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Wednesday, 30 November 2016

At home

The end of the month again.  Time to pay certain bills or pay the consequences.  And it's pouring with rain for the second day in a row.

I took the car down into town, early to avoid the crowds at the bank.  We have set up internet banking now but are still not quite sure how it works.  K is having a few lessons from one of the children.

I visited the older child who is our accountant.  Having an accountant in the family saves us so much trouble with endlessly changing tax laws and piles of paperwork.  Doctors and lawyers are handy, rocket scientists are useless.  Encourage one of your kids to become an accountant.

I got the papers to pay the income and house tax and made it to the bank.  Only  20 in the queue in front of me so it wasn't a long wait and I people watched and listened to the gossip.  My teller smiled, greeted me by name, asked after my children. She knows me.  She went to school with my husband.  



Home


From the bank I went on to the laundry place.  Don't think laundro-mat.  There are a couple of huge washers and dryers and the doorway was barred by a baby-gate.  Zoi's two youngest were playing on the floor.  I handed my two blankets over the gate  to her and made friendly noises to the children.  She told me how much it would cost and didn't bother asking for my phone to number to let me know when they were ready.  Zoi is a second cousin twice removed.  She said, I'll phone Elli (my daughter) when they're ready .  She knows me.   she's family.

I made a mad dash through the rain to the car and continued on to the supermarket.  At the door to greet me were the two Georges (Giorgos and Giorgos).  The manager George greeted me with a smile and a 'kalimera'.  Nephew George gave me a double air kiss on the cheeks and asked how his favourite aunt (me) was getting on.  He asked after his uncle adding that on a lousy day like this he was sure to be drinking a warming raki and setting the fire to BBQ a few lamb chops with friends. What else to do on a rainy winter's day.  Talk, discussion, exchange of views, social intercourse.  Debates can go on all day.


A t the supermarket check-out.  Our favourite cashier.  She took a look at the fire starters I had chosen, picked them up and took them back returning with another brand.  Cheaper and more efficient she told me.  When I asked which bottled water to buy she told me to wait till tomorrow when they would be on special.



Next stop the chemist to get my monthly prescription filled.  Nektaria  sometimes calls me Julie and then corrects herself and remembers I am Linda.  Julie is another long time foreign resident.  One of my medicines is very hard to come by.  Some months I have to wait a week or more before they can have it sent from Athens but this month she has it on hand already.  They found it early
 and kept it for me.




Photo was obviously taken in sunnier days.

  The young waiter knows which coffee I drink, waves at me when I sit down and two minutes later turns up with the coffee without me having to order.


I know I'm home even if I am a foreigner who speaks greek with a terrible kiwi accent, murdering the vowels and twisting the verb endings.  I feel comfortable with these people.  They recognise me, know my girls and their children, smile a hullo on the street, invite me to their weddings and baptisms.

K was born and brought up on the island.  He knows them all too well.  He brings the car to a screaming halt in the middle of the road to talk to one of his friends.  Walking with him along the waterfront a half hour stroll takes two hours.  Every few metres he stops for a chat or is yelled at to cross the road and shake hands with an old acquaintance.

This is the positive side of living in a small village or a tiny greek island (population in the winter around 4,000).  I was once many years ago sent a letter from Australia addressed to
Linda
Poros
Greece
Guess what, it reached me in record time.

One day I may write about the negative side.  Today all these welcomes and smiles made the sun break through those dark rain clouds.



Family
Greeks and kiwis



Sunday, 27 November 2016

Winter bowling

Winter ....

- the fire lit at 5pm
- a rustic pizza, baked potatoes or a tray of simple cheese rolls cooking above
 - warming raki or a glass of homegrown red
- a few granny squares to stitch together for the next 'heirloom' blanket....think crazy paving in wool
- an old greek movie in black and white, slapstick comedy or tear jerking drama ......the only kinds they seem to make
 - a football (soccor) match to cheer .....Greece is still in the Europa League
- neighbours, friends and family for round table discussions on politics, sport and how to resolve the economic crisis


The wood burning stove which heats the house and cooks our evening meals.  It is not smoking (yet) this winter.  The pipes have been cleaned.  We do not burn pine which lets off a terrific heat but gums up the pipes with resin so the smoke has no where to go but back into the living room and soot pours out of the chimney.  We burn olive wood from last year's pruning.

