Black bean soup and chilli baked feta

baked feta with black bean soup

Sadly I’ve never been to Mexico but it’s right up there near the top of my bucket list. When I make it there, this is the kind of food I picture myself eating, washed down of course with a bottle of ice cold cerveza.

This black bean soup and chilli baked feta were two of the recipes I discovered through Kitchen Nomad, which unfortunately is no longer operating. I really rather liked this food box scheme, where each month ingredients from another mystery location would arrive on your doorstep along with recipe cards created by a well-known chef.

Thomasina Miers provided the recipes for the Mexican month and these two dishes were our favourites, although my husband and I enjoyed them sin niños as the chilli would undoubtedly have proven a little two much for them both, even with their adventurous palates.

The baked cheese should really feature a Mexican queso fresco but Miers recommends feta as a good alternative for this classic dish. The feta tastes amazing melted into the olive oil and is brought alive by the flavours of garlic, lime, chilli and oregano.

The black bean soup is sumptuously comforting, with a subtle and smoky warmth from the chipotle and ancho chillies, and it tastes extremely good with a dollop of soured cream and some of the chilli baked feta on top. Comer con gusto!

chilli baked feta

Chilli baked feta

Serves 6

500g feta cheese
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
half tsp dried oregano
10 sprigs fresh thyme
2 chillies de arbol, chopped
juice and zest of 1 lime
120ml extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180 C / gas mark 4.

Drain and slice the feta and place in an earthenware dish large enough to take the cheese in a single layer.

Sprinkle the garlic, herbs and chillies over the top of the feta, together with the lime juice and zest. Then pour over the olive oil.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cheese is soft and squishy and smelling heavenly. Serve with crusty bread and black bean soup.

black bean soup

Black bean soup

Serves 6

25g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
half an onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
2 bay leaves
2 plum tomatoes, chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
3 tsp chipotle sauce
500g tin cooked black beans
salt and pepper
1 litre vegetable stock
juice of 1 lime
3 tbsp ancho chillies, crumbled
small bunch of coriander,  chopped
150ml sour cream

Heat the butter and oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and when it starts to foam add the onion and herbs. Sweat gently for 10 minutes until the onion is soft.

Add the tomatoes,  garlic and chipotle sauce and cook gently for 5 minutes before adding the black beans. Cook for a few minutes before adding the stock and lime juice. Then simmer gently for 10 to 15 minutes.

When cooked, whiz it up with a stick blender. Don’t go at it for too long as you want this soup to have a bit of texture.

In a small frying pan, dry roast the ancho chillies for a few minutes until they start to smoke and then remove from the heat.

Pour the soup into six warmed bowls and scatter over a little of your chilli baked feta with some chopped coriander, crumbled ancho chillies and a spoonful of soured cream.

cooking with herbsspice trail badge square

I’m entering these dishes into my Spice Trail challenge, which this month is heading to Mexico in search of delicious delights, and also into Cooking With Herbs hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage as they feature fresh coriander and dried oregano.

Nettle soup

nettle soup

Usually when I take my children out foraging with me, they like to muck in and tend to eat half our booty before we get anywhere near home.woods

But not this time. No, the idea of harvesting stinging nettles from the woods near our home last weekend really did not appeal to my little ones, who preferred instead to build a den and climb trees. Quite sensible really. So their eccentric mother was left on her own to gather the nettles, protected of course by a pair of thick gloves.

nettles

This was the first time I’ve attempted nettle soup. The idea of making a meal from a free and plentiful plant, almost as abundant in the town as it is in the country and generally considered a weed, has always appealed. And this is the time of year to bag your nettles, early spring. The fresh, young growth is the crop you want. By the end of April, nettles start to get a bit tough and are definitely best eaten before they flower in May. Aim for the young shoots and tips of the plants.

As I was harvesting my nettles, with the welcome and much-needed rays of spring sunshine on my back, I was surprised at just how fragrant the plant is, quite floral and herb-like. If it weren’t for that pesky sting, I’m sure nettles would be insanely popular.

