Did The Earth Move For You Dear?

 

Sometimes they`re enormous and you can`t imagine you can handle the strength.  Some you don`t hear coming, taking you by surprise from behind. Some just sneak up beneath you and rattle your bones, disappearing in an instant. Other`s intentions can be heard charging towards you at a thousand miles an hour, only to slip deliciously away, leaving you gasping. Others, just rock your world.  A few rattle the very foundations of your life, some just nudge it with a creak. The naughty ones jerk you around in your bed.  A few last for an eternity, some rise in climax, occasionally with multi epicentres, others, are weak knee-ed and feeble.  The approach of a number is betrayed by instinctive animal reaction.  Occasionally, they make your hair stand on end, some make your tummy lurch, one or two provoke irrationality.

Whatever the type, they all come in different sizes, strengths and packages, each one individual and unique.

Wouldn`t it be interesting if relationships were more like earthquakes?

Losing Control

 

We had an unexpected visit from FIL (father in law) for a couple of nights.  It`s always interesting having him here as I usually take the opportunity to ferret out some little snippet of a story from his past, quite often, snippets that even Vags hasn`t heard before.  There is however, a bit of a bother with his visits. 

Whilst control over the TV remote usually falls into my capable hands due to my supreme ability to select the perfect film and dodge too many advertisment breaks by channel hopping, I realised too late that leaving the remote unattended on the living room table was in fact a dangerous thing to do.  Before I could rectify the situation FIL`s hand reached over and took control!  Dutiful respect for our overnight visitor ruled out any chance of taking it back, so I pulled my knitting bundle up close and hoped for the best.

Now Vags is a great one for watching continual news broadcasts until I sensibly intervene.  However, almost three hours into yet another helping of ever depressing news about even more problems and even deeper crisis in Greece,  I could see even he was begining to fidget in his seat, throwing sideways glances at FIL, whom continued to grip the control determinedly in his hand.

Gentle suggestions to change the channel so we could watch our favourite CSI serial were expertly rebuffed with “But it`s foreign!”, or “What a load of codswallop” or words to that affect in Greek.  The tension on my knitting was becoming overly tight.

Particularly impressive though, is that it appeared that FIL, although unable to prevent his jaw muscles from relaxing, thus allowing his bottom jaw to sag open as he dozed through his choice of programme, was able to control the muscles in his hand, fingers with whitened knuckles maintained their grip on the remote. 

Our only savior was to wait for the inevetable toilet break, which, caught in a dilemma between taking the remote with him to maintain his jurisdiction, or reliquish control to his hosts, had him wavering with uncertainty on the edge of his seat. 

Lesson learnt for future visits from FIL.

HIDE THE REMOTE !

Knitting Nights

 

Seeing as the unusually cold, wet, wintry days had us housebound for several weeks, I was determined to remain occupied on an evening.  I raked my wool stash from my bottom drawer and created a half dozen or so beanie hats.  Now well and truly infected by the notoriously serious “knit fever”, I decided it was prudent to buy more supplies and create a jumper for my new, “fuller” figure, (of which I`m still trying to come to terms with). Selecting the design and size, I happily set about and knitted the first piece.  Having had quite a few years since I`ve put together any type of any clothing, perhaps my eye wasn`t as keen as of old.  I was quite astonished upon casting the last row off, to see that the piece (the back of said “fuller” figure jumper) was so generous, it could quite effortlessly cover my armchair and with some to spare.  Hmmm.  Best Laid Plans of Mice and Men and all that……!  Reluctant to unpick my new armchair throw, I began again, taking a different tack, I selected a Medium.  The results from this work in progress will be publicized …………… maybe.  Who knows, maybe I`ll even wear it one day.

Pleasantly surprised that the weather relented this weekend, allowing us, for the first time since before Christmas, to shower using only the water from the solar panel, then to dress without turning on the central heating, and enjoy a portion of the evening with the front door open.  Temperatures reached a cozy 23 degrees today.

Spring is in the air, birds and and flowers are rallying and I`m eying up my garden, vaguely toying with the idea of beginning my annual garden overhaul and plant pot shuffle.  Needless to say, common sense prevailed, and I hastily made myself a cup of tea.  Praising my self restraint, I sat on the garden bench and put my feet up, pulled my knitting up close, enjoyed the warm sunny rays, whilst from the corner of my eye, checked to make sure Vags was dutifully labouring away at his extended green net covering for the vines. Yep, life is as it should be.