The log container is an old washing machine drum.  The inner bowl of a front loader.



These bowls are also from a front loading washing machine.  The glass bowl in the door can be recycled as a wonderful salad bowl and  withstands heat.  They make a great bowl for baking nicely rounded loaves of bread.  Every bowl is a different shape.  Some are shallow, some are tall, some have a pattern.  They may be indented or  dimpled.



These are all thanks to our traditional washing machine fixer-upper.  We have three or four skeleton machines in the back garden.  Anyone want one sent on to them?  I'll even pay the transport ......well, maybe not.  Pick up only.

Recycle your old washing machine. 

Friday, 25 November 2016

car ferry

Crossing by car ferry to Galatas and onwards through the villages of mainland Greece, the road of Pan, the wine road, ancient ruins 



Of the five car ferries which sail this narrow passage this is my favourite, the Kyriaki.   Roll on, roll off.   On the others it is 'back on-drive off'.  Oh my goodness, you should try backing a car into a tiny space under pressure on a cramped little car ferry.  Stress, anxiety and mixing up right and left is what happens when I try to back our long car on to the ferry.  The biggest worry is always that I might actually miss the gang way as I strain to see over my shoulder and end up in the harbour.  



Car Ferry Kyriaki



Here they are parking in reverse.   When the boat is packed there is not much space between the cars.  Fold your wing mirror, close your eyes and obey instructions.  The young lads  give very clear instructions and if you do exactly what they say you'll find your car tucked in nicely and can breathe a sigh of relief.  Getting off is so much easier.  You just have to make sure you use the hand brake properly and don't roll into the car behind you and give them a new front bumper.


View of Poros from Galatas.  Little water taxis in the foreground, the clocktower standing out on the rock above the harbour.




Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Mountain tea (tsai tou vounou)

This post is for   http://besolbe.blogspot.com/  

Mountain-tea, or as it is locally known, tsai tou vounou, is the common name of a plant with which Greeks make a herb tea which strengthens the immune system, fights a cold, relieves anxiety, helps with good digestion, aids memory and concentration.  It is also known as the tea of the Titans (mythical giants).    A cup a day will make you as strong as a Titan.


Atlas, the Titan who was condemned for eternity to hold up the world


The official names are ironwort or sideritis.  Sideritis is a greek word translated as 'he who is made of iron'.  Naturally ancient greeks knew all about it.  Pedanius Dioscorides (40 - 90AD) ancient greek physician and botanist wrote about it as did Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine.



Tsai tou vounou grows at altitudes over 1,000 metres in places with very little soil, even on rocks.  It is found all over the Mediterranean and the Balkans.   A greek will gather it fresh whenever  possible.




Dried leaves and flowers are used for the infusion.  

Mountain tea is usually gathered in July when it is in bloom.  The leaves and flowers are hung in bundles and when dried stored, by us, in an old clean pillow case.

Here it is sold in the supermarket but most people prefer the tea that comes straight from the mountain side, either hand picked by themselves or one of their many relatives who sends it down to the city.






Boil water and add a few branches of the herb.  Let it sit and steep for about ten minutes.  Strain, add a slice of lemon or a teaspoon of honey to serve.   In the summer I made a big pot of this tea in the morning and when cold put it in a plastic bottle in the fridge and drank it during the day.

Sage (faskomolo)

My brother-in-law drank sage tea every morning as long as I knew him.     When we lived down in the town in the family house I would be woken up by the same three smells almost daily.  First from down stairs came drifting up the odour of  rubbing alcohol as my mother-in-law sat on the edge of her bed and rubbed her arthritic hands and knees.  Next the strong aroma of boiled sage wafted up from across the courtyard as my sister-in-law infused the dried sage for her husband's morning tea.  And at 9 am every morning  I would get a whiff of fragant livani (holy incense) as my elderly neighbour across the alley way, always dressed in black and with a black scarf over her long braided hair,  took her incense burner from outside doors to inner doors saying a prayer for herself and her family. 

