Wednesday 31 January 2018

Fish Supper

Fish again.   Tuna and another fish known here as 'the hunter' with white flesh and a not-too-fishy taste.

  Sunday we had a family fish dish supper.   Twelve of us around our big table.  Eleven family members and the twelfth a  neighbour.  He was a late arrival on his way home from a male Sunday morning 'soiree' who promptly fell asleep at the table, waking up now and again to down another glass of wine .  He slept for three hours, thankfully without falling off his chair.

Dandelion leaves, a kilo of them, an essential accompaniment to any  fresh fish meal.  Full of dirt and mud.  Each root needs to be scraped clean and then  all the leaves are given an extremely good clean,  dunked three times in big tubs of water.  Icy water at this time of the year.  A job only for lovers of dandelion leaves

This is the tuna. 

The white flesh fish, called 'the hunter' (kynigos).  All the fish were cooked on the big bbq, by the men, who wined and dined, sorry 'tasted', while we made salads, fed the kids and set the table.  As  happens all over the western world

Sauce for the fish.  Two parts fresh lemon juice, three parts olive oil, a good spoon of mustard, oregano and salt if you must.
Called 'salamoura'

Garlic bread rolls.  
I make a bread mix, flour, yeast and water and let it rise for half an hour.  I then form  small  buns and roll each bun in a bowl of olive oil with lots of crushed garlic and parsley*.  The drippy, oily, garlicky bun is placed on baking paper in a baking tray.  Leave for half an hour to plump up a little and bake for about twenty minutes till nice and brown. 
 *These ones had no parsley.  Kids don't like green things in their bread.  But I stuffed a square of gouda inside each roll

Leftovers!  So much fish and this is after we ate a second fish meal the next day.  Fortunately  daughter Danae came and took it all away to make fish cakes.  Kids love fish cakes, as long as their are no green things in them.  These children don't mind thyme though.  Their mother puts thyme in everything.

Thyme in the chicken, thyme in the bolognese, thyme in lentils, thyme in omeletes (omelettes), thyme in fish, meat, but mint in the peas.  

Spinach pie pastry recipe she told me in the supermarket this morning

one cup of olive oil
one cup of wine
one egg
as much flour as it takes to make a nice soft dough.  Mix together.  Leave to rest twenty minutes.  Roll out

Try it.

Really tasty and crispy, crunchy (so she said)

Sunday 28 January 2018

Holy Water

Not any old plastic half litre bottle of water.  Oh no.  This is a bottle of Holy Water.  Or what's left after everything and everyone inside and outside our house has been blessed.

This brand of mineral water is called 'AYPA' as you can see.  Pronounced 'avra' and meaning 'aura' in English.  A coincidence? 

My sister-in-law filled up a bottle of Holy water for greek husband on January 6th, the day of the Blessing of the Waters.
This Holy water comes from the Lesser blessing on the eve of Epiphany/Theophany and also from the Greater blessing on the day itself.

K has sprinkled holy water around the outside of the house, inside in the corners, over car and bike and now we have 3 sips every morning before we drink our coffee.  

When we lived in town the local priest would walk through his parish after Theophany and house wives would come out and wait on the street to invite him in to bless the household.  My m-in-law would have laid her best white cloth on a small table along with an icon of the Virgin Mary , a candle and incense.  Everyone gathered around the table and after a short blessing the priest sprinkled holy water around the room and on all of us, even me, pocketed his reward and went off to the neighbour's house.

Nowadays you ask to have the priest come and bless your house, though in smaller communities he still does probably go from door to door.  He will come and bless you and your house at any time and it is a common request when you have been through a period of trouble and strife and want the evil washed away.

How do you make Holy Water?
You boil the Hell out of it

Friday 26 January 2018

Fish the family dish

Fish soup for lunch.   
Fresh fish bought right off the fishing kaïki early this morning

A variety of different kinds of local fish.  All with the heads on and staring eyeballs

One of them was full of eggs.  Fish roe is a delicacy boiled, fried or salted and pickled too

Tonight there will be fresh mussels to share with friends.  The mussels come from opposite the island of Salamina near Athens.  A friend returning from Athens took a by-pass for us and bought 3 kilos of mussels.  When we lived on Salamina we used to dive for mussels even though the waters off the big Naval base weren't the cleanest.  These ones are from a mussel farm.

