Thursday 28 June 2018

Modern Day Maidens

We went to watch this years burning of the May day wreaths and the maidens pretending to dream of their future amore mio in a centuries old greek pagan rite.

Grandaughters were taking part in the enactment of the dream-time 

Ye olde greek maidens in strappy t-shirts.  It was a hot summer night.  They are carrying clay water jugs by the way.  

They go to the well in silence, pour water into a clay pot, add a personal item and  go to sleep to dream of lovers/husbands/partners.  Sleeping maidens got the giggles.

At daylight maidens arise and open the clay pot with the water and their rings/clips/bracelts.  As each goes to retrieve her personal object a funny and sometimes rude verse is read out ot them

describing them
 as having oranges for breasts and tomatoes between their legs 
 with breasts like melons, dark eyes and the waist of a wasp

no-one will want to marry you, you're like a two legged camel

As a storm breaks out and octopuses come ashore
then you will get married with your crooked legs

You're as tall as a cyprus tree
girl next-door, I'll take you

The bawdier the better.  The old crones were cackling 

And then the fire was lit and everyone, especially small boys jumped the flames.  Grandson with one of those haircuts where long hair on the top falls over his face  wore a cap so as not to singe his locks but one of the girls with long hair got hers sizzled

This is where the fire has died down.  The flames grew higher and higher to the small boys' delight

Last night I was watching Joanna Lumley on her greek odyssey.  She attended this festivity in northern Greece and nimbly jumped the fire

Next evening grandaughters took part in a dance evening
Here they are doing a bit of Bollywood.

Oldest grandaughter is quite grown up now.  Sniff sniff says her mother, her little girl is no longer so little.  Here she is dancing a tango

Some of the summer festivities which take place on the island. The dancing was supposed to place in an outdoor amphitheatre but we were in the middle of storm Nefeli and had a night of torrential rain

Monday 25 June 2018

Summertime Tomatoes

Our garden is providing loads of tomatoes and green peppers but they are on the small size.  When we go to the garden shop to buy tomato plants our choice of varieties are cherry tomatoes, tomatoes and the long pomodoro tomatoes.  None of those beefsteak, heirloom or gardener's delight.  We take what we find, which isn't much.  I only remember buying two cherry tomato plants and half a dozen of the 'ordinary' variety.  One cherry tomato immediately produced 6 cherry tomatoes and then gave up the ghost.  The other withered away so I suppose these are just small 'ordinary' tomatoes.

We're thrilled with whatever our garden provides, including the snails, but these are not big enough for stuffing.  So we buy big beefy tomatoes from a local grower.

As for the peppers, I am sure I remember saying I wanted the round capsicum peppers.  We were given a mixed lot instead because we seem to have a lot of small long thin green peppers and only two plants with the classic capsicum.  The long ones are too small for  stuffing with feta and don't go well in a salad.  Now and again I fry a handful.

One of the most popular summer dishes in  Greece is stuffed tomatoes and green peppers, the latter called capsicum in Australia and bell pepper in American.   Other popular vegetables to stuff are aubergines and zucchinis and the stuffing can be rice,  onions and herbs or with a little minced meat as well.  I prefer a little meat but this batch is meatless

The hollowed out tomatoes and topless green peppers ready for stuffing.  The tomatoes are easily emptied by cutting a small slice off the top and digging out the flesh with a teaspoon.  It doesn't matter if the tomato skin is torn a little or a hole made in the bottom by too enthusiastic 'digging'.  The stuffing sits in there just the same.

I put the flesh from half of the tomatoes, the onion and herbs into this little mixer and make them into a pulp.  The stuffing mix does not need to be precooked.  

Here are the vegetables, each filled with the stuffing mixed, ready to be closed.

Closed up, surrounded by potatoes cut into small pieces which hold them all in one place so they don't move around or fall over while cooking.  My mother-in-law always sprinkled breadcrumbs over them all before putting them in the oven so of course I do that as well (for her son).  They have been drizzled with olive oil and salt.  The dish does not need any extra water because usually quite a lot of juice comes from the tomatoes.

