Tuesday 31 October 2017

Farewell to our Seafarer .. still on that month of Sundays (number 4)

Of course there is more.  Greeks rule

Our eldest Greek nephew is second in command on a tanker, away for many months, working 12 hour shifts or more.  His last voyages were from Canada to Venezuela.  Sometimes they are from the Middle East to China, way down to the southern oceans and Australia and then north again to the Emirates.

He rarely goes ashore as the tanker sits offshore for a very short time awaiting orders to load or unload.  When the signal comes the cargo of precious oil is moved at speed and they're off to their next port of call.  These ships are always on a tight schedule and turn around is fast.

The money is good, worth those long months away from family, island and friends.  He returns home, maybe for a month, maybe for two or three and is off again.  His mama hoped he might be home for the olive harvest.  No such luck this year.  The phone call came from Piraeus and a few days later he flew to Singapore to meet his ship.

When he comes back we give him a hero's welcome.  The family gathers in the courtyard and we drink and shout and cheer for his safe return to the fold.  

Tables set in the top yard this time.  Here we were sheltered from a chilly wind

We have a similar family gathering on his departure.  My sis-in-law will cook pies, make salads, roast potatoes and bake her family-famous ek-mek.  The family chef upstairs will have a piece of pork bubbling away in beer, an unsalted chicken for the kids.  The BBQ is lit for a few souvlaki, piles of pita bread and yards of country sausages, full of garlic and gristle.

We will bring a grilled fish from the family fisherman, a loaf of homemade bread.  Everyone brings their speciality.  Potato salad, spinach pie, tzatziki . There are always leftovers, so many leftovers.  That's the sign of a good gathering.  No-one went home hungry!

Dimitris and his two cousins.   We gave him a loud and animated family send-off

Baklavas.  This small box didn't last long.  Sweet syrupy, crisp filo pastry, lots of  nuts.  Finger licking deliciousness.  

Junior watches from afar.  He is not allowed downstairs and knows his limits.

Bon Voyage
Kalo Taxidi

Kales Thalasses
Calm Seas

Me to kalo na gyriseis
Come back soon  .....
and it'll be party time again!

Saturday 28 October 2017

Photo Parade

A break from Sunday-celebration-posts

Everyone has gone home, back to the city.  We have peace and quiet.  Sitting outside with a glass of wine I can hear bird song.  

Not a goat or a dog.  No cars or noisy motorbikes.  No high pitched voices arguing endlessly, no screaming kids, not even ours.  Not even the sound of the wind blowing through the pines.

Silence.  I'm enjoying this novel situation while I can!

The tortoise shell has been sitting outside all summer and unfortunately is falling to pieces.  I thought it would just dry out and be hardened by the sun.    After a short search on the internet it seems we can glue the pieces together and then varnish the shell.  It seems a pity not to try at least to preserve it and maybe have it on show as a trophy  

Our neighbours called in the other day.  They were carrying too heavy bags, one of quinces and the other with pomegranates.

I tried, I really did.  I peeled and chopped half a dozen of those darn quinces.  I made quince compote.  I made a quince pie.  I threw out the two jars of two year old quince jam sitting on the sideboard and thought about making more.  I really did.  

Enough.  They're going in the compost.

The pomegranates are another story.  I peel and pull out the seeds of the pomgranites and eat them with a spoon.  They are a bit fiddly to clean but I love those fresh, red, shiny seeds, juicy and just a little tart.  

Big foot and fairy foot.  Youngest grandaughter uses oldest grandsons shoes as a case for her shoes

Olive slasher.  This little gadget has three sharp blades inside.  The olive is pushed through and comes out with three slashes down its sides, ready to be soaked and then pickled

Some people have bats in the belfry.  My daughter has bats in the fireplace.  Even though there is a turning-cap-thingy on top of the chimney bats fly down in the summertime and can't out again.  This year were there ten mummified bats to be cleaned out.

Reduced salt vegemite.  Someone from Australia brought us all a jar of this new vegemite.  I'm impressed.  It's my favourite, even better than NZ marmite.  The taste is not so strong and noticabley  less salty.  You can put a thicker layer on your toast.  Yum

Wednesday 25 October 2017

Name days and birthdays en famille - Sunday 3)

Third Sunday .........

Are you ready
Hey, are you ready for this
Are you hanging on the edge of your seat?

Another one's down
 another one's down
another one bites the dust

Thank you Freddie, my friend

This Sunday we were celebrating (once again) the name day of our son-in-law, chef, taxi-boat captain and chief people teaser Kyriakos, Κυριακος. Named after his maternal grandfather, one of three boys in the extended family with the same name.

Also a birthday party for daughter, Danae.

Danae  - Δαναη
Mother of the Greek hero Perseus who naturally was fathered by Zeus, who came to Danae in a shower of golden rain.
Named because I liked the name back then and still do.

Our chief chef, Kyriakos

Pork chops, souvlaki and chicken on the grill along with some local pork sausages and a few ocotpus tentacles for the ouzo aperitif

Grilled pita bread, tzatziki and pork souvlaki

29 (she says), getting younger every year.   Ftoo ftoo ftoo, I spit on you my dear

 Note the octopus hung out to dry before it too goes on the barbie

A plateful of stewed snails

If you're not a great sucker-outa then the snails can be removed from their shells with a toothpick.  Naked snails look rather gross!


Tables set out in the lower yard which gets the afternoon sun

The three Graces
Aglaia (brightness), Euphrosyne (joyfulness) and Thalia (adornment)

These three don't need a drink to enjoy themselves

The next Sunday-post is a farewell to the Captain in the family, off to sea again

Sunday 22 October 2017

Sunday number 2

A church service and a neighbourhood get-together.

