Wednesday, 30 October 2013

A Hearty Greek Meal

Briam (pronounced bree-ahm, with the stress on the second half of the word) is a traditional Greek baked dish that you'll find in the better traditional tavernas and in every respectable Greek woman's culinary arsenal. My better half makes a wicked Briam and did so just the other evening. It was so good that I decided that I'd be selfish to keep it to myself and, since whenever I shove a recipe on to the blog it usually gets a great response, here goes folks...

about 675gms of chopped courgettes
450gms cubed potato
1 red onion, chopped up small
3 cloves garlic
1 large red pepper, seeded and cubed
400gms or a can of chopped tomatoes
2/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil
2/3 cup of hot water
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 tablespoons chopped parsley (plus a sprig or two to garnish)
Seasoning (sea salt and ground black pepper)

Frankly, any vegetables you have to hand will do as a substitute for those referred to above. As you'll notice in the photo above, my resident chef will often throw in some broccoli and/or cauliflower for example.

Get your oven pre-heated to 190ºC and bung all those chopped vegetables into a large baking dish...

Mix it all together well, stir in the olive oil, hot water and oregano. Spread it all evenly in the tray and season it, before bunging it in the oven for about half an hour. Then take it out, stir in the parsley and a little more water. My wife often throws in fresh chives and basil too (above)...

 Whack it back in the oven for a further hour or so, setting temperature just a little higher, say about 200ºC for the last 15 minutes. Take a look and when the potatoes are brown it ought to be good and ready...

Serve it up in a large bowl with some fresh home-made bread if you've got some. Pitta would do just as nicely. With a little local red or white table wine to accompany it, you have yourselves a very hearty and extremely nutritious hot Greek meal for a dark autumn evening.

Incidentally, the pills are only herbal!! To help me sleep.

Sometimes I think I'm just far too good to you!! Well, actually, it ought to be my lovely wife who takes the credit really. But then, she'd kill me if she knew I'd shared this with you as she likes to keep these things to herself!

Thursday, 24 October 2013

Among The Rolling Hills

Van Morrison's album "Into the Music" is belting out full tilt on the hi fi. He's telling me about how he "writes his song with his pen" among the rolling hills, my wife's knocking up a simple salad to eat for lunch, along with the delicious loaf of local bread we've just picked up from the Sofos supermarket down the road and so, at just after 1.30pm, with the temperature hovering at around 29ºC in the shade outside, it's a mellow Sunday in October.

We have just returned from a two hour walk. We went down the lane (where we spooked about a hundred goats as we approached the herd), across the road and down to the beach. There we tracked along the beach road past the Paralia Taverna and a scattering of villas along the roadside, all facing the beach, then took the right up past the Kabanari Hotel, and back along the Gennadi-Lardos road, where we dropped into the cafe near the Sofos supermarket for a frappé.

Sitting in the café, sipping at our iced coffees, watching the comings and goings of people and cars, we spotted Pandelis, who runs the DIY store at Gennadi, as he drove into the parking area to pop into Sofos.

Pandelis and his wife Maria run a DIY store on the main road in Gennadi. The other evening we'd walked into their store just as they were preparing to close, which would be just as it was getting dark. Maria, short and full of girth, rose from her chair behind the desk on which is mounted their till and a host of other paraphernalia and gave us her widest smile and bade us sit down. We hesitated (we'd just wanted to say hello and not walk right past, thus prompting them to feel like we'd been rude); she was, after all, cashing up and no doubt anxious to get her feet up, but she insisted. Calling out to her husband, Pandeli, she asked how we'd been and if we still have work as the season draws to its close. As we were answering her question, the booming voice of Pandeli sounded through the store, "Aaaah, Kalos tous!!" he said as he appeared in the doorway at the far right end of the store. This was the door that led into another showroom area, three sides of which is glass and is well stocked with huge plastic pots of emulsion of various colours and quality levels.

Among the stocks of paint though, is also to be found a kitchen table, topped with the ubiquitous flowery oilcloth cover and attended by four wooden kitchen chairs. Pandelis had risen from this very table to come and say hello, still masticating some of his evening meal, which on this particular evening was pasta. Whatever time of day one may enter their store, there is usually at least one and sometimes a collection of various family members gathered around this table passing the time of day, most likely too over a drink or something to eat.