And behold, this is what they look like after an hour in a hot oven.  A little blackness on top just gives them extra flavour.

half a dozen tomatoes
three or four green peppers
(or how ever many you think your family will eat)

one onion, chopped or put into the mixer
one clove of garlic
a small bunch of parsely
one dessert spoon of short grain rice for every vegetable
olive oil
salt and pepper

If you're using zuchinis and aubergines, cut off a small lid and hollow them out the same way with a teaspoon.  Use the flesh in the stuffing.  Put it in the mixer with the tomato and onion.  

2 potatoes
a little sugar
also nice is a small handful of raisins and pine nuts

Hollow out the tomatoes and cut a lid off the top of the peppers, removing the seeds.
Put half the tomato flesh into the mixer with the onion, garlic, roughly chopped parsely, mint and basil.  Mix to a pulp.

In another bowl put the rest of the contents of the tomatoes and roughly  mash up any lumps with your fingers.  Add the rest from the mixer.  Add a small glass of olive oil, the rice, salt and pepper.  That is your stuffing ready.

Put a small sprinkle of sugar in the bottom of each tomato.  This counteracts the acidity of the tomato.  Now fill up each shell and cover with its lid.

Peel and cut up the potatoes into small chunks and wedge them in between the vegetables.  Drizzle olive oil over them all, sprinkle a little more salt and scatter some breadcrumbs over the top.

Cook in a hot oven from one to one and a half hours.  The potatoes should be soft and the tops of the tomatoes lightly blackened.

If you want to use a little minced meat to make it a heartier meal for your man, then brown the mince a little and add it to the raw  tomato and rice mix before stuffing.  I would use a handful of mince for this amount of vegetables.

Any stuffing mix left over you can just add to the dish around the veges and potatoes and maybe a little water.  It will cook perfectly well there and you'll have a little more to put on the plate.  

Serve with feta cheese, sourdough bread and a nicely cooled rough white wine.

Kali Orexi
Kia Makona 
Have a nice meal

Friday 22 June 2018


This year we're suffering from a plague of locusts, indoors.
Locust, grasshopper, praying mantis, anything that hops and jumps

This little fellow kept me company as I wrote on the computer.  He didn't move for hours and I had to wiggle a pencil at him till he waggled his feelers and show a sign of life

This chappy was frightened when I cleaned the floor and hopped out to complain at my rude interruption

One of his cousins was having a stroll across the clothes on the ironing board

We've got used to sharing the house with them now but I still give a startled yell when one jumps out of a t-shirt slung over the back of a chair and lands in my face or scuttles down my back

Every year we seem to be invaded by some branch of the insect family.  This year we also have a lot of smaller spiders which scurry into corners but don't annoy.  Last year it was daddy-long-legs.

One year it was wasps.  We couldn't sit outside and eat or drink which was bad news in midsummer when we  live and sleep outdoors.  Dozens of wasps would zoom in on the table and cluster over any glass or plate.  In the end we learnt to burn a handful of greek coffee.  The smell and smoke warded them off but it didn't make for a pleasant meal.   We stayed inside with the aircon on during the day for a month or so.

These nasty things with long dangly legs are called 'builders'.  They build mud like nests in the folds of curtains, in speaker boxes, in the wooden slats of the shutters.   

Then we had the year of the flies.  Flies everywhere, hundreds of them inside the house.  We couldn't get rid of them.  We sprayed and vaccumed them up and kept doors and screens shut tight but they infiltrated anyway.  The invasion lasted about a month and then thankfully they disappeared.

We've had the year of the frog, so many of them hopping over the road at night that you just couldn't help but run over a few of the poor things. 

The year of the midge, or some sort of small fly which swarmed in certain places along the mountain road.  I had a helmet that covered most of my face but had to keep one hand over my mouth when coming up the mountain on the quad bike so they didn't suddenly disappear down my throat.

The year of the hornet when they invaded the grape vines.  We had nasty great brown and yellow hornets dive bombing anything edible in the garden.

