recipes compiled by Cordelia Madden)

This week at your local laiki...

PEARS (Pyrus communis, in Greek ahladia) originate from the Mediterranean and Western Europe and, though we can buy them throughout the year imported from wherever they happen to be in season, locally-grown pears are in the laiki now. There are many different cultivars and most of the popular modern varieties were propagated by Belgian and French gardeners during the 1700s. France still produces seven million tonnes per annum, and many regard the French cultivar 'Doyenne du Comice', bred in 1894, as the best flavoured.

Pears have many health-giving properties. They are a good source of the soluble fibre pectin - this helps regular bowel function and also increases the amount of cholesterol the body eliminates. Pears are also a reasonable source of vitamin C, some vitamin A and E and useful amounts of potassium and iron. They have a low likelihood of causing allergic reactions and are therefore an ideal fruit for baby puree. Dried pears are a perfect high-energy snack, and they also provide higher levels of potassium which helps prevent cramp during exercise - this makes them good as an energy food before and after working out. For a more luxurious approach, try whole pears peeled and cooked in red wine, sweetened with a little honey.

Buy this book at 30% off!

This week's recipes are taken from Greek Cuisine, An Easy Guide for All, by Myrsini Lambraki and published by Ellinika Grammata. You can now purchase this book for E6.72, down from its usual price of E9.60. This 30 percent discount is offered exclusively through the Athens News. You can pick up your reduced price copy in person from Ellinika Grammata bookshop (9 Christou Lada St, Athens). Otherwise, email your order to ladabookstore@ellinikagrammata. gr or fax it to 210-333-3971. Include your name and address, the name of the book and the fact that you are taking advantage of this special offer. DO NOT include payment or a credit card number. A courier will deliver the book and collect payment in cash. There is a E4.50 delivery charge. For more information call Vassilis Tsonoglou at 210-333-3970.

Wines of the week

OENOLOGIST Christoforos Christoforou selects five wines that suit mezedes platters. "I've chosen rose and fresh whites because it's a light meal, a mixture of seafoods, light salads and sauces, snacks," he says. "They are wines for company."

Mantinia (Moschofilero), Megapanos

4 Limnes (Gewurztraminer - Chardonnay - Roditis), Kyr-Yianni Estate

Avantis Rose (Syrah), Avantis Estate

Akakies Rose (Xinomavro), Kyr-Yiannis Estate

Plyto (Plyto - an ancient Cretan variety), Lyraraki

(Posting Date 14 November 2006)

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