Sunday 29 December 2019

Xmas Gone

Yup, we did celebrate Christmas

Next on the list
 New Year
Then the Blessing of the waters on January 6
and St John, Agios Giannis on January 7

It aint over yet

St Nik (not Saint Basil, who appears on New Years eve here, with presents for the children) arrived ringing his bell with a hip hip hooray

We all love our jolly old St Nik
- in Greece, by the way,  St Nikolas is not Santa Claus but protector of sailors on the seas

Look Mum, Santa brought me  a jar of stilton.  Yes, my grandaughter loves stilton. 


For everyone, including King and Queen

It was one of the best

We even played games. A sort of    greek Trivial Pursuit.  And my team (with  the grandchildren) lost. How the hell did that happen. I never lose....almost never lose

Sunday 22 December 2019

22nd December

Well, ho, ho, ho. Christmas is almost here.  Father Christmas knocked on our door this morning bearing gifts, dressed in his old track suit pants and sweatshirt.  His official red suit is hanging up over the fireplace and Mrs Christmas has given him strict instructions to leave it there till Christmas Eve.  She's not going to iron it again or remove the oil stains .  Around here Santa is rewarded with a glass of fire water and some fatty pork after these early Xmas runs. Things can get messy. 

His first presents were 8 litres of his very own wine and 1 1/2 litres of his excellent wine vinegar, excellent wine that went wonky.

Followed by 2, 16 litre tins of this years olive harvest, pressed two days ago.  Buy 1 (70 euros), get one free.    The bursting cardboard box in the rear is 20 litres of son-in-laws wine from last year.  He was clearing out his barrels for this years vintage.  I think we'll be having a very happy Christmas, this year.

Vaso's son and our 'koumbaros' (we were best man and woman at his wedding) brought us wine and oil before he left for Athens to join his wife's family for Christmas and New Year.  

Athens is rather jolly at this time of the year, not a bad place to be if you want shops lit up with Christmas lights, windows with dancing Santa's and piped music in the squares and parks.

Their oil harvest has finished for the year.  It's time to enjoy some R and R.  Today they finished the last of their chores, cleaning the nets used for the olive picking and the olive and  oil containers.
85 year old Vaso was out in the fields dragging pruned olive branches into piles and burning them.  She never stops.  Probably on Christmas day she'll be out there burning or weeding though she has been known to pop in for a drink and a smoke.

Our presents are wrapped, the stockings have been mostly filled and I'm knitting non stop to finish 5 pairs of wristwarmers for the grandchildren. 

Saturday 21 December 2019


Many years ago when I was more a part of the english community here an english woman would make paté and sausage rolls for all of her close friends at Christmas, including me. When she left there was a big gap in our xmas menu.  Sausage rolls are easy enough, if you have the sausage meat or the right sort of sausages.  Greek sausages just don't cut it.  She brought english sausages and sausage meat and real butter from England.

  So I looked up the pate recipe and decided to give it a go.  Very easy I thought and just kept on making it for ourselves and an english friend every year.   

For a country which adores its offal chicken livers are very hard to come by.Now and again, and usually a this time of the year we can find trays of frozen chicken livers and hearts, together.  Thats what I bought this year.   The hearts go into an omelette.

Our supermarket has pate over this period too.  The pate with cranberries has already sold out.  I tried some last year.  Far too sweet.  Then there was mushroom pate.  At 18.60 euros a kilo just not worth it.  

Paté with chicken livers

1/2 kilo chicken livers chopped
200 grams bacon chopped
1/2 cup butter (about 100 grams)
1 onion chopped
2 cloves garlic chopped
salt and pepper
one bay leaf
thyme to taste
wine glass of brandy or whisky
bread crumbs if the mix is too wet
good squirt of mustard

Fry the chopped bacon and put aside

Put livers, onions, garlic and butter in a pot and simmer for 15 minutes or until the livers are soft.  Add salt and pepper, brandy, mustard and bacon.  

Puree with a hand mixer.  If the mix is very wet then add a handful of breadcrumbs.

Eat with crackers and red wine and some blue cheese.  I was going to buy some genuine roquefort but decided that danish blue cheese was good enough for us and half the price.  We have genuine stilton instead.

Word of the Day

deipnosophist  - a person who is an adept conversationalist at a meal

This is one of those words that I can more or less guess at because of my knowledge of greek.  Deipno is the greek word for meal.