Snails.  So many of them eating in my garden I paid the grandchildren 5 cents a snail and they gathered bags of them.  I was going to prepare them for the pot but couldn't be bothered in the end and emptied them out in a field a long way from home.

We enjoy all the pleasures of living in the countryside!

Thursday 21 June 2018

Simply Potatoes

Potatoes are growing in my compost.  I threw in peelings from a kilo of sprouting potatoes with 'eyes' and they've come up all over the place.

This is my smaller compost pile which I dig into the small vegetable plot next to it.  I add all the kitchen waste, peelings, coffee grounds, eggshells, kitchen paper, dried grapevine leaves and old torn up brown bags till the middle of May.    It is too close to our terrace and sometimes just too wiffy in mid summer.  In May I cover it with a thin layer of soil and leave it till October when the resulting rich soil-like compost goes on the winter vegetable plot.  This May after adding a layer of earth I threw a handful of squash seeds on it and they are now growing nicely alongside the potatoes.  I had never thought of actually growing things on the compost heap before.

The last time I  planted potatoes we got a good crop but they all grew with a purple streak in the middle and we didn't eat them.  I wasn't sure why the purple colour was there and treated them like potatoes with green on them.  They were ordinary potatoes that were planted so where the purple came from is still a mystery.  It will be interesting to see how this years crop turns out.

Selino and celery

In the foreground is the celery that you all know.  Long light green stalks and darker leaves.  Behind it is a bunch of greek selino.  The same taste but it looks like parsley, hardly any stalk and very leafy.

Time for a simple dish that we eat as a main meal during Lent and also in the summer.  Stewed potatoes, with celery and carrots

I've posted this recipe  before but will give you a shorter version now.

Potatoes cut into chunks
olive oil, the best greek of course, lots of it
grated fresh tomatoes
a bay leaf
chopped celery
diced carrots

Fry onion and garlic in the oil.  
Add tomatoes (from a tin if you have to)
and a cup or so of water
Then add potatoes, carrots, celery and the bay leaf.
Stew slowly till all the vegetables are tender and the sauce has reduced and thickened a little.

The more well known greek potato recipe is roast potatoes with lemon juice.  My traditional person always adds more lemon juice than I like and I find them a bit acidic.  When I make though...... yum.

To be traditional greek roast potatoes they must be cut into long slices and not chunks

Cut them into long slices and roast with lots of good olive oil, oregano, plenty of garlic, maybe some thyme, salt and a good cover of fresh grinded black pepper.

Kalo Orexi
Bon Appetit
Buon Appetito
Kia Makona
Have a Nice Meal

Tuesday 19 June 2018

Summertime and the Weather is Fine

19th June today.  We're on the verge of endless days of scorching summer heat.  I love summer up till 20th June and from then I have noticed that temperatures start to soar and I start to sweat and suffer.  Working on the hottest days I have a small towel hung over my shoulder to wipe my brow and the outdoor shower is put to good use.  I hope the new water metre doesn't mean a bigger water bill.  

Mid-summer is celebrated on June 21st this year.  Here in Greece we don't actually celebrate mid-summer or the solstice. 

Solstice, longest day of the year will be celebrated on June 21st in Britain.  Mid-summer in Scandanavia seems to be on June 23rd. 

The 24th in Greece is a church celebration, another pagan event taken over by religion.  It is the fiesta to celebrate the birth of  St John the  Baptist, along with a couple of Pagan parties.  23rd, on the eve,  is when we burn the May wreath on a bonfire and the children and agile adults leap the flames to be flea free for the rest of the year, ye gods and little fishes.

The 24th is one of the many St John fiestas.  Our local, tiny church, dedicated to St John celebrates on 24th September or thereabouts.  The eve of his birth-day is also the observance of a greek tradition called Klithona, which is something to do with maidens and dreams of a future husband.

I guess elsewhere there will be weaving of Maypoles, observance of sunrise at Stonehenge, smorgasbord and schnaps.