I must admit though, their smell does alter a little on cooking. As I dished up, my husband frowned and sniffed, and asked whether there was anything fishy in the soup. I shook my head and told him he must be imagining things; I didn’t want to put him off more than he already was. But I must admit there was the slightest fishy whiff. Please don’t let that put you off. The soup is delicious, with a deep flavour similar to spinach, but more earthy and greener somehow. And there is not the slightest hint of a sting, I promise. As soon as the spinach hits hot liquid, the sting disappears.

I was pleasantly surprised my lot took to nettle soup so well; definitely one to make again.

nettle soup2 web

Nettle Soup

half a carrier bag of nettle tops
1 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 leeks, washed and sliced
1 large potato, peeled and diced
2 celery sticks, sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 litre vegetable stock
salt and pepper
yoghurt or double cream to serve

Fill your sink with water and, wearing rubber gloves, thoroughly wash the nettles and get rid of any tougher stalks and unwanted creepy crawlies.

Gently heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan and add the onion, leeks, potato and celery. Cook for around 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, to soften the vegetables.

Add the garlic and cook for a couple of minutes before pouring in the stock. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 to 15 minutes until the potato is tender.

Add the nettles to the pan and stir into the soup as they wilt. Simmer for a few minutes and then blend in a food processor or with a hand blender.

Season with salt and pepper and serve in bowls topped with a dollop of yoghurt of a drizzle of cream.

no+croutons+required

I’m entering my nettle soup into No Croutons Required, the monthly vegetarian soup and salad challenge hosted jointly between Jacqueline from Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa from Lisa’s Kitchen.

SimpleinSeason

And as it’s very much a springtime soup, I’m also entering it into Ren Behan’s Simple and in Season challenge, which this month is being guest hosted by Michelle at Utterly Scrummy.

A store cupboard supper: baked rice with spinach, cannellini beans and eggs

baked rice3 web

We all have times when we need to rustle up an easy dinner using basic, store cupboard ingredients.

You’ve been up against it at work and haven’t had time to get to the shops. It’s the end of the month and money is tight. Whatever the reason, it’s useful to have a go-to dish or two up your sleeve.

My usual store cupboard recipes tend to feature cheap ingredients like pasta, beans, pulses and whatever I find in the freezer. I make sure I always have a few bags of vegetables in the freezer for times like these. Frozen veg is just as good as the fresh stuff in certain dishes, and cheap as chips too.

Rice makes a regular appearance too. I ate a lot of rice as a little girl. For a while my mother only worked part-time while she also studied for her MA, and there wasn’t a lot to spend on food. So rice became a staple, mainly due perhaps to my mum’s Chinese roots, quite often served with just soy sauce or, if we were lucky, some stir-fried vegetables on the side.

You’d think that might put me off rice but instead it is one of my favourite foods. When I am feeling low or poorly, there’s nothing I appreciate more than a simple bowl of rice with soy sauce or perhaps some chicken stock to make a very simple rice broth.

This baked rice recipe is ever so slightly more elaborate but a real winner when it comes to store cupboard cookery. The addition of eggs turns it into a proper comfort dish.Anything topped by an egg with a runny yolk gets my vote.

baked rice with eggs

It’s a very versatile and forgiving dish too. That’s the whole point of store cupboard recipes. Instead of spinach, why not throw in a few handfuls of frozen peas or sweetcorn? Instead of cannellini beans, try kidney beans or maybe a tin of tuna.

Baked rice with spinach, cannellini beans and eggs

Feeds 4

1 small onion, peeled and chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil
200g basmati rice
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes
400ml vegetable stock
1 x 400g can cannellini beans
100g frozen spinach
salt and pepper
4 large free range eggs

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas 4.

Heat the oil in a medium-sized heavy bottomed casserole and gently cook the onion until soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or two, before adding the rice. Stir it all together and cook gently for another minute.