The story of this church only goes back about 50 years.  A relative in America had a dream that an icon of the Virgin Mary would be found on this spot.  Local boys found the icon and the church was built .  I'll tell you the whole story another time.

Every year on 24rd September there is a church service to celebrate the icon and the Virgin Mary in this case known as Myrtidiotissa, Mary of the Myrtle Tree.

The family that looks after the church invite close friends and neighbours afterwards for a small party.   

This year K volunteered to cook the pork using his secret recipe

  I'm not sure what he did to it.  Certainly there was fresh thyme, oregano and garlic involved and many hours of slow cooking

The end result.  Crsip crackling and very tender, flavoursome meat

Roasted potatoes, cut lengthwise in the traditional greek manner and baked with olive oil, lemon juice and oregano

I made a large loaf of sourdough bread which came out of the oven just an hour before we sat down to eat.  Warm, fresh and full of traditional sourdough flavour

The tables were set outside in their courtyard.  Good food, good company,  stories from the past which evoked much laughter

A few kilos of local wine

Lots of talking and bursts of spontaneous singing which everyone joined in.    There is a greek saying 'a starving bear won't dance'.  But once bellies are full and glasses are emptied the music just  flows naturally out of a greek.

Toasts from one end of the table to the other

The older

And the younger

These two were shooed out from under the table and waited patiently for their reward at the end of the evening.  

Friday 20 October 2017

The last of the summer ouzos

The end of a summer season.  

The pot of basil that was decorating this tree stump has dried up and withered away.  The basil has been replaced by a hardier pot of mint which will regenerate next spring after a  good rainfall and some warm sunshine

The beach bar has closed.  We went down and finished their last drop of ouzo last weekend.  The next day the 'palikaria' (youths of strength and courage is one translation) had a beach party and finished up the rest of the booze.

No WiFi.  Please talk to each other

The sea was a little rough but a perfect day for sailing

Most of the small boats here will be taken out of the water for the winter.  The bay gets very rough in a northerly gale.  We'll be down sometime in the winter to see what the sea has washed up, besides plastic bottles and shoes

Catching wasps

Small boys and tall boys trapped wasps, without getting stung, while we enjoyed a last drink at the waters edge.

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Olives, beer, stilton and dessert

We (traditional people) have already salted and enjoyed the first olives of 2017.  The olives are picked a handful at a time, selected one by one, black with just a touch of green, no blemish or 'dako' (olive disease).

These early olives are best for salting while they are still firm and barely ripe.  Each one is bashed with a hammer to break the skin.  They are then soaked in water for two days, with a change of water morning and evening.  This removes a little of the bitterness.  Then they go  in a jar, bowl, plastic or glass with a couple of handfuls of  coarse salt.  After two days the olives are ready for eating.  By traditional people.  They are far too bitter for me.

that's the way they like them
they like them

Eat them with the salt or give them a quick wash under the tap.   

 My sister-in-law has begun harvesting her olives and should take the first dozen or so sacks to the oil press this weekend.  She and her son are beginning the harvest by themselves and are only picking a couple of trees a day.  If the trees are laden and the harvest looks lucrative they will employ workers to help finish the job.  They have a couple of thousand trees but not all trees have enough fat olives worth picking.  Times and weather have changed the harvest.
 It is still very early in the season and most olive growers are waiting for a good rainfull before picking so the olives are plump and full of oil.  

Early harvest oil is rich and green,  Hopefully we'll get a bottle of this first press which will be guarded and used with love on fresh salads. 

At the moment there is no rain forecast so it could be mid November before the harvest gets moving.

Blue stilton, an English treat for Christmas.  This cheese is available from LIDLS supermarkets and only around the 'time to be jolly' season.  We get a pot every year.  I'll be on the lookout next time we venture across to the mainland, down the coast, up the mountain, round the corner past the Mycenean tombs, under the Venetian castle.

VAP Zythos brewed on the island of Rhodes in the Dodecanese.
Pale lager.
Economical and refreshing on a hot summer's day

Bougatsa  -  custardy cream wrapped in filo pastry and covered in icing sugar and cinnamon.  A specialty of the northern capital of Thessaloniki, in the largest and most populated region of Greek Macedonia.

These are usually bought piping hot in the morning from 'bougatsidika', bougatsa shops, and eaten out of the wrapping paper.  They are also made with cheese and minced meat fillings.

I've never made one from scratch.  This one was in the freezer and a perfect dessert for young hungry teenagers.  30 minutes from freezer to table, sugar and cinnamon included in the package.

Sunday 15 October 2017

Memorable Food

Food fit for a wedding feast, or the celebration of 12 years of wedded bliss at the little cafe near the monastery.  

Not our anniversary, our daughter's.

Beer, ouzo and a variety of suitable snacks, some brought in plastic containers, some provided by our friends, Nektaria and Meleti, who run the Monastery cafe.  

A whole fish, scaled and gutted, and cooked in the oven covered in thick slices of tomatoes, sliced onion and capers. 

 No plates provided.  Everyone has a fork and spears a piece to eat from the communal dish in the middle.  Paper napkins are always on the table to wipe away the juices.  This is the greek way of eating.   Anything juicy is mopped up with a piece of bread.

Olive stones are thrown over the wall or into the garden.


Mussels with rice, lots of ouzo or raki for flavour and fresh parsely.  This is the perfect meze for ouzo.  

Nektaria's spicy blue cheese dip.  Blue cheese and lurpak butter.  I thought it was cream cheese not butter.  It was very nice but the dish disappeared down the other end of the table.

Lurpak is expensive but it tastes like real butter should. The cheapest Greek butter is from the island of Corfu (Kerkyra) and tastes of the sheep whose milk it was made from.

Greek sushi.  A fresh tuna or a tuna sort-of fish, sliced, marinated in lemon juice with a little olive oil.

This is another good meze for ouzo.