Sage tea (faskomilo) can be quite bitter.  It definitely needs a little honey for sweetening.   Once again it is picked fresh in the summer if possible and dried by hanging in a cool place. 



This herb is said to help keep women sweet and tranquil.  It is an antidepressant and also keeps the gums healthy.

To make the herb tea put a few leaves in a pot of boiling water.  Leave it for 5 minutes.  Too long or too many sage leaves will mean a very bitter tea.  Add honey and a slice of lemon.

Sage is very rarely used in cooking here.  I use it in stuffing which I have taught the family to love.  One of my friends however on being presented with sage stuffing in a roast chicken ran off to the bathroom to spit it out.  Here it is oregano that is prefered in the kitchen.

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

Book review

North and South
 by Elizabeth Gaskell

I read this book by downloading it free to my tablet from Amazon. It is the first book in a 'read along' organised by the blogger   Be Sol Be.  We  read the book and review it on our blog or comment on someone elses. It was a difficult book to read and review.
 

Published in 1855 around the same time Charles Dickens was writing his classics, just to give you an idea of the timing.  




 The heroine moves from a comfortable life in the South of england when her father has a crisis of conscience.  'A crisis of conscience', something unknown in this day and age.  The family move to a town in the industrial North of england where employment for most is hard slog in the cotton mills.  She's telling the story of both sides, the rich employer and the worker.

At the same time it is a complicated love story between the heroine in sympathy with the workers and the owner of the mill.

The book is long and wordy and I only finished it by skipping passages and getting the nitty gritty.  I read and enjoyed, years ago,  Trollope, Jane Austen and Henry James but I think my tastes have changed.  I am too used to reading fast moving, straight to the point modern novels now. This is a classic, and apparently a great one, and that's how they were written. 

Years ago I would have read every word as I read anything in the English language including the small print in advertisements. Now these females annoy me for being so damn obedient, the descriptions take up paragraphs with  lips and  eyebrows and emotions.  'Affrighted girls' and 'trembling self restraint' slow down my reading.  I want to get on with the plot and into the story.   

The BBC made a mini-series out of the book .  It seems to be very popular.  See the TV version and then read the book.

The next book for us to read and review is 'A Christmas Carol' by Charles Dickens.



Monday, 21 November 2016

armed forces celebrate

21 November

-  an orthodox church holiday remembering the day the three year old Virgin Mary first entered the temple

- name day for all  virgins named Maria, Mary, Soultana, Virginia, Lemonia and a few others.  Non virgins of the same name celebrate on 15th August

- but most importantly for us it is the day Greeks honour their  Armed Forces. The Virgin Mary is their patron saint.




In this household the day starts off with freshly ironed shirts and trousers, polished shoes and  an hour or so attending the service at the Church of St Nicholas, at the Poros Navy Training School.

" 21st November marks the Armed Forces Day in Greece.  It is a celebration dedicated to the  watchful guardians of the Greek borders, the guarantors of security, peace and prosperity of the Greek people"  (prosperity?)

In Athens the day begins with the raising of the flag on the Holy Rock of the Acropolis, a service at the church St Dionysios (not to be confused with the ancient Greek god Dionysios, who worshipped wine, women and song) and wreath laying at the tomb of the unknown soldier.




Here it means meeting with comrades in arms, tall stories and an afternoon raking up old active duty tales over glasses of ouzo and  platters of roast lamb and pork.  But for today the reminiscing  takes precident over the eating and drinking.  

Most of the men here started out at the Navy Training school on Poros at age 13.  At 15 they were serving on the old ex-american (WW11) navy destroyers.  They slept in tiered bunks with no airconditioning or port holes.  Water was scarce, rations skimpy for these young recruits.   Ships from the Greek Navy stayed out in all weather as did the British Navy.  Huge seas during NATO exercises meant other ships ran for cover, but not these two .

