Interview with a Blogger: Meet Amber from Provocolate!
Welcome to another edition of Interview with a Blogger! Today we’re chatting with Amber Charmei, behind the blog Provocolate. Amber is a Food and Travel writer for renowned Greek and International magazines. She is also the author of Provocolate, an artful and inspirational blog about Travel, Culture and Lifestyle.
1. What is the story behind your blog’s name?
The word for sheep in Greek is “Provata” and “-colate” is the last part of chocolate, so my blog is called “Sheep and Chocolate” and also blends Greek with English, as I write in English about food, everyday life, and destinations in Greece.
2. What is your favourite Greek family dish?
Boureki – it’s a Cretan dish of layered zucchini and potatoes with fresh soft goats cheese, mint, tomato, and butter. The combination of mint and tomato and tangy cheese – like the much better-known feta, for example, is wonderful.
3. What are your cooking inspirations? A famous chef, your mom, a cookbook, a blog…?
I grew up cooking. My parents were painters and they painted and I concentrated on food. All the ingredients of New York City fascinated me – every kind of speciality ethnic ingredient was available. But it had meaning, context. That’s what I love about Greece – the role of food in society, the connections and meaning. That was the main inspiration for my blog when I started – food as a social connection.
4. You are based in Thessaloniki, what’s the best food you tried here?
This is a great Greek city for food – we have many people here whose roots are in Asia Minor and so the food is more complex, zesty, and spicy. Bouliourdi – a dish of broiled feta with hot peppers that is a genius 3 minute appetizer, is a favorite.
5. What should every foodie try in Greece?
Just one thing? That’s hard. I’m going to say then, absolutely, achinous – sea urchin. It’s hard to find, and expensive not unaffordable- just the portion will be small so don’t be shocked. (It’s a labour-intensive food for the diver). The coral-colored curves of roe taste like all the sweetness of the sea. Eat them only with olive oil and a crust of bread, and go easy with the lemon so as not to overpower their delicate flavor.
6. What is your dream destination regarding food in Greece?
I’m already there – Thessaloniki! I also love the distinctive cuisine of Crete – the cheeses, the snails in vinegar and rosemary, the staka – a cooked cream of goats milk.
7. You have two daughters when they were little, what was your go-to kid-friendly recipe?
They’re adventurous eaters happily! In fact, one of them is just finishing Chefs’ school. A recipe I remember making a lot when they were small, and still they want today – is Cretan-style chicken and rice with a good free-range chicken and staka butter. We serve it with a dab of thick strained yogurt on the side for tang. This is not a fast recipe – the chicken simmers slowly for the best flavor. But the hands-on time is minimal, leaving you time to play around together. Also, it doesn’t use the oven so it’s free for making a fruit crumble or a cake for dessert together.
8. If you had to share one kid’s favourite Greek recipe with us, what would you choose?
That recipe, for sure. It looks bland and boring but is full of rich, pure chicken flavor.
9. According to you, which place is Greece has the best food? (destination)
Crete and Thessaloniki. No – let’s just say Crete because it’s so distinctive and the raw ingredients are without peer.
10. Can you share some insight on food allergies/tip for food restrictions?
Greece has a whole category of delicious and wholesome dishes called “ladera”. “Ladi” is oil, and “ladera” are the finest seasonal vegetables cooked gently in olive oil and tomato until tender and melting. By their nature, they are egg and dairy-free and gluten-free. French fries – usually very good and made with fresh-cut potatoes in Greece – make a kid-friendly gluten-free bread substitute and are delicious dipped in the saucy vegetables.
Thank you so much Amber, for sharing your delicious food stories!
Amber’s Lenten Chocolate Cake:
You can let your children make this delicious cake all by themselves. They can mix the ingredients directly in the pan, and just stir them with a fork, so there is no clean up!
What we’ll need for our chocolate cake:
- A large pan- 9″x 13″, or 25 x 28 cm
- 2 1/2 C/ 425 g flour
- 1 C / 90 g unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 3/4 C/ 350 g sugar
- 2 tsp/ 10 ml baking soda
- 1 tsp/ 5 ml salt
- 1 7/8 C / 250 ml water
- 3/4 C / 180 ml vegetable oil
- 2 T/ 20 ml vinegar (truly – a full 2 tablespoons. The vinegar is essential for reacting with the baking soda and creating maximum lift. It won’t affect the flavor)
- 1 tsp/ 5 ml vanilla
Step 1: Preheat your oven to 350 F/170 C. Put all the dry ingredients into your pan.
Step 2: Mix them with a fork.
Step 3: Add the oil, water, vinegar, and vanilla.
Step 4: Stir with the fork in swirling motions, working your way around the pan, until it is well enough mixed.
Step 5: Bake the chocolate cake at 350 F/ 170 C for about 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean (moist perhaps, but clean). As soon as it cools a bit, you can serve it forth straight from the pan. The bottom is moist – the squares come away easily with a flat spatula. And are in fact so moist they are lovely as is, maybe with just a dusting of sugar so it at least looks like you went to a little trouble (which we know you did not).
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