Braised Pork with Peppers (Τηγανιά)

 

For my friend Suzie

Ingredients

500 g pork with fat

2 large green peppers, chopped into large chunks

2 large red peppers chopped into large chunks

1 glass of fresh orange juice

1 glass of wine

2 garlic cloves halved

Salt and ground black pepper

Olive oil and a soup spoon of cooking butter

Procedure

Heat the oil and cooking butter in a deep frying pan, add the garlic pieces and fry for just a minute, remove the garlic pieces so they don`t burn and save to one side, add the pork and fry till browned on all sides.  Add the S & P, then the wine and the orange juice, allow to boil for 6 or 7 minutes, add the peppers and the garlic.  Stir gently.   The sauce will thicken as it reduces, when the peppers are lightly cooked, pour off the sauce and save, allow to braise further for a couple of minutes, shaking the pan not stirring.

Add the sauce to serve.

Fried Vegetables with Yogurt

 

The Summer glut of courgettes and aubergines begins, so here I go again……

Ingredients

2 large aubergines

4 medium courgettes

Batter

1 glass beer

1 glass flour

1 soupspoon olive oil

S & P

Olive oil for frying

Greek yogurt or tsatziki

Procedure

Wash and prepare your vegetables.  Cut aubergines into rounds approx. 1 cm thick.  Sprinkle salt over and leave to stand for half an hour.  Cut the courgettes into slightly thinner rounds.  Salt and leave to stand.

Pour the beer into the flour, add the olive oil, S & P, mix well till you have a thick batter.  

Heat your oil in a frying pan.  Drain off any liquid from the sliced vegetables and begin dipping them into the batter a few at a time.  Fry on high till browned on all sides, place on absorbent paper to soak excess oil.  

Serve with Greek yogurt or tsatziki.

Note

I also fried courgette flowers.  You can opt to remove the stamen with a slender knife, or leave if you like, tuck the petals into the heart of the flower, dip in the batter and fry. 

A Fragment of a Story

 

Uncle Sterios pulled his chair up close to the kafenion table, lit his next cigarette of the day and began his tale.  

My father fought in WW2 against the Germans when they invaded Crete.  He ferociously protected everything Cretan, fearing no one and nothing,   One amongst many co-villagers, he swiftly dispatched the invaders at every opportunity, by whatever means he could. Often times left without ammunition, just the bayonette on his rifle, which proved a bloody weapon in his farmers hands.             

Fearlessly seizing an opportunity to dispatch more intruder Germans, he`d followed on their tail into an ally, dodging and weaving between doorways and obstacles to gain ground.  Nerve endings brittled with the intensity of adrenoline rushing madly through his body, the air crackled with the firey heat of the day. He tried to bring his heaving breath under control as he lifted his rifle to take aim.

The explosion swept his feet from beneath him and hurled him against the remains of what was once Barba Kostas`s courtyard wall. The pressure from the blast wave assaulted him in a blindingly excrutiating instant. Instinctively his teeth clamped.  As his senses spun, his ears twanged a jarring roar, his chest roared in pain, he clamped his hands over his skull in an attempt to escape the tortuous racket invading his head.  When the blast wave freed him from it`s deadly grip, he drew his first sharp intake of breath.  Immediately he erupted into explosive barking coughs – his lungs` attempts to expel the dust and grime he had inhaled.  Dust caked his nose and choked his every breath, cloying his tongue and throat.

Slowly, his vision began to return, revealing the dramatic, crushed scene around him.  His chest however, continued to erupt in violent hacks. Each guffaw rattled his stunned senses like earthquake aftershocks.  His brain tried to process what had just occured.  His left ankle twisted off to one side in a grotesque, dog-leg.  Instinctively, but rashly, he tried to lift his leg and immediately regretted it.  Searing pain shot up the limb, piercing the very core of his being, forcing him to retch and gulp frantically.  He tried to surpress the overwhelming nausea which swept over his still dulled senses.  The need to vomit swamped and with no time to turn his head, the contents of his guts, spewed forth over his chest.  Blood.  Despite his fuzzy brain, he knew this was not good.  Then he blacked out.

Watery vision obstructed the mercilessly bright light assaulting his newly opened eyes.  He strained to gain focus. He was in some sort of make shift emergency clinic.  

Blackness.”

Sterios lit his hundredth cigarette and sighed a deep sigh as he brushed away a tear at the demise of his father, which sadly fell on his 97th birthday.

He continued.

