Monday 31 October 2016

beetroot and garlic sauce

Traditionaly at greek tables beetroot are eaten with a garlic sauce (skordalia) .  Also any 'ray' sort of fish is eaten with skorthalia.  We had both so garlic sauce was made, by me.

Here we eat all of the beetroot plant.  The leaves are boiled separately from the bulbs.  The stalks are cut up and added first to the boiling water.  I cook the beetroot bulb whole.  The peel just slides off afterwards.  My sister-in-law however peels the beetroot like a potato and cubes and cooks it.  Whatever way you do it the vegetable water is full of nutriments and perfect for watering the garden - when it has cooled.

The garlic sauce is made from bread softened in water and  I also add a small boiled potato.  It makes the sauce smoother.

To the squeezed out bread is added lots of crushed garlic.  I actually added two more pieces of garlic.

Put it into your little mixer and whizz it well with a good dash of vinegar, olive oil and salt.  It can get cloggy and may even burn out the mixer-motor.  I whizz it in batches and then mix it altogether in a big bowl.  If you're using potato then be even more careful.  If it seems dry then add a little water.

These are the pieces of the wing of the 'ray'.  Sting ray, sun ray. (skate?)  They are usually about half a metre across and have wing like fins.   They are very popular here.  Just flour, season and fry.  

If you have fished it up yourself then it needs the skin removing.  Not so easy.  It also has, not bones, but sort of geletinous strands (cartilage) which can be  chewed and removed from mouth in a genteel manner (as opposed to being spat out into a paper napkin which is what most often happens here).  

All in all the combination is rather tasty, the beetroot, the sauce and the fish.

Word of the day:

aggravistle - that small and inaccessible piece of steak (or gelatinous cartilage in this case) that sticks between the teeth and cannot be dislodged despite constant agitation, causing great discomfort and annoyance.

Who knew there was a word for it.

Saturday 29 October 2016

Greek news october

- Greece is harvesting its saffron (krokos in greek).  They expect to produce around 5 tonnes of saffron.  What does it take to collect 5 tonnes of saffron?

One kilo of dried  saffron threads needs about 150,000 flowers.  The farmers pick the flowers  one by one and then separate the flowers and the stamen.

There must be thousands of acres of these small flowers and they have to be hand picked and then processed.  No wonder genuine saffron is so expensive.

We use a yellow powder which is sold in a small bag in the supermarket for a euro and is labelled 'like saffron'.  The real krokos from Kozani is sold at 3.50 euros a gram.  Everywhere you read that it gives your dish a subtle spicy flavour and a  beautiful yellow colour.  I agree with the colour but have never noticed the taste.  We use the cheap powder.  Tumeric also gives a lovely yellow colour and is half the price.

- Ancient greeks helped make chinese clay soldiers? 
  In a BBC documentary a theory was outlined that Greek artists could have been present when the terracotta army was made.  Some of the statues appear to have been inspired by ancient greek  art.  Did greek sculptors instruct local chinese artists?

Alexander the Great and his army crossed the Hindu Kush between Pakistan and Afghanistan and carried on into India.  There is reputed to be a tribe in Pakistan which speaks a language very close to ancient greek.  Did some of Alexanders soldiers remain there and march on as far as China long before Marco Polo and the Silk Road?
- The poor are going back to the Mediterranean diet. 
 A recent study shows that the economic crisis is benefitting  Greek health.  So many people can no longer afford to eat out at restaurants or fast food places.  They are turning to fruit and vegetables, legumes, pasta and bread. Red meat and fish may be eaten once a week, lamb and goat once a month.  Those that have no income whatsoever 'dine' at a church or municipal soup kitchen and eat whatever is handed out.

Dried beans, split peas and lentils are cheap and already a big part of greek cuisine.  In the villages these will be supplemented by greens which can be harvested from every field and roadside, whatever fruit, nuts and vegetables are in season, olives and white bread.  In the cities every large supermarket chain has its own  brand of cheap rice and pasta.  Seasonal fruit and vegetables can be found in the weekly markets, cheaper at the end of the day when the market is folding up. 

The diet of the poor does not include fast food, processed food or sweets.  When they're thirsty they drink water.

My father-in-law would say ' a glass of wine, a piece of bread, a handful of olives and you're a rich man'. 

-   Plans are 'aloft' to turn the wreck of the Titanic's sister ship, Britannic, into an underwater park for scuba divers.  The Britannic was sunk in 1916 by a german mine near the island of Kea.