Thursday 19 December 2019

Christmas Images

A photo round-up of our December

This is the ship which K has surrounded by Christmas lights for our traditional holiday decoration

Just for fun
an empty can of NZ reduced cream, essential for the classic kiwi onion dip, brought 12,000 miles in a suitcase.  I suppose I'll have to throw it into the recycle bag eventually.  Now it sits nicely beside the very classic wine jug from the island of PAros

English Christmas crackers.  Everyone in the family loves these.  This year I remembered early and ordered from Ebay.  20 crackers for a very reasonable 18 euro and that included the postage.  The boxes are a bit battered but hopefully the crackers will still go bang when they are pulled.  The smaller box is from a big greek shopping chain.  I was in early there too though I doubt they'll sell out.  Xmas crackers seem still to be on the mostly-unknown-foreign list.

Beaujolais and from 2019.
I love a bit of beaujolais but usually the bottles in the greek supermarkets are from the previous year and I know this wine is supposed to be drunk young

Downtown all the cafeterias have some sort of Xmas decoration
The streets at night have lights on the lamp posts in the shapes of trees and stars.  Most impressive this year.

This is the local almond-biscuit making shop.  omg the smell wafted along the waterfront, how could I resist.  But I did.  My traditonal partner was in a hurry to make home before the next 'falling of chair legs' as they say here.  Dark clouds were encroaching, rolling down over the hills opposite

Steps green with moss.  They'll be whitewashed by the municipality before easter next year

We came home last weekend on the car ferry with son-in-law's family oil and wine.  The family have olive trees and grape vines in a small village further north.  A cousin looks after the fields, vines and trees, does the harvest and sends part of the yield down to the family on Poros.

Tuesday 17 December 2019

Greek Christmas Goodies

Melomakarouna and Kourabiethes
Honey cakes and butter-almond biscuits

Greek Christmas Sweets

The traditional greek person in our house made these all by himself.  Usually the grandchildren come and make them together but he couldn't wait till they finish school.  No, they must be made early and distrubted to family, neighbours and friends.  He made piles of them and there are only a few left on the platters so he'll be grumbling again soon and making more, by himself if he has to.

I used to make both of these.  There is nothing complicated about the recipes.  Now I make the foreign 'stuff', mince pies, Christmas fruit cakes, chutney, pickled onions and chicken liver pate.  I suppose we are both going back to our childhood roots.  Now I make a little homeamde Baileys as well and some sort of fruit liqueur .  I also make sure we have sage to stuff the chook, brussel sprouts, kumara (sweet potato) and enough sauv blanc to sustain the xmas cheer.

Butter and almond cakes - kourabiethes
For these we buy real butter (irish butter from Lidls) not marg.  In years gone by the traditional person bought fresh sheeps butter by the kilo.  You can imagine what this tasted like.  The sheep.  We gradually turned him over to Lurpak and now he's quite happy with the Irish butter, half the price of Lurpak.  These are sprayed with rose water as they come out of the oven and then drowned in icing sugar.  The aroma is more than heavenly.  Irresistible

Honey cakes - melomakarouna
A traditional Greek honey biscuit, dipped in honey syrup
Made from flour, oil, and orange juice, flavoured with cinnamon and cloves, drenched in honey and crushed walnuts.
These have no milk, eggs or butter so can eaten during Lent and the other many fasting days during the year.  My sis law makes them now and again when she is fasting, to offer visitors

- Word of the day
what a wonderful sounding word and you can almost guess the meaning.   The ringing or the sound of bells.

All thanks to the online

Thursday 12 December 2019

Xmas is A Coming and the Pigs are Getting Fat

We don't eat geese here but pork is always centre on the  fiesta table. While others are fattening the pigs I am doing my own preparations for Christmas.

Pickled onions finished today.  They'll be perfect by Christmas.  We dont get tiny onions here so these are quite large.  Not a problem.

1 kilo of onions
Pickled in 1 litre of homemade wine vinegar
250 grams of local thyme honey

Heat the vinegar gently till the honey is melted.  Squash the onions into jars and pour over the vinegar.  Add pepper flakes or herbs as you wish.  This makes 4 quite large jars.  I put some baking paper over the top of the onions and this keeps them under the vinegar and not floating above the liquid.

