Wednesday 30 August 2017

Little Shoes

These are essentially hollowed out and stuffed zucchinis/courgettes or aubergines/eggplant 

They are called 'papoutsakia', little shoes, for obvious reasons.

I prefer the zucchini cooked this way.  Delicious.

Just another way to get rid of all those zucchinis which are growing like blazes in the summer sun.  

First find some fat zucchinis, the fatter the better.  They must be hollowed out to hold the meat and the sauce.

Cut each vegetable in half long ways.  Don't hollow them out just yet.  Removing the flesh is much easier when they have been boiled and are nice and soft.

  Put on a pot of boiling water and when it is bubbling away carefully place each half of zucchini in the water .  Boil 5-10 minutes.  They will be nice and soft but not falling to pieces.  

Leave to cool a little.  Then you can easily scoop out the insides and make a deep trough to fill with meat.
Use the zucchini flesh in the meat sauce or throw in the compost if there are too many seeds.

While you're doing all this a pot of bolognese sauce should be boiling away in another saucepan.  I cooked my sauce the night before so all I had to do was put the ingredients together. 

I cooked 1/4 kilo of mince meat
some fresh grated tomatoes (or a tin or packet of tomatoes)
one chopped onion
a good slurp of wine
grated nutmeg
salt and pepper
zucchini flesh diced 

Cook the mince about half an hour and leave to cool, or cook the night before.

Pour a little olive oil into each zucchini shell.  Not absolutely necessary but this is greece and we love our olive oil.

Fill with the bolognese sauce mixture.  Now here's the rub....  my zucchinis weren't very big so I overfilled them with the stuffing.  You should leave a little room on top for the bechamel (white/cheese) sauce.  I didn't as you'll see.

Sprinkle some grated cheese over the mince.  Optional.  I think it gives it a little more flavour

Make a small pot of thick white/cheese sauce.  I used about 
a table spoon of butter
and a tablespoon of oil
2 soup spoons of flour
a good teaspoon of mustard
a little nutmeg

Nutmeg is the spice of choice for any zucchini/aubergine-moussaka type of dish.

Carefully place a thin layer of sauce over each 'little shoe'. Top with more grated cheese.  My sauce sort of rolled off and it became one big dish of vegetables and sauce, and darn nice it was too.

Bake about half an hour in a medium oven till golden brown on top.
This is how my shoes ended up .  A sort of floppy old slipper.

This is how a chef would present them.  The one nearest the camera is the stuffed zucchini and the other a stuffed aubergine.

If you are using aubergines do not boil them but cut them in half, bake about twenty minutes in a hot oven and they should be soft enough to remove the flesh easily.

As always

Kali Orexi (bon appetite)

Don't forget the chilled white or red wine, bread to soak up the juices and lots of feta cheese.

Red wine is better chilled in the summertime.  You certainly won't like 'room temperature' in our heat.  I fill my wine glass with ice whether drinking red, white or rosé and enjoy the food, wine and scenery, some interesting conversation, or the latest gossip from down on the waterfront.

Monday 28 August 2017

More from the Greek isles

Agia Sofia - Constantinople ( Istanbul )

For some reason spelled with an 'H' in english .  Hagia Sophia.  

Orthodox church with four minarets added on the corners

Built in 537 AD as a christian cathedral, for 900 years the seat of the Patriarch of the Greek Orthodox church.  
Turned into a mosque in 1453 and remained so for 500 years.
  In 1934 Turkish president, Kemal Ataturk turned it into a museum.  It has both Christian mosaics on the wall and Islamic calligraphics (artistic  handwriting).  Hagia Sophia is a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Turkish president Erdogan would like to turn the museum back into a mosque.  The muezzin, who calls the faithful to prayer, chants the Islamic morning prayer inside the museum, broadcasting to the country over state radio.  During Ramadan there were readings of the Koran from inside Hagia Sophia for the second year in a row.

The Greeks of course see it as a place sacred to Christianity and the Orthodox church.
   Yet another reason why Greece and Turkey are at loggerheads.

German and Turkish relations are rather strained as well.  Erdogan has told voters of Turkish origin not to vote for the main political parties in next month's German elections, calling the parties 'enemies of Turkey'.  

Smallest School in the EU

The Greek island of Arkoi in the Dodecanese, close to the island of Patmos and the Turkish coast

Population 40.  A dry rocky little island, its main vegetation being a few olive trees.  No doctor, no shops, no bakery.  The island has four tavernas and a one teacher/one pupil school.  The tavernas fill up with day trippers from nearby islands over the summer months.  The main occupation is fishing.

