Making these Belarussian potato pancakes is quite labour-intensive, but the end result is hearty, satisfying and tasty- perfect for a winter evening and well worth the effort.

Preparation time: 20 minutesCooking time: 10 to 20 minutes
Serves: 4Difficulty: Difficult


  • 2 yellow onions
  • Vegetable oil
  • 30g/1oz/1 cup of dried wild mushrooms (or 150g/5oz/2 cups of fresh mushrooms)
  • A pinch of fresh dill
  • Salt and pepper
  • 700g/25oz/4 medium sized yellow or gold potatoes
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tablespoon of sour cream
  • 2 tablespoons of plain flour
  • Extra sour cream, to serve

Make it vegan: replace the eggs with six tablespoons of aquafaba, or with some flax egg, which you can make by stirring two tablespoons of ground flaxseed into 5 tablespoons of water. (Leave the flax egg to sit for 5 minutes before using.)
Use a vegan sour cream brand (or try making your own by blending nuts, dairy free yoghurt and flavourings together.)

Special Equipment

  • A box grater or food processor
  • A large mixing bowl
  • A large frying pan
  • A sharp knife
  • A spatula


  1. If using dried mushrooms, re-hydrate them according to their package instructions.
  2. Mince the mushrooms, and peel and finely chop one of the onions. Set a large frying pan over a medium heat and sauté the chopped onion with a little vegetable oil for a few minutes, until it’s soft.
  3. Remove the pan from the heat and stir the mushrooms, dill and a pinch of salt and pepper into the sautéed onion. Spoon the onion and mushroom mixture into a container and set the frying pan aside to use again later.
  4. Peel the potatoes and the remaining onion.
  5. Grate the potatoes into a large mixing bowl using a box grater- use the side with rough, star shaped holes. Be careful and if possible, use protective gloves!
  6. Stir the grated potatoes together. If any starchy liquid settles on the surface, use a spoon to remove about a tablespoon’s worth.
  7. Grate the onion, again using the side of the grater with rough, star shaped holes, and stir it into the grated potatoes.
  8. Finally, stir the egg (or substitute), flour, sour cream and a pinch of salt and pepper into the grated potato and onion.
  9. Set the frying pan over a medium heat and add two tablespoons of oil. Leave it for a couple of minutes to heat up. It’s ready when the oil sizzles if you drop a little potato mixture in it.
  10. When ready, add a tablespoon of the potato mixture to the pan. Flatten it down with the spoon, spoon a teaspoon or so of the mushroom mixture onto it, then spoon another tablespoon of the potato mixture onto the mushroom mixture, so it’s like a little potato-mushroom-potato sandwich. Repeat this process three or four times, so you have a few separate Draniki cooking in the pan at once.
  11. Sauté the Draniki for about four minutes, before gently flipping them over with a spatula and sautéing again on the other side for four minutes more. They’re ready when both sides are golden brown.
  12. Repeat this process until the potato and mushroom mixtures are used up, adding more oil to the pan if necessary. You can keep the finished Draniki warm in the oven while you’re cooking new ones if need be.
  13. Serve the Draniki hot, with lots of sour cream (see tips for serving suggestions.)
  14. Smačna jeści! (Смачна есьці!)


  • I’ve rated this recipe as ‘difficult’ because grating the potatoes and onion can be quite strenuous, time consuming, and a bit risky for your fingertips! Wear protective gloves when grating as it’s very easy to grate your fingers by accident.
  • To save your fingers and quite a bit of time, you can puree the potatoes and onion in a food processor instead of grating them. But the texture won’t be anywhere near as good-the Draniki mixture is supposed to have the consistency of apple sauce, or of well-mashed banana. So I’d recommend grating them because it’s well worth it, and once you’ve done it the rest of the recipe is plain sailing!
  • You can use fresh or dried mushrooms in Draniki, but dried mushrooms are recommended as they are particularly flavourful.
  • Make sure you use a spoon to flatten down the Draniki mixture a little when you add it to the pan.
  • Try not to flip the Draniki too many times when they’re cooking, or they may disintegrate.
  • Draniki are always served hot, with sour cream. If desired, you can also drizzle them with extra fried onion, extra dill and fresh herbs, and/or berries. You can also serve them up with some Machanka (Belarusian pork stew), and with some Kvass (a non-alcoholic fermented rye drink.) Draniki can be served at any time of day, and were initially usually eaten for breakfast.
  • For a really great traditional Belarusian meal, stew the finished Draniki with meat and vegetables in ceramic or clay cooking pots. Pop half of the Draniki into the pots and cover them in layers of fried vegetables, mushrooms and sausages, then pop the rest of the Draniki on top and pour sour cream over them. Cover the pots and place them in the oven on a low setting for a few hours before serving.


Pronunciation: (DRAAH-neekee)

Home: Belarus, Russia

Relatives: Deruny (Ukraine), Latke (Ashkenazi Jewish cuisine), Placki Ziemniaczane (Poland), Raggmunkar (Sweden), Bramboráky (Czechia), Kartoffelpuffer (Germany), Kartupeļu Pankūkas (Latvia)


Draniki are made using two popular Belarusian ingredients: potatoes and mushrooms.

Potatoes were introduced to central and eastern Europe a few centuries ago and, being relatively cheap and easy to grow, quickly became a staple food for poorer people throughout the region. A plethora of potato-based dishes emerged as traditional recipes were tweaked to incorporate the vegetable, including potato pancakes. The earliest such pancake may have been the Ashkenazi Jewish Latke, which likely developed from a mediaeval Ashkenazi fried cream cheese dish. Over the centuries the Ashkenazim began to make rye, buckwheat and turnip based pancakes instead of cream cheese pancakes: when potatoes were later introduced to Europe, they used these instead. Eventually, distinct regional varieties of the potato pancake developed, including the Ukrainian Deruny, Latvian Kartupeļu Pankūkas, Czech Bramboráky, as well as the Belarusian Draniki– which means ‘to tear’ in Belarusian, a reference to how the potatoes are prepared.

Potatoes are ubiquitous in Belarusian cuisine, to the extent that in Russia, Belarusians are sometimes pejoratively nicknamed the Bulbashi– ‘the potato people!’ According to the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, Belarusians eat more potatoes per capita than any other nation on earth. They enjoy a huge variety of other potato-based dishes besides Draniki, including Babka (soft potato cakes), Kletski (potato dumplings), Tsibriki (cheese stuffed potato balls), Kishka (sausages stuffed with potatoes) and Shchi (soup with potatoes.) Mushrooms are also very popular in Belarus and are found in many dishes besides Draniki.

