Saturday 30 July 2016

In the heat of summer

The 'Poros Women' (Poriotisses) and the Council are holding a Poros Arts Festival during July and August with outdoor events almost every evening.

This group of school girls from all around the area put on a lively and enjoyable assortment of dancing, not only traditional greek but modern, latin and even a foxtrot. They danced to a packed house and accompanied by a very talented local boy playing the bouzouki.  

I haven't seen the foxtrot danced since I was at High School.  It was one of those complicated and so old fashioned formal dances we had to learn for the school ball when all we wanted to do was disco, back in the 60s.

Tomorrow night down on the beach the local fisherman will give a demonstration of a fishing technique called 'the krokou' followed of course by loud greek  music and energetic  dancing by many of the  holiday makers, Greek and foreign.  

The melons at the moment are absolutely divine.  Really there is no other way of describing their intense sweetness and flavour.  The aroma of the uncut fruit permeates the whole house.  We cut the flesh off the rind, cube it and store it ready to be eaten in the fridge.  The closed container stops the smell of the melon penetrating every thing else in the fridge and keeps it fresh.  Wonderful to be able to dip into this bowl and have a delicious mouthful of melon whenever you need a little  low cal injection of something sweet.

I have thrown (literally) one lot of  these fresh melon seeds under a lemon tree.  They are growing but not vigorously.  I suppose they might need thinning now. Maybe one cool evening. Or it could be just survival of the fittest.  The 'relic' on the right is the jawbone of a cow.  All that is left of a cowhead feast.  The jaw (this is just one side of it) was hung on the lemon tree by small grandchildren.

Something new this summer, mediterranean lager.  

Squashed snake in the middle of the road.
 This was quite a big one.  

Basil.  The smell of summertime.  This lush green basil bush was right beside our table last night.  Just a light shake  fills the night air with its fragrance.

If you plant some basil beside your tomato plants the scent is supposed to impregnate the tomato as it grows on the vine.  We tried it this summer.  Can't say I have noticed any difference in the flavour of the tomatoes.  But the green of the basil does go well with the red of the tomatoes.  Aesthetically pleasing!

Thursday 28 July 2016

26th July - another saint, another fiesta

26th July in the Orthodox calendar is the fiesta of Saint Paraskevi. 

The little church just below the road on the way down to Vayionia bay is dedicated to her.  On the banks of the road you see three white crosses, now freshly white washed and the church is surrounded by seven tall cyprus trees.  The cyprus tree was a symbol of mourning which is why  they have been planted in Greek cemetaries.  Small churches like this one  often have a cypress tree or two looming over them.

Church in its everyday state

The service has started.  The evening service began at 7.30pm. I heard the church bells ring out.   People come at any time, sometimes to just light a candle but most stay till the end to listen to the liturgy and then to receive a piece of blessed bread and get some of the artos (sweet bread).  These are made by the local housewives or can be ordered from the baker.  The bread comes in a large basket covered with a nice white cloth, 5 loaves at a time.  They represent the miracle of the 5 loaves and two fish with which Christ fed the 5,000.  These are taken to the church at the beginning of the service.  Small brown beeswax candles are pushed into the loaves and during the ceremony they are blessed by the priest and then cut up and handed out afterwards along with any cakes or sweets brought by the 
congregation.  There is usually a rush to get a slice of everything and handbags are filled up for those at home.

 The baskets with their nice white cloths and the five loaves outside the door of the church.  In the basket along with the loaves we also place a small bottle of olive oil for the lamps in the church, a bottle of the sweet red communal wine, a packet of incense, a small packet of charcoal which is used to light the incense (livani in greek) and  a list of our dear departed whose names are read out by the priest.

The church is small so most of the congregation sit or stand outside.

After the evening service everyone goes off to celebrate.  Down at Vayionia Bay they have rented enough chairs and tables to fill  the waterfront and a live band plays popular greek music till the small hours.   Up at the hilltop Paradise taverna Kiki  is preparing 'kondosouvli', chunks of pork with onions, tomato and green peppers threaded onto a spit and grilled over hot coals.