Steamed mussels with ouzo and garlic

Add some hot sauce if you dare.  It is called 'Bring on the Pain' and for a good reason.  One drop in a plate of soup does more than warm the mouth.  Son-in-law put a teaspoon on the side of his plate and regretted it for the rest of the evening

Moray eel.  Next on our eating list.  Makes excellent soup and delicious fried.  Also it can be dried in the sun and salted

Wednesday 24 January 2018


Neighbours or neighbors?

You can be a good neighbour only when you have good neighbours

Be nice to your neighbours, offer them raki, lend them a cigarette.  You never know when you'll need to borrow a couple of lemons or a handful of olives.

Vaso's olive team were picking just over the fence today.  They started work at 8am and at 11 we thought they needed a boost.  K took out the bottle of raki and a few glasses.

Vaso in her work clothes, out in the fields with her son and daughter.  At weekends team-Vaso is reinforced by a son and daughter-in-law, a koumbaros (best man/woman, godparents) or two and various other relatives.

They started picking on 15th November and hope to finish by the end of this month

Vaso downed three of these in quick succession and was quite happy for me to take her photo.
  She started working at 8am and at 5pm they were just starting to down harvesting picks and stagger up the field to the house.  Tough old bird

All the family has lost weight after two months of hard work but their cholesterol levels have plunged well into the healthy range and their blood sugar levels are well under the norm.

They seem to live on hard, double baked bread (moistened with water or wine), olives, salted mackeral, cabbage and rice (lahanorizo), lentils and a few litres of their own wine.  Their diet is the diet of the ancients.

At the weekends the daughter-in-law brings a tray of bifteki or a pot of macaroni.  During the week after so many hours raking olives off the branches, climbing up and down ladders, hauling nets from tree to tree they have no strength or desire to stand and cook.  They eat, drink and go to rest.  The next day of picking will soon be dawning

Monday 22 January 2018

Macedonian Wars

In northern Greece on Sunday over 100,000  people rallied, and spread for kilometres around the harbour of Thessaloniki,  to protest against the use of the name Macedonia by our neighbours FYROM (Former Yugoslavian Republic of Macedonia). 

 FYROM is already recognized by 135 countries as plain Macedonia.  The Greeks object, vehemently.  

As far as the greeks are concerned Macedonia is a Greek provence, a part of Greek history, the birth place of Alexander the Great, founder of the great Macedonian empire which stretched as far as India.

Skopje (the name used by Greece) was one of six balkan states which declared independence after the break-up of Yugoslavia.  The others being Croatia, Serbia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Slovenia and Montenegro.

Alexander the Great, born in the greek city of Pella and tutored by ancient greek philosopher Aristotle.

Half a million greeks stood for 3 hours  under the statue of Alexander the Great waving Greek flags and cheering the fervent, impassioned speakers (as only Greeks can be) who came from as far away as Crete, way down in the Libyan sea and included the Orthodox Archbishop of Northern Greece and all his entourage. 

Is Macedonia Greek and only Greek? Are our neighbours Slavs or Macedonians? 
Greece and Skopje have been bickering over the name for the past 25 years. 

The borders of those countries in the north have been contested many times, territories divided.  Who has the most right to be called Macedonian?
 The ancient kingdom of Macedonia and Alexander the Great   extended over parts Greece, Bulgaria and Yugoslavia.

The UN mediator has  suggested, amongst other names  New Macedonia, Macedonia of the North,  Upper Macedonia.  The Greek people were rallying against any use of Macedonia in the country's name.    Macedonia is a huge part of Hellenistic (Greek) history.  

FYROM (so called Macedonia) must make a decision about its name very soon, a name that Greeks can live with, because they want to join Europe and NATO and at the moment Greece is veto-ing their entry into both.

Sunday 21 January 2018

Sunday Vittles

Sunday, grey, cold and windy but no rain, yet.  

Vaso and her children are still harvesting olives on this wintry day.   They have been picking for over two months and have pressed 2 /12 tonnes of olive oil, so far, plus whatever they gave to the oil press in payment.  It is the first time ever that all the  olive trees have such a bountiful crop of olives.  I can hear the sound of the chainsaw just across the road.  80 year old matriarch Vaso does not often pick with them.  She has her goats and chickens to take care of and then retreats, probably with a glass of raki for company.