The EU has already agreed on funding of 2.8 million euros for a museum, hotel and diving school.  The idea was shelved when the economic crisis began but now this underwater scuba diving attraction could bring tourists and much needed income.

Scuba diving used to be restricted in greek waters.  There are so many ancient underwater sites, so many treasures that could be scooped up and removed.  Before 2006 it was very difficult to get permission to dive with bottles.  EU laws then made greece relax its regulations.  Nowadays there are dive schools all over the country.  One such  school gives lessons in a swimming pool on our island and in the picturesque Bay of Love.  Diving is allowed everywhere unless it is an area where anitquities are known to abound such as in the sea around the sacred island of Delos.

Love Bay Poros

- Warships of the Hellenic Navy were  open to visitors for three days as part of the national celebrations of OHI day on 28th October.  

This is the warship Averof, moored for many years at the dock alongside the Navy School on Poros.  The ship was launched in 1910 and took part in the Balkan wars and then WWs 1 and 11.  She was decommissioned in 1952 and moved to Poros in 1956.  Until 1984 the Averof was a familiar sight on Poros.   She was then towed to Faliron, down the coast from Piraeus,  and turned into a floating museum.

There was a huge hole in the Poros landscape until a few years later when the destroyer Geraki was moved to Poros.     It too was then decommissioned and towed to Crete for scrap. 

 The next destroyer was the Velos taken by its captain and crew to Italy during the military dictatorship. In the middle of a NATO exercise in 1973 Captain Nikos Papas announced that he was withdrawing his ship and sailing to the port of Fiumicino near Rome as a protest against the junta.  The Italian government granted them asylum till democracy returned in 1974.  The Velos was taken away to be another floating museum and Poros has been left destroyer-less.

My son-in-law spent his military conscription scraping and painting the Velos and his uncle was one of the crew that 'mutinied'.

Four  ex-American navy Destroyers were given to the Greek Navy in 1951.  One of them was  the destroyer USS Eldridge which supposedly took part in the Philadelphia experiment.  It seems unsure whether the ship was the later renamed Aetos or  Leon.   The destroyer Aetos was  returned to the US in 1993 and turned into a museum.   Leon was sent to Crete for scrap.

K served 2 years on the Aetos as chief electrician. Besides the usual problems on an old ship he cannot remember any times 

 - when the ship was enclosed in a green mist
- when ghosts appeared out the metal
-  of odd wires leading nowhere presumably left over from the experiment

all of which I have read about after a google search.  Evenutally the ship was decommissioned by the Greek Navy and he was one of the skeleton crew which took it to Crete to await its tow to Amercia. 

Philadelphia experiment

- Barack Obama
Yes, we had the Pope, Putin, Merkel and now President Obama is coming for a visit.  On his final trip abroad he will visit Germany, Peru and on Novemeber the 15th Athens Greece.  He and PM Tsipras will be discussing our struggling economy and he apparently will give greeks a pat on the back for being so generous to the 60,000 refugees stuck here in miserable 'holding' camps.

Wednesday 26 October 2016

Saint Dimitrios and Greek national celebrations

26th October the feast day of Saint Dimitrios and the name day of anyone named Dimitris, Dimitra or Danae.

On the eve there is a church service at the small church of St Dimitri in the town and another on the morning of the 26th.  Sweets and cakes made by those celebrating their name day are handed out after the service.  We also have nearby a couple of small monasteries dedicated to the Saint which will be decked out in the finest celebratory cloths and flags.  Being a Wednesday all their offerings will be strictly Lenten.  My neighbour (opposite  Vaso) is baking almond cakes and oily koulourakia for one of the monasteries.  Oil is allowed but no eggs or dairy (or meat and fish).  A glass (or two) of sticky liqueur and a greek coffee are always offered as well.

Saint Dimitrios is the Patron Saint of  Thessaloniki, capitol of the northern province of Macedonia.

We always fly a Greek flag outside the house on national celebrations

28th October   Greek national holiday commemorating the defiant OHI (NO) given by Greek dictator Ioannis Metaxas to Italian dictator Benito Mussolini when, at the beginning of WW11, Italy gave an ultimatum to Greece to roll over and let Italian forces occupy Greece.

Metaxa's actual reply was 'Alors, c'est la guerre' , 'Then it is war', and it was.

Italian troops stationed in Albania, then protected by Italy, attacked the Greek border and so began Greece's participation in WW11.  The Greeks not only refused to allow Italian troops onto Greek soil but forced them back through most of Albania.