Every house in the neighbourhood is occupied for this fete.  The large family who own most of the land and houses around us have their own tradition and gather for a feast of snails.  

Agia Paraskevi is a popular  saint.  The owners of  many of the houses in this area live in Athens and come only for fiestas and big holidays.    On arrival in Poros one of the first things they do will be to visit the church and light a candle.

The snails must be cleaned then soaked to get them to emerge from their shells.  Any that don't are thrown away.  They are boiled till tender, then the top is cut off each one, one-by-endless-one.   By doing this you make a second airway so the inside can be sucked out.  Then the sauce is prepared with lots of garlic, fresh tomatoes and onions and then the snails are added to the sauce and stewed.  Suck, slurp and hopefully you don't get a sudden surprise as it unexpectedly slips straight down your gullet.

July is a popular month for fiestas (and siestas!).

25th July .. St Anne (26th in the Catholic church)
27th July  .. Agios Panteleimonos 

Monday 25 July 2016

news bulletin

One horrific terrorist attack after another in Europe.  Belgium, France, Germany,  unsuspecting civilians killed, hundreds injured and thousands traumatised.  Can Europe win the war on terror?  These 'lone wolves' make it extremely difficult to know who will strike where or how.   So much hatred.  What in the world is happening?

What is the 'turkish sultan' planning next? Last weeks military coup was a farce.  Was it all planned by President Erdogan himself to consolidate his power?  He can now replace military staff, teachers, government workers, judges, police, anyone who has opposed or criticised him at any time.  And he has done just that.  Something like 10,000 have been detained and 50,000 dismissed from their jobs.

When the coup started I was watching my favourite programme, CSI,  and the show was interupted by a news flash of the coup and then hours of endless live updates as the coup  progressed in Constantinople (Istanbul).  Fortunately they re-ran the CSI episode a couple of days later. 

 Erdogan appeared on TV asking 'the people' to come out into the streets to support him and that is what they did, disarming soldiers and stopping tanks.  He is a popular leader and on his way to becoming another middle eastern dictator.

8 high ranking military officers escaped to Greece in a helicopter and asked for asylum giving Greece a diplomatic headache.  If the officers are returned they will be court-martialed and will disappear one way or another.  If they are not handed back then Turkey will make all sorts of problems for Greece.  They could  retract their agreement with Europe by which they  have stopped mass migration of asylum seekers across the Aegean sea and flood the greek islands with many more thousands of  refugees.

Greek tourism will perhaps benefit from the unstable situation in Turkey, first all the bomb attacks which seem to have been targeting places frequented by tourists and now the coup.    I can imagine quite a few countries are advising against tourists visiting Turkey.  There have been five terrotist attacks since the beginning of 2016.

The plight of refugees is long gone from the front pages of our newspapers.   Fewer than 70 a day are arriving on the greek islands, not in the thousands of  last summer.  Many are now trying to enter  Europe through Italy.

Refugee camps on the Greek islands close to the Turkish coast are overcrowded.  Living conditions are poor and violence oftens breaks out amongst the migrants.  In Athens conditions are no better.   The biggest problem is where they go from here.  Many european countries are unwilling to take any more asylum seekers. After the recent terrorist attacks in Europe it will be even more difficult for these countries to accept refugees.  

82.6 million euros will be given to Greece to provide more shelter and health services for these people.  This may bring a short term improvement in their living standards.  What about the future of these 50,000 human beings?

  The greek economy limps along although the Greek PM assures us that bright days will soon be here and the economy will be booming, the unemployed at work.  Does this man live in some sort of parallel universe?  He has no idea of how greek people scrape out a living.   