Sunrise in Greece is offically 6.03am and sunset at 20.51pm.  That makes for just over a 14 hour day, although the sun starts to rise about half an hour earlier and it is not till half an hour later in the evening that darkness sets in.

Cicadas are trilling away furiously now, more and more adding to the chorus every day.  We tell the weather from our insects.  When it is going to rain the ants appear and when the rain is finished the cicadas start up.

Kalo kalokairi (good summer)

Friday 15 June 2018

WTF Greek Style

1 - WTF

For 27 years Greeks have been blocking the country over the border from calling itself Macedonia.  Macedonia is a Greek state in the north of our country, home of Alexander the Great.  Macedonia is Greek say the greeks and only Greek.

Greek Macedonian Flag

The neighbouring country, which the Greeks call Skopje, which the world offically knows as FYROM (Former Democratic Rebublic of Yugoslavia), has adopted the red and yellow flag of Macedonia and demands the right to call itself just that, saying they also are Macedonians.

Macedonian Flag of Skopje

After 27 years of 'stiff' negotiations Greece and Skopje have come to an agreement.  It will be known as Northern Macedonia.  

For 27 bloody years Greeks have denied them the right to that name saying they will block their entry to NATO and the EU if they adopt any name with Macedonia in it.

Now our PM is calling this a historic agreement.      The people of Greece however are saying he has given away a piece of greek history and culture and betrayed the greek nation.

Protests began immediately all over the country and the Greek Parliament is debating a No-Confidence vote.

Churches in the city of Kalavrita were ordered to ring their bells in mourning by  hardliner Bishop Amvrosisos after news of the agreement.

Actually there are protests on both sides of the border and I doubt the agreement will ever be signed despite pressure from the US, EU, IMF and NATO to resolve the issue

2 - WTF

During the no-confidence debate a member of  the Golden Dawn party, an extreme right wing party,  called for the army to arrest the PM, President and Minister of Defence (Leader of the coalition party) and to take over the country in a military coup. 

Golden Dawn in the Greek Parliament

I haven't heard it on Greek news yet but according to foreign news sources  that was too much even for the far-right and he has been thrown out of the party.  He will also be investigated by the Justice Ministry.

3 - WTF

Terrorist Dimitris Koufontinas was sentenced, in 2003, to 11 life sentences for carrying out a series of murders for the terrorist group November 17th.  There was huge objection from the public when twice he was given 48 hour prison leave in the last few months.
Life imprisonment with home leave!

Being greeted by supporters on his first leave

His next request for leave was blocked so he went on a hunger strike.  Today he stopped his hunger strike as he has been granted another 48 hour 'recouperation' pass.  

The terrorist group carried out 103 attacks on US, British, Greek and Turkish targets, killing 23 people.  One of their leaders, also allowed out on prison leave, failed to return after one of his 'holidays' and remained at large for 18 months.  He was apparently preparing for another attack when he was finally re-arrested.

So despite protests from Britain and the US, outrage from the vitcim's families and the possibility of his disappearance, terrorist and murderer Koufontinas has been yet again given leave to recouperate and plot.

4 - No WTF here. Just the usual crap

Turkish Minister of Foreign Affairs announced that not even a bird will  fly over the Aegean without Turkish consent.

 Turkey  claims ownership of  15, 18, 100 Greek islands, depending on who's ranting.

Turkish Coast Guard ship rams Greek Harbour patrol

Turkish jets hassle plane carrying greek PM

Turkey has elections on June 24. Maybe the conflict will calm down once Erdogan rules supreme once more and has no need to show his might by threatening greek sovereignty

Turkish PM

Wednesday 13 June 2018

A Mish-mash

Stand-off on the bridge
The tanker, our sewage tanker, broke down just as it was about to cross the narrow bridge.  For a car to pass it needed about another metre of space.  What to do.  Everyone got out and pushed the tanker back a few metres.  I was surprised the tanker was so easy to move.  It must have been empty of its malodorous effluent

We have an official flag pole flying the blue and white greek flag and the black flag with the silver fern leaf which should be the official New Zealand flag.

