Saturday, 12 May 2018
A Kretan specialty, wedding pilaf
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!