The chorus of a popular greek song:

You're a fool Mussolini,
None of you will remain here.
You and Italy,
Your ridiculous country,
Are shaking at the sight of all this khaki. 

This is a jolly little song, sort of like you'd hear in a beer hall/comedy place. All the school kids belt it out on these days with a foot stomping tempo.

On the morning of the 28th October 1940 citizens in Athens went out into the streets shouting OHI and this day has become known as Ohi Day ever since.

All my grandchildren will have patriotic poems recitals and small theatrical events at their schools on Thursday and on Friday the 28th there will be a church service at St George's for bigwig's to strut and make their appearance.  Afterwards more patriotic verses will be recited at the cenotaph, wreaths laid and a parade of school children accompanied by Poros's municipal band and an honour guard from the Naval School.  The celebration is concluded with folk dancing in traditional costume by the young school children of Poros.

Tuesday 25 October 2016

autumn - cut and paste

Pomegranites everywhere.  Our first bag has appeared on the doorstep.   They are difficult to clean but worth the effort.  I usually juice them but have made pomegranite liqueur and love to just chew on a handful of nice cold seeds.  

Pomegranites and lemons from the neighbour

Getting the seeds out of the pomegranite is not easy.  Don't believe Jamie Oliver when you see him smacking one and watching the seeds falling out into his salads. He has a back-up team for prepping. They usually need a good scraping with a knife or spoon and then a lot of the white pith comes along with the seeds.  If the juice gets on your clothes, forget it. Washing out the stain is almost impossible. 

Pomegranite (rodi) seeds are always part of the koliva (funeral wheat).  They are the fruit of death and rebirth.

 We throw them at the front door on New Years eve.  The seeds bursting out all over the threshold symbolise abundance and good luck.  It also gives you a cleaning up job on New Year's Day.

In a few weeks the oxalis will have taken over the garden and it will be a sea of green.  In this photo there are nasturtiums and oxalis.  I love things which take over the garden though I would prefer it to be something which does not grow knee high nor throttles the lettuces.  Mint in the summer and nasturtiums in the winter are my favourites.  I love the flowers of the nasturtiums.  These ones are usually yellow but I have a feeling they are like hydrangeas and the colours change according to the acidity of the soil.


Yesterday the grandchildren with me directing planted onions and lettuces.  Last night we had a nice gentle rain fall.  Today the sun is shining.  What wonderful growing weather. 

Grandchildren come in handy for heavy jobs. They got down the heavy cases of winter clothes from the top of the wardrobe, brought in the outdoor TV (summer is over), cleaned under the beds (small children love to roll around in dark, dusty places), hoed and planted. Great kids.

This pot contains an amaryllis.  The oxalis was already choking this so I gave it a good weeding.  The amaryllis apparently flowers in mid winter.  I'm not sure if that is true here. Time will tell.


The cheerful colours of winter's flowers.  At the garden shop

Last year I planted pansies amongst the lettuces and loved the combination.  I just might buy some pansy plants this year too.  My grandmother always had a border of pansies around her garden.  Their bright, jolly 'faces' give  cheer on a winter's day.

Cuttlefish (soupies) ready to be chopped up and cooked with spinach

The first of this winter's spinach

The cuttlefish has to be skinned and have the ink sac removed.  I have cleaned many a cuttlefish in days gone by and it is a messy task.  These one are frozen and nice and white, ready for cooking. 

 Cut the cuttlefish into small pieces and fry in olive oil with a chopped onion and some cloves of garlic.  

Pour in some wine, add chopped tomatoes and simmer gently, probably half an hour till the fish is soft.

Add the chopped spinach and lots of fresh dill.  Simmer about 10 to 15 minutes till the spinach is soft and tender.  Add salt and lots of pepper.

Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice

Monday 24 October 2016

Word of the day

An interim post until the other one I posted an hour or so ago turns up from wherever the hell it went into cyber space.  And a good day to you.

Hornswoggle -
 get the better of someone by cheating or deception.  Bamboozle. 

 Hands up anyone who has ever heard of this word?

When I read this I thought what a load of codswallop but turns out it really is a word in the english language. 

 Google says so and so does Websters Dictionary.

Saturday 22 October 2016

on the island of Lefkada

A short trip through our weekend. 
Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για bridge of lefkada

This is the floating bridge which connects the island with the mainland, opening up to let yachts through. The island was connected to the mainland until 7BC when the locals dug a trench.

The harbour at the small coastal town of Vasiliki where we were staying.