Pour in the chopped tomatoes, stock, cannellini beans and a little salt and pepper. Give it all a good stir and then place chunks of frozen spinach, nestling it in amongst the rice and beans.

Cover the casserole with a lid and bake in the oven for 20 to 30 minutes until the rice is tender. Remove the lid and, using the back of spoon, make four slight dips in the rice. Break the eggs into these wells and return the oven for another five minutes or so, until the whites are cooked but the yolks are beautifully runny.

Serve at once.

This recipe was first published in my Eat the Season column in the Wells Journal on 6 March 2014.

baked rice2 web

family-foodiesAs my baked rice is very easy to make and cooks in around half an hour, I’m entering it into this month’s Fab Fast Food challenge for Family Foodies, an event I run with Louisa at Eat Your Veg and it just happens to be my turn to host.

speedy-suppers-veg-impI am also sharing this dish with Speedy Suppers, a new blog event for 30 minute meals launched by Sarah at Dinner With Crayons and Katie at Feeding Boys. I’m really rather excited about this new challenge – I just know it’s going to prove such a useful resource.

Roast vegetable sauce for pasta

roast vegetable sauce for pasta

I have been cooking this sauce, or versions of it, since I was weaning my two girls onto solids. They are now five and eight and still enjoy it just as much, although the portion sizes are considerably bigger now. Back in the early days, they would eat the sauce on its own and as they grew older I started stirring it into penne or fusilli to make a delicious pasta sauce. They still love it this way, especially with a huge heap of grated cheese on top, along with a drizzle of olive oil.

It’s one of the easiest sauces in the world to make. All the ingredients are simply roasted in one pan and then blitzed in a food processor with some stock. I don’t even bother to peel the garlic.

vegetables

It’s extremely adaptable too and you can experiment with whichever vegetables take your fancy – or whichever vegetables you might be trying to sneak past your unsuspecting fussy eater.

I generally cook up a big batch of this sauce and freeze it in individual portions; perfect for a quick tea after school when the kids have clubs to rush off to.

roast vegetable sauce for pasta

Roast vegetable sauce for pasta

450g tomatoes
1 butternut squash, chopped into large chunks
1 red pepper, cut into large chunks
1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
3 sticks of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 courgettes (zucchini), chopped
3 garlic cloves
glug of olive oil
500ml vegetable stock (low salt)

Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.

Place the tomatoes, chopped vegetables and garlic into a large roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and give it all a good mix to make sure everything is thoroughly covered. Roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are tender and beginning to char a little.

Put the vegetables into a blender with the stock and blitz until smooth. Job done.

Simply stir into cooked pasta for an easy peasy supper.

Freeze the remainder of the sauce in individual portions. You should get around 12 portions out of it.

family-foodies

As this pasta sauce is an ideal way to introduce your children to vegetables and entice them to eat a few they might not be so keen on, I’m entering it into this month’s Family Foodies challenge, where the theme is ‘Hidden Goodies’.

Roast cauliflower cheese soup

Roast Cauliflower Cheese Soup Collage

Everyone seems to be roasting their cauliflowers at the moment, so here I am getting in on the act. Roasting cauliflower gives it the most beautifully deep flavour, which works a treat with the smoky paprika and tasty cheeses I’ve used in this soup. I opted for a couple of different cheeses; a mature Cheddar and a tangy Lancashire cheese – two of my favourites, but you can experiment with any strong, hard cheese.

It might not be the prettiest bowlful, but all my family love this soup. The ingredients are simple yet it tastes rich and luxurious. And it’s an ideal way of encouraging people who don’t usually appreciate cauliflower to give it a try.

roast cauliflower cheese soup

Roast cauliflower cheese soup

1 small onion, peeled and quartered
1 cauliflower, trimmed and broken into florets
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp smoked paprika
500ml hot vegetable stock
200g hard cheese (I used Cheddar and Lancashire), grated
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C / gas mark 6

Place the onion quarters and cauliflower florets into a roasting tin. Drizzle with the olive oil and sprinkle over the paprika. Mix with your hands to make sure the onion and cauliflower are well covered. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, until the cauliflower is browned.

