Tuesday 31 January 2017

Parts of Poros life

Looking out over the Lykeio and one of our two Primary Schools

30 January is a school holiday.  It is the fiesta day of The Three Hierarchs, Saints Basil the Great, Gregory the Theologian and John Chrysostom, patrons of education and learning. 

The tortoise shell which has been hanging in the olive tree for six weeks now.  The meaty part has dried up and fallen away.

Time for small boys to clean and find a place to display their trophy.

Bulls balls, testicles.   Known also as Prairie oysters to the unsuspecting and in greek as ameletita.

We don't get hold of these very often (lol).  A friend brought us a kilo or so of already cleaned testicles, delicious when fried and finely sliced.  They have a tough membrane on the outside and are difficult to clean

Finger lickin' good

A back alley way in the old town

We were woken this morning by the jingle of sheep bells.  The shephard whistles and the flock of sheep trot away in great haste bleating up the road behind him.  They come every few days to the empty paddock next door and feed on the tall weeds and green clover.   Unlike goats they do not scrabble up and damage the olive trees and are welcomed as lawn mowers.   Today there was a small lamb leaping and skipping along behind it's mother.  The poor thing has two months and then its easter.  

One of our heavy old fashioned TV sets.

  The television of the maiden aunts across on Galatas has broken down and we offered to bring this old set over.  We already have three of these bulky dinosaurs.

What I did not realise is that their television has been broken for over a year now.  Their brother died over 18 months ago and they do not watch TV or listen to the radio in their house as they are in mourning.  The two year memorial is coming up in May and then we can gift them our old set.

I was bewildered as I know they watch some of the greek tv serials.  Apparently they can watch the TV in their nephews house next door but not in their own.

The very traditional maiden aunts. 

 Wonderful women who will go out of their way to make any guest feel welcome, and will not permit anyone to leave their house without partaking of food and drink.  They have hens and a couple of goats, make their own bread, including their amazing fried cheese flat bread. 

Eleni on the left is over 80.  She and Tasia make  traditional sweets and dishes for all the large extended family.  They keep the family together and the traditions and rituals alive.

Sunday 29 January 2017

Name days

'According to the Greek Orthodox tradition nearly every day of the year is dedicated to a Saint or Martyr.  When someone is named after one of these saints that day is celebrated as their name day.'  

When I first came here women did not celebrate their name days but for men it was a huge get-together of friends, neighbours and relatives.  You weren't invited, you just turned up with a present of sticky cakes or a bottle of ouzo, or whisky if you wanted to make a statement, to honour the celebrant. The  house was open for everyone.  

 The women of the house honoured their men (husband or male child) by kneading great loaves of bread , roasting trays of pork or lamb, peeling mountains of potatoes to cook in lemon juice and spent the day bringing out trays of glasses with sticky liqueurs for the women, topping up jugs of wine for the men, laying clean plates and collecting dirty glasses, washing up and even joyfully dancing.  The plates though were broken for the men's dance.  They jump and twist, maybe balancing a glass of wine on their heads, sway to the music while friends encourage them with a steady clap of their hands.

Celebrations went on all night and many guests went from house to house.  A popular name like Konstantinos or Yiannis (every house has a Yianni) meant you could be busy going from one neighbourhood to another, swigging back litres of wine in every house you visited and eating as much as you could of each feast to show your appreciation and respect for the man whose house you had entered.

The celebration would have started the night before after the church service on the eve of the fiesta.  Home made cakes and sweets are offered to everyone after the service.  Housewives would have been busy for days making trays of baclava, galaktobouriko, amigthalota, fanouropita for the church and the house.  

On the morning of the fiesta it was time for church again and often the men would have helped to carry trays of meat and potatoes and big plastic containers of wine to be consumed outside the church. 

They still do this at some of the smaller churches out in the villages where everyone attends the church service and then stays for a glass of wine and some roast pork.

   On important fiestas loud music would be playing all over the neighbourhood and after the first few litres there was sure to be a line of dancers, especially the name-day-boy who would be the centre of the line.

Churches are dedicated to saints and these are opened for a celebratory service no matter how small they are.  Some are only used on their fiesta day.  Some areas are associated with certain names and you'll find the majority of the people in a  village or island will have the same first name.  Gerasimos is asscoiated with the island of Cephalonia, Spiros with the island of Corfu.

Following a death there are no celebrations in the family for at least one year and when visiting during this time you do not bring sweets.  

Nowadays when times are tight name days tend to be small family affairs but still with the dancing, feasting and jolliness of old and women celebrate their name days just as much as the men.

At home

In some villages there will be a local celebration with dancing and maybe food and drink in the main square.  Here a small church across the waters dedicated to the Virgin Mary has a huge fiesta on 3rd june. We all go across to light a candle and maybe listen to some of the service, standing outside.  The big draw is the open air market, with stalls selling everything from honeyed loukoumathes to pillows and underwear, which fills up both sides of the road for over a kilometer.

Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για τεγεα τριπολη

Friday 27 January 2017

Of Cabbages and Things

Over the Christmastime holidays and fiestas it seems to be one meat meal after another.  We do eat fish of course but if the weather is bad as it has been lately then the fishermen have not been out and hence no fresh fish.  Then there is full moon which affects the fishing as well.  I buy frozen fish for fish soup but traditional people prefer their fish alive-alive-o.   
 The recipe below is meat-less and fish-less, made with cabbage which is a winter vegetable, in season now, and perfect for a non meat meal after the feasting.

Boiled cabbage and rice 

This is another of those simple peasant dishes, great for something lighter and meatless between the feasts and fiestas.

Take a small cabbage and cut it in half.  That's plenty for two people.  Slice it into small pieces and cube.  

Cut up an onion and a small leek.

Put some oil in the bottom of a cooking pot and add the cabbage, onion and leek. It is not traditional but I would add a thinly sliced carrot as well.  It gives the dish a bit more interest. 

 Stir it around in the oil till the onion and cabbage have softened a little.  

Add two tomatoes which have been cut up and whizzed.  Or half a tin of tomato pieces.

Also not traditional but I consider necessary, a small hot pepper or chilli.  

This recipe is so plain it definitely needs something to give it a bit of a zing.

Here it is just beginning to boil.   Simmer gently about half an hour till the vegetables are reasonably soft.  Add about 60 grams of rice.  Add extra water if needed, salt and pepper and simmer another 30 minutes till the rice is cooked.

Serve....with a slice of lemon, a large piece of feta cheese for protein and lots of bread and wine.

Good luck if you decide to try it.  Nothing special.  Just your normal everyday, Greek vegetable dish.  A meal which can be eaten by vegeterians and those on one of those many religious fasts.

Stewed Peas and Potatoes - Araka me patates

Another very popular non-meat meal good in winter or summer.

Here I have used frozen peas.  With a packet of frozen peas in the freezer you always have a quick and tasty (traditional) standby meal.  Peas, chunks of potato, onion, garlic, olive oil of course and lots of dill.

Peas and potatoes in the pot
Eat it cold or eat it hot

And another winter favourite, your good old cauliflower.  Boiled cauliflower drizzled with lemon juice and olive oil.  Always a winner here, though appreciated more if accompanied by some fresh grilled fish.
We eat a lot of our vegetables like this, broccoli, zucchini, greens from the fields, a little olive oil and lemon juice and most are satisfied.

A traditional dish,
with fried potatoes if you wish,
bread and feta
Makes it better

Kali orexi

Wednesday 25 January 2017


A photo review of Poros under dark and cloudy skies

An empty waterfront and we can park on the wharf without getting a ticket

Cafeterias wrapped in plastic sheeting and with gas fires.  Notice though that there are always a few chairs and tables on the road side for those days when it is possible to catch a few rays of sun

The fishing caiques are tied up and the piles of nets covered in canvas

A sea of yacht masts

The yachts have been taken out of the water and await their keel cleaning

A water logged soccer field

The bougainvillea has turned brown and shed all its bright flowers and green leaves.  Soon it will be time for a severe pruning, a dangerous job as the thorns of the plant are long and sharp.

All dressed up for a short scooter ride to work and school.  Notice the sun glasses.  When the sun is out the glare is still intense even in the middle of winter

Cutting back the olive trees.  These trees have been pruned by an expert.  They have been left to spread out but the height has been lowered so the olives are easily picked.  Soon the fires will start as  those branches are piled up into bonfires. 

Vaso's citrus trees are loaded with fruit

Monday 23 January 2017

It's catching

Remember this from a few posts ago?  

Well, it happened again, in New Zealand.

Rethymnon, Crete

The owners of these cars did not remove them as they were asked to.  The tar crew came, the tar was hot, the tar went down, around cars and rubbish bins.

 Hamilton, NZ

Residents were asked to remove their cars from the street.  This one was on blocks and it remained where it was.  The contracters were on a tight schedule so once again they did the job, as best as they could.  

Both teams of tar-ers got the job done and both said they would come back and fix up the road later.  

One hopes they did just that.

Thursday 19 January 2017

Food glorious food

Homemade pickled onions.  I pickle them in vinegar and honey from a recipe in Aunt Daisy's cookery book (a New Zealand radio personality from the 50's)

Homemade sushi.  My two girls made these for my birthday lunch (way back in 2016).  They were darn tasty.  We even tried eating them with chop sticks, not very successfully but with lots of laughs.
 Such clever children I have! 

Koulourakai almyra
Salty/savoury little biscuits

1 glass of oil
1 glass of white wine
1 tsp salt
400-500 grams flour
one and a half tsp baking powder

Mix all the ingedients together to a soft but not sticky dough.  Roll out small pieces with your hands making a long snake.  Cut off small portions and curl into biscuit shape

Bake 15-20 minutes at 180oC till lightly browned 

That's the traditional recipe but as usual I think it needs a foreign boost. Some oregano maybe, chopped chives, hot pepper, even some grated sharp cheese.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds before baking.  I did not.  Sesame seeds get everywhere and I am forever cleaning them up from floor or table.