  

Today they'll be remembering the worst but also the best.  The friendships made, the tricks they all played on each other and the   laughs they had together, the high jinks when visiting port and how many beers or ouzo they downed before being hauled back on board.

And they'll do it all again on 6 December which is the fiesta of St Nicholas, Patron of the Greek Navy.







Friday, 18 November 2016

a day out to the hospital

A cheap day out at a city hospital, whoopee. 

15 euros for the car ferry, to and fro
20 euros for petrol

and just a few more euros to celebrate our good test results.

The tests at the hospital cost nothing and we weren't on a waiting list for months either.  Unlike Athens where you wait ages for an appointment our rural hospitals are efficient and quick.  We did once wait three weeks for an appointment to see the opthamologist but it wasn't urgent.  On that day all the villagers and their dogs had appointments so there was a three hour wait at the hospital.  Who can complain when it is free.

The gypsies love these hospitals too.  While I was waiting for K to finish more tests last week I sat in the sun and whiled away the time guessing the nationalities (and origins) of patients.  I estimated that 50% of the outpatients were of  the ethnic group called 'roma' (romany), of the other 50% half were from the Balkans and that left 25% maybe to be Greek.  That is not many greeks considering the price of private health care and the economic crisis.    The gypsies drove away in the latest model BMWs and mercedes.  They're not in the system, they don't pay taxes. 



Free medical care for everyone. Subsidised medicine, as long as you have been paying into one of the government social security schemes. A short, or even long wait, a growl or a grunt from a nurse who is owed 6 months back pay is something to be understood and suffered in silence, thankful for what we are about to receive.

A warm winter's day, good health.  We went to celebrate as Greeks do.  A few months ago we discovered a small raki shop which serves simple meals for extremley sensible prices.  It is from another era.  Poros used to be full of small tavernas like this, just half a dozen tables, where the old men would come to while away the morning having a drink and a meze with old cronies for just a few drachmas.  Poros had one taverna left like this in the back street behind the meat market with wine in barrels and tripe soup every morning but alas even this has closed down.



The tavern we found had just six tables and four of them had old men seated around, some drinking a greek coffee with a small bottle of tsipouro, others wine or ouzo and a small plate of pickled fish or octopus.  The days specials were boiled goat soup or  salt cod with garlic sauce.  The wine was white or rose, not from the barrel but a cardboard container.





I would have taken a before-photo but I was too busy tucking in!  The clay pot held the juice from the boiled goat which K ordered.  This is his favourite.  The bones are from the goat and the fish.  Wine jug empty.  It was all fresh cooked that day and delicious.  Well, I suppose the goat was delicious.  Not quite my cup of tea.




The tablecloths were paper with recipes printed on them.  This rather grease stained recipe is for  fried pork meze in the oven


Two of the patrons.  They didn't even have a paper cloth.



Coffee is served as well.  A hot capuccino for me.  Good coffee and hot.  I'll be back.......not for the goat

On our way home we stopped at one of the big supermarkets.  I walked in with my big trolley and literally stopped dead in my tracks with my mouth open.  The cupboard was bare.  The long  aisles of usually overflowing foodstuffs were completely empty. On one aisle there were ten cans of milk spaced evenly out along 20 metres of barren shelving, the next had 20 odd boxes of cornflakes sitting like rifle targets.  

This supermarket chain used to belong to the giant Carrefour  and was sold back to the greek group Marinopoulos who owned the business originally.  The Marinopoulos family were apparently spending all their profits living an extravagent life in Dubai and the chain went bankrupt. Mr Marinopoulos was so sorry but he would have to close all the stores and put the thousands of employees on the streets.  Another Greek supermarket chain stepped in and bought into the business.  That was months ago.  The girl at the cash desk where I went to pay for my two tins of milk, rattling round in my massive trolley,  told me that the shelves would be slowly filled by Christmas.  I hope they do get filled and customers arrive and workers get paid.