After we'd spent the appropriate amount of time talking with this humble and hospitable couple, we set out again and continued on our way.

It was to this occasion my wife referred as we saw Pandelis driving into the parking area while we were sipping our frappés. She remarked, with a degree of amusement, on how different the shopping experience was at Pandeli and Maria's from that of Homebase or B&Q in the UK. "Imagine," she said, "dropping into B&Q for a few washers and some adhesive or something and the staff are sat around a kitchen table eating lunch, pet dog at their feet, like it was their lounge or kitchen." It's an ideal situation for Pandelis and Maria though, since they treat the area of their premises in which they store their stocks of paint like a kitchen-dining room, and thus don't need to be too far away should a customer come in.

A little later, as we walked back up the lane to the house, we heard an engine and turned to see Manolis and Felitsia, the local goatherd and his wife, approaching in their 4x4 pickup. It's their home from home, as you'll know if you've read the chapter "High on a Hill" in volume two of the "Ramblings" books, "Moussaka to My Ears". they drew up alongside and Manolis wound down his window.

"Yia sas pedia," he said, to which we responded with a like greeting. Y-Maria asked, after we'd enquired as to their wellbeing and how their two sons were doing, "When's it going to rain then?" Manolis raised his head with the faintest hint of a "tch" on his lips, as if to say, "who knows?" Here in Kiotari, we've only had two days since last May on which it's rained. Both have been during this current month and neither time did it really come to anything. The lane had returned once more to its most dusty state, which basically means that it's a total impossibility to keep your car clean. Every time we pull up under the carport the rear end of the car looks like it's just had a bucket of dust tipped all over it. Plays havoc with your upholstery too. It gets inside the car whatever you do to try and keep it out.

Manolis and his wife are working overtime to provide their four hundred goats with sufficient water. The goats have taken to their usual late summer habit of rubbing themselves against the chain-link fence around our garden, in the hope that it'll give way and they'll be in like a shot to enjoy the rich, green tasty morsels within.

In fact, a few weeks back, during an afternoon siesta, their efforts paid off and they got in for the first time in about six years. At the far end of the orchard John (our landlord) parks his speedboat on its trailer and the fence has to be opened and closed to facilitate the boat's trips to the sea and back. Thus the fence has a weak spot at that point. The better half and I had retired to our bed at around 3.00pm, with a nice cup of Earl Grey and our books (one of life's absolute luxuries, especially when you throw in, or rather - dunk - a McVities digestive biscuit) and begun reading, awaiting that delicious moment when you feel yourself drifting off, which in my case is usually about five minutes after I start reading. Somewhere around 4.30pm we were awakened by the sound of a goat's bell. Now, that in itself isn't unusual, but the distinct impression that the goat is in bed beside you is, just a little.

I leapt starkers from the bed, tore into the kitchen and drew up the blind, hoping that the sound had just travelled owing to the afternoon peace and quiet. Aaaaaaargh!! Standing beside the car, not three feet from the kitchen window, was a huge male goat, horns and all (which don't work, which is why they wear bells - sorry, couldn't miss that opportunity, could I?) and he was munching cool as you like on one of our magnificent hibiscus bushes, scarlet flowers disappearing at a rate of knots.

By now Maria was also at my side and we took a milisecond to look at eachother, before diving back into the bedroom for something to put on before beating the bedroom-to-front-door dash record by several valuable seconds and tearing outside to try and minimize the damage.

There must have been twenty or more goats all across the orchard, plus four or five which had bounded the low picket fence between the orchard and our garden, all chewing away on the trees and our precious garden plants.

Now, when you have this kind of problem, ie: a herd of goats scattered all across your garden, you can't simple run screaming at them, in the vain hope that they'll go in the right direction, which is, toward the broken down section of fence where they'd first come in. No sirree. If you just run at a goat it simply looks at you for a split second, just to see if you're serious, then bounds away in the opposite direction from which you're approaching, which may not necessarily be in the right direction. It frequently causes other damage to your flower beds, stone walls or other garden stuff in the process too.

