Friday 4 October 2013

Kitchen Nomad: Greek ingredient box

Kitchen Nomads are on a mission; to broaden our horizons on food, country by country, culture by culture, nation by nation. Their idea is simple; each month they send you a box of ingredients to assist you to learn something about the food and cooking of a new nation.

Customers subscribe (although one off orders are possible) and a special Kitchen Nomads box is sent to you. The box will be inspired by a different country's food and ingredients, depending on the month. Previous boxes have featured the ingredients and recipes of the Lebanon and Vietnam. Each box contains 7 to 9 speciality high quality ingredients from which you will make at least 5 authentic dishes from the country in question. The idea is that you can serve up all of the dishes as a single themed dinner, or as separate dishes if you prefer. If you're into dinner parties, it's a great excuse to organise one!

I was provided with the Greek themed box of ingredients. The Kitchen Nomad boxes are priced at £22 per month (or each) plus £3 delivery with a small discount for six month or yearly subscriptions.  It contained the following: Dukkah Spice Mix, from The Real Greek, Iliada brand Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil, an award-winning extra virgin olive oil, Zanae Vine Leaves in Brine, Morphakis brand Greek Capers in brine, Misko brand Orzo Pasta (orzo is the word in Greek for "rice", and this type of pasta is designed be a similar size and shape), Sifonios Kalamata Olives, "Taste" award winning (Gold 2009) organic tomato sauce or "Perasti", Cassia bark (the outside bark of a tree with similar but milder properties to true cinnamon) and dried green figs.

I am fortunate to live in a part of South East London with a rich Turkish-Cypriot influence. We have many shops selling the key ingredients for Greek, Turkish and Cypriot food. So I can report that many of these brands are the choice of the local Turkish-Cypriot community. When trying to source authentic ingredients, I try to take my cue from people in the know. They are always going to go for what is most like the taste of home. Morphakis, Sifonios and Iliada all get the thumbs up!

One very pleasant and helpful touch is that the people from Kitchen Nomads draft in an expert in the cuisine of the given country to put together 5 or 6 recipes which use the ingredients in the box. Obviously, having been sent in the post, the ingredients supplied are of the non-perishable variety, meaning the other ingredients have to be provided yourself. 

The consulting chef for the Greek box was none other than Tonia Buxton. Well known as the presenter and expert on the award winning Discovery Channel Travel & Living show My Greek Kitchen, now into its second series and My Cypriot Kitchen. She has literally just published a Greek Cookery Book, ‘Tonia’s Greek Kitchen’ due for general release in October 2013. I was very impressed that a writer of this calibre has provided the recipes. 

Tonia has provided recipe cards for 5 recipes in the Greek Kitchen Nomads box: Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves), Tarta me elies, kapari kai tomata (tart with olives and capers), Garides me feta (prawns and feta), Youvetsi (slow cooked lamb with orzo pasta), and Siko Kai Karithi (fig and walnut bake). The shopping list for each given recipe and the contents of the box required for each recipe is clearly stated on the recipe card. This is convenient and helpful and avoids any confusion. The recipes themselves are clear, precise and well explained. Kitchen Nomads and Tonia Buxton have taken a great deal of care about ensuring home cooks can manage to make the dishes regardless of knowledge or experience. 

I made the Youvetsi, Slow cooked lamb with orzo pasta. 
It's a one pot dish described as 'perfect for gatherings' or 'to cook ahead for the week'. Here's what I used from the box:

Here's what I did:

First I browned the lamb chunks in batches using the olive oil. I bought 500g of lamb, as the maximum amount of 800g was too much. It would be great for a meal for 6 people. I then removed them from my casserole dish.

I then added more olive oil and fried the chopped onions for 10 minutes. Once going golden, I added the garlic.

Next up was the three tins of chopped tomatoes, 4 heaped tablespoons of tomato puree, 4 sticks of cassia bark and seasoning.

Once warmed through, I put the lamb back in the pot. I was using my largest pot, and as you can see it is getting rather full!

As a result, I couldn't add all 4 glasses (800ml) of water. I put in 500ml, which I think was enough.

After cooking for an hour and a quarter, I added the orzo pasta.
This is what the pasta looked like once mixed in thoroughly.
The orzo cooked in 20 minutes, soaking up all of the moisture from the pan

I then grated some feta to mix in the stew to add creaminess and salty tang.

Here is the finished dish, which was rich and satisfying. 

The lamb was very tender. As we get into Autumn, this is a comfort dish which might be time consuming, but is very simple to make. It would reheat well in the microwave the next day, so could be used for a dinner the second day, or as a lunch at work where reheating facilities exist.

If you would like to cook Tonia Buxton's Youtvetsi, you will find the recipe here:

My overall impressions are that this is an inventive and fun way of learning more about international food and cookery. They have made it easy to familiarise yourself with key ingredients. The recipe cards are excellent. The packaging is mainly very good and tries to be attractive (I like the suitcase printed on the back!), but a little more care needs to be taken with some of the products.My pot of dukkah got crushed in the package because the tub was a little flimsy. Sadly, it would appear that Fiona McLean of London Unattached had the same experience: (see paragraph 2).
Box crushed with most of the dukkah missing. :(

For people who live in very cosmopolitan areas, the ingredients themselves can be sourced elsewhere, and with legwork, a little more competitively. But for people who don't have the luck of having international "ethnic" grocers nearby, this is a godsend. I would be interested in trying their other boxes, but perhaps not on a subscription basis. I would much prefer to check what the "box of the month" is and order if there is a cuisine I fancy. For example, Burmese, Indonesian, Peruvian would all rate highly on my list!

I would like to thank Kitchen Nomad for providing me with their Greek cuisine box to play with!

No comments:

Post a Comment