“My father lived with the fragment of the mortar embedded in his gut for 35 years.  Physicians refused to attempt to remove the shrapnel for fear of not being able to control the bleed.  He learnt to dress the wound in his belly, which never closed, effectively, so infections were kept at bay.  Yearly visits to the hospital only confirmed that he would take the shrapnel with him to his grave.

Despite this, he still went on to marry, have two sons and live life to the full in the village of Agies Paraskies, close to Archanes.

At 60 years old on his annual check up, his physician scratched his head with a perplexed look on his face, searching for the familiar outline of the shrapnel on the x-ray.  It just wasn`t there.

After exhaustive discussions on the possible whereabouts of the missing shrapnel, the only feasible explanation which satisfied them, was that it had probably been expelled whilst he had relieved himself on one of his notorious drinking bouts – slipping from his traditional Cretan bloomer style trouser, unnoticed.  

Throughout his life, he expressed annoyance at being deprived of actually being able to see the little piece of Germany which hindered and distressed him for so many years.”

                                            ************************ 

Note

The Battle of Crete began on the morning of 20th May 1941 and was the first occasion where German paratroops were used en masse, the first mainly airborne invasion in military history, the first time the Allies made significant use of intelligence from decrypted German messages from the Enigma machine and the first time German troops encountered mass resistance from a civilian population.

source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Crete

 

Get off the Roundabout

 

The evidence is there, if you know where to look for it.  We`ve all seen it, most likely, without paying too much attention.  

Odd sightings of carelessly abandoned campsites, more oft haphazard constructions from reeds, palm branches, stone, or ripped and destroyed canvas tents.  Sallies to offshore isles, commonplace rambling hikes along boundless coastlines that flounder on fiery horizons, has invariably revealed assorted abandoned quarters, which once offered a short lived abode to modern day fugitives.   The mind`s fancy, easily creates an image of long haired, sun-bronzed hippies, attired in loin cloth alone, wielding make-shift fishing spears and unruly beards. Not improbable for sure, however, sheer location should dictate how these fugitives conduct their off-the-grid lifestyle.

A couple of decades ago, the headland off the Elounda salt pans offered residence to a long haired hippy of a kind, only this particular hippy was a bare-skinned, middle aged lady.  

Our initial encounter found us on an early morning quest to view that day`s sun rise.   Settled on the rocky end of the beach, with sights aimed keenly East, awaiting the marvel of the day, our focus was suddenly disturbed by a female voice, in broken English, demanding a cigarette.  No pleasantries, no greetings, just “give me a cigarette” We could only assume she had forfeited her spear on a previous haggle for a smoke, but the predominating image was otherwise, complete.  

Bright, intelligent eyes from beneath a mop of wild, unkempt, blond hair, watched our hands intently, as we proferred her, her next coffin nail.   Leathery, sunburned skin concealed her scrawny physique, which seemed to border on emaciated.  Immaculate, chalk-white teeth, flashed from within her dusty face. We felt it would be useless to refuse her demand and extended her our packet. 

We spent the best part of an hour together, vouching the safe arrival of that day`s sun.  Clad in nothing more than a t-shirt, where rips and holes amounted to more than the actual material did, the conversation was laconic.  We learnt that her family was from Athens, but she lived here on the beach full time, her reason for shunning society and beach bumming, was vague.  It seemed she chose this, because she could.  

Modesty seemed to be an unknown concept to her, as she displayed her all, carelessly.  From a woman` s point of view, my curiosity grappled with courtesy regarding not only where to look as we chatted, but also to the obvious bind of how she coped with her monthlies.  

She as good as plucked cigarette packets from our hands, turned on her heel and disappeared back through the bush, leaving us wondering if the encounter had been real.

Without doubt, Crete is the perfect place to disappear, get off the roundabout and go native.  At least for a while.  

 

PS

In the event that a month should pass with no new posts, don`t be alarmed, it could be that I`m trying it for myself!

 

Gracious thanks to Jan Drury 

Artichoke and Broccoli Quiche

 

Using veggies which are plentiful from my garden created this lovely quiche.  You can pretty much use whatever you have available though.