So onto another supermarket, another greek chain which is doing very well, even more so I suppose because of the collapse of the first.  And lo, my Christmas miracle.  Small elusive jars of marmite.  So expensive I really shouldn't have bought any, but I did, two tiny jars costing all together 8.50 euros.  That was half the cost of our boiled goat dinner with all the lashings.


One final stop  for more coffee and our first real sign that Christmas is approaching.





Coffee and a free, freshly baked,  greek christmas cookie, a melomacarona





Tuesday, 15 November 2016

Obamaday

This morning at 11 oclock Airforce One carrying almost-ex President Obama of the United States of America landed at Eleftherios Venizelos Airport, Athens Greece.    Historical moment bla bla bla.  He is the 4th president to have visited Greece:  Eisenhower ('we' had a king and queen back then), Bush the 1st (who visited again later on his huge luxury yacht) and Clinton (with Hilary and Chelsea) .  Obama has come 'by himself', no Michelle, no children, but with  500 security agents (CIA say the newspapers) and health care workers .  The 'hospital' follows him wherever he goes, by plane or limo,  in case of an accident.




Athens is sewn up as tight as a fortress.

- 24 inner city schools have closed in areas close to where he will be visiting
- over 5,000 greek police officers are on duty in the capitol
- 600 parked cars were removed by crane from streets he is driving through
- it goes without saying that all buildings along the route will have roof-top snipers ready to shoot anyone who dares to sneeze and then search his jacket for a handkerchief (another of my favourite words)
- the sea around his beachside hotel has been searched by divers and now has a fleet of greek coast guard vessels sailing up and down
- all traffic around the airport was stopped while his plane landed and until he left the airport area.  No vehicle was allowed to move even a metre
- as his car moves through the city all tele/satellite communications are shut down using sofisticated CIA equipment
- buses, trains and trams have stopped from noon till 4pm
- Obama travels in an armoured Cadillac named 'the beast'.  It can stand up to rocket attacks and bombs and like Pepe La Pew can emit teargas ( stink gas in his case) At the end of its life the car is blown up to destroy it's secrets
- along with the beast which is flown in from the US come around 50 other vehicles which form the official motorcade





- the president will visit the Acropolis which he says 'he wanted to visit ever since he was a child'
- he will attend a state dinner and no doubt we'll be given a run down of the menu and what he ate and didn't eat by misguided tv gossip reporters
- he has already met and talked with our tie-less Prime Minister


On Wednesday he flies off to Germany to greet Frau Merkel and then continues on to Peru for an Asian economic summit (with Pacific Rim powers).



Down in my other homeland, The Shaky Isles, we had another first, the first US warship to enter NZ waters in 33 years.  

The massive 7.5 earthquake was centred around the South Island town of Kaikoura where thousands of tourists gather to whale watch. Sperm whales feed off this coastline all the year round. As well as the sperm whale you may sight  Humpback whales, blue whales, Pilot whales, Southern Right whales, NZ fur seals, Dusky dolphins, an Albatross or an Orca.  No wonder there were about 1000 tourists, many of them chinese, trapped after the earthquake-s.  Access roads around the town were closed by landslides cutting it off from the rest of the country .

Along came the cavalry to sail them to safety.  

 In 1985 NZ banned any nuclear armed or powered ship from entering their waters.  The US decided not to send any of their ships for the next 33 years in reprisal for the kiwis anti-nuclear policy. 

 A fleet of international warships had already gathered for the 75th Anniversary of the Royal NZ  Navy.  
Now the USS Sampson, the Canadian HMCS Vancouver and the Australian warship  HMAS Darwin are sailing down to Kaikoura to help, along with a few NZ navy ships (we do actually have a Navy in spite of rumours to the contrary from across the Tasman sea).



If you saw the photo of the three cows stranded on a tiny grassy outcrop rest assured that they have now been rescued and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) says the cows should be allowed to retire. 








