Thursday, 21 September 2017

Our friends the chinese

Greece has become very friendly with the Chinese, so much so that Angela Merkel recently made a remark suggesting that the two countries were getting just a little too friendly.  President Macron of France on his visit here with Brigitte urged the Europeans to invest in Greece to counterbalance the Chinese.

Recent headlines:

- China predicts tenfold rise of Chinese tourists to Greece 
-  Chinese Premier invites Greek PM to visit China
-  China to have Dynamic presence at Thessaloniki trade fair
-   Air China launches direct Beijing-Athens flights
-  Greek and Chinese Navy conduct joint training exercise 
- Chinese State Grid Corp buys 24% of Greek power grid operator

COSCO a shipping company owned by the People's Republic of China owns 51% of the company running the port of Piraeus, the biggest port in Greece.

'The Greek port of Piraeus is the first pillar of China's new maritime silk road to europe'.   Watch out Europe, the invasion has only just begun.

Soon after the deal with China Greece vetoed the EU condemnation of China's human rights record. One hand washes the other.

Chinese clothing shops are all very the country, most of them very large emporiums with these, usually faded, red lanterns hanging outside.  We buy a lot of our clothes here.  They are cheap and the clothes are ..... made in China, aren't they all?

Galatas, the 'goat village' across the waters has a large Chinese  emporium and down the road, through the lemon groves and in the middle of nowhere on the road to Athens there is another small chinese clothing shop.  It is in an area where there is a majority of migrant workers.  There is a school, a church and a firestation.  On one side of the fire station is an Indian food shop and on the other the cheap chinese clothing store.  Down a side road and out of sight is also a Hindu temple.

This is the sort of chinese shop I would welcome.  Athens and Piraeus have a few chinese restaurants but they might as well be on Mars.  I make my own but it's just not the same.  Instant noodles are the closest I get to a chow mein or a spring roll.

Monday, 18 September 2017

The end is Nigh - once again, yawn

Beware 23 September 2015
Oops, no, we're still here 
Maybe it's 2017?

There is going to be an unusual alignment of the stars on the 23rd.  The Sun, Moon , Mercury, Mars and Venus will form a rare astronomical line-up  which may have some sort of connection to Revelation 12 and could be the start of the apocalypse, so they say.

The Rapture will occur when worthy christians will be lifted by Jesus into heaven.  Those sinners left behind will face the end of the world.  Sinners beware.  Repent while you can.

Revelation 12 refers to the prophecy in  Revelation 12:1-2 about 'a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet'.  You can google it too if you want to know the finer details.  

Or Planet X Nibiru arrives and converts Earth to an iceball

Or earth will  be blasted by a Solar megastorm

There is certainly going to be an unusual line-up of the planets.  I hope the US and Korea don't make the prophecy come true and blast us all into oblivion.

Sunday, 17 September 2017


This little pomegranate tree is only two years old but it is full of big, ripening fruit

There was more than a partridge in this pear tree.  The pear tree is next to the pomegranite and it too has a massive crop this year.  I hope our neighbours give us a bag of these!

Vaso's family picked their grapes last weekend and next day pressed them and put the juice into barrels.  This year's vintage was not as good as other years.  They picked only 35 crates of red and white grapes but pressed 450 litres of juice.  Their normal year is 600 litres and often much more.

I went up to take photos of the pressing but the cursing and yelling that was coming out from the press made me back off.  I'll try again next year.  Tempers were boiling over, the wasps had gathered and while pouring the juice into  barrels they slopped quite a few litres 'overboard'.

Next year they want to buy a still and make raki from the grape residue.  The stalks and skins are put into a large barrel, covered in grape juice and sealed.  Then in November or even later they can make moonshine.

This year the residue is piled up for the chickens to scratch through and then used for compost.

Vaso didn't take part in any of this.  She looks after the vineyard all through the year but has left the younger ones to make the wine.  She will get her reward with year long free flowing wine and no doubt is looking forward to sampling next season's raki (tsipouro).

Remember the weather forecasting that goes on during August by observing the weather changes each day.  Each day for 12 days of August the changes in clouds, winds and temperatures are observed, each day representing one of the following months of the year.

  Well this weather forecast for the first week of September has already been proved wrong.   These 'folk' forecasters predicted cool temperatures and north winds.  Instead we had very high temperatures and little or no wind.  In fact the weather according to them is still cool, nothing like the high humidity, windless days and hot sun we are experiencing now.

35o today and tomorrow.  Little wind. Beware the mosquito.

Thursday, 14 September 2017

Many Happy Returns Stavros and Stavroula

Yes, another name day

14th September
The Feast of the Holy Cross - Timios Stavros in greek

Name day for men named Stavros
and women named Stavroula

It is also a day of fasting.  The tradition on this day is to eat fried salt cod with garlic sauce.