Pension cuts are continuing.  They get nibbled at every month.   The end of July is the time for our first tax payment and also the first installent of the 'special' property tax. Do they have to do this in the middle of summer?  Any time is a bad time to pay taxes but not mid summer when you need a few spare euros for a cold beer or an iced coffee.

Presidential election in the United States.  Wonder which way that will go.  Hilary or Trump - between the the devil and the deep blue sea.   I see that film maker Michael Moore is saying  'Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president. President Trump. Go ahead and say the words, ‘cause you’ll be saying them for the next four years: President Trump.”

Brexit.  The Brits have left the EU.  Good on them.  It is a sinking ship.  How can there be one rule for Europe when it is made up of so many different cultures, traditions, languages, religions and so many countries who at the moment are probably all giving an -exit a serious consideration.  Teresa May appears to know her job.  I am sure she had some very good reason for appointing Boris Johnson to the post of foreign secretary.  Britain's new secret weapon, the 'blonde bombshell'.

He will keep us entertained in the next few years reading about all his latest breaches of etiquette.

At least I can end this post with a short piece of good news.

Sir Patrick Leigh-Fermor  - British author and war hero.


Fermor wrote his first  book about his 'walk' across Europe as a young man, a masterpiece in prose. A number of later books were about his travels through Greece. He is described by the Wall Street Journal as 'the greatest travel writer of his generation'.

  He joined the Irish Guards at the outbreak of WW11 and after the fall of Crete commanded the resistance operations on the island.  In the 60s he and his wife Joan built a house in Kardamyli in Greece where they lived for many years.  On his death it was bequeathed to the Benaki Museum.  

The house will now be fully restored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and used as a centre for writers, scholars and artists who need a retreat  and  also for cultural events for residents of Kardamyli.

Sunday 24 July 2016


The heat of summer begins to be unbearable after June 20 and goes on relentlessly till the middle of September.  The first thing all greek housewives do is take up all the rugs and carpets and get them cleaned.  We take ours out to the back balcony and  scrub them with shampoo and a broom.  We rinse them off with the hose, hang them over the wall and when they are dry, roll them up, put them in plastic bags and hide them under the bed till October.  All our floors are tiled and they are cool in the summertime under our bare feet, freezing in the winter when we cover them up with rugs. 

Our big concern in the summer months is fire, as those of you in hot countries will know so well.  I don't know how many times I will go out and sniff the air, looking for smoke on the horizon, thinking I have caught a whiff  of some local blaze.  Fire planes buzz overhead at times, only on look out I hope.  The big yellow and red fire fighting Canadairs come in low and fill up in the sea near us if there is a fire on the island.  A fire truck is on patrol all day and night.

We have had a few small fires in our area but they have been brought quickly under control.  

The roof top cinema has opened and shows this years movies at a good price.  You can take your souvlaki up there with you or buy popcorn or chips at the canteen.   The council always arranges concerts, art exhibitions and theatre during the summer, always in outdoor locations.  Last Saturday there was an '80's' concert (greek music) on the beach.  August full moon will be the time for a piano concert at the ruins near us of a temple to Poseidon and there is always some sort of show at Russian Bay which takes place in front of the flood lit ruins of the old Russian Naval station.

This weeks movies, 'Big Fat Greek Wedding no 2', 'Star Wars', 'Batman and Superman' and 'The Good dinasaur'?  Not sure of the english name of that last movie.  I googled it.  The movie is called 'the good dinasaur' - 'kalosavros' in greek.

The older generation go for their medicinal bathe early in the morning.  They wade out up to their necks and then sit there bobbing about, chatting to their friends for an hour or so, discussing their health and what pills they are taking.  Bathing in seawater is supposed to be excellent for the health, will make your constitution strong and keep you robust through the cold and damp of winter.  They all count the number of times they have been into the water and will ask 'and how many swims have you had'?    20 swims for creaky bones, 30 to ward off the flu and 40 to ward off the dreaded lurgy.  

The thesaurus had never heard of the 'dreaded lurgy' so I googled it.  Apparently the term came from the British comedy series 'The Goon Show' meaning 'a dreadful malady'.