Sunday, 13 November 2016

Happy Chairs







Tiropoulos cafe.
 "The Happy Chairs".


 We used to call this cafeteria the 'orange chairs' so our visitors could easily find this K approved cafeteria with its orange director-style chairs.  Then the owner changed the colour and none of my visitors could find the place.  Time once again for a change.  These  chairs are a medley of bright colours  to lift your spirits and draw you into the cafe. You could sit here for hours pleasantly chatting with your friends. 

 Tiropoulos cafe is one of the older on the waterfront.  You can tell by the easy give-and-take with the locals. If you've had a few drinks and feel a bit peckish there is a souvlaki place right next door, though the cafe serves waffles, toasted sandwiches and mezes. Water taxi boats for Galatas leave right across the road and waiting for the arrival of guests on the hydrofoil is a pleasure, watching the world go by with a beer or a coffee.


The owner who actually works in his own cafe. 


Ice cream. A favourite thing in our favourite place



Lemonade from our 'Lemon Forest' just over the water near Galatas. 
 This area used to be well known all over Greece for its 'forest' of lemon and citrus fruit.  Donkeys would take you from the shore up through the forest to the little taverna at the top where the family would squeeze you a lemon drink from their own lemons fresh from the surrounding trees.  English travel writer and novelist  Patrick Leigh-Fermor lived near here before the war in an old watermill with his Romanian lover where he read, wrote about his travels and she painted.  

We held one of our daughter's engagment party up here, away from the madding crowd where we could have music blasting away as is the greek custom and with plenty of room for dancing.  They made us lamb 'bogana' which is a speciality of this region.  A leg (or leg-s) of young lamb is slow cooked in a large baking dish with lots of garlic, bay leaf, potatoes, olive oil and lemon juice of course.  The whole dish is completely covered, usually with a lid which is sealed with bread dough or greaseproof paper and silver foil.  The result is so tender the meat just drops off the bone and it is truly scrumptious.  

 The family who owned the taverna grew old and are now all gone.  The taverna has long closed down. The lemon trees are still there but their fruit is no longer worth picking.  The money they get for the harvest is just not enough.  There has been an attempt to bring the place back to life and this fresh lemon drink is a start.

On the back of this advertisment is written:
"If something in this area is well known throughout Greece it is the Lemonodasos (Lemon Forest).  A hillside planted with lemon and orange trees and many watermills.  Travel its paths and enjoy with us a fresh Lemondasos juice."

Thursday, 10 November 2016

zimaropita...greek toad-in-the-hole

With all the feta we have at the moment I thought I would try another Greek speciality, a feta cheese pie without pastry.  In some areas this is called a 'batter pie' (zimaropita) and in others a 'flour pie' (alevropita).  We had one specially made for us in a small village in the mountain area in the north called Zagorohoria.  It was like a large flat cheesey pancake and I have always wanted to make one myself.

When I read the recipe and started making it I realized how like toad-in-the-hole or yorkshire pudding it is.  The batter is poured into smoking oil and puffs up into a soft tasty cheese pie.



This is the end result, batter with a covering of crumbled feta cheese,  amazingly soft and puffy, even eaten cold the next day.





In days gone by, before there was an electric mixer in every house, cakes and batters were mixed by hand.  My sister-in-law still mixes every thing by hand.  I used to do the same but is it at least 10 years since we've had a cake mixer. 

You probably find it hard to imagine creaming butter and sugar by hand, adding the eggs and getting your hands all mucky in that goopy mush but hands whip up a soft, velvety cream.


The pie is cooked in a large shallow pan and is spread with extra melted butter or oil before going into the oven

Zimaropita - cheese pie without pastry

the batter -
- one mug of water
- one mug of milk
- about 2 mugs of flour
- 2 eggs
- salt and pepper

oil - 60 grams or more
melted butter  - a few tablespoons
- crumbled feta cheese  about 250 grams

-Turn your oven on to 200oC. 
- Pour enough oil into your large flat baking pan to cover generously all the bottom of the dish.

