Saturday, 19 May 2018


I love the hydrangea.  The flowers are large and full of colour, whatever colour they turn out to be.  The are called 'ortansia' here which is a beautiful name for them.

I once had a blue hydrangea in the garden which was flourishing till one of our neighbours walked past and put the evil eye on it.  She admired the flower without 'ftoo-tooing' it and told me I was very lucky to have it survive because they only did well growing in pots.  A  fatal pronouncement.  It withered away and by the next summer was dead.

Every hydrangea I have has turned out to be pink even though one of them started out blue.  I now plant them in pots of course.  No risk taking with the new ones.  

I spent time in the winter looking at videos on Youtube finding out how to keep or turn hydrangeas blue.  It is all to do with the Ph of the soil.  Coffee grounds and eggshells seemed to be the clue to establishing the right Ph for blue hydrangeas though it did say it would take time for the colour to change.  

We drink filter coffee so all the grounds went around the plants.

This is the largest one in a huge pot which is actually half a wooden wine barrel.  At the moment it is still pink but still getting doses of coffee grounds and eggshells

The plant in the smaller clay pot though has turned out to have  lilac/purple flowers.  I'm quite chuffed with this result!

I also studied tomato growing.  My plants are usually big and healthy but with few tomatoes.  This year I hope for more fruit than foliage.  I learnt how to prune the tomatoes and they also have had lashings of coffee grounds, eggshell milkshakes and goat droppings.   The cherry tomato has produced 4 tomatoes and is only 6 inches high.  The other plants have flowers and I see 2 tomatoes forming.  Ftoo-ftoo.  I should plant some garlic around them to keep off the evil eye too.  Hopefully this year we'll be making greek salads with our own tomatoes.   

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Seaside eating

We finally managed to get off the island again

This beautiful blue and white church is in one of the tiny villages on our way to the seaside and a table by the sea

The young priest here did his military service at the Naval Base on Poros.  K was one of the officers in charge back then.  When we heard he had gone into the Orhtodox priesthood and was officiating at a church nearby we stopped to see him.  There were hugs and cheek kissing and promises of return visits.   The church has its fiesta soon so we'll make sure  to join in the festivities  ... lighting of candles, blessed bread and maybe a glass of wine and a plate of fatty pork.

The Orthodox flag with its double headed eagle on a yellow background.  The eagle is holding a cross and orb and has a crown above its two heads.  Its two heads represent  Byzantine, one head looking towards the west and Rome, the other looking east to Constantinople

A delightful little taverna right beside the water.  Luckily it was covered.  The weather suddenly changed and we got almost two minutes of rain

At the table next to us our neighbour was getting a line ready to throw into the sea and do some fishing.  This family is from Poros and were on the same car ferry, ending up at the same taverna.  It's a popular place for a Sunday outing, only an hour away.  In summer the kids can swim while the men drink ouzo and the women supervise the proceedings in their shrill voices 

All the fish is fresh from the family fishing boat.  We had to wait till this one returned with the day's catch

A greek salad, some small fish, a jug of wine and a big bottle of water

The seagulls were not the greedy sort but they were very vocal.  This one must have been yelling at his/her mate

A few minutes another gull landed on the water and they both floated happily together

Monday, 14 May 2018

Greek mussels and rice

Mythopilafo   - Mussels and Rice Pilaf

This is a favourite at any time of the year.  The pilaf (pilafi in greek) is a perfect dish to enjoy with a glass of ouzo.  We eat this meat-egg-dairy-free plate  as a complete meal with a glass of wine, a plate of olives, a lettuce salad, some heavy bread and a piece of  fruit or halvas to finish the meal.

I normally use a packet of ready steamed mussels along with a handful of fresh mussels still in their shell...if we have any fresh

There are several ways of preparing this dish.  I boil the rice separately and make a tomato sauce to which I add the mussels and the rice

Tomato Sauce for Mydopilafo

Brown a chopped onion and a few cloves of garlic in olive oil.  When these are soft add a wine glass of ouzo to the pot.  You could just use wine.

Mix in a tin of chopped tomatoes or three big grated tomatoes and all their juice.  Add chopped parsley, salt and lots of fresh pepper.  A spoon of tomato paste adds colour if you're using fresh tomatoes.

Mix the sauce into the hot boiled rice and add the mussels.

Kali Orexi

Crete coming up soon!  

Saturday, 12 May 2018


A Kretan specialty, wedding pilaf
Made with
fatty  mutton, or goat, stakovoutiro (cream), rice , lemon juice, salt and pepper

We lived on Crete for three years back in the 80s in a primitive old house in a tiny village where the girls started school.  Each teacher taught 2 classes/years together.  It was a lot of fun.  The kids learnt to run wild, a big change from the confined city life they had known for their first few years.  