Minsk, Belarus
Vadim Sazanovich, Minsk. A view of Svislach river, 2015 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Minsk._A_view_of_Svislach_river.jpg [accessed 28/07/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/deed.en)

Paella Valenciana

  Paella is a rice dish from Valencia and a symbol of Valencian cuisine and culture. For this recipe, Valencian vegetables, meats and rice are cooked in the traditional style to recreate authentic Paella.

Chicken and rabbit are used in Paella Valenciana but these can be replaced with other ingredients to make different traditional versions of Paella. Use langoustines, monkfish, shrimp, mussels and squid to make Seafood Paella, artichokes, peas, peppers and extra beans to make Vegetable Paella, and keep the chicken but replace the rabbit with langoustines, mussels, shrimp and extra beans to make Mixed Paella. You can also add traditional ingredients like Tabella white beans and edible snails (such as Valencian Vaquettes) to any of these Paellas.

Preparation time: 5 minutesCooking time: 50-60 minutes
Serves: 8Difficulty: Moderate


  • 200ml/2 dl/1 1/3 pt/just under a cup of extra virgin olive oil
  • 20g/2/3oz/just over 3 tsp of salt
  • 500g/18oz/4 cups of chicken legs and thighs
  • 500g/18oz/about 8 rabbit legs and/or ribs
  • 400g/14oz/2 2/3 cups of Ferradura (or flat green beans)
  • 250g/9oz/3 cups of Garrofó beans (lima beans or butter beans)
  • 200g/7oz/1 cup of tomatoes (preferably striped tomatoes)
  • 1 1/2 tbsp Pimentó (paprika, preferably smoked paprika) (optional)
  • 2ltrs/20 dl/3 1/2 pt/8 cups of boiling hot water
  • 1/4 tsp saffron
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary (optional)
  • 500g/18oz/2 1/2 cups of round grain rice, preferably bomba or senia

Make it vegan: replace the chicken and rabbit with a meat substitute like tempeh or Quorn chicken. Alternatively, get rid of the meat entirely and make a traditional Vegetable Paella with artichokes, peppers and extra beans.

Special Equipment

  • A 30-40cm Paella pan- I wouldn’t substitute a Paella with a different pan as the effect won’t be the same
  • A gas hob (or wood fire and tripod)- paella pans are usually not suitable for electric hobs
  • A cheese grater


  1. Wash the Ferradura and Garrofó beans and the tomatoes. Chop the Ferradura into small chunks and manually grate or chop the tomatoes, and cut the chicken and rabbit (or meat substitutes) into large chunks.
  2. Light the hob (or wood fire) and set the flames to very low. Place the paella pan over the flames, making sure the centre of the pan is directly over the fire. Pour in the oil. After a minute or two raise the temperature of the flames to low.
  3. Add the salt, chicken and rabbit (or meat substitute) to the centre of the pan and fry them until the meats are nicely browned but not thoroughly cooked. Then move them to the edges of the pan so they are away from the heat. 
  4. Add the Ferradura and Garrofó beans to the centre of the pan and fry them for a couple of minutes without burning them, then move them to the edges of the pan. Then add the tomatoes to the centre and fry them for a few minutes, until the tomato juice has evaporated. Move them to the edges of the pan and add the Pimentó to the centre of the pan and fry it for a few minutes.
  5. Bring the flame temperature up to high and fill the pan with boiling hot water. From this point onward, don’t stir or move the contents of the pan around at all. Wait until the water starts boiling rapidly in the pan and then add the saffron.
  6. Allow the water to continue boiling rapidly until a quarter of it has evaporated, then pour the rice into the centre of the pan and add the rosemary.
  7. Allow the contents of the pan to continue boiling for about eight minutes. When you can see the rice, fish out the rosemary sprigs and remove them from the pan, then reduce the flames to medium.
  8. Continue cooking for about eight more minutes. When the water is mostly gone, bring the flames back up to high and cook for a further two minutes, so you get a nice socarrat– the tasty, crunchy rice at the bottom of the pan.  
  9. Remove the pan from the flames and leave it to rest for five to ten minutes. If the rice isn’t quite cooked, cover the pan with aluminium foil while its resting.
  10. To serve, set down the Paella and sit around it. Eat it straight from the pan with spoons.
  11. Buen provecho!


  • Don’t stir the paella once the water has been added to the pan
  • If you aren’t able to cook the Paella over a wood fire, use smoked paprika in the dish to recreate Paella’s traditional smokey flavour and aroma
  • Only use round, Spanish rice, preferably senia or bomba
  • When it’s ready to serve, the Paella should be eaten straight out of the pan and not dished into seperate serving dishes
Traditionally cooked paella in Valencia
Jan Harenburg, Paella hirviendo, 2009 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Paella_hirviendo.jpg&gt; [accessed 01/07/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/deed.en)


It’s pronounced: /paɪˈ(j)ɛlə/ (pae-el-lah)

It’s from: Valencia, Spain

It’s related to: Fideuà (Valencia),  Arròs Negre (Valencia, Catalunia), Arroz a la Valenciana (Philippines and Latin America), Risotto (Italy)

Valencia Cathedral
Felivet, Plaça maededéu1, 2008 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Pla%C3%A7a_maeded%C3%A9u1.jpg&gt; [Accessed 01/07/2020]


Valencian rice farming has a long history. Irrigation was introduced to the region by the ancient Romans, which facilitated local agriculture. So when, centuries later, the Moors imported rice to Valencia, they found the local area was suitable for cultivating it. By the time of the Reconquista, there were thousands of hectares of rice fields around Valencia, and rice was fast becoming a staple food across the Iberian Peninsula.

According to legend, Paella originated as a dish eaten by the Moors’ servants, who would take leftover rice from their kitchens and mix it with whatever vegetables they had to hand. The dish continued to develop after the Reconquista, when Valencians would cook rice in earthenware pots with locally sourced eels, meats and vegetables and imported saffron. Later, during the Industrial Revolution, metal pans became more affordable and popular and vegetables and meats became more readily available. As a result, Valencian farm workers could bring hardy metal pans with them to the fields and were able to prepare a communal rice dish for lunch, into which they would throw whatever vegetables, edible snails and meats they had to hand. As the 19th century progressed, the increasingly wealthy urban Valencians were able to holiday in the countryside, where they found they enjoyed the rice prepared by the local field workers. The urban Valencians spruced it up with spices and brought it to the city with them. This glamorous rustic dish was named Paella, after the metal pan it was cooked in.

  Valencian paella was popularized across Spain in the 20th century under Franco, who was purportedly very fond of the dish and wanted to eat it wherever he went. Though internationally Paella is associated with Spanish culture as a whole, in Spain itself it is considered to be specifically part of Valencian culture and cuisine, and sites like WikiPaella and PaellaBible have been founded to help preserve authentic Valencian Paella.

