my father's roasted turkey

It's almost upon us.  Thanksgiving!  Greek-Americans adore this day.  You couple all the beautiful American traditions with your spanakopites and tiropites and you end up with a decadent feast.

I am in London and celebrating with dear friends from my earlier years in Oxford.  Here is my favorite turkey recipe (his words exactly) and stuffing by my father, Taki.

My Baba's Roasted Turkey

Defrost the turkey in cold water. When is completely defrosted, drain it and rub it with salt, pepper and Bell’s turkey seasoning.

Then, there are two ways to cook it. One way is to roast the turkey as is and bake the stuffing in a separate pan in the same oven. This is the way that your Mother cooks it. The other way is to stuff the cavity and roast it all together.

Method 1:
Roast The turkey separate from stuffing and bake stuffing in the oven.
As mentioned above, you rub the turkey outside and inside the cavity with salt, pepper and Bell’s turkey seasoning, brushing the skin with fresh butter, which has been already melted, and then you brush with a lot of olive oil and you place it in a Reynolds oven bag. Seal the bag and bake it in the oven at 325 F. Make sure that you fasten the neck skin to the back of the skewer, folding the wings across the back with tips touching, and tucking the drumsticks under the band of skin at the tail (or tie or skewer to tail).

6-8 lbs needs 3.5 hrs
8-12 lbs: 4.5 hrs
12-16 lbs:  5.5 hours
16-20 lbs: 6.5 hours

If you don’t have an oven bag, you can place on top of it aluminum foil, and every half an hour you just poor with a spoon juice from the pan to keep the turkey moist. Do not put water and don’t cover.

Stuffing: One 2 lbs bag of stuffing (roasted cubes of bread with seasoning)

1 cup of very small celery, diced
1 cup of green pepper, diced
1 big onion, diced
1 big carrot, shredded
½ cup raisins
1 lb chestnuts (boil them and peel them)

You place ingredients in the pan and add 1 cup of chicken broth. Place pan in the oven at 300 F and bake it for ½ hour. You check it to be moist and it should not get dry.


You fill the wishbone and the cavity area with the stuffing. Same recipe as above, but do not add the chicken broth. Do not pack the stuffing because it will expand. If there is stuffing left, then you put it in a pan, adding the chicken broth and baking it in the oven at 300 F for ½ hr.

The stuffed turkey is then put in the oven bag and roasted in the oven as mentioned before. Make sure that you tie the bag tight to keep the moisture. If there is no bag then you cover it with aluminum foil and keep the turkey moist every ½ hr with the juice from the pan.

For more questions call your Mother. 

Happy and enjoyable Thanksgivings.


i saw the world's best chef

Ferran Adrià. Last night. In London, at the Royal Festival Hall, along with my culinary colleague and mate, Susan Jane Murray. The owner and managers of Trinity, one of London's most beloved new restaurants, joined Susan and myself in what was an evening presentation by the head chef of the Catalan gem called El Bulli, touted as the world's best restaurant.

Adria is the inspiration for the likes of Heston Blumenthall and company. He doesn't particularly like to subscribe to the term 'molecular gastronomy', but they general public associates his name with those two words. You can tell, and as he articulated last night, that for Adria food is culture, which entails a whole dynamic of art, tradition, regional pallets, and national expression. I am totally getting into liquid nitrogen and applying some of his techniques to my repertoire.

Two days ago, I bought the recently published and highly anticipated book (for only £25 although it looks like I spent £70) by Adria on the daily operations of El Bulli, which up until now, where enigmatic. I love this book. I was expecting maybe an audience of 30-40 people, and the prospects of having this deity sign my copy. Sadly, there were 900 people in the hall (why I didn't anticipate this, who knows) and needless to say, I will have to wait for Adria's John Hancock.

I'm so applying to work at his restaurant for free. I'll wash dishes just to be in that kitchen. And speaking of kitchens, American Thanksgiving is upon us and I will be writing tomorrow a special post on my preparations. It will be celebrated with special friends (largely Oxonians) living in London. Until then, sweet dreams.


fabulous roast turkey with chestnuts

Courtesy of my pals at BBC Good Food, I have just received a new recipe today which can come in handy for your upcoming Thanksgiving and Christmas turkey roasts. Here it is my friends. My father's legendary recipe, which also includes a chestnut stuffing, shall come up very soon. The combination of the porcini mushrooms with chestnuts (with which I fell in love with as a child in Greece and thoughts of them brings me back to the streets of Athens where you will find typically Romas and the elderly selling them) is such a beautiful marriage. My only issue with this recipe is the use of foil during the roasting. I'm adamant on using roasting bags, which really keeps those juices circulating during the cooking process and the end product is so much more flavourful.


