Friday 30 September 2016

Greek wedding. Dancing in the rain

Under the spreading chestnut tree.  Unfortunately this tree gave too much shade.  Humidity was high and there was hardly a breathe of air even at 6 oclock in the evening.  What should have been a perfect location with a  cool, refreshing breeze turned into a sauna.  But that didn't spoil anyone's enjoyment of the wedding.  It took place outside the church with 3 priests presiding.

There can't have been a more joyful bride.  She glowed with happiness, smiling all through the ceremony.  Here she enters the courtyard escorted by her equally happy father.

Accompanied by a bouzouki player singing the traditional wedding song (in greek of course) 

Today a wedding is taking place
In a pleasant garden
Today they  will be parted
Mother and daughter
Groom, love the bride
Do not chide her
As a pot of basil
Be proud of her

(my translation)

After the church we were loaded into small water taxis  and were taken across  the harbour and over to the mainland for the reception.  The chairs and tables were set up on the lawn around the swimming pool of a hotel with a view of the sea and Poros in the background.

The bride and groom arrived driving in amongst the tables on a scooter, the bride riding side saddle, holding up the long train on her dress.

The siblings made a short film of the couple's lives, cradle to matrimony, shown on a screen which you can just see in the distance in the photo above.  Behind the screen there were continual flashes of lightening and soon I got a text from my daughters to say it was pouring with rain on Poros.  We were still safe then though a sharp wind had got up.  Next we had a terrific show of fireworks right over our heads with  bits of ash and paper hailing down on us but fortunately no sparks, and then a drone buzzed over us taking photos I presume for the family.

At 10.30 the rain came down.  Luckily we had already eaten and enjoyed a few glasses of wine.  Everyone rushed for cover, what there was of it.  We sheltered under a pine tree which dripped on us.  All the younger crowd just got up and danced in the rain.  In this photo the groom and bare foot bride are leading the dance.  Later the newly wedded couple and their friends dived into the pool, best clothes and all.

By midnight the rain had stopped but we were soaked so we clambered back into a water taxi with a dozen or so other drenched guests and headed home.  A wedding we won't forget.

Rain on your wedding day is supposed to foretell goodluck and happiness in the marriage.  On my daughter's wedding the rain poured down as they left the church.  Happily the people who ran the hotel where we held the reception had foreseen the rain and moved the festivities lock, stock and barrel from outside around a swimming pool to inside and under cover.

Sugared almonds and an almond cake given out to the guests after the church ceremony. 

 These were the traditional sugar coated almonds plus others with sugar coating surrounding chop almonds and chocolate.  I'm amazed I got them home untouched to take a photo.

Tuesday 27 September 2016

Laiki - local farmer's market

Every Monday and Friday we have the chance to buy fruit and vege from  local producers.   Our market is only about a dozen stalls and they sell seasonal fruit and vegetables.  If you want the freshest you're down there at sun-up along with the elderly women and the sleepless to pick over the best.  

Most of the produce comes from across on the mainland,  from the flat, fertile low lying fields just out of Galatas. There are also huge greenhouses for year round growing and acres and acres of carnations  grown for the bouzouki halls in Athens.  Throwing carnations took over from breaking plates some years ago.  

Market morning.  Along with the vegetables we can also buy honey from local hives.  Golden runny honey, pure and full of flavour.  This is the place to buy your tomato, lettuce or other garden plants and sometimes you'll find fresh flowers as well, olives fresh from the tree ready for pickling and the first bottles of this years olive oil in a few months time.

Most of the fruit and vegetables are from small growers like K's cousin who supports his family on what he sells at the Poros market and the markets across on the small mainland village of  Galatas

 What I got for 15 euros.  3kilos of tomatoes, a big bag of short cucumbers, a bunch of parsley, aubergines, a dozen fresh corn cobs, a kilo of green peppers, 5 kilos of potatoes and just over a kilo of red and white grapes.

Bounty from our own garden.  Lots of green peppers.  One plant is still producing.  6 cherry tomatoes and zucchini flowers.  We got loads of flowers this year as I have mentioned before and one squash which is still growing.  The flowers we ate stuffed, along with the tomatoes and peppers.  They really are wasted this way.  The flower disappears into the stuffing.  They are much tastier washed, dipped into a thin batter and lightly fried.