Residents on this road are getting their water metres moved to a spot just outside their gates.  At the moment the water metres are at the top of the road and there is always an argument with the municipality when a leak occurs between the metre and the house as to who pays the bill.  There are about 50 metres of pipe going down the road and our piping  has sprung a leak 3 times since we moved in.  The bill for the last leak was 400 euros.  A very angry K protested vehemently to everyone concerned (or not), saying the pipes down the roadside were not his concern.   Thankfully the council paid in the end. 

This ditch was dug a week ago.  The road was measured for piping twice and today the piping arrived.  Maybe tomorrow they'll put the pipes into the ditch and cover it over . And then we will await the new metres and their installation.

The workers supervising the digging of the trench, by a big yellow digger, were friends so they dropped in for coffee, a glass of water and chat about the numbers of fish not being caught this summer.

Next day.  They did return.  While the labourers dig holes the bosses sit and keep K company.  The conversation over coffee is once again fishing.  When these men are not fishing they are talking about fishing or watching fishing videos on Youtube 

Short macaroni and octopus on the menu

The cicadas started their summer song a few days ago.  There are still only a few of them.  It is not yet a deafening chorus from sun-up to sun-down

And this little chap has started chirping in the night.  It's a cricket, not a cockroach.

Tuesday 12 June 2018

Nels Bels Cockle Shells

Grandaughter Nels had a long weekend

On Saturday morning we all left early to travel to the city of Argos (think greek myth 'Jason and the Argonauts') an hour and a half away.  Argos and the agricultural city of Larissa further north are the hottest cities in Greece.  It was 29o on Poros, 35o in Argos.

Nels sat an English exam for her first certificate.  First a written exam and then oral.  I am sure she passed with flying colours. 

While Nels waited to sit the examinations we found an old style cafenion to drink coffee and enjoy some airconditioning

The men at the far end of the room are playing cards.  A cafenion was traditionally a male stronghold but nowdays women are more than welcome.  Men come to pass their time while wives back home are cooking and cleaning.  They chat with friends over a greek coffee, play card games or backgammon and just enjoy the company of other men all keeping out from under their wives' feet.

No ouzo, beer or raki today.  A simple iced coffee (frappe) and a bottle of cold water

Then we raced back so Nels could take part in the 10,000 metre run that is part of the triathlon taking place on Poros this weekend

The photo above shows the smaller children and some of their Mums running the 1,500 metre event.  Some of the kids looked as young as 4 or 5

The finishing line down in the main harbour

There is a medal for everyone taking part plus a banana and a bottle of water as they cross the finish line

Nels devoured a sandwich in the car on the way back, got changed in a cafe bathroom and made the starting line with minutes to spare.  

Here she is passing the finishing line, still going strong after a gruelling 10k s in the still hot sun.

She made straight for a seat on the curb and a bottle of water while we all gathered around to congratulate our champ

Nels was the third woman to cross the line.  Here she gets her third place medal.  The other two women were much older and more experienced.  She also got a medal for being first in her age group

One of the family volunteers

Well done Nels

και εις ανοτερα

Upwards and onwards

Oh and the day didn't stop there.  First there was a 'pasta party' for all involved in the Porosea events, then almost a hundred dancers, including Nels and all the family , took part in a dance event highlighting the unique moves of a greek dance called the 'harsapiko' which were perfected years ago by those from the island.  This dance is called the 'Poriotiko harsapiko'.  The idea is to, next time,  get the whole island involved and try for a place in the Guiness book of records.

The day ended with a concert on the waterfront

Thursday 7 June 2018


The island is being spruced up for an influx of athletes, their back-up teams, girlfriends/boyfriends and fans of these sports people hardy enough to swim, bicycle and run in this summer heat.

It used to be the boat show at the end of May that caused this sudden spurt of activity by the municipality.  Somewhere in the last few years we lost the boat show.   Million dollar boat owners were not  impressed by our lack of co-ordination and preparation I heard.  Little plastic gates attached to the rubbish bins, and a sudden appearance of colourful plants along the waterfront were not enough, although I thought the kilometre of red carpet in front of the parked yachts was quite impressive and one year we got a few yards of it before they threw it out after the exhibition.

