Chapter 78: Lunch at the Cosmas

Lamb_souvlakiIt was while working with Derek Shepherd at UPITN that he introduced me to the Cosmas restaurant which was at 29 Goodge Street.  This was in 1978.  It was a Greek Cypriot restaurant, owned by George Cosmas.  The head waiter was called Michael, but known as “Blackie”.  We had gone to the restaurant to meet up with one of Derek’s friends, who was a solicitor, normally working around the Law Courts.

We had an excellent meal as well as interesting conversation.  I was to use the restaurant for almost fifteen years.  It was there that Janet and I had our 25th Anniversary party when all our friends from our neighbourhood, and from our work, came.  It was held in the basement and it was one of the most memorable nights of my life.

Lunch at the Cosmas started with Blackie placing a Whisky and Soda before me as soon as I sat down.  This would arrive with a bowl of black Greek olives and a plate of green chillies. After that, we would have a Hummus or a Taramasalata.  Hummus is a paste consisting of mashed Chick Peas and Tahini, which is a paste made from Sesame seeds, plus garlic and lemon juice.  It is served in a bowl with some olive oil and a black olive as garnish.  Taramasalata is Cod roe made into a paste.  Both these are served with Pitta bread which would come to the table hot.

Here is a recipe for Hummus:

Ingredients:

250 grams of dried Chickpeas.
5 tablespoons of Tahini.
2 cloves of crushed garlic.
3 tablespoons of lemon juice.

Soak the chickpeas overnight.  However, it is possible to get chick peas in a can which are already cooked and ready for making into a pure.

If using dried chickpeas, boil and then simmer the chickpeas until they are tender.

Remove the skins from the soaked peas.

Puree the chick peas with the garlic.  After cooling, mix in the Tahini and the lemon juice.  The result should be like a thick cream. If it becomes too thick, pour in some of the liquid from the cooking of the chickpeas.

It is usual to serve Hummus in individual bowls garnished with a sprinkle of paprika and, in a well in the middle of the Hummos, a teaspoon of olive oil plus a black olive.

For a main course, we had roast lamb, or Kleftiko, and baked potatoes, or Braised beef, called Stifado.  Then there was Moussaka and Sheftalia.  I would eat these dishes accompanied by a Greek salad.  I never, ever, ate a dessert in the Cosmas.

othelloThen, of course, there was the wine.  Normally we would drink a bottle, or two, of Othello.  This is a rich red wine and in 1978, George Cosmas would sell me a case of six for £3.

The Stifado is a Greek Ragout and is one of the great dishes of the world.  Here’s a recipe:

Put three pounds of chopped onions and several cloves of garlic into a large stew pan.  Cut a kilo of beef steak into large pieces.  Add to the pan 240 millilitres of tomato puree, heavily seasoned.  Add a glass of red wine.

Simmer for 4 to 5 hours when the meat will be tender and the sauce as thick as jam.

Serve with hot Pitta bread.

Pita at the souq on Khaled ibn al-Waleed street, in the old city of Nablus, West Bank

Here’s how to bake Pitta bread:

Ingredients:

225 grams of white bread flour.
1 teaspoon of salt
15 grams of fresh yeast
140 millilitres of luke warm water
10 millilitres of Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Mix the flour and salt, then sieve the mix into a bowl.

Dissolve the yeast in the water, then stir in the olive oil.  Pour the mix into a large bowl.

Gradually mix the flour into the yeast mixture, then knead the mixture to form a soft dough.

Turn out onto a board and continue to knead for five minutes.  The dough should become smooth and elastic.  Place into a large bowl and cover with cling film.  Leave it in a warm place for an hour when it should have doubled in size.

Working on a lightly floured surface, divide the dough into six equal sized pieces and shape into balls. Cover with oiled cling film and leave for a further five minutes.

Roll, out each ball so that it becomes oval in shape and 5mm thick and about 15 centimetres long.  Sprinkle flour on to a clean tea cloth, place the rolled dough on the towel and cover with lightly oiled cling film. Leave the dough to rise for the next 25 minutes.

Set the oven to 230 degrees Celcius and, at the same time, place grease-proof paper sheets on to the oven tray to heat at the same time.

When the oven has got to its required temperature, place the pitta breads on to the paper and bake for up to six minutes or until they swell up.

Place the pittas on to a wire rack to cool.  While still warm, cover with a tea towel to keep them soft and ready for the table.

© Terence Gallacher 2016.  Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Terence Gallacher and terryseatingplaces.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.
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