And homemade Christmas mincemeat, fruit mince for those who don't know this english tradition.  In the colonies our traditions were the traditions of Mother England, back then anyway.   Things have changed since my childhood however.  No longer do the 'colonists' eat a hot, filling English Xmas dinner.  Salads and BBQs seem popular, logical considering it is summer in Australia and NZ.
My last Christmas dinner in NZ must have been in 1986 when we returned for a family reunion, at the beach.

Mincemeat is unavailable here in Greece, naturally enough.  I think there is a Marks and Spencers food hall somewhere in Athens which may stock such a thing at this time of the year but Athens is an urban jungle, far far away from my island.

Mincemeat is quite easy to make and I do so every year, freezing any that remains for the following Xmas.  This year the frozen remains were only half a small bowl so I did some shopping and searched the fridge and shelves and made a very pleasing new supply of xmas mince.

Thanks to Google and Youtube anything can be discovered and replicated, as long as you have the ingredients.  

I used  
blackcurrants and sultanas (both greek)
a good dollop of leftover quince jam
half a jar of chopped tomatoes preserved in sugar syrup*
some white sugar
2 grated apples
a good dollop of leftover orange marmelade
a packet of  candied orange peel I found at Lidls
A handful of pumpkin seeds
cinnamon, ginger and cloves
about a hundred grams of margarine
a couple of shots of whisky
a glass of orange juice

I just simmered all this till the margarine melted and the raisins and sultanas plumped up a little with the liquid and it was ready.

*Here in Greece anything can be made into a sweet. Cherry tomatoes and small aubergines are not unusual. No one in our house wants to eat them, including me. They still taste like tomatoes to me. Half the jar went into the mincemeat and the other half into the Xmas cakes

I really have no idea how it compares to mincemeat from a jar sold in Tesco's or Waitrose in England but it tastes darn good to me.

I make my own short pastry and have little xmas mince pies for all the holiday period.

My pies always look very rustic no matter how hard I try.  I have found the perfect size mug and glass to cut out rounds which fit exactly into my pattie pans but no matter how careful I am and how much I try to place them exactly and form pleasing little pies they always come out wonky.  Icing sugar covers a multitude of sins and no one has ever complained so I'm not sweating about it.  Wonkiness is my speciality.

Next will be the Christmas cakes.  

Monday 9 December 2019


We started  decorating for Christmas  by lighting up the wooden boat, made from driftwood and odd pieces, which hangs on the wall.

This is the Greek tradition, to decorate a boat.  Down in our main square we will have, later this month, a little fishing boat and a  tree decked out in festive lights and baubles

Our traditional 'kaiki'

The grandchildren dragged out the xmas boxes from the storeroom and decorated the tree this weekend

Red and white xmas balls 
Clean lines and an appealing contrast against the green of the (artifical) tree

The elves and kalikantzari are gathering
We've had these for years.  A long time ago the coca-cola company gave these away with their end of year bottles of drink.  We ripped off the advertising tabs and kept the elves, exotika in Greek
The naughtiest elves are the kalikantzari who sour the milk,  steal your food, pee in your flowers and I bet it was a kalikantzaro that has lowered my desk chair down so far my knees are up to my chin!

The good elves hanging christmas balls from the rafters

The girls decorated the tree and the inside of the house.  The boys put up lights around the fence and displayed our big bright star which twinkles at night on the roof top.  And the men partied on

The tree at night with the lights reflected in the window

Kala Hristoyenna!!

Sunday 1 December 2019

A Vintage Year

For many years K made his own wine with 'mousto' (grape juice) from our famous (in Greece) wine growing district of Nemea.  We travelled through this area, much of it high in the hills, last spring for a quick visit to the mountain village of  Lower Trikala.  There were endless rows of grape vines from sea level to way up in the moutains, and other very small plots planted in amongst the forest and scrub.  I was amazed at the grapes that were grown there on every hillside, in every valley, some obvioulsy well cared for, nice neat lines, others planted wherever there was space, probably a small family parcel.

Some of the juice from these grapes is made into wine by smaller growers but a lot of it is sent to the big wine makers in the area. We tried years ago to have a wine tasting at some of these big wineries.  Back then they had no idea what we wanted and wouldn't even sell us a bottle of wine.  Nowadays wine tourism is big business but it's still not open house.  You have to book with a group well in advance.

We had a family grower and wine maker we always brought our juice from, carrying it home in big barrels in the boot of the car.

Here is K with 2 of the grandchildren cleaning out his plastic barrels in 2008, ready for the new wine.  This is the year we moved up to our new house in the hills where we had more room for his hobbies.  Before this he had a 300 litre wooden barrel in his sister's basement.  Wooden barrels are hard to keep clean so he changed to plastic and had 2 barrels, one for white and one for red.