  Schools close around 15th June and re-open about 10th September.  3 months holidays! It is just too hot for small children to concentrate.  

Backgammon by the sea.

The best way to keep cool on a Sunday afternoon.  A bar on the water.

Wednesday 20 July 2016

The July Full Moon

Full moon often means crazy changes in the weather and this full moon is no exception.  This time the change is a wonderful surprise.  Temperatures are down from the high 30s to only 32o and the meltemi has started blowing, that welcome cool, stiff breeze from the north.  What delightful weather for July, the month of breathless days and sticky nights.

The north wind blows straight into Vayionia Bay.  You could almost surf these waves.  Not good weather for the full moon party they want to hold tonight.  But as Markos says, 'the party will go on' but on land, not in this sea. And it did go on.....till 6am.

The meltemi brings in rubbish from the open sea outside the bay  and seaweed ripped from the seabed ends up floating into the beach.  Ghikas is there on the beach all day raking up the weed from the beach and netting any rubbish in the water.

Down in Poros harbour all the yachts tied up along the waterfront have run for cover into the sheltered waters of the far arm of the bay.  The north wind blows them up against the wharf and can damage  the hull.

17th July is the feast day Agia (Saint) Marina, the great martyr
She was tortured and half drowned and burnt for remaining steadfast to her faith but came out unscathed. She was beheaded instead.  Her relics (remains) are now in a church dedicated to her in Athens except for her right hand which is in a monastery on Mt Athos (where women are not allowed to tread but parts of them are OK and actually worshipped).  She is celebrated in the Catholic church on July 20.  

There is a small church dedicated to her just down below our old house in Poros town.  The church is opened and cleaned for this occasion and the priest holds an evening service on the eve of the fete day and an early morning service which is attended by many mothers with young children.  Having read all about her I can't see any mention of her protecting children but that is what she is known for around here.

20th July is the celebration of Profit Ilias (Elijah).  There is another small church high on a hilltop near us dedicated to him.  The grader came out and smoothed out the dirt track so cars could get up to the top and wet the road to cut down the dust.

This is another one of those very small churches which is generally only opened up for this fiesta.  It is located in a shaded pine grove.  My girls camped out there when they were sea scouts and it is the perfect place for a picnic.  

Any little white chapels that you see high on a hill or craggy mountain top will likely be dedicated to the Profit.  

Tuesday 19 July 2016

Kokoretsi..offal in all its scrumptious glory

Kokoretsi is a long spit of offal wrapped with sheep or goat's intestines.  Those of you who would not usually eat  liver or heart or lung or other unmentionables from any kind of animal should just try a little of this spit roast delicacy.  The innards around the outside are cooked to a crisp and the pieces of offal inside are deliciously seasoned with oregano, thyme, lemon juice and olive oil with  salt and pepper.  It is best eaten hot straight off the spit with lashings of tzatziki and village bread and a glass of rough red wine.  You certainly should try at least a small morsel. 

Metres and metres of  intestines ready for their difficult cleaning.  Sometimes the intestines are turned inside out and cleaned, then soaked in lemon juice.  My mother-in-law patiently and painstakingly turned them inside out with the use of a small stick.  Now K attaches one end to the tap and lets a flow of water clean the insides out.

The apprentice learning the tiresome job of washing intestines

Thirsty work.  Time for a break and a few cans of 'Fix'.

Offal, also called 'variety meats'??  Sweatbreads. Internal organs.  Entrails.  This is it, cut into large pieces, washed and ready to be threaded onto the long skewer.

The master at work, pushing the chunks of offal one by one onto the spit

The trainee gives it a go.

Starting to weave the intestines around the meat. This long thread of innards holds the meat together and keeps the insides moist and succulent.  

Every part of the meat has to be covered by the intestines.  No little bits are allowed to be poking out.

