Well Traveled Roast

As the car swept around the corner a little too hastily, the lady in the passenger seat tried to counterbalance the roasting tin on her knees, in an attempt to keep the olive oil and oregano from sloshing over the sides and rendering her trousers and the car seat an oily mess.  She tutted when she saw she had failed.

Her boss stopped abruptly in the driveway to her rented house and shook her head.  “No, can`t use this oven, my landlord is there and I`m embarrassed”  She reversed the car out of the driveway and headed back to the restaurant.

Reluctantly, the lady in the passenger seat sighed and uttered quietly, “Ok, I know where we can take it”

She gave her boss instructions of where to drive to.  Pulling her house keys out of her pocket, she led her boss to the black gate of her village home, which her long term tenants visited regularly, but fortunately, at this moment, were absent.

The tray, carrying the chicken and potatoes ready for roasting, was successfully placed in the oven and they departed.  Two hours later, the retrieved “dish of the day” was served at the restaurant.  Little did the clients know that their dinner was so well traveled. 

Even the waitress knew that in order to run a restaurant successfully and be able to prepare the food on the menu, that sufficient gas cylinders are crucial. (Tongue in cheek)

Special thanks to the Barkers, for their unbeknownst to them, participation in just one of the small dramas experienced last year.

Limoncello (Ρακολέμονο)

This one`s not Greek by origin, but suits the abundance of suitable ingredients perfectly and of course, is not only easy peasy, but more than delightful after a meal.

There are dozens of variations, pretty much any combination goes. Below is a general guideline, but experiment to find what suits you best. I don`t like mine too sweet, but if you prefer yours thicker and more syrupy, then increase the sugar quantity.

Ingredients

12 lemons or approx 150 g lemon peel

1.2 litres raki or other clear spirit

300 g sugar

300 ml water

Procedure

Wash the lemons well. Using a sharp knife or vegetable peeler, remove the yellow rind only. Try to avoid removing any pith as this will result in a bitter flavour to the drink. Place the rind with the spirit in a wide mouthed glass container or jar with screw top. Close tightly and leave in a dark, cool place for a minimum of 6 days, but up to a month. The longer you leave it, the bolder the flavour.

Remove the rind from the raki and filter through a cotton wool pad to catch any particles. Boil the sugar with the water for a couple of minutes and add to the raki. Allow to cool.

It is beautiful served chilled

Expect the Unexpected

Most of us Cretaholics experience that familiar “coming home” feel as we disembark from the airplane. Most of us know what to expect – more or less – from this little paradise – the beauty, warm welcomes, great food, hospitality, all the earthy, true fabric, which makes our heart skip a beat.

From time to time though, something happens which surprises us, leaves us speechless.

Some semi-resident, good friends, relayed a rather entertaining incident which had me chuckling, yet intrigued. Calling into their local taverna for lunch, they had clearly ordered more than they could consume.

Sitting back and relaxing at their table, with the remains of their lunch before them, an unknown, middle-aged lady approached their table and asked if they had finished their meal. My friends, presuming that she was there to clear their plates away, answered “Yes, thank you, we have finished”.

The unidentified lady, shunning all social codes, pulled up a chair, and commenced heartily to tuck into the left over souvlaki, chips and salad on the table. Completely unperturbed, maintaining her expressionless face, she proceeded to pour herself the remaining beer from the bottle on the table! With unfettered dedication to the task in hand, she grazed the table`s leftovers, oblivious to the open-mouthed, shocked faces of our good friends, till all plates, glasses and bottles were cleared.

Pushing her chair backwards, she rose and left without so much as a word, leaving an astonished, and somewhat intrigued couple behind her.

Kind thanks to the Wattons Nikithiano

Absent, but Present

It`s been a while, I know. Life swept us along with the fabulously wet Winter and Spring this year. Busying ourselves with annual maintenance on Kanakary and gardens, hiking, grandparent input, first swims, crafting mania, catching up with old friends and so much more I cannot remember. Nevertheless, here we are in June – and so far, on the matter of gainful employment, I have safely managed to dodge the bullet. Naughty, I know, but I`m trying not to think about it. Besides, I can`t exercise my “nanna” duties whilst being at work all day.