Pour the hot stock into a large pan and add the cauliflower and onion. Bring to a simmer and cook for around 10 minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and stir in the grated cheese. Use a hand blender to puree until smooth. Taste and season if required.

spice trail badge squarefamily-foodiesno+croutons+requiredssbadge300cheesepleaseI am entering this soup into the following challenges: The Spice Trail (hosted by me), where the theme this month is paprika; Family Foodies (hosted by me and Eat Your Veg) where the theme is hidden goodies; No Croutons Required (hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen and Tinned Tomatoes);  Cheese Please! (hosted by Fromage Homage) where it’s all about Comfort Food & Winter Warmers; and Simple and in Season (hosted by Ren Behan).

Sweet and sour winter salad

sweet and sour winter salad

This article first appeared in the Wells Journal on 9 January 2014.

In the deepest, darkest days of winter, it is not uncommon to crave large helpings of a warming slow-cooked casserole, a rich, meaty pie or a satisfying steamed pudding smothered in hot custard.

There are times though when it’s not heavy, stodgy comfort food my body yearns for. Instead I need something light, crunchy and zingy; a fresh and healthy dish to transport my head to more sunshiny climes.

While this salad is comprised for the main part of seasonal winter produce, it successfully delivers a taste of summer, as well as providing a much-needed alternative use for those seemingly uninspiring ingredients filling our veggie boxes week after week at this time of year.

Based on a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, this salad is extremely versatile and can be used with just about any root vegetable or cabbage. All the vegetables are served raw, either grated or finely shredded, so it is very much like a winter coleslaw or remoulade. But it is the dressing that really elevates this salad, featuring generous handfuls of fresh herbs, lemon juice, salty capers, mustard, sour cherries, sultanas and a little sugar, for a superbly vibrant sweet and sour kick.

I served it alongside a baked ham for our Boxing Day gathering and it went down a storm with family and friends. It’s also a very good accompaniment to simple grilled fish or chicken, or include it as part of a mezze.

So next time you pull up yet another swede or parsnip from you veg box or allotment, don’t automatically boil it up or roast it. Instead, give this sweet and sour salad a go and bring your taste buds out of hibernation.

sweet and sour winter salad

Sweet and sour winter salad

Serves 4-6

500g winter vegetables, shredded or grated
(I used red cabbage, celeriac, parsnip and swede)
handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
handful fresh mint, roughly chopped
50g capers
juice of 1 large lemon
1 tsp cider vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tsp wholegrain mustard
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp caster sugar
50g dried sour cherries
50g raisins
salt and pepper

Place all the shredded or grated vegetables in a large mixing bowl and simply add the rest of the ingredients. Use your hands to thoroughly combine everything to make sure the vegetables absorb all those flavours.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and possibly a little more vinegar or sugar depending on how sweet or sour you like it.

Leave the salad for an hour or so before serving to allow the flavours to develop. I always intentionally make too much, as I think it tastes even better the next day.

Cooking-with-Herbs

As this salad features both fresh herbs and zingy lemon, I’m entering it into this month’s Cooking with Herbs hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage where the theme for January is Herbs & Citrus Fruits.

Extra-Veg-Badge-003

It is also my offering for Extra Veg, a new challenge hosted by Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy, encouraging us all to eat an extra portion of vegetables each day. With a big bowl of this in your fridge, there’s no excuse to snack on the bad stuff when you get the munchies.

fsf-winter

Since it’s such an unbelievably healthy bowful of goodness, I’ve got to share it with Four Seasons Food (hosted by Eat Your Veg and Delicieux), where the theme this month is Virtuous Food.

FFF

And finally I’m also entering this salad into the Fabulous Fusion Food challenge, hosted by by the very talented Deena Kakaya.