The intestines are in small lengths and when one piece  comes to an end it is knotted on to the next piece.

The roll is basted regularly with olive oil and lemon juice. This is ready for tasting and small chunks will be chopped off the ends to be tested for succulence and edibility  as the meat starts to sizzle.  This is an 'unavoidable' part of the cooking and has to be accompanied by a few more cans of beer to wash down the 'test sample'.

Kokoretsi of course originates from ancient times and sacrifices to the gods.  A similar dish is found all over the Balkans and Turkey.  In Greece it is one of the meats that we eat at easter but also on many other festive occasions.  Nowadays it is possible to buy a small roll in the butcher's shop which can be cooked in the oven.  Hardly the same however and the men miss out on all that long tradition of preparation,  the discussions of kokoretsis in days gone by,  the appraisal, the testing, the accompaning greek music, dancing, the enjoyment and good cheer of company.

At easter the kokoretsi is supposed to be a starter but every year it is the first meat to be taken down from the spit and we have just about devoured it all by the time the lamb or goat is taken down and cut up for the table.  We always manage  a plate of easter lamb as a follow up  but every year vow, in vain, to have the kokoretsi as a small meze and wait for the main course.

Thursday 14 July 2016

Real Greek Extra Virgin Olive oil

Greek olive oil.  Guaranteed to keep your skin smooth and wrinkle free and your heart  pumping regularly.  Olive oil also gives you light, keeping alight the lamps in many churches and makes a pure, green
soap.  My brother-in-law always made great blocks of this rough, green soap after the olive harvest and washed his hair with it, claiming at the age of 80 it was the soap that kept his hair from going grey. In my early years on Poros my mother-in-law washed the dishes with a block of this natural oil soap.  I hated it.  The soap would not form suds and there was an oily scum around the basin at the end.  

We pick and pickle or salt our own olives.  Serve them with lemon juice and a pool of oil so you can dip your bread.

The olive tree provides the best fire wood, slow and long burning.  This one gives shade to our car as well.  It does need a good trim though.  At the moment it hides our view of the sea and the lights of Athens.  Wild claims that boiled olive leaf tea helps cure all sorts of illnesses swept through the country a few years ago and for a short while olive leaves wrapped in plastic were even on sale in the supermarket.  Come and pick your own!  Or just continue eating the olives and the oil.

Our garage

What fresher oil than this, eaten on our terrace......

With a view of the very trees it came from.  The olive groves on the hillside opposite us.

Some of the years supply of home pickled olives.

Greek extra-virgin olive oil is now on sale in Australian supermarkets.  The same brand we can also buy in our  own local supermarket. Australia now produces a lot of its own olive oil.  The climate is very similar to ours.

An olive oil stain on your clothes can be easily removed by squirting some dish liquid on the spot and giving it a brief rub.  Bundle the garment up and throw it in the washing machine.  Gone.

The olive tree is native to the mediterranean. Traces of olive oil in jugs 4,000 years old have been found in a tomb on the greek island of Naxos.   Modern greeks have the highest per capita consumption of olive oil, 24 litres per person per year.  That is 2 litres per person every month.  Thinking about the amount of olive oil we use in salads and cooking I guess that is about right, even though we are trying to cut down. 

We also use olive oil to light the lamp on the family cemetary plot.  If you pass the graveyard at night you will see a hundred of these little lamps flickering in the dark among the graves.

There is an ancient olive tree on Crete thought to be 2 or 3,000 years old.  It has been declared a natural  monument.  It's root system is massive and enormously twisted.  Amazing.  It still produces olives.  The branches from this tree were used for the Beijing and Athens Olympics.

There is another tree in a village near Bethlehem which is thought to be between 4 and 5,000 years old.   

Sunday 10 July 2016

Greek life in photos

Every good greek housewife hangs the bedding out to air every morning.  I do too....sometimes.  Once when we lived in an apartment building in Crete one of the pillows fell three storeys into a puddle of fresh tar. Nasty. My mother-in-law hung the washing out in her yard every sunny day of the year, brought it in at midday , folded it all and made the bed just before retiring for the night.