Sunday 25 September 2016

Buy local

On our way home we stopped for supplies, bread and tomatoes, from the branch of a big greek supermarket chain.  This in a huge citrus growing area.  I was flabbergasted * to see lemons on sale there, lemons from South Africa at 2.34 euros a kilo.  S. Africa is about as far away as you can get from Greece.  Just 10 metres away from the, Greek (so they say), supermarket was a stall selling bags of lemons, fresh from the local trees at 1 euro a kilo.  Has the world gone mad.  Of course, you say, if it was only this......

 Greece is in an economic crisis and here we have local producers being sabotaged  by a government allowing foreign (and non EU) produce such as this to be brought in and sold.  I can only hope that no-one was buying.  These lemons were a bright yellow and glistened, I presume with wax and some kind of preservative.  I suppose if they don't sell here, they'll sell elsewhere, in Athens say, where lemon trees do not grow in everyone's back yard. What a bloody shame.

*flabbergasted.  Of course, I googled this amazing word.  It's origin is uncertain but first appears in print in 1772.
The British comedian Frankie Howerd used to say in mock astonishment: “I’m flabbergasted — never has my flabber been so gasted!”  
Thank you, Worldwidewords.

Thank you my two daughters who watered my squash while we were away.  It grew from a tiny 'acorn' into a mighty 'oak'.  The plant had six flowers this morning.  Why has it only produced one squash?

Friday 23 September 2016

Raining on paradise

Yesterday it rained on and off all day, off thankfully when it was time to go out and eat.  The wind rushed through the pine trees and the freshly dampened (drenched) earth smelled of autumn.

"...season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.."
John Keats.

Lightening flashed over the hills in front of us but no sound of thunder.  Somewhere north, around Korinth, they were getting a real battering.

Eating took up a lot of our day but I accidently deleted the photos so here is one of a very healthy Cretan dako which we ate the first night with our ouzo.  A dako is a twice baked bread roll, hard and dry.  It is run under the tap quickly to wet it slightly and then this one was covered in chopped tomato, feta cheese, olives, green pepper and olive oil.

We ate on the other hand, a great block of moussaka for lunch.  It was hot out of the oven and surprisingly light.  The aubergines and potatoes were not soaked in oil from the frying pan and the béchamel sauce was almost fluffy and there was lots of it.  With a half kilo of red wine it warmed us up and gave us (Dutch) courage to make a dash for our room before the rain came down again. 

In the evening it was pizza.  Thin crust, lots of cheese.  And a beer.

I taught myself from youtube how to crochet a half granny square.  The easiest of stitches but when you're an ageing, blonde lefty in a right hand world sometimes instructions can appear trickier than they really are.

And of course I read a book.  This is a biography of  fascinating travel writer and novelist Bruce Chatwin.  He's  a charming but extremely complicated character and this thick book covers his life in great detail, from antiques appraiser at Sothebys to travels in Patagonia and beyond .   I learn his travel stories mix fiction and fact.  As it is a biography I am reading it slowly, dipping in and out.  I don't have to finish it quickly to see 'whodunnit'. 

I will go back and re-read his travel books with 'another eye'.   

Today the sun is shining again on my holiday hangout.  Last night the nightbird, not an owl, but  some bird called a 'gioni',  was birp-birping, an endless call as he sought his mate.

Tuesday 20 September 2016

What noise annoys an oyster

What noise annoys an oyster
What noise annoys it most
A noisy noise annoys an oys..
Annoys an oyster most

I do love little ditties.
The other day I wrote about some annoying morning sounds and it brought to mind other noises. Poros noises.
We lived for twenty years in sight and sound of the Naval training school. The bugle call at 8am was followed by the national anthem as the flag was raised. The notes of the bugle reminded you that day was beginning and to get a move on. I enjoyed the sound of the reveille and again at sunset as the flag was taken down. It was  familiar background noise which made me feel at home.

Sorry, here I go again, as I am reminded of another verse. Google has opened up my life. I learn new facts and recharge my memory looking up the origins of the little tidbits which flash through my  brain.