And this is the last of that red.  A bottle which has been sitting at the back of the bookcase since then.  I decided it was time to open it.  A bottle I filled myself, with a screw cap.  The wine was very drinkable.  It was obvioulsy a vintage year.  Just wish I had 'bottled' more

And now I have this bottle to open.  I don't know who's wine it is, not ours, but it must be just as old as the 2008 bottle I opened.  I'll let you know.  The other two bottles are also red wine from a few years ago, made by our neighbour Vaso.  I always enjoy her wine and those two have already been drunk.  We are still waiting for her son to open the wine of 2019.  Around xmas he says.

On our next trip to the big city I hope to find a bottle of this year's beaujolais.  

Thursday 28 November 2019

Family Olives

 family that stays together picks olives together.
It's the law of the land, family land, family olives.  Or in this case olive, single.  One olive tree in the back yard.

Our daughter's family went the whole hog and picked their olive-s this year.  You have to go the whole hog whether it's one tree or a hundred.  Out came the nets, the rakes and all the paraphernalia

Tall grandson came home for the weekend to gather the family olives  ..
I would say if that was true.  But he did help while he was here

Laying the net

A bumper crop 

Not 'bumper' enough to send to the oil press
These ones are for eating

They are picked over one by one, leaves removed, mishapen ones put aside.  
Unforunately most of them are infected with 'dako', a nasty worm which burrows into the olive.  Serious growers will spray to prevent infestation.  These olives are 100%  organic.  No sprays, no chemicals

Enough for a few bottles of home pickled olives.  First they must be soaked in water for a few days to remove the bitterness

The rest are piled under the olive tree as compost

Our neighbourhood is buzzing with olive pickers this week.  Vaso and her family have started picking and taken the first sacks to the press.  They'll be picking till well after Christmas.
Further down our road a team of Albanians are picking for a family who live in Athens and no longer come for the harvest.  The pickers receive half the oil as their 'reward' and sell it privately or sell it to the oil press.  

I went out one morning to find a friend of ours picking the olives in the field next door.  These olives are virtually abandoned but every second year they produce a heavy crop.  One of the neighbouring families picks the olives for absent owners.

The olive tree, they say,  will thrive if you leave it alone but once you start watering and giving it nutriment then you must keep on doing so.  

There are olives everywhere, even along the footpaths on Poros

Monday 25 November 2019

Food Myths

Today's truth is tomorrow's myth.  I was watching an old food programme the other day and a dietician was sprouting on about how important it is to eat breakfast, you shouldn't eat too many eggs, fats are bad and all that old stuff programmed into us for decades.  She was way past her 'sell by' date.  

 Drink red wine, its good for the heart.  Latest studies show that drinking any sort of alcohol in moderation is good for you.

 Eggs are filled with unsaturated fat, vitamins and minerals.  Eat them, lots of them.  Truth.

Of course you'll possibly find, I didn't look, ten articles on the web to refute all this.  Believe what you want

Eating breakfast wasn't a commonplace thing until Kellogs and Quaker plugged the idea to sell their products.    Breakfast is not the most important meal of the day and no studies have proved it helps with weight loss.  It could have the opposite effect.  In one test people who ate breakfast ate 260 more calories than those that skipped it and weighed 1 pound more.

If you enjoy breakfast then eat breakfast. I don't. I have more energy if I leave my first meal till later

Drink 8 glasses of water a day.  I asked my doctor.  He said 'drink when you are thirsty, your body tells you what you need'.  50 years ago did everyone go around carrying a bottle of water?  No, and they were a darned healthy generation with
far less plastic pollution.

Eating fat makes you fat.  Total myth.  Increase your 'good' fat intake and reduce the refined foods!  Then you'll lose weight.  Avoid 'lite'

Brown sugar is better than white.  No. Sugar is sugar no matter  its colour and form.

Eating a lot of small meals a day will keep your metabolism revving.  Nope.  It will just give you more opportunities to overeat. Depends on the individual, your daily routine, climate and a dozen other factors as to what and when you eat.

Salt is bad for you.  The jury is still out on that one.  You need more salt in the summer when you're sweating and losing minerals 'so they say'.    

Google 'food myths' and you'll find a hundred more '.  But who really knows?  Not even my doctor.  

