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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 9 April 2016
12 THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 9 APRIL 2016 DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM The art of Nisteia through the eyes of food blogger Kiki Vagianos THEODORA MAIOS W ith her Orthodox faith playing a tremendous role in her life, secondgeneration Greek American cook and established food blogger (@TheGreekVegan) Kiki Vagianos has launched Nisteia magazine, in an attempt to share and keep the traditions of fasting alive for the Greeks of the diaspora. Nisteia magazine includes more than 125 detailed Greek vegan recipes in its 56 full-colour pages as well as images, feature articles and helpful tips for those who wish to bring classic Greek food into their modern kitchens. "My upbringing has everything to do with what I am doing," says the creative cook, who was born in Boston, Massachusetts after her family migrated to the US in 1915. "I reach back into my youth, back into the days of my parents, grandparents, and back through all our food history as people of Greek descent and there is such a very beautiful sense of connectedness in this work." Aiming to showcase that there are still easy ways to preserve and pass on to future generations some 'legacy' dishes from the homeland, this year's issue of Nisteia is dedicated to celebrating the simplicity and beauty of authentic, traditional Greek vegan food. Simply prepared and presented, the dishes showcase the culinary magic created out of the same simple ingredients combined in endless variation; in just the way a symphony is composed of a finite set of simple notes, these ordinary vegetables, grains, legumes, fruits, nuts, seeds and even weeds are transformed into some of the most flavourful, complex and sophisticated dishes in the world. According to Kiki, creativity thrives on limitations, boundaries and restrictions that force one to stretch their mind and use strategies that enable them to do more with less. "The fact that they are all meat and dairy-free is an extraordinary testament and tribute to the simple genius of generations of Greek cooks who brought these recipes to life," says the young blogger whose father - also a cook - remains one of her biggest influences and main inspirations. "My father's tastebuds and food-wine pairing, technique and plating are all insanely good," Kiki admits. With her roots linking back to Asia Minor, Evia, Chios and Sparti, Vagianos had a variety of cuisines to be inspired by, which as a consequence resulted into a manageable volume of 125 vegan Greek-influenced recipes to share with the rest of the world on her blog. "There are so many undiscovered flavours and ingredients in the Greek authentic traditional recipes from Asia Minor, Constantinople and the Peloponnese that don't necessarily include meat. "When you look at the countless, incredible authentic meat and dairy-free recipes created by generations and generations of Greek home-cooks who worked, not only within the strict fasting seasons of the church but also with the often rather challenging agricultural landscape of Greece, only then do you realise the value and worth of this treasure they've passed on to us," she explains. The passionate blogger says that there is a very large appeal to authentic, traditional meat and dairy-free recipes in the vegan community and she has been overwhelmed with the response she has received so far. "Everyone, and especially Greek people all around the world, have been incredibly encouraging and supportive of this project. "Right now, I'd say about 65 per cent of our readers are of Greek descent and probably 35 per cent are vegan, who choose not to eat animal products or use soy substitutes for everything," says Kiki, who admits that she would love to meet some of her 'followers' next time she is in Greece. "I absolutely love to spend time there (Greece). There is a very small, wonderful island off the coast of Chios called Oinousses, with the most amazing place called The Annunciation of the Theotokos Convent that calls my heart back again, and so does my grandparents' village of Limni (Evia), which always gives me a sweet feeling and makes me think of my grandmother as a young girl having walked then where I walk today." Although she finds it hard to choose, some of Kiki's favourite dishes from her current recipe e-book include stuffed peppers, creamy fava, stewed okra, the delicious traditional loukoumades and most popular apricot ca "For me, cooking and sharing authentic, traditional Greek r with the rest of the world is my greatest joy to have and I would love to continue preserving the best of traditional Greek meat and dairy- free cooking for as long as I can." Kalo Pasha to you all! Kindle and iTunes version are available at Amazon AU with a special shipping offer for Neos Kosmos readers. Kiki Vagianos HOSAFI The recipe for hosafi (apricot compote) hails from Cappadocia and it's such a resourceful recipe, simply taking dried fruits and nuts and turning them into one of the most delicate, delightful concoctions. Ingredients: 20-25 dried apricots 1/2 cup golden raisins 1 cup toasted, cracked almonds 3 cups water 1/2 cup sugar 1 stick of cinnamon 8 whole cloves 4 cardamom pods (open and use the seeds whole) 1/3 cup pomegranate seeds Method: Soak dried apricots and golden raisins, in just enough water or orange juice to cover, for at least an hour until plump. Set aside. Toast almonds in a hot pan and keep them moving, careful not to burn, for 5 minutes. Set aside. Drain dried fruit and (important!) save the soaking water. Chop plumped up apricots into quarters and add to pan with 3 cups of water and soaking liquid, keeping golden raisins in reserve. Cook on low heat for 30 minutes. Add spices and sugar and cook on med-low (good simmer) for 35 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so. Add nuts and raisins and cook for another 5 minutes. Extract cinnamon stick and cloves, stir well and remove from heat. Add pomegranate seeds and serve warm, room temperature or chilled.
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