The first year we lived in a house built on 2 storeys with steep, narrow wooden stairs leading to the top level.  The walls were a couple of feet thick, built with stone.  A rather primitive bathroom had been constructed on the upper terrace which leaked like a seive when it rained.  Water cuts were frequent and often I ran the washing machine by filling it up with buckets of water hauled from a communal tap across the road or left buckets of clothes outside in the sun to soak and washed by hand.

We lived there for a year before moving into Navy housing.  

We had parties in the back garden of the village house, where the pig pen had been, met all the villagers and took part in social functions, name days and fiestas, and weddings.

This pilaf is a speciality served at the beginning of the wedding feast.  It fills up the stomach ready-ing it for long hours of drinking, more eating and dancing.

Boil the fatty mutton till tender.  I simmered it in a pressure cooker for just over an hour.  If I was using this mutton for another recipe, maybe with a tomato and garlic sauce and fat macaroni I would have thrown out (changed) the first water after simmering for half an hour.  This is to make sure there is no 'odour' of the animal.  In this recipe you need all the fat and aroma to flavour the rice.

When the meat is tender remove it from the pot and strain the broth in the pot.  Straining is necessary, or at least fishing out any small pieces of bone with a slotted spoon.  

Keep the meat separate and squeeze lemon juice over it and a bit of olive oil.

Now eyeball or measure the stock left in the pot.  For every 3 cups of stock add one cup of rice.  We use a rice called 'carolina' which is neither long grain nor short grain and can be used for just about everything from risotto to rice pudding.

Cook the rice for 20 minutes till soft and then add about 1/4 cup of lemon juice or the juice of a couple of lemons.  Add more according to taste.

If it is available and you want an authentic dish then you must add a couple of tablespoons of 'stakovoutiro'.  This is the cream from the top of the goat's milk.  

When we lived in Crete a friend of mine would thicken this up with a little flour.  Oh boy is it delicious, and full of fat.

Serve the rice with some of the boiled meat.  

It leaves a fatty film around the mouth but, once again, oh boy is it delicious.  Rice boiled in the juices of the meat and that tender boiled meat with lots of lemon juice and salt and pepper.  Perfect for drinking a lot of cretan wine, or any sort of wine, especially the old greek classic, retsina, which helps to cut through the fat.

Actually you can make a much less fattier version using a tough old rooster, chicken or turkey.  Less fat but still full of delicious flavour.

Writing this has brought to mind, vividly a lot of other Cretan specialities.  I think I have another post to write!

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

LIDL Hellas

 LIDL.  They have taken over Europe.  Wikpedia  describes it as a German global discount supermarket chain with over 10,000 stores in Europe and the USA.

I'm not singing its praises but Lidl does provide us/me with  goodies which are not available elsewhere, except perhaps in the speciality shops in the capital, Athens.  It's cheap too which of course is the main reason we make for it on a day out.

Let the buyer beware however.  I have bought 'fresh' bread there which was still doughy in the middle. We often (well not me but other outspoken half) have 'words' with the cashier because the money rung up wasn't the same as that on the price tag over the shelf or bin.  If an appliance is faulty or broken you'll need to be very pushy to get a replacement.  In other big stores they have power points where you can try electrical goods out before leaving the premises.

Some of the foreign goods I look for

I used to buy these german sausages a lot.  They were the closest I could get to an english sausage.    Bratwurst

The are large and very white.  I haven't bought them in a while.  In the end they were disappointing, just not the 'dinkum' sausage I remember.

During the summer all the Lidls in our area have big camper vans parked outside with German plates and a lot of happy shoppers inside.  I wonder though whether they shop at Lidls back home in Germany.

Some of the greek goods available.  Big bottles of cheap retsina.  The classic greek wine with a pine resin taste.  Resin was once used as a preservative.  When I first came to Greece in the 70s it was the only wine available except for a very ordinary white wine called Domestica.  Now retsina is found mostly bottled in the supermarket.  It is no longer the house wine as local tavernas.

ΡΕΤΣΙΝΑ  the greek for Retsina

And bottles of soumada, made out of almonds.  Offered at traditional Cretan weddings, though I don't remember it at those I attended.

Almonds and water are blended and the liquid is strained.  The almond water is added to a water and sugar syrup and served hot or cold.