This little church is on a hillock in the middle of nowhere.  This morning we passed by, hoping to stop and light a candle on our return.  There were dozens and dozens of cars parked outside for the early morning service.  When we did return in the middle of the day there was just the fire truck parked beside the church and two firemen seated at a small table under the trees

Inside the church the icon of the Cross had been decorated with basil.  It is a tradition today to take a bunch of basil to church, have it blessed and take it to home to bless the house with its aroma.

Basil was growing over the patch of ground where St Helen, according to legend, found the Holy Cross, in Jerusalen in 328AD.

If, like us, you didn't bring your own bunch there was a pile of blessed basil underneath the icon

We hung our bunch in the front of the car and had a safe journey home

The church of the Holy Cross at the end of Poros harbour.  Once upon a time the old slaughter house was right behind it and the sea full of sharks feeding off the blood and guts.

Nowadays it is a favourite site for fishing and the sea is clean enough to swim in, off the rocks.

Tuesday, 12 September 2017

School's IN!

Schools all over Greece opened for business today.  Not for school but for a communal blessing.

The three island priests went from school to school this morning blessing pupils, teachers and parents.  It is a short ceremony followed by a brief sermon telling the boys and girls to do their best.  The Chief Big-wig then gave a, mercifully, short speech without a microphone so not sure what he was babbling on about.  The Headmistress followed suit and told them that the school now had three new computers.  That is probably the only thing any of the children remember.   All the rest would have been blah, blah, blah until that magic word computer.

The three priests line up for business

 She is far more than the 'tuck-shop lady'.  She is their 'care-taker', knows all the children and their parents, and what is going down in the school.  She is a motherhen, knows all the kids by name, stands at the gate when they leave making sure that each of the younger children has a parent or grandparent to go to and does not just wander off or be taken away by a stranger.  She knows all of us as well and always has a smile and a happy greeting.  Mari-Tess is a foreigner like me married to a greek.

All the Very important people lined up for show.  This was only their second school, 2 more to go and then the kindergartens.

Part of the ceremony involves a bunch of basil. On the table are a lighted candle and an incense burner, a book of holy words (missal?), an icon of the Madonna and a bowl of holy water

And the Most important little people all lined up

The newbies with their teacher in the flowing robes and all their mothers standing protectively next to them

Papa Haralambos dipped his bunch of basil in the holy water and went from parent to parent sprinkling them all with Holy basil water.  He held in his other hand a small icon of the Virgin Mary which everyone kissed after being blessed.  The children were blessed en masse.

Wise words on the steps leading to the second level of the school.  Interesting that they were in English

The good food pyramid drawn on one wall

After all that excitement it was time for mothers to have coffee at the 'green chairs' opposite the school.  Those with older children could, and did, sit it out here and await their return.

Sunday, 10 September 2017

Paradise Taverna

Our local taverna.

Paradisos as it is known around here is a taverna in the hills, run by the third generation of a local family, surrounded by pine forest, with views of Athens across the sea.

On the property is a chapel dedicated to Saint Nektarios, fiesta November 9.  Worth attending the morning or evening service.  There is always a good crowd and who are served coffee and goodies afterwards by the family who look after the church and run the taverna.  A(nother) time for celebration

In the summer we sit out under the canopy of greenery.  Situated up in hills there is usually a breeze and a welcome respite from the heat

In the winter there is an open fire inside and a large dining area.  On a Sunday afternoon in the middle of winter a meal here can go on for hours.  All the diners know each other and there is laughter and shouting across the tables.  Often there is a bouzouki player twanging his instrument and singing.  Soon the whole taverna will be singing along, everyone emotional with lots of wine and camaraderie.

The taverna was originally run by the grandparents, Theodora and Vangelis but slowly the children and now the grandchildren have taken over.  Grandaughter Dora helps in the kitchen and does a lot of the BBQing

Dora's wedding reception was held here and we were lucky enough to be invited.  It was a great summer evening with music and dancing till daylight next morning.  The whole neighbourhood was invited as was the norm before the crisis.  

We did the same at our daughters' weddings.  Before the crisis. 

On a clear night you can see the lights of Athens and Piraeus and all the coast going down to Cape Sounion and it's mighty temple on the cliffs


Truly a family taverna.  The mother, Kiki does all the cooking.  Her specialities are rabbit with onions, rooster and fat macaroni, pork with wine and often she makes a big tray of galaktobouriko (a syrupy semolina pie) which is served free at the end of the meal.  They have their own wine and were the last here to stop using retsina as a preservative.  They have their own rabbits, roosters and until recently they ran a butcher's shop down in the market in town.

If you need a siesta this is the perfect place.  