Бефстроганов (Beef Stroganoff)

This celebrated Russian stew is rich, creamy and luxurious and can be accompanied by potatoes, pasta, rice or buckwheat.

Preparation time: 10 minutesCooking time: 20 minutes
Serves: 4Difficulty: Moderate


  • 85g/3oz/just over 1/3 cup of butter
  • 2 yellow onions
  • 225g/8oz/2 cups of button mushrooms
  • 1 tsp fresh dill
  • A few sprigs of parsley
  • 450g/1lb/2 cups of beef tenderloin steak
  • 1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato purée
  • A pinch of salt and pepper
  • 400ml/4dl/3/4 pt/1 3/4 cups of beef stock
  • 1 tablespoon of plain flour
  • 125ml/1.5 dl/1/4 pt/1/2 cup of white wine
  • 250ml/2.5dl/1/2 pt/1 cup of sour cream
  • Mashed or fried potatoes, pasta, rice, or boiled buckwheat, to serve

Make it vegan: Use plant based margarine instead of butter and vegetable stock instead of beef, an unfiltered vegan white wine, and vegan steak strips or tofu steaks instead of beef. Use vegan sour cream, try making your own, or substitute it with a cup of vegan yoghurt mixed with a tablespoon of lemon juice or vinegar.

Special Equipment

  • A chopping board and sharp knife
  • A large casserole dish
  • A sieve
  • A wooden spoon


  1. Finely cut the beef into long, thin strips, peel and dice the onion, and chop up the dill, parsley and mushrooms.
  2. Heat the butter in a large casserole dish over a medium high heat.
  3. Add the mushrooms and onion to the pan and sauté them gently for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is slightly translucent.
  4. Then add the beef strips to the pan and sauté for a further 3 or 4 minutes, stirring often, until the strips are lightly browned.
  5. Add the salt, pepper, mustard, tomato purée and beef stock to the pan, and stir everything together.
  6. Bring the contents of the pan to a gentle boil, then reduce the heat slightly and allow them to simmer.
  7. Gently sieve the flour into the pan and stir it in, before stirring in the wine. Finally, add the sour cream, stirring in a few tablespoons of sour cream at a time. Continue to simmer for another two minutes.
  8. Remove the Stroganoff from the heat and stir in the parsley and dill.
  9. Serve with mashed or fried potatoes, rice, pasta, or boiled buckwheat.
  10. Приятного аппетита! (Priyatnovo appetita!)


  • Once you’ve added all the sour cream, don’t continue cooking the Stroganoff for more than two minutes- any longer and the beef will toughen too much.


Pronunciation: /ˈstrȯ-gə-ˌnȯf/ (strow-goh-noff)

Home: Russia
Beauf Bourguignon (France)

Stroganov Palace, St. Petersberg
George Shuklin, Строгановский дворец (1), 2008 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Строгановскийдворец(1).jpg> Accessed 24/06/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/1.0/deed.en)


Beef Stroganoff seems to have been popularized in the late 19th century. It likely takes its name from the Stroganovs, an enormously wealthy and influential Russian family who were first ennobled in the 15th century, but its exact origins and its connections with the Stroganovs are a bit murky.

In the 19th century, the Russian nobility were famously enamored with France and its culture. Many wealthy families had apartments in Paris, sent their children to be educated in France, spoke French to one another, and employed French servants and companions: the Stroganovs certainly had French chefs. As a result, 19th century Russian dishes could be a bit of an amalgamation of Russian and French cuisine. Stroganoff has strong similarities to French Beauf Bourguignon and has a classic French creamy mustard sauce,but it has a definite Russian twist, as it incorporates sour cream, which was (and is) a staple product in eastern Europe and Russia.

Stroganoff is particularly associated with Alexander Grigorievich Stroganov, a 19th century count and government minister, who, towards the end of his life, purportedly suffered from poor dental health and found himself unable to eat large chunks of beef. According to one story, Alexander Grigorievich asked his French chef to prepare him small strips of beef, fried and then softened in sauce, so that his teeth could cope. As he often had many friends and acquaintances over for lunch, members of other households became familiar with his chef’s beef recipe and asked their own chefs to prepare it, and so the recipe spread.

Another story is that the dish became popular after the Stroganov chef, Charles Briere, prepared beef strips in sour cream for a St. Petersberg cookery competition in 1891. When he won, he named the dish after his employer as per Russian custom, albeit in the French naming style, so called it Beef Stroganoff: ‘Beef in Stroganoff sauce.’ The dish actually appears in Elena Molokhovets’ 1887 edition of her Russian Cookbook, A Gift to Young Housewives, so Stroganoff predates the cookery competition- but Briere’s victory (and Molokhovets’ book) may have helped popularize it throughout the country. Briere’s version certainly developed the dish from Molokhovet’s recipe, which called for small cubes of beef as opposed to strips and lacked many ingredients now considered indispensable to Stroganoff, like mushrooms, wine, onions and tomatoes.

The dish was not initially eaten outside Russia. Russian emigres who fled poverty and Tsarist oppression in the late 19th and early 20th century were not necessarily familiar with or enthusiastic about the luxurious dish. But after the Russian Revolution of 1917 and the fall of Tsarist Russia, noble families who had been able to afford Stroganoff also fled the country. Travelling west to Europe and America and east to China, these nostalgic emigres popularized the dish abroad in luxurious Russian-style restaurants.

Conopida Saseasca (Saxon-style Cauliflower)

This Romanian version of Cauliflower Cheese is a great side dish and a comforting winter warmer.

Preparation time: 25 minutesCooking time: 30 minutes
Serves: 4 (as a side dish)Difficulty: Moderate


  • 500g/18oz/4 1/2 cups of cauliflower
  • 2 white onions
  • 300g/11oz/1 1/3 cups of sunculita, pastramă or smoked bacon
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 200g/7oz/just under a cup of sour cream
  • 2 eggs
  • 150g/5oz/1- 1 1/2 cups of cascaval, cheddar and/or emmental cheese
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • Pinch of salt and pepper

Make it vegan: This is a bit of a tricky one as it’s a dairy and meat heavy dish! Replace the sour cream with vegan sour cream, or with an equal amount of vegan yoghurt, or with soya milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice. Replace the eggs with 2 tbsp of aquafaba, and use vegan bacon or Quorn BBQ strips instead of pastrami. Replace the cheese with vegan cheddar or a mix of vegan cheeses.