Part of this denial reflects my unwillingness to acknowledge that the Winter is probably done and Spring is on it`s way.  A hop, skip and a jump before SUMMER.  The season with which I have a love/hate relationship.  Love, because of the lifestyle it grants, ie long evenings spent outdoors with friends, family, obligatory BBQs, beaches, minimal clothing etc. etc.  Hate, because the likelihood that I`ll end up in some cruddy job, which does nothing for my self esteem is imminent. 

The other part of the denial is that as nights grow lighter, my “fuller figure” jumper may never get completed, and who knows, by next Winter, I may need an even “fuller, fuller figure” jumper. Arghhh!  

Aunt Voula

 

Aunt Pareskevoula (Voula) scooted around the house atop an old soft rag, her toes gripping the material through her worn slippers.  With a strange see-saw motion, she waded over to the kitchen sink to make uncle George his lunch. Her inner voice reinforcing her “kill two birds with one stone” motto.  Why just walk across the kitchen floor, when you can polish it at the same time! 

With deft movements and typical Cretan ability, she slipped lunch, effortlessly in front of uncle George with a meek smile.

The strong, silent uncle George sat ready with his spoon upright in hand and dove hungrily into the bowl of stew, splashing and slurping in great gusts, letting the sauce dribble down his unshaved chin.  No acknowledements were made for his lunch, it was what was expected from his lady wife, nothing more, nothing less.  

His muddy boots left clods of soil in piles as he scraped his booted feet below the table.  Aunt Voula said nothing.  She glanced at the lottery tickets under the fridge magnet, and tentatively mentioned that the draw was today.  Uncle George grunted his disapproval at such ridiculous trivialities. “Damn waste of money”, he barked. Quietly, he could only think that the 500 drachmas his silly wife had spent on the tickets would have bought him a damn fine evening getting drunk in the local kafenion, and play a hand of cards too.  

Old school uncle George was a “tough-love” giver.  No frills, no fancy stuff, just tough love.  Taking pride in the fact that he took his seriousness, very seriously, he metered out conversation in dribs and drabs, rarely endearing or kind, just truths, or truths at least as he saw his lot.  Aunt Voula knew this, but ever lived in hope that her ill-tempered hubbie would one day relax and smile, perhaps even express a little gratitude for the food they had on the table, and give thanks for their two healthy grown children.  

The fact that neither of their children had brought home potential future spouses, niggled away at both of them, despite their heartache never being voiced, to each other, or to their offspring.  

Truth be told, should old school, tough-love giver, uncle George learn which way his son`s inclinations leaned, he would have fallen into deep throes of shame. His mother secretly knew, or suspected, a mother knows these things.  Ever protective of her testy husbands reaction, she shielded her son from any rigorous interrogation, redirecting the conversation expertly, in another, more favourable direction.

Later that evening, uncle George pulled on his jacket, his indication that it was time for his nightly saunter to the kafenion, aunt Voula quietly said she would accompany him down to the village centre where the Lottery shop was, to check her tickets.  He grunted his acknowledement and strode across to the door.

In the Lottery shop, checking the board, aunt Voula stood still, staring fixedly at the numbers.  She read and re-read the number, as her brain wouldn`t comprehend the fact that she was in possession of the winning number.  She remained rooted to the spot, mouth slightly apart – speechless, quite unable to believe she was holding the equivalent of 20 million drachmas in her hand.  Paled and light headed, she steadied herself on the nearby table.  The proprieter noticed something amiss and stepped forward to assist her.  

Pretty soon the whole village was abuzz with the news of the winning lottery ticket.  A scruffy urchin like boy shot to the kafenion and blurted to uncle George between gasps of air, that “aunt Voula was feeling faint due to the millions of drachmas she had just won on the lottery” and he was to go immediately to her side.  He dismissed the message as some child`s prank and curtly told the urchin to get lost. Shortly, two or three drinking companions shoved the kafenion door open and excitedly asked George why he was not with his wife.  

In years to come, uncle George remained his grumpy old self. However, should the opportunity ever arise for him to relay the winning lottery ticket story, he`d push his cap back, clear his throat and smiling slightly as he reminisced, tell the story in intricate detail. Leaving nothing aside.  The words flowed as if he was reading from an old, well worn book with dog eared corners.  Re-running the story, he adorned embelishments and flourishes, to enhance the tale.  Aunt Voula always liked to listen to her husband when he relayed the tale.  It was the only time she saw him take pleasure in anything – and she needed that.