Banana eggy bread

banana eggy bread

Eggy bread (otherwise known as French toast) is a popular lazy day breakfast in the Bangers & Mash house. Actually, pretty much anything to do with eggs is popular here. But eggy bread in particular takes me back to my own childhood, as I have very fond memories of my Mum making this for me, which I’d sprinkle with salt and lots of pepper and eagerly wolf down while it was still piping hot, serving after serving. And so I rather like making it now for my own daughters.

Making eggy bread with mashed banana sandwiches is perfect for anyone with a bit of a sweet tooth, and yes I’m thinking primarily of little ones here. It’s an easy way to get some extra fruit into them too.

banana eggy bread

Banana eggy bread

Serves 4

2 ripe bananas
4 slices of fresh, white bread
4 eggs
2 tablespoons milk
1 tbsp sunflower oil

Peel the bananas and mash roughly with the back of a fork. Spread the mashed banana onto two of the slices of bread, cover with the remaining slices to make sandwiches, and cut each one in half.

Crack the eggs into a shallow dish, add the milk and gently whisk together with a fork. Place the banana sandwiches into the eggy mixture, and turn a few times to allow the bread to soak up egg like a sponge.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Carefully lift the eggy sandwiches from the dish, allowing the excess egg to run off, and pop them into the frying pan.

Fry for a couple of minutes on each side, until golden and crispy. Allow the banana to cool a little before eating. For a treat, you might like to serve with a drizzle of honey or maple syrup.

banana eggy bread

As this banana eggy bread is a delicious way to encourage your children to eat more fruit, I am entering it into this month’s Family Foodies. This is a challenge run by Eat Your Veg and Bangers & Mash, and it is my turn to host. January’s theme is Hidden Goodies.

family-foodies

I think it would be also rather nice to serve up this banana eggy bread at tea time, so I am also entering it into January’s Tea Time Treats, hosted by The Hedge Combers and Lavender & Lovage. The theme this months is Eggs.

teatimetreats

Dried fruit and nut balls

dried fruit and nut balls

Admittedly, these might look like something you’d hang out for the birds in winter but trust me, these dried fruit and nut balls are delicious. Ask my children – they love them in their packed lunches or after school as a quick and healthy snack.

They’re very easy to make and the recipe is extremely versatile – play around with the recipe and add your own favourite nuts and dried fruits. I’ve used dried apple in this version as I’d dried some of our own apples as one way of storing them. If you’ve never tried drying your own apples, you really should. The apples develop such a gorgeously intense flavour and they have a wonderfully satisfying texture, rather like chewing on a soft toffee but with none of the sugar-guilt. My girls can’t get enough of them.

Dried Apple Collage

If you fancy having a go, here’s what you do.

Peel and core your apples and cut into rings. Sprinkle with cinnamon or leave plain if you prefer. Spread out on a baking tray and put in a very, very low oven for a few hours. If you have an Aga you could put them in the bottom oven or do what we did and tie with string and hang in bundles over the top. They’re ready when they’ve gone all wrinkly and have gained that lovely chewy consistency.

We eat them as they are, chop them up and mix into plain yoghurt, or add them to homemade granola.

granola

But back to those dried fruit and nut balls. It’s simply a case of whizzing up all the ingredient in a food processor and then using your hands to shape the resulting mixture into balls or, if you prefer, bars. It’s a fairly messy business, which is probably why children quite like getting involved.

Dried fruit and nut balls

100g blanched almonds
100g walnuts
100g dried apple
100g dried fig
100g dried apricot
100g sultanas
20g dessicated coconut
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp apple juice

Put the nuts and dried fruit into a food processor and process until it you end up with a mushy, sticky mixture.

Add the oil and apple juice and whiz again briefly to combine.

Mould the mixture in your hands into small balls and store in an airtight container in the fridge (for a couple of weeks) or the freezer (for a couple of months).

I wrap individual balls in foil, like sweetie wrappers, when I put them in the girls’ lunchboxes.

dried fruit and nut balls

 

Since my children enjoy them in their lunchboxes, I’m including both these fruit and nut balls and the dried apple in November’s Family Foodies challenge, which as you probably know has lunchbox ideas as its theme.

family-foodies

A taste of Somerset in a scone

cheese and apple scones

This post originally featured in the Wells Journal on Thursday 28 November 2013.