* 150ml Madeira or white wine
* 20g pack dried porcini mushrooms
* 2 onions , halved and sliced
* 25g butter , plus extra
* 15g pack thyme , use the leaves and reserve the stalks
* 2 x 454g packs Cumberland sausages , skins removed
* 200g pack whole cooked chestnuts (I used Merchant Gourmet)
* zest 1 lemon (halve and reserve the rest to use for the turkey)
* 15g pack flat-leaf parsley , chopped
* 85g fresh breadcrumbs
* 10 rashers streaky bacon


* 1 onion , quartered
* 4.5-5.6kg/10-12lb bronze turkey , giblets removed (to use in stock)
* 85g soft butter
* 1 whole nutmeg
* 10 rashers streaky bacon
* 125ml glass Madeira or white wine
* watercress sprigs, to garnish

Prep 20 mins, cook 4 hrs

1. First make the stuffing. Pour the Madeira or wine into a bowl, then crumble in the mushrooms. Fry the onions in the butter for 10 mins, until golden. Cool, then mix with the thyme leaves, the mushrooms and their soaking liquid, and all remaining ingredients, apart from 8 of the chestnuts and the bacon. Season well.

2. Set aside half of the stuffing. Line a greased 500g loaf tin with bacon. Pack the rest of the stuffing into the tin, then bring the rashers round over the top and secure in place with cocktail sticks. Use the reserved chestnuts to fill the spaces where the bacon meets. Chill until ready to cook. This will keep in the fridge uncooked for 2 days or can be frozen for up to a month.

3. Prepare the turkey. The night before, put the onion quarters, reserved lemon halves and thyme sprigs in the cavity between the legs. Pack the reserved stuffing into the neck end. Secure the neck skin with skewers and tie the legs together. Weigh the turkey. Calculate the cooking time at 40 mins per kilo, plus 20 mins.

4. Put a large sheet of extra-wide foil in a large roasting tin and put the turkey on top. Smear the breast with the butter, then grate over half of the nutmeg and season well. Cover with bacon, then pour over the glass of Madeira or wine. Seal the foil well to make a parcel. Chill overnight.

5. On the day, take the turkey out of the fridge 1 hr before roasting. Heat oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Put the turkey in the oven; then, 90 mins before the end of cooking, remove foil and bacon, and drain off the juices from the tin to use in the gravy. To test whether the turkey is cooked, push a skewer into the thickest part of the thigh - the juices should run clear. If they are pinkish, cook for 15 mins more, then test again.

6. Transfer the turkey to a platter, cover with foil, then a couple of tea towels, and allow to rest for at least 30 mins before carving. Meanwhile, cook the stuffing loaf for 30 mins and reheat the bacon. Garnish with watercress and serve the stuffing loaf separately.


871 kcalories, protein 86g, carbohydrate 24g, fat 46 g, saturated fat 17g, fibre 0g, salt 3.01 g


too much cereal

Given our current financial crisis, and the focus on the financial services industry (and now what appears to be the auto industry), I appreciated a piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday regarding the deflation in crop prices (which is in sharp contrast to what was happening even six months ago) and its implications for farmers in countries like Cambodia.

Very interesting piece indeed.

honey-dipped Christmas cookies (μελομακάρονα)

My favourite time of year is here.  Christmas season.  One of our greatest traditions during this festive period is baking cookies and biscuits, of all sorts.  The most popular tend to be this ridiculously scrumptious shortbread dusted with powdered sugar called kourabiedes, and the elegant semolina cookies dipped in warm honey syrup spiced with cinnamon and covered in walnuts - melomakarona.

My mother's melomakarona and kourabiedes are legendary in our Greek community back in America.  Posts in the next few weeks will highlight these recipes.  I will also try to get my wonderful friend and science colleague Filitsa who's a master in the kitchen to provide me with her aunt's very old and very awesome recipe of melomakarona.  She made a batch this weekend and brought it into lab yesterday.  Needless to say, they were gorgeous.  The cookie itself had the perfect amount of syrup, and despite the richness of the honey, there was a certain lightness, attributed most likely to the semolina she used.

For now, here's one recipe I discovered a few years ago from one of the most prominent Greek chefs living in America right now - Aglaia Kremezi.

1 1/4cups light olive oil
1/3 cup sugar
1 cup fresh orange juice
3-4 cups all-purpose flour
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 cup brandy
1 1/2 cups fine semolina


1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
2 cups water
1 large piece of orange peel
1 large piece of lemon peel
1 cup coarsely ground walnuts
2 teaspoons finely ground cloves


Using an electric mixer, beat the olive oil with the sugar. Add the orange juice. In a separate bowl, mix 2 cups flour with the baking powder, and add to the oil and orange mixture. Beat with the electric mixer adding the branddy, semolina, orange and lemon peel, cloves, and cinnamon. Turn the mixture out onto a floured surface and start kneading, adding more flour, to obtain a soft and elastic dough. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.

