It’s no secret that food has the ability to transport us to different times and places, with specific meals reminding us of days, people and memories gone by.
In her new book, ‘Home Food’, Olia Hercules takes us on a walk down memory lane as she shares a series of delicious recipes from places that she has called her home throughout the years, including Ukraine, Cyprus, Italy and London.
The recipes, which have been handed down from loved ones and shared eagerly between her friends, are filled with the greatest ingredient of all – love.
From spaghetti to steamed cabbage, here Olia shares three heartwarming recipes guaranteed to make you feel at home wherever you live …
Dark greens and noodles with yoghurt
- 100ml water
- 1 large egg
- 250g pasta flour or plain flour, plus extra to dust
- 600g onions
- 60g butter
- A splash of vegetable oil
- 300g any dark green leaves
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 150ml yoghurt
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- 1 tbsp sumac
- 2 tbsp fine crispy breadcrumbs
- Pour the measured water into a large bowl and crack in the egg. Whisk it in well. Add the flour and mix thoroughly with your hand until you have a soft dough.
- Sprinkle a work surface with extra flour and knead the dough until it is smooth and no longer sticks to your hands. Leave it to rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes, or up to 24 hours in the fridge.
- You won’t need all of the onions in this recipe, only half. But there is no point making this in smaller quantities, and the onions are so good you can use them in a myriad of other dishes.
- Halve the onions and slice finely along the grain. Melt 30g of the butter in a pan and add a splash of oil. Add the onions and a generous pinch of salt. Cover with a lid and sweat the onions over a medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
- They will become soft and translucent. Now uncover, increase the heat to medium and cook the onions for another 10 minutes, stirring from time to time. If they become dry and start to catch, add splashes of water and deglaze. The onions should be caramelised and a deep amber colour.
- Take half the rested dough and mould it into a flattish disc with your hands. Roll it out on a well-floured surface into a rough circle, about 45cm in diameter.
- Roll the circle up around your floured rolling pin. Slash lengthways with a knife, once, along the pin, without dragging. The dough will drop to the surface in layers. Cut them in half lengthways, then on the diagonal at 6cm intervals. You’ll end up with diamond- shaped pieces of pasta.
- Put the pasta strips on a floured tray so they don’t stick together. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
- Add the sliced, raw greens to a pan with the remaining butter. Season well with salt and pepper and cook until they look soft and wilted.
- Meanwhile, mix together the yoghurt and garlic in a bowl.
- Cook the pasta in well-salted water for 2-3 minutes. Drain, but not too vigorously – you want a little of the pasta water.
- Put the pasta into the pan with the cooked greens, add half of the caramelised onions, saving the rest for later, and mix thoroughly.
- Put everything on a platter, dot garlicky yoghurt around and sprinkle over the sumac and crispy breadcrumbs.
Spaghetti alla San Giovanni
- 1 tbsp salted capers
- 6-10 taggiasca olives in olive oil, or other good-quality firm olives
- 150g spaghetti
- 2 garlic cloves
- 200g cherry tomatoes
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- Chilli flakes, to taste
- 1 tsp sugar
- 5 anchovy fillets in oil
- Sea salt
- Finely grated Parmesan cheese, to serve
- Rinse the capers under a tap to remove the brine.
- Crush each olive with the flat side of a knife or something heavy. Bash each olive until it’s crushed then pick out the stones.
- For the spaghetti, fill a large saucepan with water and season with a little salt. Put the lid on and bring to the boil over a high heat.
- Meanwhile, peel the garlic cloves and squash lightly with the flat side of a knife. They should be gently cracked.
- Cut the tomatoes in half across the “equator” – in the middle but not through the stem – just so they look pretty.
- Put a large saucepan over a medium-low heat and add the oil. Add the cracked and squashed garlic cloves, chilli flakes and sugar and give it a swirl so the cloves are covered in oil. Cook for 3-5 minutes over a lowish heat, stirring from time to time.
- When the garlic begins to become slightly golden, add the anchovies and 1 teaspoon of their oil. Keep frying gently, until they dissolve in oil.
- Add the capers and olives to the sauce and remove the garlic. Always keep the lid on.
- Cook the pasta until it is nearly ready.
- Scoop out a cupful of the pasta water. Drain the spaghetti, transfer it to the sauce and stir well. Add a splash of spaghetti water, increase the heat and agitate the pasta in the sauce.
- Bring the sauce to the boil and allow the pasta to finish cooking in it for 2-3 minutes so it absorbs all of the savoury-sweet flavours.
- Serve with plenty of Parmesan cheese grated over the top.
Steamed cabbage with sunflower seed dressing
SERVES 4 AS A SIDE DISH OR 2 AS A LIGHT LUNCH
- 100g sunflower seeds
- 2 tbsp cider vinegar, to taste
- 1 tbsp honey
- 1 tbsp soy sauce
- 2 tbsp unrefined sunflower oil, or sesame, rapeseed or other seed oil
- 1 regular white cabbage
- Preheat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas mark 6.
- To make the dressing, put the sunflower seeds on a baking tray and roast for 6 minutes. They should become golden and very tasty. You may need to give them a little shake and put them back in for another 2 minutes, as ovens vary.
- Blitz most of the sunflower seeds into a paste, reserving a handful for sprinkling over.
- Put the seed paste into a bowl and add the vinegar, honey and soy, then trickle in the seed oil, combining it all into a smooth, thick dressing.
- For the cabbage, set a steamer over a pot of boiling water.
- Cut off the dry end of the stalk. Cut the cabbage into manageable wedges, through the core.
- Steam for about 10-15 minutes until the cabbage looks relaxed and easy to cut through.
- Let it cool down a bit and dress with the sunflower seed dressing (you can use a brush and dab it on), putting the rest in a little bowl to spoon on extra at the table.
- Sprinkle the cabbage with the reserved sunflower seeds and serve.
Home Food by Olia Hercules (Bloomsbury Publishing, £26) is out now