The school is just like any other school, except there is only one pupil.  The teacher said she had great rapport with her only student.  I bet.  He must be the best educated little boy in the EU.

Perfect for a tranquil summer retreat too

Acropolis Restoration ..

The Acropolis restoration programme began in 1975 and is likely to continue till 2020.  The aim is to repair and conserve the Parthenon and other buildings.

NB  Acropolis is the name of the hill (a high fortified area)
on which is built

the Parthenon, a temple dedicated to the goddess Athena
the Propylaia, the entrance to the Acropolis complex
a temple of Athena Nike
the Erechtheion, another temple

The ancient Greeks took only 9 years to build on the Acropolis.  The temples have lasted 2,500 years, through vandalism, erosion from the weather, bombs and fire. Now it is all being slowly restored to its original glory, minus the Elgin marbles* so it will withstand earthquakes and severe weather conditions.

Now I know why everyone, from my mother 30 years ago to my brother 3 months ago, complained about the scaffolding spoiling their photographs.  The work is never ending. 

*  The Elgin marbles are a collection of marble statues, 21 statues and 15 panels, plundered by Lord Elgin from various temples on the Acropolis in 1812, transported to England and given to the British museum.  'The British have stolen our history' says Greece and demands their return.  The British Museum is not giving them up.

Pieces of the Elgin marbles and George who supports their return to Athens

And a bit of poetry describing the stolen Greek antiquities by friend-of-the-Greeks (grecophile)
Lord Byron 

Blind are the eyes that do not shed tears while seeing
O, Greece beloved, your sacred objects plundered
By profane English hands that have again wounded your aching bosom
And snatched your gods, gods that hate
England's abominable northern climate

from 'Childe Harold's Pilgrimages'.

Saturday 26 August 2017

Coffee culture

Frapé -  iced coffee

Frapé was invented by a greek rep for Nescafe in 1957 and soon became the most popular summer drink in cafeterias all over Greece.  After the small demitasse cup of gritty Greek coffee this has to be the most well known coffee concoction and this is where coffee culture started.  With a frapé in front of you the table in the cafeteria is yours for the day.

It is made either in a shaker or with a hand held mini-mixer.

This is the old style shaker we used for making iced coffee.  It has a hole in the top for a straw and can be closed tightly and taken aboard a small boat or in the car.  If you haven't got a shaker then a small glass jar with a tight lid will do.

This is the way we make our iced coffee
all on a summer's day

Put about an inch of cold water in the bottom of the shaker.  Add 1-2 tsps instant nescafe or espresso powder.     Now is the time to  add sugar if desired.  Put the top on the shaker. Shake like mad till the sugar has dissolved and it has an inch of froth on the top. Pour into your glass , add cold water, milk and iced cubes.


Use a newfangled electric gadget.

Put the gadget straight into your glass with a little water, nescafe and sugar.  Flip the switch and the little rotor blade will make a loud buzzing noise, mix the coffee, water and sugar and give it a nice frothy head.  The photo above is the coffee after mixing.

Fill up with iced water, milk if you want it, 2 or 3 ice cubes, a straw and enjoy a cool coffee.

When home in NZ I can't drink my coffee fast enough.  My kiwi friends order the coffee, sit down, drink it and leave.  I'm still on my first sip.  At least the hot coffee down under is piping hot and cold coffee is cold.

On the other hand, here in Greece, I drink it too fast.  I'm almost at the bottom of my glass, slurping up the dregs and my greek 'parea' (company) will only just now be taking their first breath after a long 'discussion'  and be picking up their glass or cup and contemplating whether or not to wet their tongues with coffee or have a glass of water instead.

In Greece hot coffee is luke-warm and iced coffee icy in a glass full of ice cubes.  Luke-warm coffee is annoying. I want my coffee piping hot, even if I have to wait five minutes for it to cool down!

Wednesday 23 August 2017

Reporting from the Greek isles

'Waves' a waterproof couch which floats .

A couch which floats and you don't have to blow it up.  Two greeks designed these couches.  From what their web site, Inomo, says they
 are made out of fibreglass.  They are 2 metres across,  handmade and can be used on land or sea. Available in a variety of colours  I'm sure they are very popular on the island of Myconos where the rich and famous lounge around on them as part of their 2,000 euro a night package deal. 


