Tuesday, 28 February 2017
Clean Monday ... a sort of Greek Ash Wednesday
A Lenten celebration.
The first day of the 40 day fast (it is actually 49 days from Clean Monday to Easter Sunday) from meat, fish, eggs and dairy.
A public holiday. Time to eat shellfish and octopus, kalamari, flatbread (lagana), taramasalata (fish roe salad), drink ouzo and finally fly kites. Well, the kids fly the kites, the adults retrieve them from olive trees and gullies.
The lagana, I read, is the name of the unleavened bread given by God to the Israelis to feed them while they crossed Egypt to their promised land. It is two times the price of a normal loaf of bread on this day but I make my own.
When the lagana comes hot out of the oven you break great chunks off, cover them in home made taramasalata and by the time you sit down to eat the lenten meal your stomach is full. Happens every year. Our custom is to tear the lagana into pieces and not cut with a knife.
Homemade lagana. The ones on the left are made with sourdough and cooked in our woodfired 'pizza' oven
I am preparing dolmathakia yialantzi (without meat), from vine leaves I collected and preserved last spring, and a dried bean salad. The beans are prepared with lots of fresh parsley, thinly sliced onion, olive oil and lemon juice. This year it is a legume mix which my daughter brought back from a visit to a mountain village. There are yellow split peas, red kidney beans, brown and red lentils, white navy beans, chick peas and what looks like green lentils. It is prepared the same way and served cold as a salad.
These are cut in half and given a squeeze of lemon juice. They are eaten by scooping those orangey insides out with a piece of lagana. The taste is sea water. An acquired taste.
A popular Clean Monday dish.
After googling a little it seems these are the bulbs of the wild blue hyacinth. I do know that a flat fertile area near us is full of them. They are a devil to be dug up however as they are found quite deep down. One of K's cousins used to make a lot of money at this time of the year digging them up with a heavy pick. He and his elderly mother then painstakingly cleaned off all the dirty outer layers and washed them before selling, They are boiled and eaten with a dressing of olive and either lemon juice or vinegar.
K has ordered from his friend two octopuses which will be hung out to dry and then grilled on the BBQ to be sliced and served as an appetiser with a glass of ouzo.
The octopus has to be dried in the sun before being grilled.
Our backyard is in 'winter mode', full of weeds and rubbish. Clean up time is nigh. The sun is warming and the temperature perfect for outdoor chores.
The sweet today is 'halvas' made from semolina, sugar, olive oil, almonds, raisins and flavoured with cinnamon, not to be confused with the commercial halvas which is made from sugar, water and tahini and is eaten with bread during the meal.
Making a kite with light weight pieces of bamboo, string and coloured paper