  Still many tourists around.  The island generally is very green and has many small villages and attractive beaches.  There were also a great number of yachts tied up along the half hour coastal drive that we took to arrive here.  The small harbours look to be sheltered coves suitable for wintering a yacht in the med.

On the other hand, Vasiliki  is popular with wind surfers.  Strong winds blow in the afternoon during the summer months.  Our hotel was very close to the beach and I was thrilled to hear the sound of surf, although there seemed to be no wind and few waves.  A bit of an anomally.  I was lulled to sleep during my summer holidays in New Zealand by the sound of the waves crashing on the beach at Papamoa.  Sitting out on the balcony in the evening was a delight here in Lefkada, bringing back many memories of New Zealand's long white sandy beaches.

Perfect setting for our morning coffee, right on the sea and under the shady eucalytpus trees.  Eucalyptus trees were growing all around the harbour and many had been recently trimmed.   The wood of the eucalyptus tree is ideal for the fireplace.  We should have slipped a few logs into the boot of the car in the wee hours after the wedding 

This cake was on the menu of the shop we sat at for a beer and a snack.  It sure looks like a cho-co-late cake to me.  I should have asked Mary.  
As for the sangria, I kept well away from that after our last family birthday where we partied on our new favourite, sangria with white wine and vodka.  A little goes a long way and we drank slightly more than a little.

At the wedding the next night we were given a glass of sangria  while waiting to be shown our table.  I don't think it had any vodka in it but it had a good strong flavour to it.  Unfortunately they ran out quickly otherwise I would have definitely given it a second chance.   The local wine wasn't nearly as nice.

The village of Poros.  Poros means 'passage'.  Poros island is separated from the mainland by a very narrow passage.  Where the passage is here I do not know.  It is one of many places called 'Poros' all over greece so naturally we stopped and took a photo.

The greek security camera.  This old lady from her perch could check out the activity all over the harbour.  Here she looks quite stern.  A few minutes later her neighbour came out on the balcony next door and the old lady turned to her with a beautiful smile.  Never judge at first glance.

What to wear to a pre-wedding party

What can I say.  These are my daughter's knees. I hope her underwear is not in the same condition.

Here is the bride leading the dance and her jeans were just as torn at the knee, poor thing.

Thursday 20 October 2016

another greek wedding on another greek island

Another Greek wedding, this time on the island of Lefkada, a car journey 6 hours north.  Our accomodation and most of the food and drink were paid for by the families so it was our pleasure to join in the celebrations!  Lefkada is another island which is just minutes away from the mainland, joined in fact by a floating bridge.  

It was a 6 hour drive up along the wonderful sounding road systems called Olympia and Ionion Highway, both under construction and with endless detours and one way lanes lined with orange and white traffic cones.  One day, sometime, in the future, when these motorways are open Greece will have a magnificent network of roads from north to south.

Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για rio antirio bridge

Half way up we 'sailed' over this impressive bridge which joins one half of Greece with the other.  It is called the Rio-Antirio bridge and besides being impressive to look at it also has an impressive toll of 13.30 euros.  Coming back we took the car ferry which crosses right under the bridge and is half the price.

We continued up past the wetlands of Messalonghi where Lord Byron died of fever in 1824 while fighting for the independence of the Greeks from the Turks, stopping only for a half litre of wine and a quick meze. 

Lefkada is one of the islands of the Ionian sea, along with Corfu and Ithaki.  It is also the closest island to Skorpios, the once private island of Aristotle Onasis, now owned by a Russian billionaire.  You can cruise around the island but landing is prohibitied unless you want to be 'shown off' by  a kalashnikov .

My photos are a bit blurry but you will have some idea of the atmosphere.  The church was very small and most of us once again stood outside, socialising, while the ceremony took place inside with the family and bridal couple  in attendance. This photo is of the chandelier but also the image of Christ on the ceiling.  The icon oddly seemed 'back-to-front' for the congregation.  To see it properly you had to be standing where the priest stands.

The old lady in black is dressed in traditional costume.  The skirt was long and black with hundreds of tiny pleats and her head was covered in a black veil like scarf.  I saw quite a few of these elderly ladies dressed in the costume of days gone by.  It is not often that you see this local dress nowadays.

Tuille bags of rice given out towards the end of the service.  Once upon a time rice was thrown at the couple as they did 'the dance of Isaiah', led by the priest three times around the altar.  Rice is a symbol of prosperity and fertility.  If you were in the front of the crowd when the rice was thrown you got a head full of rice grains to take home with you too.  Nowadays rice is only thrown outside the church because it is such a nuisance to sweep up.