This is the way we grate our tomatoes.  Most housewives still prefer to grate them this way instead of whizzing them in the mixer.  The skin goes into the compost.  You get  more lumpy, au naturel tomato instead of a puree.

Wind turbines on the hills opposite on the mainland Peloponese.

Unfortunately they have defiled the outline of our 'sleeping lady'.  The turbines are down her tummy and up her knees.  I have cut her head off to the right of the photo.  She is lying on her back with her knees bent.

The carob tree.  The carob looks like a big green bean and the carob tree is a large leafy shade tree. 

  The carob dries out and can be made into flour or a chocolate substitute.  Here they are mostly used to feed the goats.  

Our front entrance.  I had a collection of plates which were slowly getting broken.  Our master builder scooped out a hole  and plastered the last two into the wall he was finishing off.  

These are shell fish called 'porthira' which the kids dive for at our local beach.  K breaks open the shell and then boils them.  They need quite a long boiling until they are tender  but are worth it he says.  This is an ideal meze for ouzo, doused with a little olive oil and lemon juice.

A tortoise hiding from the children.  We have quite a lot of wild life around here, besides field mice and frogs in the garden there are pheasants, quails, hawks, tortoises in the summer and quite a few snakes.  Fortunately we usually find these squashed on the road.  K puts sulphur around our boundary wall to discourage them.  The snakes on the island are not poisonous but they are not welcome.

Wednesday 6 July 2016

Greek food and photos

  Greek cooking uses much the same ingredients as the other three mediterranean countries Italy, France and Spain.  The basics of their cooking are similar yet each one is so different and unique. 

Greek food also has  flavours  of its neighbours in the Balkans and the  Middle East. 

 Don't think, after reading some of my earlier posts, that all we eat is pig and offal.  Most of our meals, especially now in this heat, are vegetable based.  We may have fish twice a week and meat on Sundays and special occasions.  Beans and lentils are a big part of our diet.

Basics which you will find over and over in Greek dishes are of course extra virgin olive oil along with lemon juice and fresh or fresh dried oregano.  Those are the big three but wine, runny natural honey, olives pickled or salted, thick strained yoghurt or the sour tasting sheep or goat's yoghurt, all sorts of greens and the twice baked bread which is like a hard dried rusk. The paximadi (rusk) must be quickly dipped in water to soften it and is often eaten drizzled with olive oil and topped with grated tomato and feta or crumbled in a salad where it soaks up all the juices.  

  Our thyme, oregano, olives, lemons, wine, oil, eggs, honey, greens and feta all come from local fields or farmers.  
 Greeks eat food that is fresh and preferably from suppliers they know. They make what they can at home, including various pastas when the  goats have surplus milk and chickens are laying. 

Feta -  goat or sheep's cheese.  We have a friend on the island with a large herd of goats who makes goat cheese and we buy mostly from his family.  NZ makes a nice tangy feta-type cheese.   It is made from cow's cheese and is therefore a slightly yellow colour. The name 'feta' is protected under European law and can only be applied to  goat and sheep cheese made in Greece.  Gorgonzola, champagne, cognac, roquefort and Melton Mowbray pies are other protected products.

This is what true feta cheese looks like.  Homemade, straight from the goat.  Look at the holes.  

Retsina - this used to be virtually the only wine available in Greece when I arrived in 1976.  It was bought mainly by the litre from the local grocer or taverna.   Retsina is so named because of the resin taste that came from the lump of pine resin put in each barrel to kill any unwanted bacteria.  The first glass was rather 'brisk' but the more you drank the better it got.  A glass of iced retsina after a plate of  lamb helped to cut through all that fat.  Nowadays it is hard to find.

   No hummus. This is a Middle Eastern dip made with chick peas and tahini (sesame paste).  It is just becoming popular here.