Ingredients

Pastry

225 g plain flour

120 g butter

1/2 tsp dried thyme 

50 g melting cheese, grated

1 egg, beaten

1 tbs milk

Salt

Filling

1 medium onion diced

1 medium courgette sliced

2/3 broccoli heads broken into small florets

3/4 prepared artichoke hearts sliced

12 mushrooms sliced

8/10 sun dried tomatoes halved

20/25 chopped basil leaves, chopped

Large pinch of fresh marjaram

4 medium eggs beaten

120 ml cream

100 ml milk

Any type of sweet tomato to decorate the top, sliced thickly

Procedure

Preheat the oven to 190 c.  Rub the butter into the flour, add the dried thyme, stir in the cheese, add the beaten egg and milk.  Stir in with your fingers until it comes together as a pliable dough.  Roll out and line your flan case.  Prick the base with a fork and leave to rest in a cool place for half an hour.  

In the meantime prepare the filling.  Fry the onion, courgette, mushrooms, artichokes and broccoli in olive oil till just tender, adding ground black pepper and salt.  Remove from the heat and add the sun dried tomatoes, basil and marjaram.

Blind bake the case for 10 minutes. *see below.  Remove beans and greaseproof paper and bake for a futher 5 minutes.

Add the cream and milk to the beaten eggs, add S & P.  When flan case is ready, spoon in the vegetable mixture and spread evenly.  Pour over the cream, milk and egg mixture.  Place the sliced tomato on the surface and press gently into the filling.

Bake @ 180 c for 40 minutes.

Allow to cool a little before serving.

* Bake Blind     Cut a piece of greaseproof paper to fit in the base of the flan case, covering the pastry.  Lay any type of dried beans or rice on top of the paper and bake as instructed

Jauntes in May

 

Nothing like a visit from your nieces & co to rock your typically peaceful world. Their thirst for exploration and adventure touched and re-ignited my jaded Cretan wanderlust.  

A breathe-taking trek up Sarakinas Canyon (Φαράγγι Σαρακίνας), where young men whom reverted to boys once more, revelled in the pleasures of skimming stones and assaulting the deep pools with “rock-bombs”.  Stamina and strength were checked by all on this demanding trek.

Our next adventure checked a box on my aged bucket list.  One which, despite my frequent appeals to spark hubbie`s adventurous nature, always fell on deaf ears.  Something, I`m told, to do with a slight phobia of sailing.   Oft`times called Donkey Island (Γαϊδουρονήσι), but more commonly named Chryssi Island, or Golden Island.  

The one hour`s boat journey from Ierapetra was pleasant.  Our arrival on the South side of this little paradise was greeted by, amongst others, an “off the grid” sun-bronzed, island inhabitant, whom awaited his survival package, which he promptly loaded onto his canoe and paddled away gently before I had chance to investigate his story further.  

We crossed to the touristy “Golden Beach”, where toxic disco music belted out for the duration of our 5 hour stay on the island.  Luckily, we were able to distance ourselves from the throng and racket, making camp under a perfect cedar as a base to explore this fascinating place from.  The beach is indeed almost tropical, with soft, white sand.  The sea, a magical aqua blue was cool, but inviting.  In an amazing paradox, we could see across to the snow covered mountain caps on mainland Crete, whilst the luxurious sand caressed our toes. 

The rare, low slung Lebanon Cedar trees hold steadfastedly to the sand dunes, radiating their roots across the surface of the sand, twisted and interlaced into captivatingly intricate tangles.

Our picnic in the shade, brought a friend, whom relished the moisture from the tomato and cucumber pieces we provided. 

Remnants of abandoned campsites, with destroyed tents and discarded equipment, typically, marred this mini paradise. Surprisingly, we witnessed forest guards patrolling through the dunes.  Due to the invisible blinkers which they were obviously wearing, they failed completely to notice the eyesore rubbish.

However, this did not detract from the wonder of the island.  It truly is a little jewel of Crete, which I would recommend to anybody looking for a good day out.  Five hours, certainly wasn`t enough to explore this island fully.  If I should be lucky enough to return, I`ll pledge a mini “rubbish collection safari”, simply, because I should.

Credit and thanks to Jenny, Chris, Kate, Vicky and Graham

Playing Hooky?

 

Was I playing hooky……….?  Maybe, for a while.  But then……….

With habitual predictability, the little alarm bell went off in my head, confirming the arrival of Spring.   Despite the crabish nature within waging it`s customary war against the world, it`s attemps to postpone the consequences of arrival of said busy season, were futile. Once the cogs began turning, my scurrying and bustling around the garden left a dust trail, which, on occasion, obliterated my very whereabouts.