The utterly unacceptable fact that our 4 year old was “afraid” to do a tipple tail on the grass, conclusively justified my “unemployment” in order to engage in a hands on “tipple tail” instruction Summer.

Taking a deep breath and kneeling with my head tucked down, Vags and 4 yo stared, open-mouthed at nanna, poised to tipple tail.

The ricochet of the crackle, from my unfairly stretched vertebrae, resounded noisily, as I landed with a slightly less than graceful thud on my back. As I laid gasping, Vags looked down at me, concerned. He`d heard the crackle too. Smiling easily at our ward, I trilled highly, “See, it`s easy! If nanna can do it, so can you” She was only slightly convinced by the demonstration. Rising cautiously, I made sure I still had all limbs attached, then continued her instruction.

After some persistence, we achieved her very first tipple tail. Mission accomplished – at some small cost!

On another note, I had often mused at the two large blank walls fringing our house. An arty side (previously unperceived) began to emerge. Dressing these “canvases” with home made mosaics has been great fun, creating a relaxing backdrop to otherwise, plain old walls.

Licence to………Kill??

Obtaining my Greek citizenship last year, brought into affect a chain of events, which not only forced me to revert back to my maiden name, but also led me to re-take my driving test in order to obtain a Greek licence. After ascertaining that the standard of the driving test here is actually rather high, I just had to ask my driving instructor. “Why is it, given the standard of driving instruction is notably high, are there so many bad drivers here in Greece?” I held my breath in anticipation of his provoked, heated response, something along the lines of… “get out of my car!” Instead, I saw his face contort into a series of impossible to interpret, grimaces. After giving my question due consideration, he decided to spill the truth. A truth, that perhaps a few of us already suspected. Many drivers obtained their licence by, let`s say, not so legal means, and didn`t actually sit the true exam! “Noooo!” I exclaimed, feigning indignation. “I don`t believe it!!” He gaily notified me of this nugget of truth as he wound the window down and hurled a plastic bag out of the car into the wind! As I slowed down to stop at the STOP sign, which he had previously, explicitly instructed me, that all vehicles MUST be brought to an absolute standstill before passing the stop sign, he gestured impatiently for me to pass without stopping! After I had pulled over so he could pick up his morning coffee, I made an executive decision. I considered that I had reached the required level and obligatory number of hours of driving instruction and will await the actual test, rather than endure further lessons.

Having passed the first two hurdles, (two theory tests – one for the car and one for the motorbike – which entailed me learning over three hundred road signs, road priorities etc, whereupon the theory exam required me to correctly answer a minimum of 29 out of 30 questions to gain the certificate, I am forced now, to wait out a strike, which is holding up the practical driving test itself. Nevertheless, I am confident that I will soon hold both a Greek and a UK driving licence. Barring any unpredictable events that is……

This rigmorol presented the usual mental gridlock (`scuse the pun). A clash between my basic, disciplined standards, deep rooted in my innermost self, my perceived ideas of how things “should” be done – and how things are actually done here. The result – inflammation of that damned enduring thorn in my side once more.

The only way to stay sane? Wham some Sudacrem on that itchy thorn, slap on a plaster and hope the irritation goes away swiftly!

Waterproof Groupie

This year`s astonishing amount of rain has had us penned up in the house for more days than could be considered healthy.

Gotta admit, once those clouds close in, releasing yet another deluge, (at times it feels like one of those tarpaulins that gather water over a market stall suddenly gives way and empties the contents over your head), leaving the courtyard and garden resembling a tidal swimming pool, with mud bath attraction thrown in. The kitchen light comes on and I launch into another earnest kitchen cupboard hunt, for ideas of something else to bake to occupy myself with. The consequences of several quiches, pies, jams, preserves, not forgetting the 3 and 4 course dinners over the past week or two, have forced me back into my stretchy waist trousers. Vags on the other hand, suffering from his own serious case of cabin fever, paces, huffing and puffing, flicking from one news channel to another in search of something to keep him occupied whilst house-bound.


