Wednesday, 25 September 2019
It rained yesterday, a good downpour. This morning the earth is still damp. On my ride on the quad bike down to town the air is
full of the sharp, pungent tang of pine needles. It smells healthy enough to encourage great gulps of fresh air.
The pine forest is green but the rest of the landscape is still dry and brown. Underneath the pine trees is a thick pile of dried, brown pine needles. No sign of the wild flowers which will brighten the road in a month or so, if we have more rain.
If you climb up these narrow steps and then clamber up 3 flights of steps at the Dimitra Hotel there is a coffee bar with a marvellous view of the harbour and mainland opposite. The hotel is just below our old house and I enjoyed this view for many summers. We can see their roof terrace from our roof terrace.
Our view of their hotel
The hotel is the building in the middle front
Our views are even more spectacular
Number one spot for our visitor's
first evening. Only it's not 'ours' anymore. Our daughter Elli, on the left, has taken over hostess duties
I passed the sign for the hotel as I was on my way to the doctor's office. Just a routine prescription visit. Unfortunately he had been called out on an emergency and we had an hours wait till he returned.
Usually the doctors office is where we learn all the latest gossip. Today Papa Panarytos took over the conversation and gave us his light hearted view of life. He knows a bit about life, having been a policeman before becoming an island priest. He couldn't remember who I was even though I told him I was the wife of K, officer in the Navy, son of Georgios the builder who helped build the monastery.
I was about to roll out the family history when I was called in.
Outside hundreds of new recruits had just been sworn in for their military conscription and had been let out of the navy base to begin their few days of leave before joining their ships or units. There were mothers and fathers, sisters, grandmothers and girlfriends all doting over their 'little' boy who had been away for just 2 weeks of basic training. All greek men used to serve 2 years in the armed forces. They still must serve in the army, navy or airforce but their time is now down to around 9 months.
Thursday, 19 September 2019
My mother in law always made fava (split pea puree) when she baked her weekly loaves of bread. My traditional greek loves fava, cooked simply, the way his mother did. As soon as her trays of bread were carried off to the local baker she put on a large pot of water to boil the split peas.
The night before she sat and cleaned the fava, sitting out in the yard on her little stool, apron over her lap. She would spill the peas into her apron and pick them over removing any sticks or stones or any odd coloured beans that were in the bag. She bought them by the kilo from a small shop up the road where they were on display in a large sack. Nowadays we mainly buy them in a small plastic bag from the supermarket and there are no sticks or stones left by the factory which packages them. However, there are still a couple of places around town which sell them from the sack. The word soon gets around as to whether they are fresh and boil easily and the sack empties quickly...or not.
My mother in law's fava was always scooped up with chunks of fresh bread still warm from the baker's oven. Otherwise she cooked fava during the summer when there was fresh fish or octopus. We also eat it mainly in the summer and if we have no greens then maybe I will make some fava to go with fish K prefers greens with his fish or the large overgrown zucchini called pitsounia.
Yellow split peas
Fava on the plate well mixed with loads of olive oil and topped with roughly chopped raw onion
Pease pudding. Dahl without the spices
Wash the split peas well in lots of water then put them
into boiling water and simmer till soft and mushy. I always add an onion cut into four, nothing else. The scum is skimmed as it starts to boil and then it is left to bubble away.
Leave it for about half an hour. You can easily tell if the peas have softened. They look mushy. Add a teaspoon of salt at the end. Then comes the tricky part. You have to make sure there is just enough liquid in the pot so when you puree the peas they are not too runny and not too dry. This does thicken as it cools.
Then I use a stick blender to puree all the peas. Some people like it very smooth, others like it a little chunky. Taste for salt when you've finished the puree and add to taste.
To serve, spoon it into a large plate and add far more oil than you can imagine it needs. My traditional person always adds more oil even if I think I've added far too much. Stir really well till it is smooth and creamy. Olive oil, of course. Sprinkle with chopped onions and have another plate of sliced onions on the side.
We eat fava as a main meal but at a taverna small plates are served as starters.