The very happy couple

They had a  full moon on their wedding day, a full moon closer than usual to the earth, very bright and clear over the island of Lefkada.  At around 11pm  we were also shaken by a 5.5 earthquake.  It was centred around the town of Ioannina about an hour north.  Music was really ear splitting loud as it is always at greek weddings and many of the guests were dancing when the quake hit. The earth shook and the Greeks danced on. 

At the last wedding we were drenched by a summer downpour, this time it was an earthquake. Our Greek weddings are always ones to be remembered.

Tuesday 18 October 2016

Dry Bread

Catherine (Katerina) in her fresh bread shop  on the waterfront next to the meat market. 

 This is the place for the best assortment of your freshest daily bread or the traditional koulouri or sesame seed roll that every greek loves to eat in the morning. She also sells paximathia, bread which is sliced and baked for a second time till hard and dry.  Next door are her cheese, spinach and other little savoury pies.  Her husband's family have been selling bread from this same shop for many, many years. 

Catherine's English is excellent of course being another local-alien. 

Paximathia -
 twice baked bread made traditionally from whole wheat, rye or barley flour. Nowadays they are found in bags in the supermarket baked with olives, oregano or oil and made with white flour. In shops like Catherine's you buy them by the kilo. 

My mother-in-law would make them now and again, slicing her sourdough bread and baking it again in a slow oven till hard and dry. My father, being a naval man, would have called it hard-tack. 


Everyone in the Greek family loves these, or just chunks of plain old stale bread, especially for dunking in sauces or mopping up the oil and juices at the bottom of a plate of greens. Sometimes fresh fluffy bread just does not make the grade.

My father-in-law would take these with him when he was away in the fields or working far from home. They last forever, don't go mouldy or stale and are an extremely healthy meal with a handful of olives, a raw onion, a clove of garlic and fresh oregano or whatever wild herbs you can forage. Mediterranean diet at it's finest.

You do need to dip them quickly in water or even wine before eating them otherwise they are so hard you'll break a tooth.

In Crete they are a speciality called dako which I have written about before. The big round ones they call 'koukouvayia' or owl.  The Cretans spread grated tomato , lots of their own virgin olive oil, feta or some other strong local cheese over them.

Cretan dakos, a photo I have posted before

They are also great broken up and put on the bottom of the plate under a Greek salad. The crunchy little pieces absorb all the juices and oil from the salad and are delicious.

Don't confuse them with friganies which are also twice baked bread but much thinner and crisp not hard. The Greeks love to eat these for breakfast. K prefers them with a light covering of honey or homemade jam, without butter or margarine.

Friganies.  They are rather fragile and as you can see break up easily, usually just as you're spreading the butter. A plate of broken dried bread is not my favourite way to start the day. 

While trying to come up with an English name for these fragile slices of dried bread I came upon Dorset knobs. Made only during the months of January and February and used in a throwing competition on the first Sunday in May. So what on earth are these, Elaine?

Saturday 15 October 2016

Dream Team

The Petros Litsas Memorial Rowing Race
supported by Poros Council and K.E. Poros Naval School

Rowing clubs from around our area took part in this rowing regatta for school children. 

Rowing across the harbour. The races were over a distance of one kilometre.

Our Poros Team did really well and they all made that extra spurt just before the finish line as all the local supporters yelled, whistled and urged them on to plow through to gold. 

My grandchildren are rowers.  Above is George (Giorgos) at 15 almost 6ft tall and size 45 shoes. 1/4 kiwi, a griwi.  George came in third in the double skiff.  They might have made first place but were hit by the boat behind them at the starting line and lost time straightening up and getting in stroke again.

And Nels (Eleni, on the left), also 1/4 kiwi, another griwi, with her fellow rower in the double skiff.  They got a close second.

Dream Team in action

Poros from across the bay.

Poros has a history of producing champion rowers.  Mild weather and gentle (most of the time) winds plus the natural enclosed harbour are perfect conditons for  rowing, canoe and kayak.  Competitions in all these three categories are held annually here and our athletes take part in races all over the country.  The Naval school of Poros houses the boats (called shells), provides space for their gear and a gym for training though a lot of their training (on land) is done pounding along the harbour roads of Poros.  

Naval officer Kostas Kontomanolis won 6th place in the single skiff in the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games .  Local boy Dimitris Mougios with his partner in the double skiff got a silver medal in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.