Special Equipment

  • A large saucepan
  • A colander
  • A frying pan
  • A casserole dish


  1. Remove any leaves from the cauliflower and cut the florets into small chunks.
  2. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and add the cauliflower florets to the pan. Boil for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  3. Drain the cauliflower florets and place them in a casserole dish.
  4. Preheat the oven to 200’C/400’F/Gas Mark 6.
  5. Peel and finely chop the onions and garlic. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the onions to the pan. Sauté for about five minutes, stirring occasionally. 
  6. Meanwhile, chop up the pastramă or bacon and add it to the pan along with the garlic. Sauté for another five minutes, stirring occasionally. Then remove the pan from the heat and pour its contents over the cauliflower.
  7. Stir the sour cream, eggs and cheese together, and pour the mixture over the cauliflower and onions. 
  8. Gently toss the contents of the casserole dish together, then sprinkle the paprika, salt and pepper on top.
  9. Bake the cauliflower in the oven for 20-30 minutes, then serve straight away.
  10. Poftă Bună!


Home: Romania

Relatives: Cauliflower Cheese (UK), Macaroni Cheese

Mediaeval Râșnov Citadel, Transylvania
Neighbor’s goat, Cetatea Râșnov, văzută din șoseaua Cristian-Râșnov., 2014 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Cetatea_R%C3%A2%C8%99nov,_v%C4%83zut%C4%83_din_%C8%99oseaua_Cristian-R%C3%A2%C8%99nov..jpg> [Accessed 19/06/2020] ( (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/ro/deed.en)


In the medieval era, there were several instances of German speaking populations who emigrated from relatively highly populated areas of the Holy Roman Empire into less populated regions in central and eastern Europe, a phenomenon known as Ostsiedlung.

The ‘Saxons’ this dish was inspired by were German speaking settlers who emigrated to Transylvania from the twelfth century onward. Transylvania is today located in central Romania, but at the time it was a voivodeship, or governorate, of the Kingdom of Hungary. This first wave of German speaking settlers were encouraged to migrate to Transylvania by King Géza II of Hungary: it was hoped they would help to defend the region from the invading Cumans and Tatars, and that they would use their mining expertise to help improve the local economy.

Though they were known locally as ‘Saxons’, these German speakers actually hailed from the north-west of the Holy Roman Empire: modern day Luxembourg, north-east France and north-west Germany. The German language they spoke was likely one or more Franconian or West Germanic languages, and the particular dialect they developed in Transylvania became known as Såksesch. Later German speaking settlers emigrated from Bavaria, the Rhineland, and the low countries: by the thirteenth century, the Teutonic Knights were asked to join them by King Andrew II of Hungary.

These waves of German speaking settlers began to build their own towns and fortresses, which they used to continue defending Transylvania’s borders for the Kingdom of Hungary. Over the years these German speaking groups became increasingly urbanized. They remained relatively linguistically, culturally, economically, and – after the Protestant Reformation- religiously distinct from other local groups, and had their own cuisine, which inspired this ‘Saxon-style’ Romanian dish.

Historic Centre of Sighișoara, founded by 12th century Transylvanian Saxons
Sanoi, Sighisoara. Biserica din deal, 2007 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Sighisoara._Biserica_din_deal.jpg&gt; [Accessed 19/06/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Bakestones (Picau ar y maen/Welsh Cakes)

Melt in your mouth Welsh Cakes- the perfect accompaniment to a hot cup of tea.

Preparation time: 10 minutesCooking time: 10-20 minutes
Serves: 10Difficulty: Easy


  • 50g/just under 2oz/1/4 cup of butter
  • 50g/just under 2oz/1/4 cup of lard
  • 225g/8oz/just under 2 cups of self raising flour
  • 85g/3oz/just under 1/2 a cup of caster sugar
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ teaspoon mixed spice
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon or nutmeg
  • 1 beaten egg
  • 2 tablespoons of milk
  • 50g/2oz/1/3 cup of currants, raisins or sultanas
  • Extra butter and sugar, for cooking and dusting

Make it vegan: replace the butter and lard with plant based margarine-or you can replace the lard with vegan suet if you can get ahold of any! Replace the egg with a tablespoon of aquafaba and use soya milk in place of milk.

Special Equipment

  • A large mixing bowl
  • A wooden spoon
  • A frying pan, griddle or traditional Celtic bakestone
  • A spatula


  • 1. Rub the butter, lard and flour together in a mixing bowl with your fingers, until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs.
  • 2. Stir the sugar, mixed spice, salt, milk and egg into the butter mixture with a wooden spoon until well combined, then stir in the currants.
  • 3. Roll out the cake mixture on a well-floured surface until the dough is about 1cm thick. Cut it into 6cm rounds with a cookie cutter.
  • 4. Place a large frying pan, griddle, or traditional Celtic bakestone on the hob over a medium-high heat. Add a little butter for greasing.
  • 5. Pop three or four rounds onto the pan/griddle/bakestone and cook for two minutes, before flipping them over and cooking for two minutes more, until they are lightly browned on both sides. Repeat the process with the remaining rounds.
  • 7. Pop the finished Welsh Cakes onto a plate and dust them with extra caster sugar. Repeat the cooking process with the rest of the rounds. Serve them while they’re still hot.
  • 8. Mwynhewch eich bwyd!


  • If using a traditional griddle or bakestone, you may need to cook the cakes over a gas hob. Alternatively, you can cook them on an electric griddle.
  • Welsh Cakes are best served hot but you can serve them cold too, with butter and jam.


Pronunciation: (Pick-aur-a-mein)

Home: Wales

Relatives: Hevva Cake (Cornwall), Girdle Scones (Scotland), Scone (Ireland, United Kingdom)

Scenery in Snowdonia, Wales


Welsh Cakes became a Welsh staple food during the 19th century, but they probably date back to mediaeval times. They were traditionally baked on a Welsh bakestone, a cast iron disc which was coated with lard and never to be washed, so that a patina would form. The Welsh bakestone is a descendant of the old Celtic Greidell, and similar bakestones can be found in other Celtic nations- for example, the Scottish Girdle and Irish Griddle.

Welsh Cakes were popularized during the Victorian era: they were relatively quick and inexpensive to make, durable, and easily transportable, and therefore were the perfect treat for children to bring to school, or for coal miners working in Wales’ booming coal industry to bring to work as a snack.

The Welsh coal industry was integral to the country’s Industrial Revolution, providing fuel for factories, transport and domestic use. Welsh coal mining boomed in the 18th century, and by the early 20th century, the Welsh coalfields were some of the largest in the world. Whole generations of families made their income from coal mining in this era. In the traditional family set up, the men went mining, the children went to school- and the woman would take care of the household and prepare Welsh Cakes for the family. The miners worked long days with little respite, so a few hardy Welsh Cakes would be brought down the mines, stashed into pockets and coats, for them to eat during the day.

Eventually, the mines would close. But even with the need to supply miners with quick, durable food gone, the Welsh Cake remained popular, particularly as a treat to be taken with afternoon tea. They’re very much considered a national treasure, and they’re especially popular at Christmas, and on Saint David’s Day, the feast day of Wales’ patron saint, which falls on March 1st.

