Delicious and accidentally vegan food – The Portugal News


When you think of Greek and Greek Cypriot cuisine, you might think of a lot of meat.

“There are so many kebabs and we love grilling,” admits Georgina Hayden. “It’s probably a preconceived idea that is justified.”

But there’s another side to cooking she wants to learn about: the plant-based foods eaten during Lent and other fasting times of the year. And there are a lot of fasts: up to 200 days a year, including the 50 days before Easter, the 50 days before Christmas and every Wednesday and Friday.

“If you do it right, that’s a lot of days without meat,” Hayden says. “But that means when you eat meat they get tough – it’s a matter of balance.”

“In the book, there are tons of quick recipes – because that’s life – but also, if you don’t have a big piece of meat for Sunday dinner, apply the same compassion and love to your veggies and you’ll get heaps of flavor.I think that’s even more important to do with plant-based foods because they need that sweetness that comes from slow cooking.

Zaatar buns recipe


(Makes 9)

1 tbsp caster sugar

1 packet of 7g fast-acting dry yeast

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

¾tsp fine sea salt

125 ml extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for greasing

6 tablespoons of zaatar

½ teaspoon of pul biber


1. Add the sugar and yeast to a bowl and whisk in 275ml lukewarm water, then set aside for a few minutes. Place the flour in a large bowl and whisk in the salt, then make a well in the center. Mix yeast water and 25ml extra virgin olive oil until well combined – add more water if needed; you want a moist dough, it shouldn’t be too dry.

2. Transfer the dough to a flour dusted surface and knead for about eight to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Wash and dry the blender jug, then oil it lightly. Return it to the bowl, drizzle with a little oil and let sit for about an hour to an hour and a half (depending on how hot your cooking is), until it doubles in size.

3. When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a clean surface, turn it upside down and roll it into a rectangle about 26 x 40 cm. Brush with a layer of olive oil and sprinkle the za’atar and pul biber evenly, leaving a one-centimeter border around the edges. Gently pat the spice mixture into the batter with the back of a tablespoon. Starting with a small side, roll the dough as tight as possible. Trim uneven excess pieces at the end. Cut the dough into nine pieces.

4. Pour enough oil to cover the bottom of a 23cm square cake pan and put the slices in it, turn side up. Cover and set aside for a second time to double in size, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan oven/thermostat 6. When the buns have about doubled in size, bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown . Remove from the oven, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and let rise in the pan for 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe for simmered peppers


(For 4 people)

4 onions

4 garlic cloves

10 bell peppers, a mix of red, yellow and orange

5 ripe tomatoes

100ml sunflower oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A few sprigs of flat-leaf parsley, optional


1. Peel and finely chop the onions and garlic. Cut the peppers in half, remove and discard the core and seeds, then cut into even-sized pieces, about 2-3cm. Mark a cross on top of the tomatoes, place them in a heatproof bowl (or saucepan) and cover with boiling water. Let stand a minute or two, until the skin begins to separate from the flesh, and drain. Peel the tomatoes then roughly slice or chop the flesh.

2. Place a large flameproof casserole over medium heat, drizzle with sunflower oil and add all the ingredients (not the parsley). Season generously, with a teaspoon of salt and pepper, and start frying. After 10 minutes, reduce the heat to low and fry for about an hour and a half to two hours. Stir occasionally, until you have a thick, rich, gooey stew. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, then serve, sprinkled with chopped parsley if desired.

Pistachio and cardamom halva recipe


(For 10-12 people)

Olive oil

50g pistachios

8 cardamom pods

250g of tahini

½ teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

½ teaspoon fine sea salt

230g caster sugar


1. Grease a cake mold with a little oil then line it with cling film, leaving the edges of the mold overhanging. Roughly chop the pistachios. Remove the cardamom seeds from the pods, discard the pods and grind the seeds until fine. Add to a large mixing bowl with 30g chopped pistachios, the tahini, vanilla and sea salt and beat until smooth.

2. Put the sugar and 75ml water in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil over medium heat. Gently stir the pan, do not stir the syrup or the sugar will crystallize. Once it begins to bubble, reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 12-15 minutes, until a thick syrup forms. If you have a sugar thermometer, it should reach 121°C. When ready, add the tahini mixture to the pan (you don’t want the mixture to cool, it should stay in the hot pan) and quickly beat the two together to make a smooth batter. It is best to do this with a wooden spoon or spatula. Try not to overwork it, as this will make the halva crumbly – you only want to beat it for 30 seconds.

3. As soon as it is well mixed, pour it into the lined mold and press in the remaining pistachios. Let cool. Once cooled, cover with edges of cling film and transfer to fridge to set overnight before serving.

Nistisima: The Secret to Delicious Vegan Cuisine from the Mediterranean and Beyond by Georgina Hayden is published by Bloomsbury.

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Tanya S. Norvell