 No basil. Until recently basil was simply grown in a pot for its sweet smell and to keep away the flies.  My mother-in-law would never have used it for cooking.  Basil has also come into fashion.  I use a combination of parsley, mint and basil in most vegetable dishes with fresh tomato.  

 Halloumi is a cheese from Cyprus and is best grilled.

Mediterranean memories

Italian cooking .      
The best pizza I have eaten in Italy was with potato and I have never seen it since or found a suitable recipe.  Our first meal in Italy was plain spaghetti with cheese on top and I can remember even now the waitress showing us how to eat it with the use of a spoon.  Limoncello I make when we have extra lemons but I prefer the true Italian which travellers have brought us.

French food. 
 I ate steak tartare but once.  I ordered it thinking I was going to be served a sizzling steak.  Instead I got raw minced meat and garlic.  I ate it, though I don't know how and two hours later was sitting very queasily on a plane bound for London.  Frog legs I have eaten in Greece and they are delicious but not much to them, those poor frogs have skinny little legs.  Snails are also a yummy greek dish but not quite like the superbe escargot.  Greek snails are smaller,  usually in a tomato sauce and have to be loudly sucked from their shells.

   I have been tipsy on Spanish sherry on a few occasions (in my youth) but haven't seen or tasted it in about 40 years.  Gazpazzo I ate on my first night in London 40 odd years ago.  I had no idea what it was then and  what a disappointment. Cold soup. Sangria is becoming popular here at summer weddings.  It has been served  before the dinner at all the weddings we've been to recently.

Moussaka.  Traditionally this dish consists of layers of fried aubergine, potato and zucchini followed by a thick layer of stewed minced meat and tomatoes and topped with a bechemal sauced flavoured with lots of nutmeg.  My first attempt at moussaka was a bit of a disaster.  I fried the aubergine and zucchini but put in slices of raw potato.  The potato of course was still hard after its half hour cooking .  One of my first failures.  

Now I boil the potatoes whole and then slice them, grill the aubergine and zucchini, use very little oil and freshly grated tomatoes to stew the meat and the bechamel sauce is made from low fat milk.  I still make sure the nutmeg is the star.  The overall dish is much lighter for this summer heat.  It is wonderful cold the next day but irresistible piping hot, sloppy with rich tomatoey juices, straight out of the oven.

A vegetarian version using a fresh tomato sauce instead of the mince is great in the summertime when you want something a little lighter.

Moussaka is not Greece's national dish and neither is the greek salad.

THIS is the Greek national dish, fassolatha.  It is a soup using dried beans soaked overnight (never tinned), carrots, celery and tomato.  In the colder north they add a hot pepper or two and so do we in the winter time.  It is a great dish to warm the bones when snow is threatening to fall (happens a few times in the winter believe it or not) and it is the favourite of every greek.  In the summertime we eat the beans in a oil and lemon vinagrette with lots of thin sliced onion and parsley.  This version is called 'beans piaz'.

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers.

A greek salad, slices of white feta cheese, bread and a cold beer.

One kind of souvlaki.  Meat on a skewer grilled over the fire, usually pork or chicken

And the Other Kind, gyro meat (lamb) rolled up in pita bread with onion, tomato, tzatziki and fried potatoes.  Now days you can also get chicken gyro.  The pita bread is stuffed with chicken, a pink sauce (called 'sos') and shredded lettuce.  

Feta grilled with tomato and green pepper, olive oil and paprika, wrapped in tin foil and grilled on the bbq.

Briam -  greek ratatouille.  A rich mix of potatoes, aubergines and zucchinis, fresh grated tomato, mint, parsley, garlic, loads of olive oil with a little crumbled feta cheese

Green beans and potatoes (fassolakia me patates). Serve with feta cheese.

Kalamarakia stewed with tomatoes and ouzo. The kalamari is guaranteed to be soft and tender. The sauce has a tang of ouzo and dill.