Meanwhile in our house it is time for a Sunday winter special.  Homemade sourdough bread and turkey soup.  

I changed my baking technique again today and the sourdough loaf was baked to perfection.   Baking the bread in a covered ceramic roasting dish gives a crunchy crust with a soft, easily cut interior.  I hardly kneaded it at all and left it overnight to rise.  This loaf, using one kilo of flour, is really too much for us but I can cut it in half and give some away.

The bread is easily sliced and the perfect size for a sandwich or some bread and marmite.  I had just pulled the loaf out of the oven and cut the first slice when the doorbell rang.  It was almost half an hour before I could butter it.  Alas it had cooled down too much and the butter wouldn't melt.  I guess that was a power on high telling me I shouldn't be eating hot bread and butter!

I keep the bread in the covered baking dish and it keeps fresh for about a week, if it lasts that long

Making the cabbage salad for lunch.  I grate the carrot on the mandolino (that's what it is called here).  A greek cabbage salad is made with a grated carrot, a crushed clove of garlic and chopped celery, olive oil and lemon juice.  I didn't mix the garlic in properly and later got a mouthful of raw garlic. I'll be a bit whiffy for a while.

Greek celery (selino).  It looks like parsley but tastes like celery

Today I am drinking just one small glass of red wine .  Local, out of the barrel

A family place mat (with stains of meals past).  In 2008 I got all the grandchildren to place their hands on the mat and drew around them in indelible marker pen.  The tiniest was just a baby.  I'm going to do it again on another mat, ten years later.

A plate of turkey soup.  The turkey was an old bird and fatty.  We boiled it for a couple of hours and added celery, onions and carrots.

There was a lot of fat in the pot so I'll add rice and boil it in the juices.  That's what they do down in Crete with a sheep or goat.  The rice, called gamopilafo (wedding pilaf), is a speciality first course at a wedding,  Absolutely delicious though you end up with a glaze of fat around your mouth.

I shall take the turkey out of the pot, boil the rice and then serve them separately.    I could have added tomato to the juices or thickened it with an egg or lemon sauce but I think the rice will be appreciated more by my traditional greek.  

We spent three years in Crete at the Naval base and have wonderful memories of their regional dishes, different from the rest of Greece

In a response to my brother who asked what the Turks are called in Greek ...... officially
   A Turk comes from Tourkia and speaks barbarian (bar bar bar)
The turkey bird is a gallopoula.  And the gallopoula goes 'gooloo gooloo'  (not 'gobble gobble').

Friday 19 January 2018

Out Like Snails

Yesterday the gale force winds almost picked me up and tossed me across the channel when I went down to the harbour.  They were gale force 8 on the beaufort scale.  All shipping was tied up in port for at least 24 hours.  Today the winds died down and the sun came out.  We all appeared like snails on a rainy day.  Time for coffee on the waterfront.  I haven't been out for coffee yet this year, so I took my camera to record the event.

We all sat out in the sun at the T Cafe

First coffee and then a 'koupa' of wine for K and a no-cal coke for me with a meze of olives, cheese and tomato with a slice of salami.  I'm staying away from alcohol as much as I can.  A red wine now and again, for my health.

The little petrol tanker was out filling up the taxi boats

Our favourite and friendliest taxi boat.  Captain Kyriakos at the helm of the 'Socrates'

A long line of taxi boats on Poros this morning.  One leaves every 20 minutes for the 5 minute journey across the strait to mainland Galatas.  Cost 1 euro

Looking across to the hills opposite and the smoke from the fire of an olive grower burning the small branches from the pruning done as olives are harvested.  The larger branches are cut up and sold for firewood

Look at the sky and the sea.  Both were a clear dark blue today.  So different from yesterdays dark rain clouds

Next to the T Cafe is a cafeteria which calls itself  a bistrot.
This is the second one on Poros which uses the word 'bistrot'.  
I presumed this was a spelling mistake but when I googled the word I see 'bistro' and 'bistrot' are both mentioned.
However, this cafeteria is hardly a bistro and neither is the other.

bistro -  a small restaurant selling moderate priced meals in a modest setting.