First comes the cutlery, a bottle of cold water and a basket of home made bread

A cheese pie which we didn't order.  Kiki brought it out before the fruit in case we wanted a wee snack with the rest of our wine.

The father recently spent some months working in a Greek taverna in England.  After dinner we were offered a plate of watermelon 'as they do in England' with added ice cubes to keep it cool and sprigs of mint.  The ice melted quickly and was a waste of time and the mint added nothing to the dish of cool, refreshing fruit

The matriarch Theodora still going strong but no longer getting down on her knees to knead twenty huge loaves of sourdough bread which she then baked in her woodfired oven.

The  eldest son took over the taverna and like him, his children grew up in the kitchen, learning to cook, barbeque, serve and clean tables.  Now the grandson, Vangelis, named after the patriarch, is slowly taking over control although his mother Kiki still reigns supreme in the kitchen.  Many of their customers are well known local bigwigs but also stars of greek films and TV and other celebrities.  Kiki and the family will come out to greet them and share a joke just as they do with all their customers.  The atmosphere is always friendly and very  cheerful.

Thursday, 7 September 2017

September grapes

The pungent yeasty smell of emptying wine barrels is in the air, as last years dregs are discarded.  The first grapes have been harvested in our area and the barrels have been cleaned and sterilised ready for this seasons vintage.

The weather forecast is for fair weather .  Temperatures have been high this last week.  The grapes are sweetening.  Inspections take place daily.  There is no rain on the horizon but the wasps and hornets are already enjoying that boozy sweetness and could ruin a good crop.

Vaso's family is gathering, first to pick the white grapes and about a week later, the red.  There is rebellion in the air this year.  Vaso is no longer supreme ruler.  She wants to wait another week, the 'childen' want to pick now.  One of them wants to go on holiday next week with his family and the other has a daughter returning to overseas study and wants to spend time with her.  They'll probably harvest towards the end of the week.

The grapes will picked in one morning, brought up to 'Estate Vaso'  on the back of the old farm 'ute' and must be pressed the next day.

Wine is very important to the Greeks.  Around here many households have a small piece of land where grape vines are lovingly cultivated, looked after  and harvested.  The grapes are made into wine for consumption by the family during the next year.

There was an extremely unpopular tax added to wine during the crisis.  The government is now promising to revoke the tax which has slowed sales and increased business on the black market.

Greeks have been drinking and trading in wine for over 4,000 years.   Scattered on the seabed around wrecks of ancient trading ships are always shards of the huge pottery amphora used to transport the wine.

Soon we'll all be high on the smell of fermenting juice as all our neighbours begin this years vintage. 

Monday, 4 September 2017

Greek potato salad

A change from the usual Greek salad.  This is similar but more filling.  We had the salad as an accompaniment to baked fish.  
The fish were baked in olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, with a little garlic for about 20 minutes.

First boil two or three potatoes, whole, in their skins.  They need about 20 minutes, depending on the size.  I turn the heat off after 15 minutes and leave them in the pot of hot water for another 15.  They are cooked through but still firm.  

Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.

Add lots of sliced onion, a handful of capers.

Some fresh or dried oregano

Chopped tomatoes and cucumber.
Half a dozen olives
Pour over some olive oil and a squirt of vinegar.
Toss it all together

Because fish should always be eaten with some sort of greens I boiled these long thin green beans, added a little olive oil and vinegar and we ate this 'greek bean salad' as well.

Saturday, 2 September 2017

Pillow Talk

I have mentioned a few times before that my M-in-law stored items of food in pillow cases under her bed.  Well, we/I still use a clean cotton pillow case for storing but I don't hide it away under my bed.

She lived in a tiny house, under ours in fact, with one window onto the street below, one onto the courtyard and an almost below ground level window which looked out to her daughter's house next door.  From this window she would hand plates, glasses, cutlery and food when we were having family gatherings and eating in the vine covered yard, and observe the goings-on of the extended family.

My sister-in-law now lives, by herself, in this house, have given her own next door to the youngest son when he married.

It is three rooms, no corridors, no passages, just three rooms, kitchen, living room, bedroom, all about the size of a sardine can.  My m-in-law used the loo out in the yard but there is a bathroom inside the house, up a few steps, no window, no air or light.

For my m-in-law it was more than enough, luxury, a house of her own and a far cry from the house where she grew up, the same size but housing a family of seven, with ceilings made of branches, and a toilet but no shower or bath, in the corner of the goat pen.