Such a pity they don't bring in hot cross buns at easter as they seem to do elsewhere in Europe.  We do find sweet and sour sauces and noodles.  I like their powdered capuccino powder, a fraction of the price of the nescafe brand found in our local market.  Their toilet paper is thick and durable, Irish butter is cheap.  Chocolates are extremely cheap.  I try and quick march past them.

Some years ago we had a spanish supermarket chain in Greece called Dia if I remember rightly.  Their prices were even cheaper.  We used to have shopping expeditions across the waters to stock up.  They seem to have disappeared.  

Greek supermarkets have cottened on to 'specials' and 'own brands' and most of the prices are within our budget.  We always used to shop at the local grocery shops but while service is better and they are open all  hours the supermarket is where we buy most of our goods now.  The manager at our local is a friend and next in charge is a nephew so we get all the inside info and the service we seek. 

Monday, 7 May 2018

Fresh lemonade

Homemade lemonade made with lemons fresh from the garden, or the grocery store, is so easy.  Just squeeze your lemons, make a simple syrup with sugar and water and you're ready to make a cool summery lemonade.

This year we have a super- abundance of lemons, on our own trees, and so do neighbours and sundry cousins all of whom are giving us bags of bounty which, this year, we don't need.  They get left on the doorstep or at the gate, no way we can refuse.  At the moment I'm squeezing lemon after lemon of those given to us as they seem to be going soft and rotting very quickly.  Ours are still on the tree and there they will remain till I have dealt with the 'foreign' fruit.

Amaryllis flower under the lemon tree

Today I'm juicing and making fresh lemonade syrup which will be put into 1/2 litre bottles and frozen so we can drink lemonade all through the summer.. and probably next summer.  Homemade and fresh (-ly unfrozen), the perfect drink to offer a hot summer visitor.

I will also freeze a few bottles of plain juice.

These lemons have loads of juice, unlike the year my neice K was visiting from Australia.  She tried to make a lemon meringue pie but didn't manage to get even a drop out of the dozen lemons she 'squeezed'.  Fortunately she's an Australian (with kiwi roots) and just took it in her stride and made us a delicious peach pie.  Peaches are luscious whatever the year    


For a half litre bottle of lemon cordial squeeze a mug and a half of lemon juice.
Boil together a mug of sugar and a mug of water.  They don't really need to boil much, just enough for the sugar to melt.  When the syrup is cold, add the mug and a half of lemon juice.  Give it a good stir and bottle.  It should keep in the fridge for about three weeks.  

To make into lemonade, pour a third of a glass of cordial and top up with cold water and ice and a leaf or two of mint.  

If it is too sweet or too tart for your liking you can add more sugar to the next batch or more lemon juice.

I don't boil the syrup once I add the lemon juice.  I hope this way I preserve  more of the vitamin C.  I don't strain the juice either.  I like the bits of lemon flesh drifting around in the glass.  Seems more authentic.

I have also seen recipes using honey or stevia.

To make it even more refreshing you could add some lemon peel to the syrup or even a piece of fresh ginger.  Here some also add a few leaves of  abororizo.

See the recipe for red wine liqueur flavoured with this flower under the label 'greek drinks'

Abororizo - pink pelagonia I think is the english translation.  The leaves of the pelagonia have a slight lemony taste and are often used here in liqueurs and sweets

Two bottles of juice ready for the freezer and half a bottle of cordial.  You can make the syrupy cordial and freeze that as well if you want lemonade all through the year

Saturday, 5 May 2018

More of Spring

The grape vine was just bare branches a few weeks ago.  Now it is thick and lush and the leaves just the right size for picking and making dolmathes.  This year we are going to have a bumper crop of grapes, if we're lucky.  There are small newly formed bunches all over the vine.  Once I had picked the leaves the vine was dusted with sulfur to stop disease

To help the grapes develop we 'prune' grape leaves and I blanch and freeze a few batches.  I froze two batches of 40 leaves and made a pile of dolmathes, these with minced meat and rice with lots of mint, parsley and dill and an egg and lemon sauce.  Visiting daughter polished off the last half dozen and declared them delicious.  I'll have to make some more for her.  She works in an accountants office and this is the busiest time of the year.  No time for fiddly rolling up of stuffed vine leaves.

Coming back on the car ferry after a very early morning 3 year memorial service at St Nikolas church on the mainland town of Galatas.  This large load backed on with ease

This car ferry is home to half a dozen pairs of swallows.  They were swooping and flying around the deck and when the ferry started to move they continued flying and chirping, not put out at all by the movement of the boat.  They nest on the iron girders every year.

View from the car ferry looking towards the village of Galatas

Another view from the car ferry.