Put the dish with the oil into the oven and leave it there for about 10 minutes.  Keep an eye on it.  You want it to be smoking hot but obviously not to burn.

In the meantime mix all the batter ingredients together into a smooth, pancake batter, either by hand or with a spoon.

When the oil in the baking dish is very hot, carefully take the dish out of the oven and pour in the batter.  The batter will immediately puff up around the edges just like Yorkshire pudding. 

Sprinkle over the feta cheese and then pour  the melted butter evenly over the top.  I used half oil and half butter.

Put the dish back in the oven for about 30 minutes till nice and brown on top.

You could also add grated yellow cheese and crumbled fried bacon.  Some recipes say to mix the cheese into the batter before pouring it into the baking dish, others to sprinkle it over the top. I added the crumbled feta to the top of the batter but next time I will mix it all together.









Tuesday, 8 November 2016

feta and other food


 One of our winter's salads is made of lettuce.  The lettuce is cut finely and mixed with chopped spring onions (shallots) and dill.  The dressing is always lemon juice and olive oil.

The other salad which is found on every menu in winter is cabbage salad.  Finely sliced cabbage, grated carrot, chopped celery and a clove of crushed garlic.  This once again has a dressing of olive oil and lemon juice, or vinegar. 

Summer is Greek salad. 

 Whenever I get served a salad that is not traditional I get very excited.





Mixed green salad for a change, a distant cousin of a greek salad.

The pictured salad was made by my daughter's mother-in-law and was part of the spread for the celebration for all of the 'Dimitris' in the family. This is a name which runs in the male side of their family.  There are a grandfather, two grandsons, Uncle and cousin all with the same first name, and in one case with the same surname as well.  

 There were two big plastic bowls of salad.  Besides the obvious pomegranite, walnuts and lettuce that you can see in the picture other greens included spring onions, dill, spinach, rocket and two different kinds of herby greens which are picked from local fields.  She made a simple lemon and olive oil dressing.  The salad was the star.  Everything including the pomegranites are fresh and in season.


This photo shows one of the main courses, salt cod baked with giant beans.  The cod has to be soaked for two days to remove the salt and the beans must be soaked overnight.  Giant beans and village sausage is a familiar combo but I had never tried the beans with fish before.  The recipe is a keeper, though the fish has a strong taste which may put some people off.


A friend of ours has goats, lots of goats, and the family make and sell their own cheese.  We were gifted with some of this feta last weekend when we invited our friend and her family to eat fresh tuna with us.

The feta cheese on the left is hard and peppery (and a bit goaty), the pieces on the right are soft and salty.  Frankly, I prefer supermarket feta, the flavour is milder and the goat is less obvious.

So much feta.  I know you can freeze cheese but I don't want to spoil this feta although I personally will be eating very little of it.  Feta in a barrel or in the supermarket is preserved in a brine solution so I made the brine and tipped it into a deep bowl.  It doesn't keep this way forever but hopefully it will be long enough for the traditional person in our household to eat it all with his friends.  It goes well with a glass of rough white and a few salty olives just recently pickled.



I had just bought feta from the supermarket so I used that up by making  tyrokafteri, which means spicy cheese.  Think cheesy tzatziki.  I prefer it to tzatziki for eating with bbqed meat.  

Tyrokafteri  - Spicy feta dip
- about 250 grams of feta, any feta
- 2 tablespoons of yoghurt, sheep, goat or cow
- as many hot peppers as you can stand

Crumble the feta cheese and whizz in a mixer with the yoghurt and hot peppers.  That's it.  Normally the feta is quite salty so don't add any more salt.  Really nice with fresh bread.




Saturday, 5 November 2016

remember, remember the fifth of november

Guy Fawkes night, 5th November - a night for big bonfires, fireworks. Celebrated in Britain and I guess in the rest of the Commonwealth, certainly in New Zealand,

commemorates the failed plot of Guy Fawkes to blow up the houses of Parliament in 1605.  There were 13 conspirators but he was the one caught sneaking into the cellar to light the explosives.

