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Posts Tagged ‘living in Crete.’

Sunrise.

The most important visitor to Crete will arrive in May, she’s already on her way.

Her name is “Caretta Caretta“, she has become entwined in our lives in such a way as we could never have imagined.

May is always an exciting time for Mr J and I. As part of a volunteer group we begin the daily 4 kms beach patrols in search of the endangered Loggerhead Turtles nest. Our duties are shared and continue until the end of October, by when the last little hatchling has got to the sea.

Remembering our first nest patrol back in 2010, up at 5am, on the beach at 6am, camera at the ready for what we hoped would be our first discovery of a turtles nest. And there she was in all her glory, the morning sun, rising up above the Mediterranean, forgotten in all the excitement.

The sight of the sunrise was just one of the many joys we were about to experience during our first season as volunteers for the Greek Sea Turtle Protection Society “Archelon”

Archelon has been protecting turtles in Crete since 1989, having first been established in 1977 after discovering that many Loggerhead Turtles nested along the beaches of Zakynthos, by 1989 research had shown that Crete was also  a popular nesting area, particularly along the North Coast, and so the task began to provide as secure an environment as possible for the turtles of Crete.

And as long as there are volunteers, so it shall continue.

 

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Fancy footwear for dinner tonight? In this post I am going to cover one of my favorite aubergine dishes, Papoutsakia (παπουτσάκια).
But lets start with a little appertizer of history with a side dressing of Greek. 
Papoutsakia

Papoutsakia

The French call them “aubergine” which comes from Arabic, the Americans call them “egg-plant” because the small white ones resemble eggs and  the Greeks call them melitzana (μελιτζάνα) pronounced “meh-lee-tzah-nah”, which apparently comes from the Latin “mala-insane” meaning “apple of madness”. Why such a peculiar name ? Because we’re mad for them. No, because they are part of the nightshade family and were once thought to be very dangerous and yes, we’re mad for them. 

There are so many recipes that include this wonderfull vegetable, which is actually classed as a berry becasue of the seeds inside, but here’s my favourite.

Please remember these are my adapted versions of  traditional recipes made to suit my own taste and garden or cupboard content.

Papoutsakia simply means little shoes, because they look like little shoes, no analysis required there.

 Ingredients.

 2 melitzanes, cut lengthwise and the pulp removed and chopped for adding to the sauce.

2 onions, chopped finely.

2 garlic cloves, chopped.

2  large ripe tomatoes, chopped, or if you don’t have fresh toms then use tinned, my rule of measure is 1 large tomato for each melitzana, so that would equate to 1 tin for 2 melitzanes, or thereabouts!

a bunch of  fresh parsley, chopped.

salt and pepper to taste.

oliveoil, as much or as little as you like.

and finally the cheese, I use whatever I have in the fridge in the following ways:

 you can use either Feta crumbled on top or big chunks of it placed into the shoe before you put the sauce on top

or

any hard cheese grated on top or again a big chunk in the middle….. whatever you want.

Heat the oliveoil in a pan and add the onions and garlic, plus the chopped pulp from the aubergine and saute for 5 minutes……..

Add the tomatoes, herbs and seasoning and gently cook for a further 5 minutes…..

Pre-heat your oven to 180c…….

Place your shoes into a tin, dish or whatever ovenwear you want to use, skin side down.

Now depending on the cheese option you took either place your chunk of cheese into the shoes and then fill them with the tomatoe sauce, cook for 20 minutes

or

If you’ve gone for the cheese on top option, just put the tomatoe sauce straight into the empty shoes, cook for 15 minutes and add your cheese on top for the last 5 minutes. 

Alternatives.

You can add minced beef or lamb to your sauce, just pop it into the pan and fry with the onions and garlic, or you can make a bechemel sauce to put on top with a sprinkle of grated cheese or crumbled Feta. Just remember to give the shoes an extra 10 minutes overall cooking time to allow for the extra ingredients.

 

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oranges-1I remember reading somewhere the definition of Autumn as the season between Summer and Winter, it must be the dullest of definitions for such a glorious season. The Greek word for Autumn is Φθινόπωρο pronounced fthi…no…po…ro, literally translated as the decline of income. The French used to call it Harvest before they and the rest of Europe, adopted the Latin word Autumn a few centuries ago and in America it’s called Fall.
 
Call it what you will, the Autumn season brings with it various definitions, to different people, in different places, doing different things.
For me personally, back in the UK, it would bring both a sadness of the Summers end and an anticipation of the Autumn fires about to burst through the trees. Mr J and I would often spend a Saturday walking, with Bronwen, through Dog Wood at Westonbirt Arboretum. It was like walking in an oil painting.
 