I have just come back up the mountain after some early morning shopping.  Someone was out strimming all the long dry grass along the edges of the road and three sweepers wearing orange vests and wielding big long brooms were cleaning up behind him.  Further up was a lorry parked watching the activity.   Five watched, four worked.

A week or so ago all the potholes were patched-up along the roads to be traversed by the atheletes.  

Main roads all over the island will be closed for the three or four hours the events take place on Saturday and Sunday. As Poros has very few roads this means the island will be on lock-down. Last year I almost got stuck in the middle of the mountain.  This year I know what's happening and when.  The children and the grandchildren are either volunteers or taking part so we've been warned where and when we can move.

There is a wedding taking place at a small church along the bay at 6pm on Saturday.  I presume everyone will be coming and going by boat because the roads are closed from 5-9pm.  The jetty there though is almost non existent.  I hope the bride and groom have a plan B

St Sofia Love Bay

The big supermarket has sold hundreds of bottles of water with athletic 'nipples' to be given to the contestants.  I asked my nephew if he would get a bonus for such unexpected sales.  No. no, no.

You'll be hearing about all this I'm sure!

Wednesday 6 June 2018

Not just tzatziki

Some more simple Greek dishes.  Actually I think these three are Balkans/Turkey/Middle Eastern. All the countries around us have similar dishes.

Spicy cheese dip - tyrokafteri

This is really nice in the summer when I've had enough of tzatziki and greek salad and want a change.  Just put all these into a small hand mixer and puree

300 soft feta
200 grams thick yoghurt
Paprika..chili..bukova (something to give heat and spice)
 1Sweet Red pepper baked  (or a couple of red peppers in vinegar from a jar)
Garlic , one clove is enough
Oil  - a few tablespoons
Vinegar - a few tablespoons

Eat with
 carrots and celery if you must
Perfect with grilled vegetables and meat

Bouyourdi -  red peppers and feta

Feta (soft) which melts (you could substitute with a local soft yellow cheese)
Pepper sliced
Tomato slices
Hot chili, paprika

In a clay pot (or a pyrex dish) start with a layer of tomato slices.  Add a layer of thinly sliced green or red peppers.
Crumble soft feta cheese over all of this.  It needs to be a soft cheese which will melt.  Finish off with another layer of tomato slices.  Sprinkle over some hot chili or paprika.  Drizzle with olive oil.
Bake for about half an hour till the cheese has melted and the tomatoes and peppers have softened.

Excellent with bbqed meat or just by itself.

Domatokeftethes - santorini tomato fritters

I have made these several times and I don't like my homemade version.  If I find them on a taverna menu I will definitely order them and usually am not disappointed.  The first time I made them they didn't have enough juice and were dry.  The next time they were oily.  They definitely need to be eaten hot out the frying pan while they are still crisp.

A friend of ours makes them and insists they can only be made with tomatoes from Santorini.  She comes from the Santorini where these tomato fritters are a speciality, made from local cherry tomatoes which thrive there in the rich volcanic soil.

Santorini is a volcanic island and has very little rain.  These cherry tomatoes don't need water.  The leaves catch moisture from the nightly sea mists.  They don't mind the scorching summer sun either or the very strong winds in this area of the Aegean.  The island is famous here for its tomatoes, grapes and fava (yellow split peas).  My father wrote about them in his diary during his war years in Greece.  Especially he always remembered the wonderfully fragrant tomatoes.

The grape vines are like small nests, they crawl along the ground and are woven into a sort of nest.  They also need very little water but the grapes  are full of flavour and make excellent wine

Recipe for tomato fritters

Mix together

 3 or 4 Chopped tomatoes
1/2 Diced onion
chopped Mint and basil
2 tablespoons Flour
 1 tsp Baking powder

Should be quite a sloppy mix.  Put spoonfuls into smoking oil and fry till brown on both sides.  Drain on kitchen paper to get rid of excess oil.  Eat immediately, with lashings of tzatziki.