"They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them"

Robert Laurence Binyon

The island clock was another familiar sound chiming on the hour and the half hour. It was just far enough away to inform but not intrude.  We could also hear the clock at the Naval base. Inevitably one was always a few minutes behind the other.

                                     Poros clocktower    

Church bells were much closer and pealed loud and long.   7.30 on a Sunday morning they pulled us out of a deep sleep, crashing in our ears.  As the years went by though the sound got so familiar I hardly heard them.

They chimed the death knell as well to announce the passing of a parishioner and again on the day of the funeral.  The slow toll of the bell was a signal to go out in the road and ask around the neighbourhood

"For whom the bell tolls
Time marches on
For whom the bell tolls"

Church bells trilling joyfully signaled a fiesta, New Year's eve or the arrival of the bishop.

What was extremely annoying and got me plotting to throw tacks on the road was the noise of motor bikes thundering up the hill below our bedroom window at 4am.   Bars closed at 3am and  everyone roared off to bed.  There were always a few bikes with faulty exhausts which made a terrific racket but just the sound of clashing gears on that steep hill was enough to wake the dead.

  A noise you don't hear there anymore was 'twit-twoo' of an owl. My sister-in-law would go out and throw stones at them if one landed on our roof and started twit-twooing.  It is very bad luck, usually foretelling a death in the family. I think the owls have disappeared along with bats that lived in the eaves of the old house opposite and twirled (silently) around the street light at dusk.

Then there were the sounds of the harbour.  The clanging sound of the anchor being pulled up at 6am as the big car ferry got ready to sail for Piraeus .  The chug chug of the small car ferry going across to the mainland.  

Mothers calling their brood in for dinner. I could yell with best of them...Elliiiiiiiiii, Dan..a.eeeeeeeee,  just the right number of syllables for an elongated scream which penetrated the whole neighbourhood

Now all we hear are the neighbourhood dogs, a rooster at 4am and the shrill screech of cicadas in summer.  

Monday 19 September 2016

Fiddler on the balcony

Every afternoon, after siesta, and late at night we are entertained by a violinist playing on a balcony a few rooms down.  He can, thank goodness, play in tune and fiddles away playing us nisiotika (island) music which everyone recognises and enjoys.  

Last night we sat and drank our frozen raki on the balcony and were serenaded with pleasant melodies which drifted through the moon lit night silencing  the owls and probably bewitching even the foxes.

Next morning -
7am woken by the clatter of the rubbish truck
8am bugle call
9.15 am a recital of violin music.  Something pleasurable on a balmy summer evening could be called intrusive and even grating on the nerves at 9 in the morning.  I wonder if this guy has his wife with him and if so whether she might be deaf.

A sandy beach. 

  There are watch-towers all around us 

Sunday 18 September 2016

Food for fish

The sea water here at our holiday village is crystal clear, the beach is sandy and today the water was calm as a lake.  The water was a little cold for my liking but I gingerly waded in, swam around a bit and got some exercise.   

There is no fishing allowed in this bay and the fish know it. Standing in the water there are shoals of quite big silver fish with a black dot on the tail (melanouria in  greek) and smaller black fish swirling all around.  If you stand still too long they come along and give a painful nip to the leg.  

Deeper I saw some big sponges on the seabed.  There used to be many in the waters around Poros but it is years since I've seen them.  They attach themselves to rocks and cling there for dear life.  It needs a very sharp knife and some patience to bring one to the surface.  We did gather 2 or 3 and probably so did others which is why there are none there today.  There were sea slugs too which filled up with water and you could bring up and squirt at your unsuspecting partner.

Nowadays there are virtually no sponges or seas slugs and spiky sea urchins (ahinous in greek, kina in New Zealand) have become an endangered species although the latter always seem to turn up just where you want to enter the water and instead become a dangerous species.

The contents of the sea urchin are a delicacy and the greeks love to (very carefully avoiding the spikes) cut them in half , squirt some lemon juice into the shell and scoop out the 'meat' with a piece of bread.  It tastes like sea water with lemon juice to me.

The grandchildren still find starfish and now and again a delicate little seahorse (ipokambos in greek or hippocampus from the latin).  We make sure these are carefully returned to the water.