Unfortunately for some people, the Autumn is defined as above, the season between Summer and Winter and brings to them the impending doom of another long Winter, followed by the endless complaining of S.A.D sufferers.
Can you get S.A.D for every season or is it exclusively a Winter accessory for the fashion conscious ?
 
Since living in Crete we’ve noticed that we are much more aware of the seasons, not merely as weather patterns, but more as mother natures menu.
September is the grape harvest, after a long hot Summer the village comes to life with the sound of tractors awoken from their long siesta, loaded with empty crates and steered along an overgrown track to a vineyard, hidden amongst the olive groves. Of the various grapes grown, some are sold for the table and taken to local markets or shops, others are crushed in large concrete baths or simply trod on to produce next years vintage.
 
October brings the village stills to life, fired up like an old steam engine they boil away for 12 hours a day, exuding the firewater drip by drip, distilling the well know and well feared, Tskoudhia (Raki), from the last of the grape harvest.
 
November fails to bring the slumber before Winters sleep, instead, the buzz and whirl of the olive pickers poles can be heard across the valley, thrashing through the leaves, steadily rising every day as the villagers slowly migrate to the olive groves. A process that begins in November and continues through Winter and into March, when once again the lanes and groves are silent.
 
By far the brightest colour of Autumn is that of ripe Oranges, plump and juicy, plucked from a tree whilst out walking they are the best you’ll ever taste. It’s the perfect walkers thirst quencher, so juicy in comparison to the Supermarket bought oranges I remember back in the UK.
And of  course Lemons, a burst of yellow around every corner, in every garden.  They are, along with Olive oil, a staple part of the Cretan diet,  freshly squeezed onto everything, they truly are the taste of Crete.
 

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Quince Jelly

quince-jelly2

  They dined on mince and slices of quince,
Which they ate with a runcible spoon;
And hand in hand on the edge of the sand
They danced by the light of the moon.

~ “The Owl and the Pussycat,” by Edward Lear

 

 

   The recipe

 

This is exactly how I make quince jelly.

Firstly I wash and chop up enough whole quinces to fill my biggest pan, I don’t bother weighing them as I’m only interested in the amount of juice I have at the end.

I pour in enough water just to cover them in the pan.

I boil them until very soft, 2 hours or so.

I pour the whole lot into a pillowcase, previously sterilized by ironing.

I tie the top of the pillowcase with string and then tie the string to an upturned chair.

I place a large bowl or pan, big enough to catch all the drips, underneath and place a cloth over the whole thing to keep the flies off.

Leave to drip overnight.

Measure the amount of fluid you have in the pan next day and add appx 1lb/454g of white granulated sugar for each 1pt/570ml of juice. Throw in a few lemon scented geranium leaves and the juice of one lemon. Boil until it reaches setting point, I find this by spooning some of the juice onto a cooled plate and looking for the wrinkles on top. Don’t worry if you get the setting point wrong and you find your jelly’s not set the next day, just pop it back into the pan and boil again.

Remove the geranium leaves and spoon off any scum on the top.

Pour the, now beautiful red coloured, liquid into sterilized jars. I sterilize mine by boiling them for 10mins and then once filled with the hot liquid, screw the lids (also boiled with the jars) on tightly. I then turn the jars upside down and leave for about an hour before turning them upright again.

All done, just remember the jelly tastes better if you can leave it for a few weeks.

 

The tree.

 

Two years ago Mr J was asked to remove an inconvenient quince tree from a neighbors garden. Feeling sorry for the poor tree we found a space on the edge of our vegetable patch where a hole was dug and the tree, unceremoniously thrown in.

It’s first autumn was a success having produced a decent crop of fruit and now, in it’s second season the weight of fruit on it’s slim branches is threatening to rip it out by the roots.  The three bucketfuls I’ve already picked has eased the strain and produced, to date, ten jars of delicious jelly.

 

The Fruit

 

Coincidentally the Greek name for quince is κυδώνι,pronounced kee-THOH-nee (kydoni).It’s botanical name Cydonia originates from the area of Crete in which we live, now known as Chania.

The ancient Greeks associated the quince with fertility and it was offered during weddings as a gift to sweeten the bride’s breath, not that the groom would dare complain to a bride with a 2lb, rock hard fruit in her bag. And so it became known as the fruit of love.

There is nothing erotic or otherwise about it’s appearance, it’s furry, over sized apple, pear like looks don’t conjure up images of steamy passion, but it does smell wonderful.

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