 Eating  5 fresh fruit and vege a day will give lots of  healthy nutrients.  That number is a bit of a myth as well but it's got be  better than eating 5 hamburgers and a couple of donuts.

Walking 10,000 steps will keep you feeling fit and happy.  The 10,000 steps  is a myth but it's a good goal to aim for.  Half that will keep you young.  My doctor says half an hour a day 3 or 4 times a week will benefit the heart.  Sounds good to me

As for super foods, eat the super foods in your own 'backyard'. What the hell are goji berries. Eat fresh cherries or blackberries, eat spinach, cook with parsley or herbs or whale blubber if you're an Eskimo.

If you keep busy with stuff that brings you joy, if you have good genes, if you avoid goji berries, if you're lucky and don't get  struck by lightening or bitten by a rabid dog then you may, possibly, live to 100 and get a telegram from the queen, only then it will be the king

Saturday 23 November 2019


Every time it rains we get an invasion of earth worms.  Huge worms.    They look like gentically modified earth worms.  They wiggle like mad and can escape from a paper towel or napkin with which I squish them with the swish of a tail.  

Everytime it rains these huge monsters somehow struggle under the front door even though there is a draught excluder glued on to the bottom of it and try to flee across the tiles .  I open the door in the morning after a downpour and there are half a dozen curled up on the doorstep.

Not nice.  I don't want you inside my house crawling under the furniture

Making a beeline for the interior
I don't want you either.  Look at the dirt they leave behind

As for these things...
at least they weren't alive when I found them, in the autumn clean up.  Called forty-feeters in greek.  Believe me I didn't count their feet.  But I did hold on to them long enough to take a photo and show the grandchildren.  Look what Nana found where you were sleeping.  Naughty Nana

Wednesday 20 November 2019

Fish, The Family Dish

The mediterranean is no longer full of fish and finally local fishermen have been stopped from discriminately putting out nets and hauling in greedily whatever is on the sea floor.  Amateur fishermen are no longer allowed to lay nets and the fish that are caught must be a certain weight and  in season.

There were always laws but mostly no-one took any notice of them.
I hope it's not too late to save what fish is left in the med.

Fortunately we have a fisherman in the family
He doesn't often go out but when he does he will bring home supper, for us and the rest of the family

Fish must be eaten 'so they say' with some sort of greens.  If we don't have a lettuce salad or some boiled greens then these big watery squash are just as welcome.  The seeds are discarded, in fact I got told off for not removing them before serving.  The squash is covered in olive oil, lemon juice and oregano

This is a very good catch.  I don't know what they are but a couple of them are small tuna.  Enough to feed four families

The family fishing boat

Sunday 17 November 2019

Edible tidbits

This post should have gone out ages ago but it somehow slipped down the list.  Never mind, it gives you another glimpse of summer as winter begins and downunder summer is somewhere in the air.

We use a lot of dill in our cooking.  In the winter a lettuce salad is not greek without some finely chopped dill.  It's essential for any spinach dish and stewed peas with tomatoes always have a good handful of fresh dill.  Or freshly frozen.  It can be hard to find in the summer so I wash it and freeze it in bunches in plastic bags.  When I need it I don't need to defrost, it crumbles easily straight into the pot

Capers are at their best in July when they are picked and preserved.  I love the leaves and the buds but leaves are hard to find.  My daughter always brings back bags of salted capers when she visits her sister-in-law on the island of Paros (not Poros). They are extremely salty which means they last for ages.  I put the capers in a big jar and fill it up with water, nothing else.  The water becomes salty and the capers less so.  I love them in salads.
We do have capers growing around us but the plant has big sharp thorns and it is a lot of hard work picking enough to pickle.  They are also mainly found on the side of the road and I'm put off by the thought of car fumes and dogs lifting legs.

The last of my sourdough.  I lost my starter when the power went off for two days.  Being mid-summer, and a heat wave, it was in the fridge and I didn't even think of it as the fridge temperature went down and the sourdough temperature went up.  By the time I found the bowl it had actually formed a thick layer of green mould.  Such a pity.  I had that starter for over 5 years.

Preparing fresh tomato sauce to freeze for the winter

A simple Greek salad
On every table at just about every meal
Thank goodness it's the season for lettuces and cabbages!


Watermelon is another summer staple.  This year we found much smaller ones with a thinner skin at the market.  They were perfect for us.  Those huge 10 kilo watermelons were just too large for two people to consume.