The sponges we gathered back then were a pain to clean.  Nowadays we would have goggled for more information.  They were black on top and had to be soaked for days and then stamped until the blackness started to disappear.  But they were still stinky with small sea creatures which had died inside them and when they dried they were still malodorous and rather brittle.  

Saturday 17 September 2016

Holiday camp

9 am and a beautiful autumn day has dawned.  We are sitting on the balcony of our third floor room at a holiday camp for Naval personnel.  K is ex Navy and  we can apply each year to stay for up to 2 weeks.  During July and August this base pulsates with 1,500 holiday makers, mostly families with young children.  Sounds like a horror movie to me.  Now there are only 70 of us, temperatures are in the low, low 30's, nights are cool and starry, the sea is warm and all is well with our world.

There be foxes in them thar hills.  The foxes come down to the beach after dark and even wander in amongst the buildings hoping for a crumb of leftover pizza

The camp is closing down for the winter.  In midsummer there are loads of facilities, an ouzeri with a view over the long sandy beach and across the bay to the island of Evia, a Grill, Sweet shop, 2 cafeterias and a pizza parlour all with prices as low as they can go

Jack be nimble, Jack be quick
Jack go unda limbo stick

Limbo lower now
How low can you go?

Chubby Checker and summer days on Maketu beach in the 60's.

The ouzeri was open last night and the pizza place is open this evening.  Tomorrow we will be left with only the restaurant and one cafeteria.  Believe me, I'm not complaining.  Two people can eat  for almost nothing, portions are huge and they provide small disposable bowls for the leftovers!

The hotel style room is just a shell. They provide the bed, mattress, a couple of chairs and a small table on the balcony.  There is a bathroom and small kitchenette with a fridge.  You provide the rest from pillows to bucket and mop, sheets, towels, cups and plates and even the little gas burner essential for making greek coffee.  We load the car up to the roof with our own supplies and are happy to do so.  Oh, and free Wifi.  

You'll be hearing more.

Friday 16 September 2016


Fanouropita with added protein

I made a fanouropita (non dairy/egg cake, see labels for the recipe) for a memorial on Sunday.  Unfortunately I left it out on the bench overnight and in the morning it was swarming with tiny ants.  It wasn't suitable for the memorial coffee but I cut it up, shook each piece, transferred it to a bowl and took it down to the family feast afterwards.  A friend told me later I should have put the baking dish out in the sun for five minutes.  Ants hate bright sunlight and they would have hightailed it out of the cake as though it was on fire.

The goats left me one squash plant and 'lo' I found a squash was growing under the leaves.  Hope there is enough sun now for this to develop and grow.  I am keeping a sharp eye out for any more.  We'll probably pay over 70euros for our summer water and what did we get?  Quite a few green peppers, a couple of handfuls of mini tomatoes and one squash.  Next year I'll still plant the squash and hopefully a proper pumpkin or two but the rest I'll buy from the weekly local-growers' market.  I still have the tomato and pepper plants and after fertilising again and adding extra lime maybe they'll produce a few more vegetables.  We've had a few inches of rain and now the sun is out.  Perfect growing weather.

The left over fava (split peas/pease pudding) I made into dhal and it was delicious.  Greek cuisine is so healthy, olive oil, mediterranean diet, blah, blah, blah, but I do crave a bit of heat and a change of tastes.  I fried a little onion, lots of garlic, some chopped ginger and curry and added it to the cooked split peas.  Damn tasty!  It perfectly filled that taste gap.

I was given another feta recipe recently and it looks like one that the traditional members of the family will eat.

-  Green beans with feta sauce
·         150 gms feta (greek of course) crumbled
·         3 tbsps greek olive oil
·         minced garlic, as much as you dare
·         400 gms  green beans
·        juice of one lemon
·         oregano
·         lots of fresh pepper

Combine the feta, oil and garlic in a small pot.  Simmer a little till the cheese is soft and melting.
Pour this over the green beans and sprinkle with oregano (fresh or dried), lemon juice and grind fresh pepper over it all.

Tuesday 13 September 2016

Aliens and other beliefs

-  Aliens?

A few days ago the skies over Cyprus were lit up by a strange glowing blue light which raced across the sky.  Locals felt a peculiar vibration and then a mystifying rumbling sound. Others say there was a 'blitz of bright lights' a 'thunderous bang', a 'heavenly boom' which made the ground shake.

