Monday, September 12, 2005

Suggestions, suggestions

Like many other foodbloggers, I have a list of favourites on the right hand side of the screen: other foodblogs I visit, favourite places to shop, books I like, books I want etc. Mainly it's a way to provide shortcuts for myself - I find it's easier to click from my site than to go to the favourites' bar in my browser and look up bookmarked websites. It's also a sneaky way to suggest what to get me if someone is struggling with birthday/Christmas/random gift ideas:)

My Greek beau moved to Amsterdam to start his PhD at the end of August, and came over for a visit last weekend. Few days earlier I had received a parcel from Amazon. I was a bit confused, as I hadn't ordered anything from them recently. At least I couldn't remember ordering anything from them lately. When I opened the parcel, I realised immediately what was going on, and it brought a big smile to my face. The parcel contained a book I've wanted for a while, The Real Greek at Home. My Greek beau claimed that he only ordered it because it was at the top of my Books I Want list, although I suspect he had some alterior motives. I think he was suggesting what I should/could cook this weekend. Just in case I was struggling with the idea:)

I must admit that although my usual food repertoire includes some Greek dishes (my feta-spinach pie has been one of the favourites for almost a decade now and I'm quite a fan of tzatziki), my love affair with a Greek food is new. I went to Greece for the first time in July 2002, to attend an IVSA conference on Santorini (see the pic on the right). And to be honest, I didn't eat much. It was 40 degrees Celsius, it was hottest and sunniest place I'd ever been to and, to be frank, I was struggling to stay alive (interestingly, dipping in and out of a 100˚C sauna doesn't seem to drain me as much. Maybe it's the sun?) In any case, food was the last thing in my mind, and I was on a diet of frappes and gallons of water for two weeks, having some light nibbles in the evenings when it was cooler. And even then I was on a self-imposed diet - as most of my friends were keen to try various seafood dishes in various seaside establishments - deep-fried squid, grilled octopus etc - I was inevitably left with another plate of horiatiki. I don't eat shellfish & molluscs, you see.

I spent another few days with a Greek friend on Sifnos after the conference, where I had a pleasure of trying his Granny's fabulous meatballs and a traditional Sifnos chick-pea dish - tsoukali revithia alias 'revithia se sifniwtiko tsoukali'. My friend Stam (who was also a student in Edinburgh, but always returned home for summer) mixed chickpeas, oil and seasonings in a special clay pot - tsoukali revidion, which he then took to a communal oven in the evening (see pic, it's hard to see but all clay pots have family names written on them), where it slowly cooked over night. Apparently it's done every Saturday night, and the chickpeas are then picked up on Sunday morning and eaten during the day. I also brought along some really tasty almond and nut biscuits from the local bakery which I still miss occasionally.

But overall the culinary side of Greece remained somewhat unexplored back then. I did buy a Greek cookbook on the way back in the airport, but that turned out to be utter crap - for instance, it has a taramasalata recipe that forgets to mention fish roe etc, it's full of typos and it annoys me more than educates me.

I was again in Athens in October 2003, this time attending a really beautiful and romantic wedding of my friends Anna & David. As it was much cooler - the temperature was a very agreeable 20˚C or so - my appetite was much bigger. And I got to try some really lovely Greek dishes at the banquet and dinner.

Since early this year I've been flirting much more regularly with all the delicacies Greece has on offer. I've read a lot about Greek food, and tried out several dishes. Mostly with a great success. Only my Cypriot halloumi & mint bread got a lukewarm reception, but I think this had more to do with personal politics than my cooking skills, as the bread was finished quickly by non-Greek eaters:) I made tsoureki and stifado for Easter, and have cooked spanakopita, moussaka, gigantes beans, paputsakia, Greek meatballs, roasted feta with olives and red peppers, on other occasions. To sum up - feta cheese and Total Greek Yogurt are some of my kitchen staples nowadays. And last weekend saw me preparing another Greek meal. For inspiration, I scanned both The Real Greek Food that suggestingly appeared in my mailbox, as well as the fabulous The Olive and the Caper that I had bought few months ago. Eventually, as I was running out of time and could not lovingly simmer a tomato sauce for an hour before baking it for yet another, I stuck with an old and tested favourite - hob-to-table moussaka. And I'll tell you all about it soon.


angelika said...

Hi Pille, I think I SHOULD definitely make a book wishlist on my blog...;-)) And these are the suggestions we do like, right ? I have also started reading about the Greek cuisine (but probably it's not half the fun without knowing a Greek beau ;-(( and have tried one and the other recipe, will post about it. It's good to have a change - and it means fun to widen our repertoire. Kind regards, angelika

Paz said...

What a smart and nice beau! ;-)

You've certainly been busy with Greek cuisine.

I love feta cheese. I love Santorini!

I look forward to reading more on your Greek culinary exploits.


joey said...

Greece stories too? Oh yey! :) I stayed in Greece for three months on assignement and I ate Greek food all day and night and never once tired of I am definitely looking forward to your exploits with this new book :) My favorites are lamb youvetsi and dolmas...YUM! Miss the yogurt terribly! And the bake shops loaded with every kind of baklava imaginable! Can't wait for your posts...

Oh, and thanks for the great book-wishlist-on-the-sidebar idea! Will beef mine up and then subtly maneuver my boyfriend towards it, hehe!

J said...

hi pille, how very ingenious of your beau (and of yourself, of course) ;)

Pille said...

Angelika - you should - although it wasn't initially meant as a hint-list, it worked. And now I will definitely keep it there:) I'm looking forward to comparing our Greek cooking notes! And I'm sure the Greek food is delicious even if there's no Greek beau tasting it (although it was extremely flattering to hear that my spinach pie is at least as good, if not better, as the one his grandmother makes:)))

Paz - he is smart & nice, isn't he:) I will definitely cook & write about Greek food more in the coming months, with two new cookbooks like that!

Joey - I have eaten on many occasions and would like to try making dolmas, but lamb youvetsi is new to me. I'll check out if the books mention that dish. Luckily we get the Total Greek yogurts here in the UK, which are very very good.
And good luck with the book-wishlist-on-the-sidebar! (It wasn't my idea, although I can't remember now where I saw it first)

J - thanks for popping by! And I'm quite pleased with how it worked out myself;)