Lessons

 

Like I said, the not too brilliant year has finally turned it`s back, and we can look forward to a better, kinder New Year.

Despite having no olives to harvest this year, we seem to have been busy enough and looking back at last years Christmas holiday period, this year was actually pretty uneventful.  However, I came away with a few lessons.

Apparently, a Christmas tree, doesn`t necessarily have to be a tree

 

If you build your house from candy, then it`s likely to be eaten!

 

Next year, I should remember not to trust those “non specified country” packs of bargain flour, found on certain German`s shelves

Sadly, kids can actually get to 13 years old and never have seen snow!  A fact we quickly remedied

Even an ice damaged rose can smell devine

The ever present, protective dome cast over Kanakary spared us from snow settling.  But the surrounding views were spectacular

You can always wear a great pair of earrings, no matter where you`re going

Despite years of protestations and objections that four dogs would be too many, too expensive, too hard to exercise all together – it seems that I know nothing.  Here`s the fourth member of the team.  Slipped in through the back door and kinda stayed, as they do!

 

Covering a portion of the garden with protective netting, not only allows more delicate crops to survive damaging hail storms, but hopefully will reduce the fierce sun in the Summer

It wasn`t all bad, but nevertheless, “Στο καλό να πας 2016”

2016

 

Well, the last couple of days of 2016 had us battoning down the hatches in readiness for the Wintry conditions we`d been promised. Waking in the night to heavy hailstorms, I was sure we` d wake to a light covering of snow at Kanakary at least, but no, seems it wasn`t to be.  Nevertheless, house, gardens, lock stock and barrel, are on the verge of taking float and sailing off down the river, thanks to the plentiful rain, which of course we all hoped for. The parched gardens could be heard, gulping greedily to get their fill.

Gotta say I `m not sad to see the back of `16.  Not that it was a particularly bad year, it s just it wasn`t a particularly good year either.  

I also saw the year out with the incubator in full swing, (catering for a friends request for chicks in the middle of Winter). Temps being pretty low on an evening, I was hesitant to put them outside, so have boxes of day and two day old chicks arraying my desk, pipping away under a heat lamp, to keep me company.

I would however, like to wish warm heartedly, everybody, far and wide, family and friends, a wonderful 2017!  

Brawn (Πηχτή η Τσιλαδιά)

 

Well, we made a right pigs ear of this one!

A very traditional meze for the Christmas holidays here in Crete. Once upon a time, it was popular in England too, but now it`s rarely seen.  Thank goodness, the tradition holds strong here and Cretan housewives still indulge in this ageless recipe.

Ingredients

1/2 a pigs head

4 pigs trotters 

2 cow hocks

500 g beef pref on the bone

10 – 20 pepper corns

2 – 3 bay leaves

2 – 3 tsp cumin powder

1/2 – 1 glass lemon juice

1 glass orange juice, sweet or sour, or a 1/2 1/2 mix (optional)

Rock salt

Quantities of spices, salt and lemon are totally dependent on your personal preference, you may prefer more or less.

Procedure

Begin by slitting the nostrils and the ear cavities, this will allow them to be cleaned thoroughly.  Using a razor, shave the head, the nose and ear channels, meticulously, as finding a grizzly pigs whisker in your food is awful. 

Under running water, wash the head very thoroughly and it`s exposed cavities until you can see no impurities whatsover.  Pop the head into a bowl with water and leave for at least 15 minutes.  This will allow any unseen impurities to surface and dissolve any traces of blood.  Follow the same procedure with the pigs feet if required, but nowadays, pigs feet are sold fully cleaned.  

Wash the hocks and the beef.  Place the meat, head and trotters into a large saucepan, cover with water, add the bay leaves and some of the pepper corns and bring to a boil.  The water will need defoaming 3 or 4 times until it cleans completely.  Reduce the heat to a gentle simmer, cover and leave till the meat falls away from the bone.  This may take up to 4 hours.  Add water if necessary.

Remove the saucepan from the heat, lift out the meats and leave to cool a little.  Strain the broth, returning it to the cleaned saucepan. When the head has cooled enough, begin removing all of the meat, chopping into chunks.  Here, every single part of the head has been used, including nostrils, ears, tongue, brain.  If you feel you are unable to cope with the head complete, exclude whatever you don`t want.  

Continue by chopping the meat from the hocks, the beef and the trotters in the same manner.  Return the chopped meat to the broth. Add salt and pepper corns, cumin, a sprinkle of oregano and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil once more.  Make sure you test for salt and lemon and adjust if necessary.  Then it`s ready to pour into the mould.  