Church in Beddgelert, in Gwynedd, Wales


This deliciously light, easy-to-make dessert of fresh raspberries, heather honey, rolled oats, whisky and cream is quintessentially Scottish.

Soaking time: 12 hoursPreparation time: 20 minutes
Difficulty: EasyServes: 4


  • 4-5 tbsp medium rolled oats
  • 300g/11oz/2 1/2 cups of fresh raspberries
  • 40g/1.5oz/3 tbsp caster sugar
  • 400ml/4dl/3/4 pt/1 3/4 cups of double cream
  • 3-4 tbsp heather honey
  • 3-4 tbsp Scottish whisky

Make it vegan: use plant based cream instead of double cream. You can also replace honey with a brand of vegan honey, or even with maple syrup.

Special Equipment

  • A large frying pan
  • Two bowls
  • A saucepan
  • A sieve
  • A whisk
  • A large mixing bowl
  • Serving bowls or glasses


  1. Add the oats and half the sugar to a large saucepan and set it over a low- medium heat. Toast them, stirring almost constantly, until they’re browned and smell nutty.
  2. Wait for the toasted oats to cool, then pour them into a small bowl with half of the whisky. Leave them to soak overnight.
  3. The next day, add a third of the raspberries, the remaining sugar and a couple of tablespoons of water to a saucepan and set it over a medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, until the raspberries have disintegrated and formed a liquid. Then strain the raspberry liquid through a sieve into a bowl and allow to cool.
  4. Whip the cream until stiff peaks form, then stir in the honey and remaining whisky.
  5. Assemble the Cranachan in serving glasses or dishes. Alternate between layers of the cream mixture, oats, raspberry coulis and whole raspberries, finishing with a few raspberries on top for decoration.
  6. Bon Appetit/Ith gu leòir!


  • Keep a very close eye on the oats as they’re being toasted, stir them constantly, and remove them from the heat as soon as they’re nicely browned and starting to smell nutty. They burn very very easily, and will do so with alarming ease if you take your eye off them for even a few seconds.
  • If you prefer, you don’t have to strain the cooked raspberries- you can just add them, seeds and all, to the finished Cranachan.


Pronunciation: /ˈkʰɾan̪ˠəxan/ (CRAH-nuh-kun)

Home: Scotland

Relatives: Crowdie (Scotland), Eton Mess (England), Pavlova (Australia)


Cranachan (which is Scottish Gaelic for ‘to churn’) is known as Crowdie Cream in some parts of Scotland. This is likely because the dessert developed from an old breakfast dish called Cream Crowdie, a mix of oats, heather honey and Crowdie (a creamy soft cheese) which, over time, began to incorporate Scottish raspberries and substituted double cream for Crowdie. The addition of cream and raspberries made Cranachan more like a dessert than a breakfast, and as such it’s now commonly eaten as an after dinner treat, especially on special occasions like Christmas and Burns Night.

Cranachan’s primary ingredients are all grown or made in Scotland. Heather honey is a smoky, woody product, traditionally harvested on Scottish moorlands. Oatmeal is a Scottish staple food, widely grown in the country as the oat crop is better suited to the the Scottish climate than other grains are. Oats are used in porridge, Brose, stuffing, oatcakes, Haggis, and black and white puddings. Though they’re native to far-off western Asia (possibly Anatolia), raspberries also grow very successfully in Scotland: the east coast’s fertile soil, moderate climate and long daylight hours in summer are particularly good for the fruit, and as such the region produces a huge yield of tart, full bodied raspberries every year. Scotland’s whisky needs no introduction. The spirit has been distilled in Scotland since at least 1494, when records suggest several bolls of malt whisky were given to Lindores Abbey, Fife, to be developed into aqua vitae, a component needed for gunpowder production. Whisky at the time had quite a harsh taste, as it was not left to age, but it became smoother and tastier over the years as the distillation process developed. After the Act of Union with England (1707), Scottish whisky was subject to harsh taxes, and much of the whisky industry was forced underground: restrictions only began to ease in the early 19th century. Today, there are over a hundred whisky distilleries in Scotland, and Scottish whisky is sold around the world. Combined together, these ingredients form a quintessentially Scottish dish.

Isle of Skye, Scotland
Luis Ascenso Photography, Blue is coming in Quiraing, 2014 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Blue_is_coming_in_Quiraing_(14942990740).jpg> [Accessed 20/05/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

Lokum (Turkish Delight)

This world-famous confection is surprisingly simple and easy to make, and is extremely versatile: this basic recipe can be adapted to incorporate a wide range of flavours and toppings.

Preparation time: 10 minutesCooking time: 30 minutes
Refrigeration time: 12 hoursDifficulty: Moderate
Serves: 10


For the lokum:

  • 400g/14oz/2 cups of granulated sugar
  • 70g/2.5oz/just over half a cup of cornflour
  • 590ml/5.9dl/1pt/2 and a half cups of water
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp rose water or orange extract
  • A pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 tbsp vegetable or flavourless oil
  • A few drops of food colouring (optional)

For decoration:

  • 1 tbsp cornflour (optional)
  • 70g/2.5oz/1/2 a cup of icing (confectioner’s) sugar (optional)
  • Finely chopped pistachios (optional)
  • Desiccated coconut (optional)

Special Equipment

  • A large saucepan
  • A wooden spoon
  • A sieve
  • A square plastic tub or baking dish, approx 15x15cm
  • Clingfilm


  1. Line a baking dish or plastic tub with clingfilm or wax paper, and brush it with some vegetable oil.
  2. Add the sugar, lemon juice and 1 1/2 cups of water to a saucepan and place it over a medium-high heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat a little and leave it to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until slightly reduced.
  3. In a separate bowl, stir the cornflour, cream of tartar and remaining cup of water together until they’re well combined and there are no lumps.
  4. Add a few tablespoons of the hot syrup mixture to the cornflour mixture and stir together thoroughly. Then pour the cornflour mixture into the pan of syrup and return the pan to the hob.
  5. Continue to cook for a further 15 minutes or so over on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and jelly-like. Then remove from the heat and stir in the rose water or orange extract and food colouring, if using.
  6. Pour the syrup through a sieve into the prepared tub or baking dish to remove any lumps. Allow it to cool for a few minutes, then put the tub in the fridge overnight, or for a minimum of 6 hours.
  7. When the Lokum is set, invert it onto some grease-proof paper. Using a sharp knife, cut it into squares.
  8. You can coat the Lokum with icing sugar, chopped pistachios or coconut by gently rolling the squares in the coating of your choice. If using icing sugar, roll it in cornflour first before rolling it into a little icing sugar and spooning extra sieved icing sugar around it. Transfer the Lokum and any toppings that haven’t stuck into a serving dish, and serve.
  9. Afiyet olsun!