 Officials say that 'maybe', 'they strongly believe' it was a piece of meteorite entering the earth's atmosphere.  

Imaginably, even conceivably, it could have been, an alien spacecraft blowing up and sinking into the sea. Just a news item of interest which caught my eye.  Weird or what? 

Whatever it was no trace of any fragments have been found.

- Tuesday the 13th

Elsewhere in the world whenever the 13th of the month falls on a Friday it is a day to beware .  Here it is Tuesday the 13th.  On Tuesday the 13th 1204 Konstantinople (Istanbul) fell to the fourth Crusade and eventually the Ottomans took over the city.  Greece suffered under the rule of Ottoman Empire (the Turks) for 400 years.

It seems Tuesday 13th is also unlucky in Spanish speaking countries, Spain and Mexico for a start.  It is not a day to start a journey or even leave your house.

-  Wednesday the 14th is the feast of the Holy Cross.  It is a celebration of the true cross  and  the day it was found by St Helen.   It is also a name day for those named Stavros or Stavroula and a fasting day although salt cod and garlic sauce are allowed at the name day feasts.

All the women bring bunches of basil to the church.  The basil is taken home after the service and used to make the new sourdough starter for the year to come.  The belief is that this blessed basil has mystical powers, especially the power to make bread rise.

My mother-in-law and all the aunts made sourdough starter this way every year.  They soaked the basil, blessed by the priest, in water overnight and next morning added flour to the water and mixed it to make into the starter sponge.

Another photo, another tale

This month's bounty.  Purple damson plums, grapes from our neighbour's vineyard and homemade sourdough bread.

I make the sourdough in the lidded clay pot and then use the container as a bread bin.  It checks the invasion of pesky  ants.  The sourdough starter is some I acquired from the rustic Paradise taverna near us.  The old matriarch, Theadora, is a cousin (several times removed) and was glad to give me a small bowl of starter a few years ago. She used to make 20 or more huge loaves a week for the taverna, kneading it all by hand.  Imagine kneading 40 kilos of flour!

 My last two  starters lasted a few years but didn't make it through some very hot summers even though I always keep them in the fridge.  This one is very active and with the use of a local bread flour we buy by the 25 kilo sack makes excellent bread.  Bread baked in a covered container always comes out softer with a nice chewey crust which is not tough.  Bake 30 minutes with the pot covered, then take off the lid and cook about another half hour till the top is nice and brown.  I hardly knead the bread.  I mix it really well and fold it over 10-14 times punching the dough out to the sides and folding up again. Don't ask me why that number.  It is just enough to get a nice smooth ball.

Bulk flour

The plums are a dark purple on the outside and yellow inside.  Last year I made a hot spicy plum sauce with them which was a great success.  I'll probably do the same with these.  Most of the family will only eat strawberry jam so making jam with plums is just not worth it.  No-one wants it even as a giveaway.  Our neighbour makes plum preserves.  She boils the whole plum (minus the stone) in a sugar syrup.  The locals love this traditional sweet.  When you visit her house you will for sure be offered a small dish with a couple of plum preserves and a glass of cold water.

The grapes are from the same neighbour's vineyard and destined to be turned into wine.  There must have been 3 or 4 kilos of grapes, which again, no-one wanted.  The skins were tough, they weren't sweet and they were full of pips.  What a waste.  I would have made grape preserves from them but the pips ruled that out.  I juiced a kilo maybe but even the juice was not pleasant and the taste of the grapes over-rode the taste of any other fruit I put in.  So, into the compost with them. These grapes do get sweeter and make a nice rough white.

One year I juiced some of our own grapes and put the juice in a plastic bottle with a loose cap.  The juice fermented and I suppose you could have called it wine.  It wasn't something I would try again.  Wine is only fermented wine juice whether you tread the grapes with bare feet or juice it by machine, put it in a barrel or a plastic 'pop' bottle. It's variety of grape, sugar content, local conditions that makes it into a memorable libation plus some know-how and lots of tasting.....especially the latter.

K's family home where our daughter now lives.  Beautiful blue door and windows, rubbish hanging up ready to be collected and the colourful bougainvillia trained across the lane.  

