We decided to enjoy the lovely balmy warm evening by having an easy supper party.
Week-days or busy week-ends call for “make ahead or easy short cuts”.
One of my favourite Mediterranean style table cloths is a cotton print with lemons. It always reminds me of cafés in Greece, Southern France or Italy. I love beautiful table linen and have a cupboard full of cloths, runners, mats and napkins. A rustic basket of lemons and a few chunky candles complete the setting. I then scour my cupboards for plates and dishes that will casually fit the vibe.
As a starter I could not resist figs. The season is almost over and this year we have had the most delicious figs on our trees and from the local vendor who sources them directly from the farm. It is an easy, light and tasty starter. Because we were serving pork in the main course, I used Bresaola (Italian-style cured beef), instead of Parma ham. Two of our young guests have not yet developed the taste for blue cheese, so I used a tasty mozzarella in theirs. Serve the figs on their own or with a couple of wedges of lightly toasted pita bread.
Mark makes the most yummy Souvlaki (Greek kebabs), so this was his opportunity to get into the kitchen. He used pork this time, but previously the same recipe was as good for lamb or chicken. I love the lemon-herb flavours and the joy is that you can marinade the meat a day ahead of time.
What makes a Greek or Mediterranean inspired meal fun is that putting the accompaniments together. Most can be bought from the supermarket or deli, or you can make your own.
I never buy Tzatziki as I think the home-made version is always nicer. Traditional recipes call for one to drain the yoghurt to remove excess water and the same applies to the cucumber, but these days we buy the most stunning thick, creamy Greek-style yoghurt that forms a perfect base.
I must admit that I seldom make my own Hummus because we get such a wide range at our local supermarkets, but if you prefer homemade, make it. All I do is put it into a suitable bowl and pour 20ml olive oil on the surface!
A delicious fresh Greek Salad always adds crispness….. and I am so over a lettuce based salad! I will not give you a recipe for Greek Salad as it is so easy to cube cucumber, tomatoes (I like halving baby tomatoes), black olives (pitted please!) and chunks of feta. Sometimes I vary it by adding cubes of avocado, but I suspect that the average Greek Mama will disapprove of that! The dressing is simply a mix of 1 part lemon juice to 3 parts good quality olive oil, 15ml shredded fresh basil and 5ml chopped fresh oregano. If you like, this is one of the few salads where you may add a pinch or two of good quality dried oregano. You will see that my salad does not have olives because one of my guests for some weird reason hates olives, but an authentic salad will always have olives! I served bowls of olives separately.
Pita breads are essential, but if you are trying to cut down on the carbs, they can be omitted. For a quick meal it’s best to buy them. Just warm them up on the braai or in the oven for a few minutes before serving. I must admit that home made flat breads are delicious. I sometimes cook them in the oven (cold, rainy weather!), but they are best done on a griddle pan or ideally in the pizza oven, for extra smokiness.
For a quick and easy dessert we often take out one or two of our home-made ice creams, but recently we were introduced to the most magic Mediterranean treat: Ice cream with olive oil and salt! It is so simple, yet SO EXOTIC! Buy the best full cream vanilla ice cream that you can find. Put a scoopful in your favourite, elegant dessert dish, drizzle over about 20ml of the finest Extra Virgin Olive oil, and sprinkle over a few crystals or flakes of good quality salt! You may want to pass around a few tiny bowls of interesting salt for your guests to try. Do not overdo the salt, use a few crystals at a time to taste. When we first tried this we had our own olive oil tasting and then matched our favourite with ice cream. I preferred the peppery-grassy one and others preferred a fruitier olive oil.
Here’s a quick and easy menu for your next braai!
Baked Figs with Blue Cheese and Bresaola
if figs are not in season serve a chilled soup such as Gazpacho or Spanish Almond Soup
Vanilla Ice Cream with Olive Oil & Salt