  • If coating the Lokum in icing sugar, roll the squares in cornflour before rolling in the sugar. Otherwise, the icing sugar will cause the Lokum to ‘sweat’ (especially if the weather is hot/humid), which means the Lokum will end up sitting in a bowl of weird looking (though still tasty) translucent goo.

 /lɔkʊm/ (low-kum)

Home: Turkey, the Balkans, the Levant

Relatives: Masghati (Iran), Rahat (Romania), Jelly Beans (USA), Botan Rice Candy (Japan)


Turkish Delight, or Lokum, is popular worldwide and ubiquitous in countries which were formerly part of the Ottoman Empire, to the point that multiple countries claim it as their own: the confection is often marketed as ‘Greek Delight’ in Greece and ‘Cyprus Delight’ in Cyprus. It’s not usually marketed as ‘Turkish Delight’ in Turkey itself; instead it’s usually called Lokum of Lokma. Both words derive from the Arabic word luqma (pl. luqūm), meaning ‘mouthful’ or ‘morsel.’ Another Turkish name for the sweet is Rahat-ul Hulküm, which is also derived from an Arabic phrase: Rāḥat al-Hulqūm (‘comfort of the throat.’) In surrounding countries it tends to be known as either Rahat or Lokum, while in Iran, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Israel and Romania, its name is amalgamated into varieties of Rahat-Lokum, which means ‘comfort morsel.’

There are various Turkish legends surrounding Lokum‘s origins. These generally involve the Sultan, his confectioners and his harem. According to one story, the Sultan believed the way to a woman’s heart was through her stomach, so he encouraged his confectioners to prepare intricate foods and sweets for him to please his mistresses with. They thus invented Lokum for him, which was an instant hit with the Sultan and his harem. A similar story suggests the Sultan’s confectioners were in fierce competition for his favour, and that one day the Sultan ordered them to each invent a new dessert for himself and his harem. One invented Lokum, and when the Sultan sampled it he was so pleased that he appointed the man chief confectioner on the spot.

The Arabic origins of its various names suggest Lokum has Arab roots. It’s perhaps inspired by old Arab sweets, sold by apothecaries for the alleviation of symptoms of a sore throat or cough- these date back as far as the 9th century. A version of these sweets may have been brought to Istanbul from Arab lands when the Ottoman empire was at its height, and its territories stretched from the Maghreb to Western Asia. Lokum may also be inspired by ancient Persian sweets eaten at Nowruz, the Persian New Year, which also contain copious amounts of sugar and are solidified with starch.

The modern form of Lokum is attributed to an 18th century confectioner, Bekir Effendi. Effendi hailed from Araç, a town in Kastamonu Province in northern Anatolia. In 1777 he relocated his confectionery business to the Ottoman capital, Istanbul, and in doing so introduced his Lokum sweets to the city’s population. Effendi’s particular recipe for Lokum incorporated cornstarch as a firming agent. His Lokum became so popular that they eventually reached the table of the Sultan, Mahmud II, who enjoyed them so much that he appointed Effendi his chief confectioner. Effendi’s shop, Haci Beki, now 240 years old and run by his great great granddaughter, still does a roaring trade in Lokum, and also sells Halva, hard sweets, pastries and nut pastes.

Ben Morlok, Istanbul panorama and skyline, 2012 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Istanbul_panorama_and_skyline.jpg > [accessed 24/05/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)

Ragù alla Bolognese

A classic Bolognese sauce of mince and fresh vegetables, gently sautéed with wine and tomatoes and accompanied by a pasta of your choice= perfect for just about any meal!

Preparation time: 10 minutesCooking time: 3 hours
Serves: 4Difficulty: Moderate


  • 300g/10.5oz/1 1/3 cup beef or plant-based mince
  • 100g/3.5oz/just over half a cup pancetta or pork or plant-based bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 2 onions
  • 200ml/2dl/1/3 pt/just under a cup of red or dry white wine
  • 300g/10.5oz/1 1/3 cups chopped tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 200ml/2dl/1/3 pt/just under a cup of water or vegetable broth
  • 120ml/1.2dl/1/4 pt/1/2 cup of milk
  • 300g/10.5oz/1 1/3 cups tagliatelle, gniocchi, pappardelle or fettuccine
  • Fresh basil (optional)
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Make it Vegan: Use plant based mince and bacon instead of meat, and use soya or oat milk instead of dairy milk. Make sure you use an unfiltered wine.

Special Equipment

  • A sharp knife
  • A cutting board
  • A large saucepan with lid, plus an extra saucepan


  1. Peel the onions and carrots, then finely chop them along with the celery.
  2. Place a large saucepan on the hob over a medium heat. Add the mince and bacon to the pan and sauté gently, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes, until they begin to brown. Move the meats to the side of the pan and add the vegetables and oil. Sauté the vegetables for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Mix the meat into the vegetables and add the wine to the pan. Cook gently for a few minutes, of until the wine is evaporated.
  4. Add the tomatoes, salt and pepper to the pan and bring to a simmer. Put a lid on the pan, reduce the hob temperature to very low, and allow the ragù to sauté for about three hours. Stir occasionally while it’s cooking and add some broth or water to the pan if the ragù starts looking a little dry.
  5. When it’s nearly time to serve, bring a separate pan of water to the boil and cook the pasta for 9-12 minutes, or until it’s al dente.
  6. Stir the milk into the ragù and gently cook for a further 5 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat.
  7. Drain the pasta and serve straight away, topped with the ragù. If desired, add a sprig of basil to each bowl and sprinkle a very small amount of finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on top.
  8. Buon Appetito!


  • If you’re in a rush, you can get away with sauteing the ragù for just 40 minutes or so- but the longer you allow the flavours to infuse, the better it tastes!
  • For extra tasty ragù, use homemade chopped tomatoes instead of tinned tomatoes. To do so, bring a pan of water to the boil. Take 6-8 large, fresh tomatoes. cut them in half and remove the core and seeds. Then boil the tomatoes in the water for one minute before removing them from the pan. Allow them to cool for a few seconds then gently pull off the loosened tomato skin. Chop up the remaining tomato flesh and add it to the ragù when ready.


Home: Bologna, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
/raˈɡu ˈal.la bo.loɲˈɲe.ze/ (ra-goo all-la boh-luh-neiz)

Relatives: Ragù alla Napoletana (Naples, Italy), Ragoût (France)


Bologna is situated in Italy’s northern Emilia-Romagna region. Originally founded as an Etruscan settlement, Bologna passed between the Romans, Byzantines, Goths, Huns, Lombards and Carolingians before emerging as a free commune in the Lombard League in the 12th century. Mediaeval Bologna thrived as a centre of commerce and learning- its university, founded in 1088, is the oldest continually operating university in the world- but its political instability and high mortality rate during the Black Death, combined with neighbouring territories’ expansionist policies, eventually brought Bologna under papal control. This lasted until 1860, when Bologna joined the newly founded Kingdom of Italy.