I used to be something of a purist when it came to scones. The whole scone experience was more about the indulgence of the clotted cream and jam, rather than the scone itself. If I was being slightly adventurous, I might throw a few sultanas into the scone mixture.
But since a) having children and b) becoming a food blogger, a new scone-shaped world has opened up to me, particularly the seemingly endless possibilities of the savoury scone.

Savoury scones are a perfect standby snack for little ones (and adults) and I often make them for the children’s lunchboxes too. Courgette and cheese scones are favourites, as are butternut squash and red onion.

Think of Somerset foods and Cheddar cheese and apples will no doubt come to mind. I know, I know – the produce of Somerset is so much more varied than this ubiquitous pairing, but you have to admit our apples and cheese are world-class. If you were at the Wells Food Festival back in September, you’ll have seen the crowds around the cheese stall; all due to the fine reputation of our local cheeses.

And what better to enjoy alongside your cheese than a crisp, flavourful apple. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful variety available to us here, although we should remember that more than 50 per cent of Somerset’s orchards have disappeared over the last 50 years. This is something a number of local growers and projects are working hard to turn around.

apple

So, for a taste of Somerset in a scone, how about a tasty cheese and apple scone, using a mature local Cheddar and a generous sprinkling of fresh sage? They’re perfect cold in your packed lunch but even better served warm from the oven, with a little salted butter and some extra slices of cheese or maybe some cold meats.

cheese and apple scones

Cheddar cheese, apple and sage scones

Makes around 12

300g self-raising Flour
½ tsp baking powder
75g butter
125g mature Cheddar, grated
handful of fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 large eating apple, cored and grated
1 medium free range egg, lightly beaten
150ml milk

Preheat the oven to 200ºC / gas mark 6.

Grease a large baking sheet and cover with baking parchment.

Pour the flour and baking powder into a large bowl and mix together. Chop the butter into cubes and rub it into the flour using your finger tips until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Stir two-thirds of the cheese into the mixture, along with the sage and apple.

Make a well in the middle of the mixture and pour in the beaten egg and milk. Use a knife to bring together into a soft dough. If it is too wet, add a little more flour.

Lightly flour the work top. Roll out the dough to a 2cm thickness and use a pastry cutter to cut out your scones. Keep re-rolling the dough until it is all used up.

Place the scones on the baking sheet spaced well apart. Sprinkle the scones with the remaining grated cheese and bake for around 15 minutes until golden.

Transfer to a wire rack to cool a little before eating.

cheese and apple scones

These scones are an ideal lunchbox filler and so I am entering them into this month’s Family Foodies challenge, which I just happen to be co-hosting with Lou over at Eat Your Veg. The theme this month is Lunchbox Ideas.

family-foodies

As the scones also feature fresh sage, I’m entering them into November’s Cooking with Herbs challenge, hosted of course by Karen at Lavender & Lovage.

Cooking-with-Herbs

And finally, as these scones feature local West Country Cheddar cheese and apples, I’m entering them into the Shop Local blogging challenge at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

ShopLocal

Wells Food Festival and a Greek pumpkin and feta pie – Zimaropitta

As you may have gathered from recent posts, I’m ever so slightly excited about the very first Wells Food Festival, which takes place this coming Sunday.

One of the many reasons I’m looking forward to this culinary extravaganza is the festival also marks the opening of a brand new foodie establishment in  Wells.

Locals might have been wondering what’s been happening to the Sun Inn over the last few weeks. The pub on Union Street has been closed a little while and is currently being refurbished and transformed into a Greek idyll. Just in time for the festival, the pub will reopen as The Greek Taverna at the Sun, and as a big fan of Greek food I for one cannot wait.

I lost no time in catching up with the Sun’s new owner, Olga, who will be running the pub with her brother Yianni, to find out more about their plans.