Eat with fish, olives, bread and wine.
Monday, 9 September 2019
This a really easy liqueur using a bottle of red wine, sweet, dry and even of questionable quality.
It uses red wine, sugar and the leaves of the rose pelargonia.
The leaves have a lemony flavour
In a wide mouth jar or bottle add the sugar to the wine and stir till dissolved. I added a small piece of cinnamon as well
Push a large handful of pelargonia leaves into the wine. Seal. Leave for a couple of weeks, seive and serve.
1 1/2 litres of red wine
300 grams sugar*
40 (a handful will do) pelargonia leaves
The amount of sugar depends on taste. I read recipes with anything from 700 grams to 400 grams. I decided on less-is-better and used 300 grams. I don't want a syrup. After tasting this I think 250 grams of sugar would have been more like it.
The leaves are very hard to keep down so I scrunched up some waxed paper and placed it on top of the wine to keep the leaves under the liquid. I don't want to end up with musty, mouldy leaves. After 2 weeks it already tastes wonderful.
Serve in small glasses with lots of ice or even with some bubbly club soda water.
Saturday, 7 September 2019
Oregano - Rigani in Greek
Over the summer we have been given 3 large bunches of oregano. They were all still green so we hung them out to dry.
Now is the time to rub the leaves and flowers and store the dried oregano for use in so many of our daily dishes. Even the greek salad is not complete without a sprinkling of oregano. My traditional person sprinkles it over the dish of feta cheese, on his boiled zucchinis, with fried aubergine, it goes in the oil and lemon dressing for fish, on toasted bread, on a bowl of olives in just about any meat dish or soup. Offal is always served with a generous amount of lemon juice, fresh olive oil and a good sprinkling of rigani.
Here he is rubbing the flowers and leaves into a large bowl. The smell is pungent and aromatic
The last bunch
The stalks that remain will be saved for winter's fires
I cut our pot of oregano right back and it is sprouting again. Now and again I use fresh oregano in cooking but the dried is easier, it is always on hand in the kitchen
3 large jars ready for the kitchen cupboard
Grown in a pot or collected from great straggly bushes on our hillsides, rigani is the most important herb in greek cooking.
Wednesday, 4 September 2019
A delicious and naturally extremely popular greek recipe. Spicy meatballs in a rich tomato sauce. It's origins are turkish, from the city of Smyrni (now Izmir). The spice is cumin with lots of garlic.
The meatballs are rolled out into an oblong shape and fried
We serve ours with mashed potato or rice and a glass of red wine
500 grams of minced meat. We use beef mince
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
3 or 4 slices of stale bread soaked in water (some soak the bread in red wine or milk, I prefer plain water)
salt and pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
some also add 1tsp cinnamon. I don't like cinnamon with meat
A good greek will add olive oil to the meatball mix but I think it is too much. They are going to be fried in oil and there is oil in the tomato sauce
Put the mince, egg, s and p, cumin, garlic in a bowl. Squeeze the water out of the bread and add that as well. Get your hands in there and mix it all really well. Knead it like bread dough and then shape it into long thin meatballs.
Roll each meatball in flour and fry on all sides.
While the meatballs are frying make the tomato sauce.
1 packet of tomato puree (passata)
a dash of red wine
1 crushed garlic clove
a good dash of olive oil (greek of course)
a wine glass of water
salt and a tsp of sugar
Simmer the sauce for 5 minutes and as the soudzoukakia (meatballs) come out of the frying pan place then into the pot of tomato sauce. Simmer meatballs and sauce for around 10 minutes. If the sauce gets too thick add a little more water.
Don't move them around too much, you don't them to break up. Serve with mashed potatoes (potato puree in Greek) rice, spaghetti or a pile of fried potatoes
Half a kilo of minced beef will make around 8 - 10 meatballs. This recipe could feed 4 or 5 people easily.
Don't forget the greek salad, thick slices of fresh bread to soak up the sauce and clean the plate, a dish of feta cheese and a glass of wine. That's the way they should be eaten