For a Grecophile who has every kind of souvenir a tatty gift shop can stock, the Santorini board game 
can immerse you in hours of Greek fun and games.

 A real-estate board game set on the volcanic greek island of Santorini.  The model Cycladic cavehouses and hotels used in the game are designed by a  local artist.  It sounds like  monopoly  with greek villages, cave houses and donkeys.  And the cards give you information on each site so you can learn as you play. 

Have fun.  

Wine Ice Cream ..

Greek ice cream makers from Thessaloniki, the capital of Northern Greece, have cooked-up an icey dessert which will make both wine drinkers and ice cream lovers very happy.  

They are not the first to have this idea but their ice cream is made using 6 greek grape varieties.  

For some reason they have named it Ice cream Darling and most of it is being exported.

Some of the Flavours?
Asyrtiko (name of the grape ) and lemon
Xinomavro and vanilla cream
Moschofilero with fig
Malagouzia and peach

To make your own wine ice cream just Google.  You'll find a pleasing recipe using  sweet Italian red wine, 
another for sangria sorbet, and a very simple recipe using only white wine, sugar and heavy cream.  

Kali orexi.  Bon appetit

   Mamma Mia goes to Croatia                                                                                                    

The sequel to the musical Mamma Mia is not going to be filmed in Greece.  It will be filmed on the Croatian island of Vis this autumn.  

The hit movie featuring the music of ABBA and starring Meryl Streep was filmed on the greek island of Skopelos.  The sequel is titled Mamma Mia, Here we go Again.

 Along with all the money the sequel would have brought into the country, we'll be losing the flood of tourists who came to see for themselves the picturesque greek island where the film was set.

Croatia is becoming popular with film producers.  Game of Thrones,  Star Wars and Robin Hood were all produced in Croatia.



Sunday 20 August 2017

Weather Forecasting

Merominia - days of the month

This is a method of predicting the weather which goes way way back into antiquity.   The weather of the first 12 days of August is observed and noted in detail.  Each day represents one month of the coming year.

Wind means unsettled weather that month.
White slow moving clouds forecast rain
White clouds racing across the sky mean snow

and so on

Of course meteorolgists poo-poo the idea but farmers and country people who observe the sky and mother nature live by these predictions

However, there is a bit of an argument over which days of August should be watched.  Because this way of forecasting goes so far back into history there are many who argue that the days observed should be from the 14th to the 25th August.  In 1582 the modern world changed from the Julian calendar to the present day Gregorian calendar.  The Julian calendar is 13 days behind hence the days of August being watched should start from the 14th. 

So what do the 'merominia' say for this winter?

  The weather each day has to be watched closely for 24 hours.  For instance if it rains on the 18th August in the evening it means that the last days of December the weather will be unsettled.

Observations are still going on

Note Well - No work must be done while the days are being viewed. 
 A wood chopper's wood will rot if he cuts during August.  Clothes that are washed will fall apart.
Marriages should not take place
Women must not wash their hair at night or leave the house

More days of idleness for the Greeks!

Friday 18 August 2017

Snakes alive

It's religion again, but this time it's also a
'weird or what'..

For centuries, very year between the 5th and the 15th August,  small snakes appear at the church of the Virgin Mary on the island of Kefalonia.   This year they appeared on August 5th, crawling around the church and its surrounds and remained in the area till August 15th when they suddenly disappeared for another year. Some think that the church is on their migratory route.  Some think it is a miracle of the Virgin Mary (whose big fiesta is on the 15th).

   They are up to one metre long and have a small black cross on their heads.   The snakes are harmless and bus loads of people arrive every day to interact with them.  

They are seen by the islanders as a blessing.  If they do not appear it is a very bad omen.    They failed to appear in 1953 and their was a disastrous earthquake, 7.5 on the richter scale .  They also failed to appear the year that the Germans occupied the island.

Charles and Camilla   -

After a few days resting at the Rothschild estate on Kerkyra (Corfu) Charles and Camilla boarded a luxury yacht to cruise the Aegean.

The yacht will be sailing near Mount Athos, the Holy Mountain of Greece, where Charles will be visiting churches and monasteries.

Mount Athos does not allow females to set foot on the their holy land.  Not even female dogs, chickens, cows or goats.  The presence of women slows the monks spiritual journey, so they say.  

Mount Athos (Agion Oros in greek)  is a peninsular in northern Greece on which there are 20 Eastern Orthodox monasteries.  There are over 2,000 monks mainly from the balkans and Russia. Only men are allowed to enter and only with a special permit.