He was sentenced to be hung drawn and quartered but leapt to his death to avoid that horror.

The Houses of Parliament are still searched once a year to make sure no one is hiding underneath with explosives although the actual cellar where Guy Fawkes was caught no longer exists.

When I was a kid we made  gigantic bonfires in our back yard, made a 'guy', (effigy of Guy Fawkes) to burn on the fire,  let off crackers and had a party with our friends.  Everyone else in the nieghbourhood was doing the same thing and it was a thrill to watch all these bonfires with flames leaping into the sky.  We threw fire crackers and my older, braver brothers I'm sure threw them on the fire to scare the wits out of us. Oh and sparklers held in hand. How brave we felt. Catherine wheels which whizzed along the ground.





Later on as teenagers, girl guides and boy scouts we organized bonfires with a sausage sizzle, a bbqed sausage on a slice of bread with a squirt of tomato sauce. Blackened sausages which burnt your mouth, the messiest, most heavenly grub a child could eat.

I haven't celebrated Guy Fawkes since I left NZ in 1976. It is one tradition I did not carry on with my children here in Greece.  The first years we lived in the city and bonfires were not possible then when we moved to Crete and had a backyard I was too immersed in Greek tradition.  Next Year with the grandchildren?  It would be fun, though I think we'd have to forego the fire crackers. They would scare the hell out of the goats.


-     How many safety inspectors does it take to light the bonfire? 
Four. One to light the match and three to hold the fire extinguisher.


-    How many civil servants does it take to set fire to Guy Fawkes? Twenty three.
One to strike the match and twenty two to fill in the paper work.

-    How many Mafia hitmen does it take to light the bonfire?
Three. One to set fire to the effigy, one to watch his back, and one to shoot any witnesses.

Friday, 4 November 2016

children will be children...even in the day of the ipod

Remember the boska.


You might recall I wrote a few posts ago about the 'drimia maritimia' commonly called a 'boska' around here.  This is the flower which has sprung up in fields around us like a ghostly army awaiting ......small boys with hatchets.  Underneath this flower is a huge bulb.  The flower and the bulb are poisonous 



The army of small boys arrived, accompanied by their sisters.  I'm not sure if they had hatchets but they certainly had spades. 



The neighbour's road is a war zone full of obliterated boskas

Our five grandchildren had a whale of a time last weekend.  It was war, boys against girls I think, boys down in the field next door where the boskas resided and the girls up on our terrace armed with grapefruit and the hose.






The older children usually spend a lot of time when visiting filling our laptop with complicated computer games which they play through skype with other cousins in Athens.  They hog the internet  (no-one else is allowed to be online as it slows down the game) and   zone out to the rest of the world.  

But they don't spend all their time on the computer.  There are open fields to play in, cats to chase, holes to dig, neighbours to spy on and boskas to bombard with (or 'with which to bombard' if you want correct grammar).

Unfortunately they did not take into account the poison part and ended up with red rashes over their arms and legs which thank goodness disappeared after a good scrub in the shower.

No one got told off or scolded.  This is what kids are supposed to do.



Wednesday, 2 November 2016

Winter is on its way


Temperatures have dropped to 18oC.  Nights are chilly.

  I need to wear a jacket, zipped up, when I descend the mountain on my quad bike.  

It is time to change to a full face helmet. 

Barefeet get frozen, slippers have been pulled out of the wardrobe.

We are nudging into winter

The first bottle of this year's olive oil harvest.

  2016 was a good year for grapes but not for olives.  My sister-in-law, who had a special tank made in the 80's to hold 2 tonnes of oil, this year only managed a few hundred litres.  Instead of a team of olive  pickers she and my nephew picked all the olives themselves in just 2 weeks.  

Apparently it was a dry summer combined with the fact that olives only produce every second year and this is the 'off' year. In the olden days even 'off' years produced almost a tonne of oil.  Not any more.  Conditions have changed and the  abundant oil production of days gone by is just not happening any more.


The first of three large carpets went down today to cover those icy marble tiled floors.