A ragù is a slow cooked, meat based sauce. The Bolognese version, Ragù alla Bolognese– which can be distinguished from ragù from nearby Naples by its finer cuts of meat and lower onion-to-meat-ratio- is popular around the world. It’s particularly prized by American, British and German diners, who serve it with spaghetti, but Spaghetti Bolognese is not actually an authentic Bolognese dish: instead, Bolognese ragù would traditionally be used in Lasagna or Tagliatelle al Ragù.

Italian ragù probably derives from French Ragoût, a meat stew which may have been introduced to Emilia-Romagna when Napoleon occupied the region in 1796. Like Ragoût, ragù was initially eaten as a stew, alone or with bread. The earliest known instance of ragù being used as a pasta sauce in Emilia-Romagna was at the end of the 18th century, when Alberto Alvisi, cook for the Cardinal of Imola (later Pope Pius VII) served the cardinal Ragù per i maccheroni (‘Ragù for Pasta.’) Alvisi, who over the course of his career compiled a manuscript of around 50 recipes, named his recipe Il Ragù del Cardinale (‘The Cardinal’s Ragù.’)

The earlist ragù to be specifically characterized as ‘Bolognese’, Maccheroni alla bolognese‘ (lit. ‘Bolognese pasta’), was recorded by Pelegrino Artisi in his 1891 cookbook, La Scienza in Cucina E L’arte Di Mangiar Bene (‘Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.’) Artusi, who was born and raised in Emilia-Romagna and studied in Bologna, called for a sauce of minced veal, pancetta, onion and carrot, browned in butter before being cooked in broth with dried mushroom, truffle and cream, then served with medium sized pasta and Parmigiano-Reggiano.

The recipe has continued to evolve since Arturi’s day, with tomatoes and wine now considered essential ingredients and tagliatelli now the Bolognesee pasta accompaniment of choice. In 1982, the Accademia Italiana della Cucina (Italian Academy of Cuisine) published an official authentic recipe for Ragù alla Bolognese, which can be accessed here.

Ввласенко, Bologna Panorama , 2016 <https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bologna_Panorama.jpg&gt; [accessed 18/05/2020] (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Fairy and Butterfly Cakes

Little fluffy fairy cakes topped with sweet glace icing make a soft, delicate treat.

Preparation time: 20 minutesCooking time: 15 minutes
Difficulty: EasyMakes: About 18 cakes


For the cakes:

  • 200g/7oz/1 cup of caster sugar
  • 115g/4oz/1/2 cup of butter or margarine (room temperature)
  • 2 eggs
  • 225g/8oz/just under 2 cups of self-raising flour (or 225g plain flour + 3tsp baking powder)
  • A pinch of salt
  • 120ml/1.2dl/just under a 1/4 pt/1/2 cup of of milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp lemon juice (optional)

For buttercream (enough for 6 butterfly cakes)

  • 150g/5oz/2/3 cup pf butter or margerine (room temperature)
  • 300g/10.5oz/2 1/3 cups pf icing sugar
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp milk

For icing (enough for 6 fairy cakes)

  • 130g/4.5oz/1 cup of icing sugar
  • 1 tsp water

For dusting (enough for 6 fairy cakes)

  • 2 tablespoons of icing sugar

Make it vegan: Use plant based margarine and soya, almond or oat milk instead of dairy milk for the cake mix and buttercream. Replace the two eggs in the cake mix with aquafaba (3tbsp of aquafaba per egg), or with flax egg (1 tbsp ground flax seed mixed with 3 tbsp water per egg.)

Special Equipment:

  • A large mixing bowl
  • A sieve
  • A wooden spoon
  • A whisk or electric whisk
  • Two 12-hole cupcake tins
  • 18 small paper cupcake cases


  1. Line the cupcake tins with 18 small paper cake cases.
  2. Preheat the oven to 175’C/350’F/Gas Mark 4.
  3. Using a wooden spoon or whisk, cream together the butter, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl.
  4. Stir the eggs (or egg substitute) and half of the milk into the butter mixture. Then sift in the self-raising flour and mix everything together thoroughly.
  5. Add the rest of the milk to the mixture if it seems too dry. Then mix in the vanilla and lemon juice (if using.)
  6. Spoon the cake mix into the cake cases and pop them in the oven.
  7. Bake for 15-20 minutes, turning halfway through cooking if necessary. The cakes are ready when they’re light brown and spring back to the touch.
  8. When they’re ready remove them from the oven and leave them to cool.
  9. Meanwhile, make the buttercream by whisking together the butter and icing sugar until the mixture is smooth and without lumps. Then whisk in a little vanilla and milk.
  10. To make the icing, stir the icing sugar and water together until well combined. Stir in more icing sugar if the mixture is too watery and add a little more water if it’s too thick.
  11. When the cakes are cool, use a sharp knife to cut out a large circle from the top of six of the cakes. Cut the circles in half. Spoon some buttercream into each hole, then stick the semi-circles on top of the buttercream, at an angle so they look like butterfly wings.
  12. Gently spoon some icing evenly over six of the remaining cakes.
  13. Lay the sieve on a plate next to the remaining six cakes. Spoon a tablespoon or two of icing sugar into the sieve, then gently pick it up and shake it over the cakes in order to dust them with icing sugar.
  14. Bon appetit!


  • The toppings ingredients listed are enough to make 6 butterfly cakes, 6 iced fairy cakes and 6 dusted fairy cakes- you can make more or less of each depending on how many of each type of cake you’d like to make.


Home: England

Relatives: Cupcake (USA) Petits Fours (France) Queen Cakes (UK)
Pronunciation: /ˈfeəri keɪk/ (feh-ree keyk)

Fairy cakes are a type of cupcake. The latter were first popularised in the U.S.A. in the late 18th century: their earliest mention appears in Amelia Simmons’ American Cookery. Published in Connecticut in 1796, this was the first ever cookbook to be written by an American. Simmons’ recipe, which doesn’t mention the word ‘cupcake’, is describes petite cakes baked in small cups. The first recipe to actually mention the word ‘cupcake’ appeared in 1828, in Eliza Leslie’s Seventy-five Receipts for Pastry, Cakes, and Sweetmeats: Leslie’s version seems to have been quite strongly flavoured, as she called for white wine, cinnamon, nutmeg and ‘pearl-ash’ (potassium carbonate salt) as ingredients. By 1919, cupcakes were commercially available in the U.S.