Quote of the day: 
 Don't get your knickers in a knot.  Nothing gets solved and it only makes you walk funny.
- Kathryn Carpenter

Saturday 10 September 2016

Tzatziki and vine leaves . Hands on.

Here are the photos I took of actually folding up and cooking dolmathes.  The recipe is on the post 'Vine leaves and Vasso'.  Look on the left of this post under 'labels', 'stuffed vine leaves'.  

The vine leaf has been blanched, the stuffing put together.  Place one small teaspoon of stuffing in the middle of the leaf.

Fold the sides over and then roll it up into a tight little parcel

Arrange the dolmathes overlapping around the bottom of a small pot.

When the bottom layer is nice and cosy add enough water to cover all the dolmathes.  Put a small plate or saucer over the top.  This will help keep them in position and stop them from rattling around.   Add some lemon juice and olive oil and simmer gently for about 30 minutes, till the rice is soft.  Add more water if they are looking dry.

Mine were slightly overstuffed this time and they 'overflowed' but were still delicious. Go easy on the rice. You don't want a rice stuffing but a savoury stuffing with rice. Arrange on a plate and drizzle with a little olive oil and lemon juice or make a egg and lemon sauce.

The egg and lemon sauce makes them far more appetising.  Beat an egg and when frothy add the juice of a lemon (or two). Beat again with a fork. 
Drain the liquid from the pot into a bowl when still hot.  Slowly mix the liquid (hot but not boiling) into the egg and lemon, stirring all the time. Pour this over the dolmathes.  Do not reboil or the sauce will separate. 

The famous Greek tzatziki.  Thick greek yoghurt, grated cucumber, garlic with a little oil and vinegar.  My 10 year old grandson Jamie (Dimitri) makes a strong, garlicky, zingy tzatziki, lip smacking good.  If he can make it then so can you.  When in NZ the last time I could only find very runny yoghurt so I used sour cream instead. Nice and thick and tangy . The result was just as good.

First grate your cucumber either peeled or unpeeled.  How much cucumber you use depends on how you like the tzatziki.  Our family likes a lot so you can feel munchy bits as you eat.

Then pick up the grated flesh in your two hands and squeeze.  Get rid of as much juice as you can.  Squeeze the hell out of it. Drink the juice or use it to water a pot plant.   See how much liquid I got from one big cucumber.

Put two (or more if you dare) cloves of garlic through the juicer.  Put the cucumber and garlic into a bowl of thick strained greek yoghurt.  The thicker the better for me but my daughter makes it with slightly thinner sheep's yoghurt and it is just as nice.

Mix it altogether really well with a little salt, a teaspoon of vinegar and a drizzle of olive oil.  Cover it well so the smell of garlic doesn't travel through the rest of the food and put in the fridge for an hour for the flavours to blend.

Kali orexi

Thursday 8 September 2016

everyday stories

Last night the goats came.  The whole herd of rogues.  Big fellows most of them with that stinky, musky billy goat odour.  First came the noise.  Late at night I was spooked to hear scrabbling, gnawing, things being mangled and torn.  It was close up sound, just outside the (firmly closed) shutters in the garden.  When I got up courage (K was away) to actually open the shutters there they were just beyond the fence, dozens of big burly goats, ripping out the bougainvillia which hung over the railings, jumping up on the old audi to strip the olive tree of its low lying branches, lapping up all my squash plants which were trailing along the road and scrambling up on to Vaso's wall trying to reach the carobs.  I bravely ventured out into the garden to shoo them further away but after a short gallop down into the fields next door they were soon back again.  After making sure they couldn't actually get into the garden I left them to it.  Luckily the english neighbours had closed their gate and repaired their fences otherwise the herd would have trimmed all their recovering trees and flowers down to ground level and left a load of manure for them all over the balcony.

Billy Goat Gruff 

So, that was the end of my squash.  I was going to pull out all the plants anyway.  We had plenty of flowers but the actual squash grew to a few inches and then rotted away.  Today the rains came and maybe the squash would have taken a turn for the better but the goats had already been to work and have saved me the trouble of making pumpkin pie this year.

Last year's haul of squash

I'll look again for real pumkin seeds next spring.  Squash is good but nothing like the genuine floury, orange pumpkin so marvellous for roasting.