Grigoriou Monastery

Camilla must stay on board the luxury yacht and hark to her knitting.

Wednesday 16 August 2017

Summer Shots

No, not those sort of shots.  Photos.  Of a Poros summer

The trata, fishing boat, has just laid a long line, illegally, in our little bay and has to sit around for a few hours before bringing it in.

Now and again the Port Police come down for an inspection but rarely when these boats are laying nets or lines inside the bay

Alfa is making the best beer this year according to local 'experts'.  Well brewed and well rested, if that's the right terminology.  A lager with 5% alcohol with a Greek name, brewed in Athens, light gold colour and rich foam.  I have been reading the advert as you can see. 

The most popular Greek iced coffee.  A simple frappe (should have an accent over the 'e' but I can't find it on the keyboard), made with instant nescafe and lots of iced water, sugar and milk if you want it

A pot of basil in the trunk of a tree on the beach, looks like it is planted in a Sol beer cooler

How I pass my time at the beach.  I have been ploughing through that Bruce Chatwin biography for months.  Finally finished it yesterday.  Certainly a weird guy.  An extraordinary life.  The bio goes into some graphic detail of his gay lifestyle, a little more than I really wanted to know

The manager of the beach bar down below us after the Full Moon party.  I'm surprised he let me take his photo.  The party went on till 6.30am and we were down there at 10am for coffee and a swim with the grandkids.  Looks like he must have been doing a massive clean-up in time for re-opening, no time to sleep or shave.

Great party apparently.  Pieces of broken glass we picked up from around our table

Cocoa-cola has a summer competition, 90 free holidays up for grabs. I enter the code from every can of this stuff I drink (which isn't much) but no luck yet. 

Not famous but obviously rich.  He parked his big Mercedes illegally opposite the cafeteria and sat down with his, not one, but two 'girl friends', to enjoy a coffee by the sea.  We watched with interest when the police came along and made him move the car, which he did immediately and very good naturedly.  One law for all this time.

What most sunbathers do between swims.  Phone or ipod

On a blustery day you can literally sunbathe in the sea (because the beach is so narrow)

Or try some windsurfing

15th August on the island of Tinos.  Those saying 'thank you' for the intervention of the Virgin Mary or asking for her blessing literally crawl from the harbor to the church

Αποτέλεσμα εικόνας για tinos 15th august crawLING TO CHURCH

I have turned on the TV for a marathon 5 hour coverage of the service, parade of the icon and blessings taking place today on the island of Tinos.  It's always interesting to see the pomp and ceremony.

Every so often this coverage is cut to show the wildfires raging north of Athens.  Yesterday the wind was blowing our way and the horizon was white with smoke, the smell of burning in the air.

Monday 14 August 2017

15th of August - run for cover

15th August.  Don't ever visit Greece around this time unless you're 18, love heatwaves, a constant cacophony (literally means 'bad voice' in greek), multitudes and masses.

Don't get dare get ill or have an argument with your neighbour.  All doctors and lawyers are on holiday till the end of the month.  On the other hand supermarkets, souvenir shops , bars and cafes are on 24 hour duty, raking in, they hope, enough money in two or three weeks to get them through the winter.

But wait, tax inspectors are on duty.  Who would have thought it.  Every shop, business on this island, over this lucrative money making period, has to issue receipts for every little purchase from a bottle of water to a sunbed.  Hip hip hooray. Someone up high has finally figured out that the way for the govt to make money is to make everyone issue receipts for every purchase and thus get taxed on precise income ..... to make sure that no-no is 'evading'. Fat hope of that, but, maybe. Shhhh, mustn't put the evil eye on this new campaign ftoo ftoo ftoo. I spit on all tax inspectors. Get out there and do your job so our pension doesn't get cut again in January.

15th August is the biggest holiday of the year when every Greek that can, goes on his summer holiday.  Back to their roots, to their island, village, family home.  And any rich Greek that can (and there are still a lot of those that can) loads up his big black Jeep, squashes the nanny in along side the kids, and takes off for a week at one of Poros's luxury hotels.  Or orders the captain of his floating palace to fuel up and takes the mistress and a few of her model friends to the island of Myconos for a few nights of wild living.

It's actually a religious holiday.  15th August marks the 'falling asleep' or dormition of the Virgin Mary and any village or island with a monastery or church dedicated to the Virgin Mary  prepares for an inundation of worshippers, worshippers who will dance and sing, eat and drink after lighting candles, kissing icons and attending church services to show their respect and adoration.

