A November Day Out

 

We stumbled across a raki distillery, (as you do), in the lovely village of Prina.  Disastrously, I`d completely forgotten the season was upon us.  Needless to say, I was delighted to be invited to join this friendly family, for a mid afternoon tipple – or three (as you do).

Light headed and rozy cheeked, with bellies full of jacket potatoes and fire-roasted chestnuts, we continued our exploration of the village, where pretty little alleys displayed colourful flowers and derelict homes.  A raki fuelled hike up to the little church helped ease the surging blood.  

We continued high along the mountain roads and reached Kalamafka, where I decided there was still some raki burn to combust.  Accompanied by sis, we climbed the 235 steps to Timios Stavros, a curious, pretty little church, stashed in a mini cave in the mountain side. 

 

Now, getting pretty good at selfies, (up till now we were newbie selfie-ers), we immortalized our cardiovascular workout at the top of the stairs.

The fresh water springs and the pretty, burbling brook, surrounded by plane trees with unfathomable girths, is located at the edge of the village.  We gathered myrtle sprigs, enjoying their intoxicating scent.  Suspecting we had disrupted a clandestine meet between two teens, whom had crept to the shade of the autumnal trees, we decided we should depart this quiet paradise and leave them be.

Having my awesome sister living in Crete too, I can see Vags breathing a sigh of relief at NOT having to join me on various crazy climbs and hikes which I hanker after.  After asking him to join us on the Thrypti forest trek, his incredulous retort………”What??? Five hour trek???? For fun????? Ha ha ha!!! You must be mad!!”

Perhaps I am!

 

Mission “Rescue Goat”

 

 

Whilst enjoying a hike through the olive groves above Sissi, we came across an old stone ruin.  Nothing unusual there – except we could hear the obvious cry of a distressed goat. 

Upon investigation, we found the young goat in the photograph had fallen into an old water cystern, the type which once had a vaulted ceiling, with no means of escape. 

A pile of rocks in the corner of the cystern betrayed a history of similiar fates, but this young goat was too small to clamber out. 

So we set about and added even more rocks to the pile in the corner till we had raised the level adequately.  We stepped to one side to allow the young goat to escape his temporary prison, which he inevitably did, scampering off into the groves without a backwards glance. 

Mushroom Risotto (Ριζότο Μανιταριού)

 

A great quick recipe, super tasty too. 

Ingredients

500 g mushrooms, any type like Portobello or Oyster (Πλευρότους) sliced

1 large onion diced

200 g Greek apaki (smoked pork) diced

1 generous cup of carolina rice

1 litre vegetable stock or as much as needed

100 g parmesan cheese grated

Generous dollop of butter

Olive oil

S & P

Procedure

Fry the onions in the oil for a minute or two, add the diced apaki and allow to saute.  Add the mushrooms and fry for a few more minutes. Par boil the rice in a seperate pan, strain and add to the pan with the mushrooms.  Pour in half of the liquid stock, lower the heat slightly, stir. Add the remaining liquid, S & P and leave to cook till the rice is soft, allowing the rice to absorb most of the liquid.  Remove from the heat and add the parmasan cheese and butter.  Stir well till the cheese and butter have melted and serve.

I love mine cheesey so always put in more parmasan.   It can be eaten cold too.  

 

Thrypti Forest

 

4th November 2018

We had the pleasure of joining a local walking group – pezopories.blogspot,  last Sunday.

Length 13,810 m

Duration 4.45 hours

Height 563 – 906 m

Steps 16,636

Temps 12 – 17 c

A crisp, 7.30 am start from Agios Nikolaos took us to the mountains and forests of Thrypti in the Sitia Mountain range at the East end of Crete. 

The hike took us along intermittent paths, through shady, virgin pine forests, where mistletoe hung in pretty clusters, along prickly, semi plains and agricultural tracks, up ragged mountain sides and past hideaway churches, nestling in wooded peace.  A final height of 900 odd metres, had the icy wind chilling our exposed faces.

Intermittent, broody skies gave way to glorious blue canopies, scattered with grand vultures, riding the thermals above.

The scenery, breathtaking, the atmosphere, so clear, with such clarity.  Happily, I can report, that I saw no rubbish along the full duration of the walk. 

The group consisted of around 33, some of whom were seasoned hikers.  Approximately half of the number took the choice of terminating their hike at about 9km, leaving the remaining members to complete the last grueling 4 clicks, on the demanding uphill track, to the village of Thrypti.

After contemplating the need to avail ourselves of oxygen mask assistance on arrival at the finishing point, we eventually sat gasping in the car, before we were able to remove our, now, liquid-rubber footware!

Would I do it again. Yes.

I might have been exhausted on the evening of the hike, but the next day I felt invigorated. 

Coffee cup

 

“Go make yourself a coffee and I`ll read your cup”

The waitress looked around her otherwise empty restaurant and wondered if her only client was joking.

Nope, he looked pretty serious.  She expected her usual afternoon clients to suddenly appear for their coffee and somehow get her out of this unusual proposal.  No one appeared.  She sat there with him, at his table, where they had been passing light conversation, whilst he drank his Retsina.  