This so-called 'bistro' is a hip cafeteria with loud music, cocktails and beer in the evening, serving coffees and ouzo with a toasted sandwich or two during the day

But who here knows the difference.  It sounds chic.

Tuesday 16 January 2018

In Winter Mode

What does one do on a greek island when the temperatures have gone right down to only 15o, when olives have been picked and you're full of coffee.  Be patient, carnival is just around the corner.   28th January is the start of the carnival, called apokries here.  It runs for three weeks and is really early this year because  Greek easter Sunday falls on April 8, almost a month earlier than last year.  

Watching movies is now something we do reguarly when we are bored with Masterchief gr no2, Money Drop, old episodes of Jamie and Nigella or long boring greek made programmes about Greece. 

 The english, americans and french make greek history come alive, or at least interesting with sharp historians and brilliant high tech reconstruction.  The greeks on the other hand turn their history into long, boring hours of dry documentaries often with very little dialogue and far away shots of heaven-knows-what, and get awards for it. 

Back to the movies.  K naturally wants action whereas I want comedy and light entertainment,  We rarely agree on a film and have taken to watching old Bud Spencer, Terrence Hill movies.  They pass the time and are preferable to Bruce Willis or Clint Eastwood in some predictable 80's drama.

We also play a greek version of Trivial Pursuit.  There are only a couple of hundred questions and after a few games it is a question of who has the best memory and can recall the answers.  Our authentic Trivial is in greek and must be about 40 years old.  A lot of the questions are ancient.  Which film won the most Oscars in 1976?  A Clint Eastwood probably.

Our days are taken up with cooking, hauling wood and finding ways to pass the time.  I write blog posts, read blog posts, read books, knit and generally enjoy myself in a number of pleasureable pastimes.  Traditional greeks need company and verbal stimulation and spend long hours on the phone trying to arrange just that or annoying their family with improbable scenarios involving whole roast pigs or trips to far off rustic eating establishments.

Fortunately for mental stability there is a regular mid week male gathering  with long hours of discussion and wine tasting.  Then there are the weekly soccer matches between Olympiakos and some loser team.  

We buy fresh fish from the fishing boats, when weather permits them to go out and fish.  Fresh fish are much cheaper at this time of the year when most of the tavernas are closed and there is not a big demand for the catch.  We buy a kilo of fish for around 5  euros.  A big bag of greens costs around 4 euros and we have a couple of cheap meals which will make any greek happy.

We eat a lot of lentils, dried beans and chickpeas as well.  Classic greek brown lentil soup (fakes), bean soup with carrots and celery (fassolatha) or boiled chickpeas (revithia) with lemon juice are on the menu a couple of times a week. 

  I have to remember to add some baking soda to the chickpeas when I put them to soak overnight or they can end up like bullets (so I'm told).  Chickpeas should be soft and almost mushy if cooked properly.

In the evenings now as the sun goes down we can hear shotguns going off.  Hunting is forbidden on the island but that doesn't stop them.  When we first came to live up here 9 years ago the fields around us were full of pheasant and partridge.  We would see them on the road, or admire their beauty as they took off into the sky.  They all seem to have disappeared.  Hunters at dusk are often aiming at small birds hardly bigger than a sparrow.  By the time they've been de-feathered there is not much left but a few bones.  

I enjoy these long winter days.  As long as our wood burner is sending out heat I am happy.   

Sunday 14 January 2018

My greek Winter

The island is green.  So unlike the dry brown landscape of a greek summer.  Roses are blooming though it is almost time to prune them right back.  I think I saw some snowdrops in the field next door.  

Cleaning a kilo of spinach outside on a cold winters day.  I must have been mad.  The spinach was full of mud and needed lots of rinses.   My hands froze but fortunately my shoes and trews didn't get wet which is usually what happens when I use the hose. 

This way the water gets tipped onto the garden and not into the septic tank.   Not that the garden needs watering.  We finally got rain, pouring rain, and an electrical storm last night which rattled the window panes.  Fortunately we pulled the plugs on anything connected with computers before the donner und blitzen hit us full force.  Neighbours didn't fare so well.

Spinach and rice for lunch and spinach pie tonight, and a few more nights if we don't have someone to share it with.  The pie is a spinach-leek-feta cheese pie with lots of dill, and plenty of pepper,  as I  discovered when I ate that first piece.