She had few possessions and the small carved wardrobe in the bedroom held the shirts and a suit of my father-in-law and her two black best dresses.  The rest of her clothes hung on pegs behind the kitchen door.  The heavy wooden dresser in the bedroom held their underwear, a few woollens , an assortment of crocheted doilies, a few pillow cases, sheets and a couple of towels.  The middle shelves of the dresser were behind a glass door and there she kept a few china cups and plates.  On top of the dresser was a china dog sitting on a crocheted doily and a vase which often had a 'bouquet' of green branches from the sweet smelling bush which grew in the yard.

Her dowry of mats made on the loom, bed coverings, heavy white cotton sheets and towels were kept outside in a trunk stored in the 'little room', a shed called in greek the 'kamaraki'.

The middle room held a table and chairs an oil burning heater and a divano-kassela which was a couch-come-single-bed with space underneath  to store blankets.

There was no other storage space besides a few kitchen cupboards where she kept plates and glasses.  So the space under-the-bed was used to store any extras.

Hilopites, made in the summer with eggs and goats milk

A cotton pillow case kept the dust away from them but let them have air and her homemade hilopites (macaroni stlye noodles), trahana (a homemade sort of grain) and dried bunches of oregano lasted all the year without bugs or mould.  She also always had a good of supply of the twice baked bread which the Greeks love so much.  'Hard tack' we would call it.  The brick like pieces of bread are quickly run under the water tap before being eaten or dunked in a glass of milk.

Trahanas, made with milk and flour, dried and crumbled and usually made into a thick soup

A clean cotton pillowcase is excellent for storing herbs.  I don't store my pillowcases under the bed.  I  hang them from a set of shelves in the corner where  they get lots of air.  These are snails, closed up and hibernating, waiting to be cooked in the summer with tomatoes and onions. 

Sage and oregano.  When the oregano dries it falls from the stalks and after a month or so it accumulates at the bottom of the pillow case, can be scooped up and stored in an air-tight jar

A bunch of fresh dried oregano

Wednesday, 30 August 2017

Little Shoes

These are essentially hollowed out and stuffed zucchinis/courgettes or aubergines/eggplant 

They are called 'papoutsakia', little shoes, for obvious reasons.

I prefer the zucchini cooked this way.  Delicious.

Just another way to get rid of all those zucchinis which are growing like blazes in the summer sun.  

First find some fat zucchinis, the fatter the better.  They must be hollowed out to hold the meat and the sauce.

Cut each vegetable in half long ways.  Don't hollow them out just yet.  Removing the flesh is much easier when they have been boiled and are nice and soft.

  Put on a pot of boiling water and when it is bubbling away carefully place each half of zucchini in the water .  Boil 5-10 minutes.  They will be nice and soft but not falling to pieces.  

Leave to cool a little.  Then you can easily scoop out the insides and make a deep trough to fill with meat.
Use the zucchini flesh in the meat sauce or throw in the compost if there are too many seeds.

While you're doing all this a pot of bolognese sauce should be boiling away in another saucepan.  I cooked my sauce the night before so all I had to do was put the ingredients together. 

I cooked 1/4 kilo of mince meat
some fresh grated tomatoes (or a tin or packet of tomatoes)
one chopped onion
a good slurp of wine
grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
zucchini flesh diced 

Cook the mince about half an hour and leave to cool, or cook the night before.

Pour a little olive oil into each zucchini shell.  Not absolutely necessary but this is greece and we love our olive oil.

Fill with the bolognese sauce mixture.  Now here's the rub....  my zucchinis weren't very big so I overfilled them with the stuffing.  You should leave a little room on top for the bechamel (white/cheese) sauce.  I didn't as you'll see.

Sprinkle some grated cheese over the mince.  Optional.  I think it gives it a little more flavour

Make a small pot of thick white/cheese sauce.  I used about 
a table spoon of butter
and a tablespoon of oil
2 soup spoons of flour
a good teaspoon of mustard
a little nutmeg

Nutmeg is the spice of choice for any zucchini/aubergine-moussaka type of dish.

Carefully place a thin layer of sauce over each 'little shoe'. Top with more grated cheese.  My sauce sort of rolled off and it became one big dish of vegetables and sauce, and darn nice it was too.

Bake about half an hour in a medium oven till golden brown on top.
This is how my shoes ended up .  A sort of floppy old slipper.

This is how a chef would present them.  The one nearest the camera is the stuffed zucchini and the other a stuffed aubergine.

If you are using aubergines do not boil them but cut them in half, bake about twenty minutes in a hot oven and they should be soft enough to remove the flesh easily.

As always

Kali Orexi (bon appetite)

Don't forget the chilled white or red wine, bread to soak up the juices and lots of feta cheese.

Red wine is better chilled in the summertime.  You certainly won't like 'room temperature' in our heat.  I fill my wine glass with ice whether drinking red, white or rosé and enjoy the food, wine and scenery, some interesting conversation, or the latest gossip from down on the waterfront.