Dubiously, she rose and went to make herself a heavy Greek coffee.  She returned to his table and quietly sipped from the characteristically small, dumpy cups.  Not normally a lover of Greek coffee, prefering a frappe, today, the taste was remarkable, rich and mellow, with that familiar, dreamy aroma.  Just as she finished her coffee, she saw her afternoon regulars arrive for theirs.  She pushed the empty cup to one side, rose to tend their order.

After about 15 minutes in his quiet corner, he beckoned her to take her seat. Her cup was upturned on it`s saucer.  He lifted the cup with ritualistic regard and perused the sloppy mess.   

“Hmmmm”   

Feeling embarrassed and slightly conscious for fear of appearing too keen, she glanced at his face. 

“Hmmmm”

His chubby finger dunked in and out of the now drying coffee grains on the side of the cup, in quick, fluid movements.  

“Hmmmm”

He gazed intently at the grains, his face fixated in a grave expression.

“You have too much stress”

“I do?”  She retorted, slightly unconvinced.

“Look”  he said, indicating the enormous pile of coffee grains in a soggy mound on her saucer.  “Here.  It shows your stress all lumped in the middle.  Too much stress!”

She couldn`t help but agree that the pile was impressively large.  Not that she knew what a normal pile of coffee grains should look like under these cirmcumstances, but the more she gazed at her pile, the more wrong it seemed. 

“Here though – here is an even bigger problem”  Doubt, once more flashed in her eyes.  As she studied his face to see how serious he was, she became unrealistically concerned.

‘Hmmmm”  

“This job.   This job is ok, you`re doing fine and nobody can sully your merit.  But!   But, you`ll walk away from this job without being paid.  And you`ll likely never receive a penny”

The silence was long and uncomfortable.  She knew that the business was struggling.  Unfortunately, in the hands of amateurs, the business was doomed.  Even with no formal business education, she recognized that the series of mistakes being made, would see it`s ruin.  She also knew deep down, that her unpaid wages were likely never to materialize.  More disturbing though, was how this gentle Albanian knew this.

He continued his “reading” with uncanny accuracy, describing her family relations, both harmonious or otherwise.  But the truth about the unpaid wages flitted backwards and forwards in her head.  He concluded her “reading” by her pushing an imprint of her thumb in the base of the coffee cup`s grains, which provided him with pertinent personality characteristics.  Reitterating his conditions, she acknowledged his desire for no money to exchange hands for the task, nor would she reveal his ability to “read the cup” to anybody.

Deep in thought, she completed her day`s work and returned home.  Four days later, she resigned from her position as waitress.

One week later the restaurant closed it`s doors for the last time. 

Some three months later, she happened upon the gentle Albanian whom had “read her cup.”  Before she had the opportunity to declare the outcome of her job, he shook his head gravely and said “You don`t need to tell me – I know – you never got paid” 

 

 

 

The term tasseography is the academic term for Turkish coffee fortune telling, which originated in Turkey in the 16th century. 

Greece adopted the Turkish coffee during the Ottomon reign in Greece, latterly being named “Greek coffee”.  The reading is interpreted from the coffee grounds, after the coffee has been drunk.  The Turkish/Greek coffee grains leave a thick, muddy sediment at the bottom of the cup.

Swirling the cup around and turning it upside down to allow the grounds to fall, consequently, leaves some patterns on the surface of the cup, which can be interpretted.

Turkish coffee reading is very popular in Turkey and Greece and a “reader” is a treasure, sought by many.

 

Let`s Walk

 

Take my hand – let`s walk. 

Shepherding us clear of tourist boroughs and bogus features which populate softer, conquered coastlines, come, let`s forge acquaintance with true Crete.

Down shady alleys with cobbled ground, aside tumbled walls, empty homes and defiant arches, dressed splendidly in blazing colour, amidst lifetime’s regalia, discarded, but doubtless valueable to holders` eyes.   A thousand scents storm faculties – fragile chamomile, robust thyme and sage, enduring rigani. Open abodes, emit fragrant fare, simmering within.  An elderly, encarcerated to the old iron bedstead, face drawn thin and milky pale, to match bed sheets.  A time worn face, bearing toothy beam, bids “καλημέρα!” genuinely meaning just that, “good day!”  A paper-thin skinned hand profers ripened grapes, cherry red tomatoes, fragrant and pure – the rule of generosity, undefined in our world, but law in theirs.

Rustic, leafy tracks, snake temptingly out of sight, inviting legwork exploration of nature and man`s handiwork, where chance meetings occur with flinty Cretans laboring over the day `s manual task.  Cool spring water drawn from some fathomless well, sating thirst, like blissful wine. 

Inviting the Meltemi breeze to caress perspired bodies, affording modicum relief from the persisent, Cretan Summer fieriness.  To dally in acqua, Libyan surf, gloriously clad with a million diamonds, riding the rocking sea, akin to baby and crib.

We pick fresh, ripe, syrupy figs, feasting on them, there and then, sweet, ambrosial and warm from the sun.  To seek shade beneath a generous tree, where cold beverages draw relaxed conversation and carefree laughter.  Observing elder Cretans` heated, political debates in dim Kafeneons, where coffee`s broody aroma, kindles appetite.