My mother-in-law always made sweet pumpkin pie.  First of all the squash had to be grated and then drained.  Next came the homemade pastry. This  huge ball of pastry (flour and oil and water) was rolled out with great expertise to a thin filo with a long rolling pin resembling a broom handle. 

The grated pumpkin was mixed with raisins, cinnamon, fine bread crumbs to absorb any moisture left from the grated flesh, lots of sugar, olive oil of course, some crushed cloves and then poured into the pastry lined baking dish.  More pastry on top and into the oven.

I have stopped making it, preferring to turn the squash into soup or puree but maybe it is time to honour the old tradition and make a sweet spiced pie.

Greek salad for africa -

The world's largest Greek salad weighing 20 tons and 10 kilos has been put together in Moscow.  Of course it broke the Guiness World Record.  Somewhere in Red Square there were 20 tons and 10 kilos of tomatoes, onions, cucumbers, peppers, olives and feta 'sprinkled' with oregano and 'drizzled' with olive oil.

The salad they beat (as far as I can see) was a 13 ton salad put together in 2010 in Ierapetra in Crete.  Why would you want to?  Unless you had 60,000 refugees to feed.

This russian/greek salad was part of a year long celebration of the thousand year friendship between Russia and Greece. One thousand volunteers took two hours to cut up those tonnes of tomatoes and cucumbers and finely sliced one ton of onions.  I guess they ate it all afterwards as well.  I hope the Russians paid for it all and it wasn't put on our darn tax bill.

Victoria Hislop -

Author of the bestselling book 'The Island' set on a leper colony on a small island near Crete is now writing a book based on travels around the Peloponse, the lower half of the greek mainland.  This new work is to be called 'Cartes Postales from Greece'.  The main character travels around  this southern peninsular and presumably sends home post cards telling everyone what a wonderful place it is.  You will (I will) have to read it and find out.

I love the Peloponese and till recently we travelled around the whole area ourselves whenever we got the chance.  We are lucky on Poros.  A five minute ferry boat ride and we are on the mainland, the Peloponese, and then it's just turn left or right and keep on driving.  There is so much more to experience here than on a dry Aegean island. 

 The peninsular has history oozing out of every rock.  There are pine covered mountains, small stone houses clinging to rocky ravines, seaside villages, long sandy beaches, rocky inlets,  rivers, waterfalls, a wonderful scenic train, ancient Olympia and big touristy cities like Nafplio (just over an hour from us). You can drive at your own pace, stopping at family cafes where you still have to use sign language to order a coffee and capuccino is not on the menu.  You can follow the Wine Road or the Trail of Pan.  I still have a lot more to see there myself but most of all I love the high moutains, so cool especially in the middle of summer when the rest of Greece is suffering from a heat wave.

And now it is time to leave you for a new Hercule Poirot episode is starting.  English language, greek subtitles.  I do love an english programme (as opposed to an american one).

Tuesday 6 September 2016

All things Greek

School's in -

Schools open 12th September and teachers are ready to strike on the 15th.  Welcome to the Greek education system.  The reason for striking this time is the  change in the after-school program which keeps children with working parents in school till 4pm.  Two of my grandchildren, 9 and 10 years old are about to become latch-key kids.  It is a small greek island, they are only 5 minutes from school and their house is part of an extended family compound.  These two children are the lucky ones.  School begins at 8.15am and ends for the day at 1.10pm. Their mother finishes her morning shift at 2pm.  Last year the kids remained at school till 2pm until their mother collected them.  This year they'll walk home by themselves at 1.10, let themselves in and probably watch TV till 2.  Children living at the other end of the island with parents working in banks or government jobs are the ones who will be affected most.  Most offices close at 3pm.  Yiayias and Papous-es are going to be called into action once again.  Thank goodness for the close knit Greek family.  

But, until the schools actually open no-one really knows what exactly is going to happen.  Makes you wonder what the education department does during the 3 months of holidays. Nothing.   Every year when schools open there are problems.  School books have not arrived or are slow in being delivered.  School teachers have not been appointed and classes have to be lumped together until they are.  Last year the schools opened with a shortage of 6,500 teachers. We wait to see what will happen this year.