The Holy icon from each church is paraded through the streets so the worshippers can receive her blessing.  The Holy icon on the island of Tinos is miraculous and people will crawl to the church and have the icon passed over them hoping for a miracle. When K was in the Navy he was part of the honour guard many times in best dress uniform, marching miles, sword on high, in the scorching summer sun

One year we found a last minute room by the sea and disappeared for two days until the turmoil was over.  We were up bright and early to attend the service at a monastery close-by our hotel and take part in the fiesta afterwards.

 My feet hurt because we had to stand outside the church for over an hour. The courtyard outside was packed with the faithful, lining up to light a candle at big sand filled containers near the church door, or to kiss the icon of the Virgin Mary, also outside in the courtyard so lines of people could pass in an orderly fashion.

 The queue for the one loo was miles long and there were no tables at the café next door so no coffee.  By 11am it was hot and I was crabby.  So we went back and changed into beach clothes and went to the beach.  It was  even hotter.  And the beach was crowded.

Every 15 August since then we've bunkered down, got in provisions and waited out the storm.  This year I want to run again.  Not to the sea but to the mountains.  The latest heatwave is still making us sweat and suffer.  Last night we went for a quiet beer.  No such thing.  We found a place to park the bikes, we even found a table and the beer was cold. 

The waterfront was an endless parade of people, families, teenagers, children, dogs.  There was no view of the sea.  A tight packed line of yachts along the quay blotted that out.  And we didn't see any falling stars either.  Pout pout. 

There is a meteor shower which
takes place every year around this time and is visible in the northern hemisphere.
We didn't observe any shooting stars although there were supposed to be 40 stars falling a minute in the persoid meteor shower.  It continues on tonight so we'll take another peek although I've looked for these for years, since the girls were young and never seen a thing.  

Image result for perseid meteor shower


Probably we'll just stay close to home again this year, swim early before the crowds, pick up a couple of bottles of ouzo  on the 15th and visit our relatives that have name days.   These family celebrations certainly will not be quiet but at least it will be the usual dancing and singing and enjoyment that we know so well. The beer will be cold, the toilets clean and I can go home whenever I've had enough.

Xronia Polla

Friday 11 August 2017

Of tavernas and souvlaki shops and ouzeries

Taverna - a simple eating place serving homemade food with local olive oil, wine, greens from the fields nearby and traditional dishes.  You'll find these full of local Greeks enjoying long nights of wine, fine basic fresh food and conversation.  This is the sort of eatery where retsina used to be sold, the traditional wine of Greece flavoured with pine resin. They'll probably have paper tablecloths and small heavy wine glasses.

Our favourite taverna by the sea.  Good Greek cooking.  The paper table cloth, held down at the corners by metal clips 

Typical Menu ..

Greek salad
Stewed dried beans with fresh tomatoes (gigantes)
grilled sardines
feta served with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of oregano
Meat stewed with tomatoes and cinnamon served with spaghetti, orzo or local pasta
boiled mutton
split peas puree
salt cod
heavy sourdough bread

Estiatorio (restaurant) -  similar to the taverna but usually only open during the day.  Often they'll have big pots of food cooked fresh in the morning.  If you're lucky you'll be able to go in and choose from the pot, presuming you can tell what you're looking at!

Psistaria - a grill house where  you'll probably find all kinds of meat and sausages being BBQed over a charcoal fire.  All of it is served with greek cheeses, fried potatoes, tzatziki, greek salad or in the winter lettuce or cabbage salad

Ouzeri -  shop which sells ouzo by the glass or the small bottle with small plates of snacks known as meze.  The traditional snacks for ouzo are slices of  grilled octopus on a toothpick with a dash of lemon juice and slices of cucmber.

Souvlatzidiko -  souvlaki shop.  Souvlaki can either be a pita bread wrapped around pork gyro with lashings of tzatziki, raw onions and tomato or pieces of meat (pork or chicken) on a skewer and grilled.

Tsipouradiko - here you buy a raki (also called tsipouro or tsikoudia) by the small 1/4 litre bottle or by the glass accompanied by small plates of mezes which are traditional to eat with this drink.  Small meatballs, feta cheese or olives

Upmarket eating places call themselves a Bistro or Ristorante, serve salads with salmon and pomegranite seeds, call the dressing vinagrette and using long stem wine glasses.