Closing the mind to pre-conceived beliefs of how true food tastes and sampling snail or octopus, or whatever other delightful, diverse fare is presented.

Cretan ladies, bearing bowls of food, traipse to closeby houses, where surely, aged relatives reside, unable to tend their own needs, the dish of the day is delivered, not from obligation, but duty, to care for loved ones in their latter years.

Drawing in deeply, the delicate orange blossom perfume, leaves senses giddy in overindulgence.  The perfect, star-shaped blossom of the olive, strewn to the ground, triggers remorse on treading them.  The delightful quelsh of grapes being trod by bare foot, the heady scent of sweet, sweet grape must, pervading the air.  The sun`s heat, leeching the distinctive perfume of fig, walnut and pine tree from their leaves, creates calm, serenity in mind. 

The outsider, whom feels it`s pull, like some invisible magnet, adoring it`s atmosphere, it`s character, is rarely able to capture it`s true essence – it`s true backbone, but remains captivated, confused, under the influence of this island.

This race, by title Cretan, rather than Greek – proud, innovative, loud and passionate – at one with the island.  The island, at one with it`s people.  The one without the other would be senseless, illogical.  Oblivious to the marvels they live amongst, careless of it`s beauty, few, acknowledge the bounty of this haven called Crete. 

                                                                                                      By Jabey

                                

Taking Stock

Taking stock of the year so far, whilst seeking shade below our now, crispy, grape vine, I perused my shabby garden.  The effects of the long and severe Summer, coupled with systematic under watering, have taken their dreadful toll.  Leafless twigs and stalks, shrivelled and undernourished, stood sadly, in dusty basins.  Adding insult to injury, plant roots, exposed by Mavy`s persistent burrowing, in search of a hint of cool, dampness, lay bared to the sun`s unrelenting blaze. Wondering how much longer my garden will hold out with this prolonged drought, I grumbled at the ability of my least loved plants to have not only thrived, but to have thrown new shoots about it s root, whilst I mourned the loss of yet another rose bush.

With a mental list now made of all areas and projects needing attention this Autumn and Winter, I`m itching for the first, true rains……….

It can`t be long now.  July and August proved unusual,  with cloudy days and even a hasty, but noisy, rain storm, which, ever so briefly, sated the dust bowls and cooled the pavers.  

Our dog status changed radically also this Summer.  With a very heavy heart, we laid to rest our gentle giant, Demmi, after a period of illness, which unfortunately, we could not get under control.  So under the cover of darkness, torches in hand and spades slung over our shoulders, we solomely trudged to the furthest flung edge of our land, carrying out the deed with loved ones close by, we said our goodbyes to our big bear.  A glorious bougainvillea planted to his side keeps him in shady cool.  In Demmi`s absence, Roxy readily stepped into the alpha dog role at Kanakary, and has thought it necessary to expand her range of tricks.  Twisting and spinning, rather like the twirling dervishes in her excitement to go for her walk, she spins like a top, knocking plant pots and buckets array and bruising legs.  Much to my dismay, it is proving quite hard to get this new behaviour under control.  In her new alpha role, she also thought it fit to teach Mavy how to dunk her hot paws in her water bucket on return from their walk.  Hmmmm, cute, but rather annoying!

There were, of course so many other incidents this year, mainly concerning my place of employment.  So numerous were these experiences, (actually, on reflection, the word numerous could easily trade with humorous, although at the time I thought otherwise) that they would be worthy of a short story.  I will however, hold back on recounting these episodes, till I am truly disentangled from said employment.  Safe to say though, they readily provoke stiffled giggles, wide eyed disbelief, exhaspiration, with a good measure of agitation thrown in. 

And 2018 still has 3 months to go.   

 

Prawn Saganaki

 

A nice little meze or main meal, lovely with ouzo.

 

The name “Saganaki” is derived from the cooking utensil in which it was once cooked, a two handled copper pan.  It was often served in the same pan.

Ingredients

500 g prawns without shells

1 onion sliced

3/4 garlic cloves diced

1 pepper sliced (light green preferably)

2 Cups grated tomato, with a tsp of sugar mixed in

3 star anise

1 heaped soupspoon tomato paste

300 g crumbled feta cheese

Olive oil

S & P preferably ground

A few basil leaves chopped finely

Pinch of chillie flakes

Optional – a little ouzo

Procedure

If you are lucky enough to own a saganaki, use this to fry the prawns in olive oil for 1 minute, then remove the prawns to a plate.  In the same pan, add the onions, pepper, garlic, star anise and chillie flakes.  Fry until the onions have softened.  Add the tomato puree and the ouzo if you are using and stir, allowing the alcohol to evaporate.   Add the grated tomato and bring to the boil to achieve a fairly thick sauce. 

If you don`t have a saganaki, pour the sauce into an oven proof dish.  If you do, you can complete the dish in this and bake in the oven. 

Add half of the crumbled feta and lay the prawns on top.  Push them down into the sauce and sprinkle the remaining feta over the top.  Finish with a sprinkle of olive oil and bake in a moderate oven for 20 minutes. 

Serve with crusty bread.