Togged up in my waterproofs, I`ve managed to walk the dogs every day. Despite expertly rebutting Vags` incredulous reaction at my insistence on walking them when it`s bucketing it down, he still shakes his head in disbelief as he watches me bustle from the house looking like an Atlantic Ocean trawler fisherman. On the whole, the dogs seem unperturbed by the rain and are quite happy galloping around, getting wet. They are, however, developing an unrealistic fear of thunder, which is a little disturbing.

The extraordinary volume of rain this year has had gorges, rivers, storm drains and forgotten springs running at full capacity, which, after two drought years, is a wonderful sight. However, the destruction left in it`s wake – the brunt being felt mainly in the West of Crete – is equally extraordinary. Ancient bridges have been swept away, roads simply disappearing into caverns and slipping down mountainsides, land slides and falling buildings, not to mention the loss of 5 lives to date, (flood related), here in Crete alone.

I can only assume that there can`t be much rain left to rain, but who knows. I rather embarrassingly admit though, it colludes with my hermit-like nature, which regularly tries to restrain me from participating in the outside world.

I live in the hope that we have an extended period of cool-ish Spring conditions, which will hold off the inevitable onslaught of high temperatures for which Crete is notorious.

Bergamot Orange Spoon Sweet (Περγαμόντο Γλυκού του Κουταλιού)

This outsized, nobbly citrus, is yet another unusual fruit found here in Crete. It is not to be found in everybody`s orchard though. However, if you hunt around some of the older villages, you may be lucky enough to find a bergamot tree.

The type I was given appear to be the uncultivated type, which in no way resembles the cultivated one. See here. When it comes to their usage, Cretan housewives create yet another epic spoon sweet. Although the actual flesh, described as tasting somewhere between a lemon and a grapefruit, is edible, it is the rind which is valued here. Using the bare minimum of ingredients, allows the aromatic rind to work it`s magic. I describe the process below.

The essence extracted from the aromatic peel is used for flavouring not only Earl Grey tea, but an all round favorite, turkish delight! I awoke the next morning after preparing the sweet and the divine aroma still permeated the house.

Ingredients

500 g approx, bergamot peel

1 kilo sugar

1 1/2 cups water

Juice from one large lemon

Procedure

Wash the bergamot well under running water. Due to the uneven surface of the fruit, use a very sharp knife to scrape away the exterior of the peel, in and around the lumps. (This can be kept and used to flavor cakes or salad dressings etc.)

Slice a ring off the top and the bottom of the fruit, continue with four vertical cuts, which will allow you to pull away the peel in sections. Discard the fruit. Remove any fibrous strands from the inner part of the peel.

To de-bitter:

Put the sections into a pan with cold water and boil for 10 minutes. Strain the peel and add to cold water again. Once they are cool enough to handle, slice into thin sticks.

Repeat the boiling procedure, discarding the water and adding fresh, twice more. At this point you should check to see if the peel retains some bitterness. This is purely personal preference. It is a characteristic of this spoon sweet to retain a slight hint of bitterness. If you prefer to eliminate the bitterness completely, leave in cold water over night.

If not, continue, by straining the peel, press lightly to expel excess water. Add the water and the sugar to a saucepan and bring to the boil, stirring, to ensure the sugar has dissolved. Add the chopped peel and leave to boil for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat, cover and leave until the next day.

Next day boil the peel to bring the syrup to setting consistency, using a plate kept in the freezer to check periodically the thickness of the syrup.

Once the syrup has thickened, add the lemon juice, allow the sweet to boil for a minute or so more and remove from the heat. Jar up into sterilized jars.

You`ll be the envy of your friends when you serve this special treat.

Enjoy

Fog or Foe?

With sand on my lips and the whiff of camel dung in my nostrils, I took my dogs for their walk today. These photos reflect the seriousness of the situation once again, here in Crete. A situation which seems to be commonplace now in early Spring. Whilst this horrible, Saharian sand invasion once more, ventures to bring Crete to a coughing standstill, I commiserate with people suffering from respiratory problems.

The second full blown invasion in less than a week, will have residents outside tomorrow with the hosepipes once more, washing away the aftermath, with doubtless, thousands of cubic metres of scant, precious water going down the drain. Nothing can be done however, about the “pink” snow which now caps our higher mountain peaks.