These quantities filled 3 moulds.  Make sure you share out the meat equally between the moulds, following up with the broth.  Once you have your broth and meat in the moulds, place a piece of cling film over the surface to avoid a crust forming.  Allow to cool out of the fridge, once it has set, it can be covered and will keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

Notes

A successful brawn should not be completely packed with meat, but should have a nice layer of jelly too.  Try to adjust the liquid levels accordingly whilst you are cooking the brawn in the final stages, but be careful not to add too much water as this may alter the final result.  

This meze demands flavour, so be generous with the salt, cumin, pepper and lemon.  The last taste test is vital to get this correct, as it would be a shame to spend all the time and effort to create this dish and the seasoning not be correct. 

Some people singe off the hairs with a burner, but I find it can leave an after taste.

Recipe kindly provided by Stella Manousaki

Tomato Fritters (Ντοματοκεφτέδες)

 

Having not harvested any tomatoes this Summer, needless to say, I`m more than delighted to be harvesting now, November and December!  And what tomatoes!  – red and tasty, firm flesh, thin skinned with minimal core!  

This is a lovely simple recipe, a great meze!

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Ingredients

750 g ripe tomatoes

1 large onion grated

50 g melting cheese grated, or crumbled feta cheese

250 g approx self raising flour, or add 1 tsp of baking powder to plain flour

Small bunch each, of mint and parsley

Sprig of basil

Sprinkle of oregano

S & P 

Procedure

Peel your tomatoes, (there`s a quick tip below).  Chop the tomatoes into dice sized chunks and place in a colander to strain off excess liquid.  Leave for about 20/30 minutes.  

In a bowl, place the grated cheese, finely chopped herbs and oregano and the tomato chunks, S & P.  Stir well.  Add the flour in doses till you have a very thick mixture.

Heat about 1/2 cm of olive oil in a frying pan.  Have the heat at almost full.  Using a dessertspoon, plop dollops of the mixture into the pan.  Turn to brown on the other side.  They don`t need too many minutes so keep your eye on them.  Lay on absorbent paper.

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Easy Peel Tomatoes

Bring a pan full of water to the boil, add the washed tomatoes and leave on the heat for about a minute.  Remove and dunk into cold/iced water, the skins will come away very easily with a knife.

 

Pumpkin Tart

 

`Tis the season to cook pumpkin!

Ingredients

Pastry

170 g flour

50 g icing sugar

110 g butter, cubed

2 egg yolks

A little grated lemon peel

A pinch of salt

Filling

1 kilo of peeled, cleaned pumpkin, chopped into chunks

75 g sugar

A generous tablespoon of honey

3 eggs beaten

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Grated nutmeg

100 g full fat cream

Grated lemon peel

Procedure

Throw all of the pastry ingredients into a bowl, knead well until you have a smooth mix.  Wrap in cling film and leave in the fridge to rest for an hour.

Boil the pumpkin chunks till soft, strain well and leave to cool.  

Heat the oven to 200 degrees.  Butter a 20/25 cm flan tin.  Using the cling film, roll the pastry into a circle.  Lift and lay into the flan tin. The pastry will mould with your fingers also, so you can push and pull to it to fit the base and the sides.  

Once the pumpkin has cooled, zap it in the blender and pour into a bowl.  Add the honey, eggs, cinnamon, nutmeg and grated lemon peel.  Mix well.  To finish, add the cream, mix well and pour into the pastry case.  Bake for 40 minutes.  

Leave to cool before slicing.

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Pumpkin Puree (Πουρές με κολοκύθα)

 

A super alternative to plain ol` mashed spud!

Ingredients

500 g cleaned and cubed pumpkin

300 g peeled and cubed potatoes

3 tbsps olive oil

1 wine glass fresh milk

1/2 wine glass cream

1 tsp ground coriander 

Salt (pepper optional)

Procedure

Boil the cubed pumpkin and potatoes in salted water, till soft.  Strain very well and mash, or blend.  It will be quite runny, so return to the hot plate allowing the excess liquid to evaporate, stir continuously to avoid burning.  Once it has stiffened, add the liquids and the coriander, leave on a medium heat, stirring until it has thickened nicely.pumpkin-puree-small

 

Tip

It`s easy to peel pumpkin using a peeler, if you cut into slices, approx. 5/6 cm width

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