Eat instead of peanuts or crackers with your glass of wine

These are caramel apple oaties from a recipe on The English Kitchen.  They are the best apple cakes/biscuits I have made.  My son-in-law took them on a fishing trip and came back to finish the rest of them (after leaving a bag of fish)

Irish Potato cakes from a recipe I saw in a video on Northsider's blog

The video at the end of his post is worth watching just to see Keith Floyd in action.  He was a real entertainer as well as a great cook.

These potato cakes are very easy to make once you have the mashed potatoes.  The second time around I added a little grated cheese and chives.  Very tasty Dave.

Monday 16 January 2017

The lotus fruit

In Greece this fruit is called the Lotus fruit.  Elsewhere you know them as persimmon ( or have never heard of them at all).

According to Wikipedia these are considered to be berries.  Damn big berries

Neighbour Vaso came in for a smoke and a raki and brought us a bag of lotus-es/lotoi
 They can only be eaten when really soft and ripe, are not very sweet and are sort of slimy. If you try them before they're ripe they are tart and stick to the roof of your mouth. Not nice.

I peeled two and ate them but next time I think I'll cut the top off and eat it with a teasppon.  This is not a fruit I would buy but when you're given them then they must be used one way or another.

The name persimmon means food of the Gods.  The lotus eaters turn up in Greek mythology.  Odysseus on his return from Troy was blown to the island of  the lotus eaters.  Some of his crew ate the fruit and a dreamy laziness and forgetfulness came over them.  They had to be dragged back to the ship and tied up till they slept off the effects of the lotus fruit.

The persimmon I ate did not put me into a drugged, indolent state but I wouldn't have minded if it had at this time of a very cold winter.  Once again no one else wants to eat them so I'll have to finish them all by myself or make jam which no-one else will eat.  

Vaso stayed for a little more than one raki and a smoke.
Mind you, she was talking most of the time. Vaso knows everyone. She knows their family lineage. It is amazing how many of the people on the island she is related to or bound to by koumbaria (being godparent or  best man/woman at a marriage). You have to be careful not to gossip about anyone, they could be family.
The stories of her tough childhood are endless. At seven years old she was working

to help put bread on the family table, gathering greens from miles away to sell on the waterfront, washing and cleaning for a neighbour. 
The most interesting thing I  learnt was that only the front feet of the goat are used for soup. 
78 year old Vaso drank us all under the table and walked home a lady  4 hours later, stumbling only a little as she tottered up the hill.

Cheers, Big-Ears

Friday 13 January 2017

Youvalakia - meatball soup

The snow has melted on our island but we have strong winds and rain instead. 78 year old  Vaso is keeping her two goats under cover and was outside in the driving rain this morning wearing her flimsy summer hat and pulling up clumps of clover to feed them.  Goats don't like to chomp away at the wet clover out in the fields  she  told me.     Vaso looks after her animals.  She's grooming the goats for the Easter spit.

The lettuces don't seem to have been harmed by the snow and I am expecting the lemons to be full of juice now they have had a good watering.  The drip, drip, drip of the snow melting yesterday was an amazing sound.  From every leaf, every plant, every tile there was a steady splash of water for many hours.

These cold days need warming soups so here is the recipe for one of my favorites.

Meatballs in an egg and lemon sauce.

Yiouvalakia avgolemono

This is the perfect comfort soup for a cold winter's day.  It has the tang of lemon juice, the velvety creaminess of the egg and lemon sauce and the tastiness of the flavoursome  rice meatball.

It is basically an easy  meatball soup recipe .  At the end of cooking the meatballs are thickened with eggs and lemon juice and become a creamy, savoury, tangy soup.

In a big bowl place
-  around 300 grams of minced beef
- half a cup of rice
- one onion chopped
- one garlic clove squished/squashed
- one egg
- a handful of parsley, mint and basil (all or whatever you have on hand)  I like to use a little of all of these herbs
- salt and pepper to taste

With a fork mash all of these ingredients together into a smooth 'dough', or get your hands in there and give it all a good hard massage

Form into walnut size balls and roll in flour

Put a pot of water on to boil.  You need about 2 cups of water and add a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Others add the oil to the meat mix, I add it to the water.  When the water is boiling flour the meatballs and drop them gently into the hot water.  They should not break up.

Turn the heat down to medium and cook the meatballs for about thirty minutes.   Very easy so far.  Now comes the egg and lemon sauce.  Follow the directions.  Take the meatballs off the heat first of all.

In a good size bowl beat two eggs.  Squeeze in the juice of two lemons (minus the pips please, though you could fish them out later as you eat.  Happens to me often)

Beat the eggs and the lemon juice till frothy.

NOW, take a soup ladle and fill it with the hot liquid from the boiled meatballs.  Pour it gently into the egg and lemon mixture, stirring/whisking all the time.  Sometimes it helps if one person pours the liquid and the other stirs the whole mix.
Repeat this a couple of times till the egg and lemon has become hot and soupy

Then slowly pour the egg/ lemon/ juice back into the meatballs.  Stir it around without breaking up the meatballs and serve while hot.

It will thicken more as it sits.  When reheating do it slowly and do not let it boil or it will curdle.

As usual serve with feta cheese, lots of wine and bread to dunk.

Really tummy filling and tasty on a nasty winter's day.

Kali Orexi