Cyprus Mail
Food and Drink Life & Style

Cooking up a storm: overcoming the stress of Christmas cooking

I thought I knew how to cook until I watched chef Andreas Papandreou craft the most amazing dishes in front of my eyes.

As a food lover and a person who likes to create, I was excited when I was invited to Alpha Mega and IPH Iakovos Photiades Foodstuff Suppliers’ Masterclass.

Papandreou, who has been working with the supermarket, communicates his colourful personality in his dishes. Together we prepared a three-course Christmas dinner which was so inspired it even tempted people with food allergies and vegetarians.

He taught us how to prepare a bouquet garni and how to make cheesecake with traditional kourampiedes, as well as easy hacks on how to keep stuffing from falling out.

Papandreou has been collaborating with Danish butter brand Lurpak and Arla for the last 17 years, and the fresh faced chef more recently celebrated his one year collaboration with Alpha Mega and IPH by giving a number of masterclasses to some lucky Alpha Mega customers. And us journalists.

We were invited to the Miele showroom in Nicosia where the culinary class, and associated food and drink, charmed the start of our Christmas.

I am lactose intolerant. But did that stopped me from trying everything the chef (with his Lurpak and Arla links) made? No. Am I regretting it? Heck no. Would I do it again? Heck, yes.

Starting with a pumpkin soup with whipped cream (delicious), we moved on to the meat… watching as Papandreou stuffed pork (loin) with more pork (ham), some raisins soaked in wine and, you guessed it, cheese!

Being the helper of Papandreou at this point, I helped “tie the knot” of the bundle of pork. It took around seven pieces of string to tie the rolled pork loin, and while I struggled tying them the experienced chef shared his tips on how to keep the stuffing tightly inside. A simple hack is to slice the edge of your pork loin so the string is more tightly fastened.

As I moved on to sautéing carrots and onions in wine as per the chef’s instructions to make the sauce, I realised I was not quite the chef I thought I was as I was swiftly corrected by the pro. My pride battered, I carried on quietly cooking the vegetables.

But we quickly moved on from my disappointment to start on a delicious mushroom risotto. I really don’t like mushrooms, and I strongly dislike risotto, so the fact that I could not wait to try it, means a lot. It must have been the aromas from the bouquet garni, an excellent way to take advantage of all the spices without having to pick out daphne leaves from your dish once it’s cooked.

As with most Cypriot homes over the holidays, we end up with a glut of traditional sweets kourampiedes and melomakarona; enough to feed an army. So why not use them to make a cheesecake, Papandreou suggested.

Leftover kourampiedes mixed with some butter it turns out make an excellent biscuit base for a cheesecake. If you are not as adventurous in the kitchen as Papandreou to make a homemade forest fruit topping (especially when you can spend two euros and get it ready in the can) all you have to do is whip up some cream and ta-da, impressive dessert for all your guests.

A fulfilling day, both for my tummy and cooking knowledge, which made me realise all the everyday mistakes I have turned into habits in my kitchen.

Thankfully, my intolerance enjoyed the meal as much as I did. No regrets.

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