“It is very much a family business,” Olga explains. “We want our customers to feel like they have just been invited to our house for a meal. Our mother will be the main cook because of course no-one cooks like a Greek mum! We believe that food is not just about what you cook, but that it always tastes better when you can enjoy it in a friendly, relaxed environment.

“We will be serving authentic Greek home-cooked food, good wine, cakes, ‘real coffee’, cocktails, and all the drinks you’d expect to find in a pub,” Olga tells me. “The Sun Inn will still be a pub but it will also serve quality home-cooked food. Outside lunch and dinner times, we’ll also offer meze (a selection of small dishes) that people can have with their drink if they don’t wish to have a full meal.”

Olga’s mother had her own restaurant back in Greece for over seven years, while Olga and her brother Yianni have run a small boutique hotel together. They clearly have heaps of experience, but what brings them to Somerset?

“My brother and I have both lived on and off in Wells for some time,” says Olga. “My sister-in-law lives here with her family and this is how we first discovered Wells. We fell in love with the place. It is a very interesting, small city surrounded by amazing nature. What we like most about it is that people are so friendly and make you feel like part of the family. We have been refurbishing the pub for the last three weeks and during this time it is has been amazing how many people have offered to help us.”

How does Olga think Wells will respond to their Greek food? Why is she so keen to share Greek cuisine?

“We love Greek food, not just because we are Greek, but also because we believe it is simple, healthy and delicious,” replies Olga passionately. “We know that British people love Greek food but what they get most of the time in the UK is Greek food cooked in a British way. We will be cooking authentic Greek food using local ingredients; we believe food tastes better if ingredients are sourced locally. Somerset has many farms producing excellent fruit, vegetables, meat and dairy. To give you an example instead of buying sausages imported from Greece, we decided to give our traditional family recipe to one of the local sausage producers who will be making them just for us.

“Also the financial situation in Greece in the last few years has taught us a big lesson: supporting local businesses is the only way to keep the community ‘alive’.”

I asked Olga if she could give us a taste of the kind of food we can expect to find at the new Sun Inn, and she has very kindly provided her recipe for Zimaropitta.

“Because your blog is about lovely, tasty food that doesn’t take long to prepare, I thought we can make an easy pumpkin pie with feta cheese,” says Olga. “Simple, inexpensive ingredients you can mix together in one bowl and cook in the oven is my idea of healthy fast food. This is what this recipe’s all about. We used a marrow bought straight from the producer in Wells Market and local Somerset feta cheese from Queen Street Deli.

“I would serve it with some tzatziki (yoghurt garlic dip) and a green salad. You can replace the flour with any wheat-free variety for a gluten-free version.”

Zimaropitta Collage

Zimaropitta – feta and pumpkin pie

1kg grated pumpkin (not any of the sweet varieties), marrow or courgette
3 eggs beaten
300g feta cheese, crumbled
250g milk
250g semolina
250g self-raising flour
150g cornmeal (optional)
salt to taste (if your feta is not salty)
a little water might be needed to bring the dough to a porridge like consistency

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

The traditional Greek way of grating a pumpkin or a marrow is to cut it in half lengthways and use a spoon to scrape off the soft part  little by little. Of course, it might be easier just to cut it to pieces, peel and use a box grater.

Then mix all the ingredients in a bowl and add some water if you think it is needed. It should have a thick, porridge-like consistency before you pour it into a buttered ovenproof dish. Bake in a preheated oven for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

“There you go,” says Olga. “A piece of… pie! And a great way to persuade children to eat pumpkin too.”

Thanks so much to Olga for her delicious recipe. I can’t wait to give it a go myself, as I know this is just the kind of thing my family will adore. I wish Olga, Yianni and their mum every success with their new venture and look forward to seeing the newly refurbished pub when I come over for the festival at the weekend. If you’d like to keep up-to-date with what’s happening at the Sun Inn, do visit their Facebook page.

And if you’d like to find out what else is happening this Sunday at the Wells Food Festival, take a look at the website at www.wellsfoodfestival.co.uk.

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