The produce from the garden has been generally good over the Winter period, with little need to buy vegetables from the store. Nevertheless, finding my fourth bucket of beetroots in as many weeks, deposited surrupticiously at my front door by Vags, had my feathers ruffling a tadge.  The undisclosed delivery, perhaps in fear of the familiar light-hearted gripe from me – “more beetroot chutney then dear!?”  Later that day, the pan of chutney quietly smirked at me through steamy bubbles.  I suspect the deep rooted sub-conscious reaction at having to cut into tiny cubes so many onions, beets and apples resulted in……..”take that, you cheeky pan of chutney!” I said, slipping in an extra generous pinch of chillie flakes………and, deja vu!  Damn!  It has more than a keen, after burn.

Artichokes abound this year too, which I definitely do not mind.  The ritualistic task of preparing the artichoke, the rhythmic removal of it`s spikey leaves, the nibbling of the tender ends of the leaves, which renders lips and tongue ink black, the mandatory use of copious amounts of lemon juice, with it`s zesty aroma airborne, is in fact, very therapeutic.  Hubbie and me, a shady corner, coffee at hand, enjoying an hour or two, before other garden duties part our ways, conversation interspersed with the odd “ouch” when a naughty spike finds a finger. This harvest is still underway, but extra large jars bought in specially to cater for preserved arties.

Managed to put a few packets of vine leaves for dolmathas safely in the freezer too. 

Thank goodness for Easter, where my usual baking sessions saw off the incalculable number of eggs making their way into my kitchen. Despite the traditionally red-dyed easter egg which represents the blood spilled by Jesus Christ on his crusifixion, I thought I`d try my hand at dying them organically this year.  Onion skins, turmeric powder, beetroot juice (of course) and red cabbage leaves. The two latter home dyes resulted in a rather muddy coloured egg, but the onion skins and the turmeric were definitely more interesting as colours.  

Utilizing more eggs, a half dozen jars of lemon curd for good measure, two or three loads in the incubator, several dozen shoved under various broody turkeys and I actually witnessed my egg basket empty for a whole day! 

My roses, glowing in a luxurious blend of warm sunny days and abundant rain are magnificent this year.  Learning to eek out the non-perfumed ones and leave only “workers” was the finest decision I have taken in my garden.  The heavenly aroma creeps through my senses and leaves me exalting their existence breathlessly, where, much to Vag`s amusement, I bury my nose deep into their velvety petals and praise their efforts, up close, deep into their velvety ear.

I also decided it was time address the persistent problem of litter and fly tipping in our neighbourhood.  Before compiling a letter to Mr Zervos, the Mayor of Agios, including a couple of photographs for his information, I set about and collected ten sacks of rubbish from the road side in less than a one kilometre radius of our house.  The garbage men have collected the sacks of rubbish, but I still await a reply from our council on the subject.  I do, however, take pleasure in seeing the road clean.

Coupled with my mental list of “to do” jobs, is my annual fantasy of finding a “home based” business which could survive in this “hostile-to-new-business-environment” called Greece.  

In the meantime, I scour the newspaper regularly for suitable jobs, emailing copious obligatory CVs, attending two job interviews, but still, I live in hope that one day I`ll find a job which I don`t actually have to attend!  

 

Wild Asparagus (Άγρια Σπαράγγια)

 

March or April, depending on the area, usually sees this little delicacy of Crete making it`s appearance.  It can be found along hedgerows, around the trunks of old trees, along stone walls and roadsides.  With little practice you can learn to recognise this alternative vegetable with ease.

This is the bush, low lying, spikey.  You will find the new shoot emerging from within or closeby, very distinctively, just like a cultivated asparagus, but greener and slimmer.  There may only be one shoot, but often there are three or four.

 

When you have located one, just snap off the top 12 cm or so.  The shorter the shoot, the shorter the length of the tender part, the longer the shoot, the longer the length of the tender part.  You`ll soon get the hang of it.  Try eating one to see what you consider tender or not. This enjoyable afternoon saunter demands company to enable harvesting suitable quantities, so make sure you take somebody with you. 

 

To eat as a salad, rinse lightly, sprinkle with salt, olive oil and lemon juice.  To be eaten with the fingers.

To eat as a cooked vegetable you can steam very lightly, or boil in just a centimetre of salted water or so, serve with oil and lemon.  Cooked, they can be used as a filling in omelettes, pop into the pan, pour over the beaten egg as usual.

Here, I made a mini omelette giro packet, spread cream cheese on half of the omelette, laid on the steamed asparagus, sprinkled a little lemon juice over and rolled into a giro packet.

A nice healthy breakfast!