Take tablespoonfuls of dough and shape into oval cookies about 2 1/2 inches long. Press them on the top with the back of a fork to mark them with horizontal lines. Place on an oiled cookie sheet and bake for about 25 minutes. Let cool on a rack overnight. The next day make the honey syrup. In a saucepan, mix the sugar, honey, and water and bring to a boil. Add the orange and lemon peels and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Place 2 or 3 cookies on a large slotted spoon and dip them in the syrup. Don't let them soak in it; they should absorb only a little syrup, and remain crunchy. Place layers of honey-dipped Melomakarona on a serving dish. Mix the walnuts with the ground cloves, and sprinkle over the cookies. Let cool completely before serving. They keep well for about 10 days.


November 17

Wreaths being laid in front of a statue in Athens today commemorating the
November 17th student uprising

Today is the anniversary of the student uprising against the military junta on November 17, 1973 in Athens. Greeks love to celebrate holidays, but today is a day when we reflect on a profoundly tragic and defining moment in the democratic pursuit of freedom. I am reminded how lucky and blessed I am to grow up seeing a freer Greece.


the best pumpkin pie

Gourmet's Caramel Pumpkin Pie, photo by Roland Bello

My blog is the greatest source for help from all the food lovers across the globe. That is why, once again, I would like everyone's help in choosing what they consider the best recipe out there for pumpkin pie. I used one from the Food Network website last year for my Thanksgiving feast.

Any help?


unhealthy lunches

Instead of going for an Applebee's lunch next time, how about you bring your own sandwich from home. This piece by Men's Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko has some sobering numbers on calories and fat for popular lunch options at many American establishments. However, it gives you the alternative, healthier items on these restaurants' menus. For example:

Crispy Honey Chipotle Crispers

1,890 calories
99 g fat (19 g saturated)
3,470 mg sodium

Calorie Equivalent: Like eating an entire medium Pizza Hut 12" pepperoni pizza!

Classic Chicken Fajitas
330 calories
11 g fat (2 saturated)
2,080 mg sodium

1,890 calories all in one sitting? That's a full day's worth of calories, folks.

an awesome food magazine

I wanted to let all my readers know about a superb magazine for lovers of food out there - Gastronomica.  Prof. Darra Goldstein of Russian at Williams College in the US is editor-in-chief of this beautiful read.  Their latest issue has a thought-provoking piece on politicians and food. 


olives on ice

Last evening, I had the great delight of taking my newly crowned doctor friend Cindy Drakeman to Jamie's Italian here in Oxford.  She is a proud graduate of New College and a recipient of a DPhil.

I enticed her to an Italian feast at Oxford's most popular restaurant.  Since its opening in late spring of this year, Jamie's Italian has been the hottest spot as far as fresh pasta and tiramisu are concerned.  We started with a meat antipasti plank, which consisted of cured meats, including a beautiful pistachio mortadella, gorgeous buffalo mozzarella, and pecorino.  The balsamic vinegar was expectedly of the best quality.  My mother being from Kalamata, you would think I am a great fan of olives.  If they are not pressed and not in the form of oil, then I'm honestly not a fan at all.  Nonetheless, Jamie's concept of large green olives on a bed of ice served with his own black olive tapenade and music bread was something I recommended for Cindy (since she's actually a fan).

For main, we wanted meat.  We shared chargrilled king prawns in a beautiful mint dressing, the highly acclaimed flash steak, which is a beef feather steak that's pounded with sage leaves and prosciutto, along with a free-range chicken (halved, boned, and marinated in some sort of pestoish sauce) and cooked under a brick. 

For dessert, I had the chocolate brownie which was served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Very Americano in an Italian restaurant.  Forgive me.  But it was divine.  Cindy enjoyed the lemon and mango sorbet, which was pretty stunning as well.

We walked off our dinner by visiting the grounds of New College, which I never have before.  Cindy showed me the 'squeeky mound' (basically a hill in a garden with steps that looks like a Mayan temple and is how English gardens were designed back in the day), and also the old city walls of Oxford that are located within the grounds of New College and are marked by sections where the English would station themselves and shoot arrows at invaders.  We talked politics, the US election, and about Sarah Palin.   All of this under a brisk yet pleasant Oxford autumn night.

I will miss Cindy.


a great moment

I'm in tears.  Obama has just captured the presidential election.  It's 4AM here in England.  God bless America!  This is a precious, defining moment for the USA and the rest of the world!