One positive piece of news, refugee children will be able to attend school and will be taught in their own language, English and will learn basic Greek.

Oldest Greek tree -
A pine tree in the mountains in northern Greece has been discovered to be over a thousand years old.  Researchers have named the tree Adonis after the Greek god of beauty and desire.  Over a dozen trees high in the Pindos mountains are considered to be about the same age.  

A person who studies the ages of trees is a dendrochronologist.  I can say that, it is a greek word.  These dendrochronologists take a metre long core of the wood from the tree and then count the rings, so I guess we can believe them (the dendrochronologists).  Great word.

Things to do with feta -

All things Greek is the title so here comes a recipe'  Tirokafteri, hot-cheese dip.  This is a spicy cheese puree made with feta cheese and some sort of hot pepper.  

Mash up
200 gram of feta cheese
2 tablespoons of oil
tsp of vinegar
a sprinkle, or more, of hot paprika or red chilli flakes
2 or 3 big spoons of thick yoghurt
Mash it all together really well or put into a small mixer.  You could put some mashed garlic or some oregano in it as well for extra taste.

Serve with triangles of grilled or fried pita bread.  I love this with meat or salad instead of tzatziki.

Harry's feta spread -

250 grams feta
1 crushed garlic clove
2 hard boiled eggs, chopped
2 tsps. oregano, basil or dill
250 grams carton of sour cream or thick yoghurt
8 chopped black olives
lots of pepper

Mix it all really well and refrigerate.

Serve with pita bread or slices of French bread that have been sautéed gently in olive oil.
Makes a tasty dip for rice crackers.

Thanks Dad.

Sunday 4 September 2016

beach party with sangria

The summer's highlight was a concert on the beach featuring  one of Greece's best loved singers, Manolis Mitsias. 

Years ago his son undertook the first month of his compulsory military training at the Naval Base here and Manolis came along to give a concert to the new recruits.  K was in charge  of all things electric back then and arranged for the microphones and technical stuff to be set up.  I was away at the time but he got me a signed photo . He is one of only two or three greek singers whose music I enjoy.

This latest concert took place on the beach in front of the ruins of the old Russian naval station .    The ruins were lit up from behind in a radiant blue, the stage in many coloured spotlights, the bay was full of luxury yachts tied up to shore, all the seafarers sitting on deck with their g and t's, small boats sailed in and out ferrying the masses, lights of the villages on the mainland twinkled in the background. Even with so many people there was a kind of hush and Manoli's music filled the bay and echoed across the waters.

Russian Bay

We drove around in the car and sat up on the bank above the bay so we had the music up close and a panoramic view of the lights.  I made some sangria for the girls and I, a chilly bin of cold wine for K, homemade pies and a few chips and nibbles plus, most important, comfortable folding chairs for all of us.

Listening to the concert in comfort

Crowds were arriving, an endless trail, by water taxi, car, bus or motorbike.  When I say at least half of the island was there plus a few hundred tourists I am not exaggerating.  The Mayor gave a long speech before the concert using his captive audience to do a bit of campaigning. 

Around us were loads more  fans standing on the side of the hill, singing, dancing to the music.  Now and again Mitsias would turn off the microphone and ask the audience to sing along and they sure did.  Everyone knew the words and sang with great gusto. 

The beach bar down below set up a row of small BBQs and lines of tables and chairs and the tantalising smell of char cooked souvlaki rose up to our noses.   We drank our sangria and felt very happy.

Sangria with white wine and vodka

We usually manage to find a bottle of sauv blanc to drink on these occasions but could find nothing in the local shops.  I wanted something a little more festive to drink than Vaso's white in a plastic bottle.  I googled sangria with white wine and discovered this wonderful combo.  White wine and vodka.  Our English neighbours had given us a bottle of vodka at easter and there was still some left.  I actually had all the ingredients on hand. 

About a litre of white wine
 one cup of vodka
one cup of orange juice (or whatever fruit juice or pop you can find)
fruit - there was a nectarine in the fridge and a few leftover grapes.  I cut the nectarine up and plopped them and the grapes in the jug

I topped up the (big jug) with a little more wine and juice, but went easy on the vodka.  Every time we filled our glasses I added some ice and soda water and some fruit. 

Cheers Big Ears.