Words fail the agitation I feel, experiencing this very obvious, global warming alarm bell, resounding firmly across Southern Europe. Most conscientious citizens hear the toll, but what of it, are the powers that be listening? Seriously, I doubt it.

Whilst Donald Trump shoves his head deeper into his own sand-pit sand, I suspect his already challenged notion regarding global warming, will be further hindered by the erection of his proposed wall, reducing more profoundly, his peripheral vision to zero.

Happy (Hic) New Year


I`ve written, deleted and re-written this year`s Christmas post more times than I think I care to admit. It would seem my non-eventful Christmas, has sapped my posting inspiration.

Despite several local establishments` attempts to lift dull moods whilst attending to Christmas/New Year shopping, by cunningly plying us with generous brandy tots – their kind gesture, a “thank you” for patronizing their store, being tipsy at the unearthly, disgraceful hour of 8.30 am, offered no comfort, but only served to highlight my weak-kneed self control, which crumbled, spectacularly before the proffered drink.

However, later at home, feeling invigorated, taking advantage of an upsurge in energy, I gave the dogs a brandy fuelled speed walk, which left me rozy-cheeked, icey-eared and short-winded.

Christmas day dinner was cancelled, as the three grandkids and DIL dropped like flies with a dreadful tummy bug, it left us to our own devices. Not a massive calamity, but we had looked forward to some unruly, noisy, “grandkid time” It did, however, allow us to work to our own programme. Taking a quiet drive out to Neapoli we enjoyed a relaxing coffee in the square, where cafeterias all seemed to be working normally, appeased our moods. I did manage to cajole Vags into tipping the dedicated staff whom served us our coffee on this Christmas morning too.

Marvelling at my normally, tee-total body`s ability to cope with the alcohol over-indulgence, we enjoyed New Year at home, wrapped up in PJs and blankets. The excellent company of Captain Morgan, a fabulously scrumptious cheese board with crackers and Netflix held my uninterrupted attention till the wee hours of the morning.

That`s it though, holidays over, all bottles which chink suggestively, have been pushed to the back of the drinks cupboard – thus, moderating the fatal temptation they exert on us weaker souls.

Albeit belated, I`d like to wish everyone a wonderfully happy and healthy New Year, may it be cram packed full of fabulous events, caring love, treasured family and great friends.

New Year 2019

We awoke yesterday morning to this toe-chilling, yet heart-warming sight on the mountains around us.

An unusually low 4 degrees allowed the hailstones which fell around Kanakary in the night, to linger at the edges of our garden and road sides. Villages at not so much higher altitudes than ours here at Kanakary, woke to find their villages completely blanketed in snow. Even our dogs, unused to seeing snow, licked and munched happily on the icy left-overs.

The falling of snow always dominates the news channels and, in turn, generates excited Cretans, whom, suddenly reverting to being kids again, enthusiastically head for the hills to enjoy a day frolicking in the snow.

As I hear the rather hardier residents of more northern countries cry out in indignation, “What?? Are you mad?? Who wants to wake to snow and freezing temperatures?” I must rush to our defense. We live on an island that has perpetually hot temperatures, and often extended periods of drought, (a phenomona becoming more frequent in latter years), where even Winters find us basking in temperatures of 18 or more degrees. Not only does snow bring a sigh of relief to our thirsty land, it also carries a measure of appeal on a recreational level.

We have had a good start to our Winter, with seemingly plenty of rain. We were however, rather disturbed by the still unusually low levels in the Aposelemi reservoir in the vicinity of Potamies and Abdou, which we visited recently. On a previous visit, three years ago, water levels three-quarter swamped the little hillside village of Sfentili. An intriguing sensation, peering into abandoned houses, as of then, unclaimed by the water, whereas other dwellings had completely sunk below the mass of water.

Sfentili on the hillside

The reservoir has the potential to hold an astonishing 30 million cubic metres of water. Today, already half way through our Winter, the water line still falls to a desperately low level, where we had to walk a good 300 metres from the lower edge of the village to meet the water`s brim. In the last quarter of 2018, levels had fallen disastrously below one million cubic metres and operators were forced to deactivate the pumps which distribute the water, in order to safe guard the machinery.

Views of Aposelemi and Sfentili