Our second load of wood this winter.  From last years olive pruning.  This is not a ton but that is how it usually comes.  A ton is the back of a farm truck piled high, or not, depending on how honest your provider is.  Now this wood needs to be moved around to the back of the house where it will covered and protected from any rain we might possibly have.

Our two lemon trees are laden with fruit.  This will the first decent crop for about three years.

The empty flower pots have a crop of stinging nettles.  I won't pull them out.  Maybe next time I make a spinach pie they'll be tall enough to cut and add to the mix.

Our green green garden, covered in three leafed clover, or maybe it is oxalis.  I like it under the trees and amongst the empty pots.  It makes a welcome carpet of green,  However this year I haven't done much weeding in the vegetable garden and the clover has almost smothered the lettuces.  I am 'uncovering' them one by one.  

Friday 12 January 2018


Hoirino me selino avgolemono ............
or as you would know it, pork with celery in an egg and lemon sauce.  A perfect filling and warming dish on a cold and very damp winter's day. 

  We have hardly seen the sun in days.  Up in Thessaloniki the airport has been closed because of fog.   The sun when it does fleetingly appear is weak and watery.  It rained briefly last night but not enough to clear the atmosphere and let the sun come through.

It is in these damp winter days when the steep flights of steps in the old town green turn green,  slippery and treacherous.  Our front yard sees little sun in the winter and the stones are dark grey and water sodden.

In the older part of the house which is not insulated we have a dehumidifier working long hours on these sunless days, removing moisture from the air so the walls don't go mouldy.

Pork and celery is definitely a winter dish.  We don't find such luscious celery in the the summer.  We often cook it on New Years day, as my m-in-law used to.  It is very popular amongst the traditional people of the family.  I don't particularly like boiled celery, and neither does my younger brother.  It was one of the vegetables my mother loved and we often found it on our plates when we were young.    Even today poor old Uncle T  still cannot stomach it.  I prefer red lentil curry which is cooking in the other pot today.

You could make this with lettuce or other greens and sometimes I do but the meat then is usually lamb.

Pork and celery  - simple to prepare.  A one pot meal

Some prepare the pork and celery separately but I boil them together and it comes out just as it should and is eaten with relish by traditonal people.

Ingredients -
- half a kilo of pork cut into large chunks
- large bunch of leafy celery or an even larger bunch of selino (the greek celery which looks like parsley)
- 1 chopped onion
-  chopped garlic
-  a wine glass of olive oil
- salt and pepper

For the sauce -
- one egg
- juice of a lemon

What was left of a large bunch of celery.  All the leafy green top parts are in the pot

Boiling it all up

Brown the pork pieces, onion and garlic for a few minutes.  Add boiling water and cook slowly for about 45 minutes.  Cut the stalks of the celery into small chunks and the leafy green part into large pieces and add to the pork.  Add some more hot water.  Stir the greens into the liquid and come back again and again to make sure they are covered in sauce. Add salt and pepper.

Celery needs quite a long cooking.  I stewed the meat and celery slowly for about an hour before the stalks were nice and soft.  Do add lots of celery.  Don't be afraid, it boils down like spinach.

As soon as you thnk it is ready then take it off the heat and quickly make the egg and lemon sauce which will raise the taste up a few notches, unless you heartedly dislike boiled celery.

Sauce -
In a biggish bowl beat one egg with a fork.  Add the juice of one or two lemons, it all depends on your taste.
Beat the egg and lemon juice together till very well combined.

Make sure the pork and celery has at least one big ladleful of juice.  If necessary add a little more water.

Add a ladleful of juice from the pork to the egg and lemon stirring it quickly as you do.  It can be done by one person but if you're a newby to egg and lemon sauce have one person pouring the hot liquid and one person stirring.  You don't want the egg to overheat and cook.  Add another ladleful and then pour it all back into the pot with the pork and celery.  Do make sure the pot is not boiling and do not reboil.  When reheating do it very slowly on a low heat.

The half finished plate with a couple of pieces of bread in the middle of it all to soak up the sauce

Serve with feta cheese, olives, thick bread and several glasses of wine

If you like boiled celery, well, kali orexi 
Eat up!

This time last year we were building a snowman