It’s not really clear when English fairy cakes were developed from American cupcakes, which they differ from in a few ways: they’re smaller and a little less rich, and tend to be topped with simple glace icing as opposed to large amounts of buttercream. It’s believed that butterfly cakes were developed from fairy cakes that had risen too much- the tops were removed so the cakes could be iced, after which wings were added.


Preparation time: 40 minutesCooking time: 40 minutes
Serves: 4Difficulty: Moderate


Bottom layer:

  • 3 large potatoes
  • 5 aubergines (eggplants)
  • 3 courgettes (zucchini)
  • 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Thyme (optional)

Middle layer:

  • 800g/28oz/4 1/2 cups of beef or plant-based mince
  • 4 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 2 red onions
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 800g/28oz/4 cups of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick, or 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 200ml/2dl/1/3 pt/just under a cup of red wine
  • Salt and pepper

For the béchamel sauce:

  • 1 litre/10 dl/just under 2 pints/4 cups of milk or soya milk
  • 120g/4oz/just over half a cup of butter or margarine
  • 120g/4oz/1 cup of flour or cornflour
  • 2 egg yolks (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 100g/3 1/2 oz/1 cup of parmagiano reggiano, kefalotyr, or alternative cheese

Make it vegan: Use plant based mince instead of beef mince- alternatively, you could use the equivalent amount of lentils– and use an unfiltered vegan red wine. For the béchamel sauce, use plant-based margarine and vegan milk (I used unsweetened soya.) Leave out the egg yolks.

You can also leave out the cheese. Alternatively, you can buy vegan cheese, including vegan feta, from some supermarkets and vegan stores. You can also use homemade vegan parmagiano reggiano or feta.

Special Equipment

  • At least one large frying pan
  • Two saucepans
  • A wooden spoon
  • A large baking dish
  • A whisk


  1. Slice the potatoes, aubergines and courgettes- the slices can be thin or thick, whichever you prefer.
  2. Add a tablespoon or so of olive oil to a large frying pan and set it over a medium heat before adding the potato slices. Fry the potatoes for 5-10 minutes, turning them over occasionally, until they are browned. Then remove them from the pan and allow them to cool slightly.
  3. Next, fry the aubergine and courgette slices, again with a tablespoon or so of oil, until they’re browned. Remove them from the pan.
  4. Meanwhile, peel and roughly chop the onion and garlic.
  5. Place a large saucepan over quite a high heat. Add four tablespoons of olive oil and the chopped onion. Saute for a minute or two, stirring occasionally.
  6. Next add the garlic and sugar to the pan, and saute for a further 2 minutes.
  7. Add the mince to the pan and saute for a further 5 minutes. While it’s cooking, stir the contents of the pan together so that the mince is broken up and well combined with the onion and garlic.
  8. When the mince is browned, stir in the tomato puree. Then add the wine, chopped tomatoes, cinnamon stick, bay leaf, salt, pepper, and a cup of water to the pan. Bring the pan contents to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then remove from the heat.
  9. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180’C/350’F/Gas Mark 4.
  10. To make the béchamel sauce, set a medium-sized saucepan over a moderate heat and add the butter or margarine.
  11. When it’s melted, whisk in the flour, salt, pepper and nutmeg, then add the milk. Cook, whisking constantly (I used an electric whisk to get rid of any lumps) for a few minutes or until thickened. Remove from the heat. Allow to cool slightly, then whisk in the egg yolks and two thirds of the cheese (if using.)
  12. To assemble: evenly spread the potatoes across the baking dish. Season them with a little salt, pepper and thyme (if using.) Repeat with a layer of seasoned aubergine, then a layer of seasoned courgette. Stir two tablespoons of béchamel sauce into the mince, and remove the bay leaf and cinnamon stick. Then spread the mince evenly across the layered vegetables. Finally, spread the remaining béchamel sauce over the mince and top with the remaining cheese (if using.)
  13. Bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until nicely browned.
  14. When it’s ready, remove from the oven and allow it to cool down for 20 minutes or so. Then serve, preferably with Greek Salad and a glass of Greek red wine.
  15. Kali Orexi!


  • It’s easiest to use at least two frying pans to saute the vegetables- if you sauté too many in one pan it’s quite hard to make sure they are evenly cooked.


Home: Greece
/ˌmuːsɑːˈkɑː/ (moo-sah-KAH)

Relatives: Musakhkhan (Palestine) Musakka (Turkey) Karnıyarık (Turkey)

Moussaka was probably introduced to the Levant and Anatolia by Arab settlers: its key ingredient, the aubergine, is native to India and was brought to the region by Arab traders. The oldest known reference to Maghmuma, a precursor to Moussaka, appears alongside 160 other recipes in the Kitab al-Tabikh (‘Book of Dishes’), a thirteenth century Baghdadi cookbook by the Abbasid scribe, Muḥammad bin al-Ḥasan bin Muḥammad bin al-Karīm al-Baghdadi. According to Al-Baghdadi’s recipe, Maghmuma consisted of layers of cooked aubergine and onions topped with spiced minced meat, which were cooked over an open fire.

Baghdad was conquered by the Ottoman Turks in the early 16th century and the ‘Book of Dishes’ made its way to Istanbul, where it became a popular source of recipes. Over the centuries, numerous Turkish recipes were added to the book, which was translated into Turkish and copied several times, with copies housed at Süleymaniye Library and Topkapı Palace Library.

In the early 19th century, the Greeks fought the Αγώνας (‘struggle’), or War of Independence, against the Ottoman Empire. They were successful and the Kingdom of Greece emerged as an independent state. By the 1920s, Greece had doubled in size and acquired a large urban centre (Thessaloniki.) The country also underwent a significant population increase as a result of the Greco-Turkish War of 1919-1922 and the ensuing 1923 population exchange with Turkey. A significant number of refugees arrived from across the Aegean, including a number of well-traveled metropolitan refugees from Smyrna and Istanbul. As a result, 1920s Thessaloniki was a melting pot of Greeks, Jews, Turks and Bulgarians, many of whom introduced a wide variety of novel ingredients, spices and dishes to the city.

Moussaka was already popular in Greece. However, many viewed it as too Turkish for an independent Greece. At this time, the emerging Greek middle class and urban population were experimenting with new cuisines- with French cuisine viewed as particularly sophisticated- and efforts were made to Hellenize dishes of Turkish origin and to ‘Europeanize’ traditional Greek dishes. A more Europeanized version of Moussaka was developed by Nikolaos Tselementes, a chef from the island of Sifnos who had studied cookery in Vienna and America. Tselementes adapted many traditional Greek recipes in his 1950 work, Greek Cookery, including his version of Moussaka, topped with French béchamel sauce.

Thessaloniki, 1916
H. Charles Woods, ‘Rue de Thessalonique (1916)’, in ‘The Balkans, Macedonia, and the War’, Geographical Review, 6 (1918)