Wednesday, 22 March 2017
Macarounes and gkogkes
The pungent whiff of garlic has 'perfumed' our house from kitchen to bedroom and beyond, as from a vegan Pepe le pew.
We had macaroni for lunch today. What you would call spaghetti. I ate it with a simple tomato sauce made from freshly grated tomato (from the freezer) with a little oregano, cinnamon and little round spice balls, all-spice I think in english, and some finely grated mild yellow cheese.
K wanted garlic macaroni (skorthomacaronatha) which is his favourite. Usually after the spaghetti has been drained I would pour over burnt oil. Literally burnt. The oil is heated until smoking in a small pot called a briki and should sizzle as it is poured over the pasta. Today I crushed three cloves of garlic and heated it gently in olive oil adding a little tomato puree and paprika. This I then poured over the spaghetti which I topped with a finely grated hard sheep's cheese. And from this garliky sauce came the pungent aroma which permeates our house.
Another favourite way to eat spaghetti is with the sheep's cheese fried in oil and mixed with the pasta. The sheep's cheese obviously does not melt or it would be a sticky mess.
Or just with plain yoghurt, tangy sheep's yoghurt or the strained greek yoghurt which has become popular everywhere. And if there's nothing else (but there will always be garlic and olive oil) then spaghetti is eaten with ketch-up, or kets-ap as it is called here.
I well remember the first time I grated cheese for my mother-in-law, preparing for yet another family meal, everyone squashed inelegantly around her rickety old dining table. I used the coarse side of the grater, it was so much easier. She took one look at it said 'mmmf, is that the way you do it. We use the finest grater'. Oh boy, totally useless foreign daughter-in-law!
Greeks eat a lot of pasta, much of it mixed and shaped expertly by old hands and eaten with seared butter or oil and covered in mizithra, a hard sheep's cheese. The handmade pasta can be made simply with flour and water or at the end of summer, when chickens are laying and goat udders are full, village women make macarounes, gkogkes and hilopites (amongst others) rich with eggs and milk.
My mother-in-law would make pillow cases full of hilopites in the summer sun, kneading the dough full of eggs and milk from their small holding on the Peloponese, rolling it out with a long broom-handle-like rolling pin, cutting each piece to the size of a fingernail and then spreading them out to dry on sheets covering all the beds and tables inside the house. She would store the pillow cases full of pasta under her bed and dole them out all through the winter.
Neighbour Vaso still makes her own hilopites and always gives us a bag of them which we eat when fresh, although I really don't like them. They taste of the goat that supplied the milk.