So, we had to think on our feet. We had to work in concert to come at them from such a direction as to ensure that they retreated toward the breach in the fence from whence they'd come. This necessitated me running the opposite way first, so as to come at them from behind the house. Some fifteen minutes and countless denuded geranium plants later, we'd finally got them all out and I was busy re-tying the fence back together with pieces of twisted wire, all the while cursing under my breath the fact that virtually all the citrus trees in the orchard had lost their lower leaves, both the vines had been reduced to woody twigs just a foot or two high and numerous lantana and other plants were looking like they'd been pruned with a very, like that's a verrrrrry, blunt pair of shears. Torn stalks, stems and branches were everywhere.

Flopping down into a couple of outdoor chairs we took stock. Ah, well, it could have been worse. Thank goodness for goat bells. Without those we'd have probably awoken much later to absolute carnage, instead of a hit and run quick lunch for the goats.

Standing in the lane a half a kilometer or so below the house talking with Manolis and Felitsia about the need for rain, we both knew not to bring up the subject of the recent caprine invasion. By the way, as a side point, did you know that the words "caprice", or "capricious" were coined from the word "caprine" - that is pertaining to goats. Why? because of their whimsical and impulsive behaviour. Sheep, bless 'em, will follow a shepherd. Goats far more often do their own thing. Come to think of it, I know a few caprine people.

Anyway, after we'd bade farewell to the goatherd and his wife, as they'd trundled on up the lane in search of their charges in a cloud of dust, we reflected on the thoughts we'd had when first we'd arrived here back in 2005. Yet another patch of wild hillside had been fenced off and turned into a private garden; wild hillside that Manolis' goats had been grazing for many years prior to our turning up. Yet even though this was the case, he and his wife had stood vigil before our fence was eventually completed to prevent their goats from invading our fledgling garden.

Not much later we were coming in through the garden gates and I for some reason found myself humming Van Morrison's "Among the Rolling Hills". You know how it is when that sort of thing happens, at the first opportunity you just have to dig out that album or specific track and play it.

Friday, 18 October 2013

One Hour on a Friday

We had occasion to drive down to Plimiri today, so I took the trusty iPad Mini along...

Kiotari, just near the Paralia Taverna, looking South

The beach at Plimiri. Someone had told me that I wouldn't recognise it, there was so much development going on. Well, I could have spotted it in the dark without a moon!! Yes, there is a new hotel complex behind the dunes, but it's not right on the beach (not yet!)

Plimiri "Harbour", much as it's been for years.

No folks, not Cornwall. Plimiri looking North just past the harbour wall.

And finally, the little traditional taverna just back from the harbour, where we keep promising ourselves we'll have lunch one day, but haven't managed it yet! There are just too many places, so little time...

Monday, 14 October 2013

Small Corners

Been up to town today and so I snapped a few pics in the Old Town. 
Hope they meet with your approval...

Temperature was 28-30ºC today. had a nice frappé in the "Courthouse" Café in Mandraki, then enjoyed a drink with Spiro and Maria at the Top 3 (see "Ideas" page) before doing some shopping and driving back home.

Wednesday, 9 October 2013

The Reluctant Mountaineer

I must say that the "sport" of mountaineering has never really held much appeal to me. I mean, the idea of hanging off of some huge boulder several hundred feet above ground with nothing but a thin nylon rope between me and certain death isn't my idea of a relaxing way to spend my leisure time. OK, yes, it makes for some stunning photographs in glossy magazines, but I still reckon that if God in his infinite wisdom had intended for us to do such things he'd have fitted our arms with rather more feathers than we presently possess.

That said, I had been staring up at the "Kastro" on Halki on and off for a couple of years before finally deciding that now was the time to get myself up there and take a shufty. This past Sunday we did what will probably prove to be the last Halki excursion of this season and, owing to the fact that the cold spell had finally killed off any of the remaining butterflies in Butterfly Valley, the excursion cut that part out and we found ourselves with more than five hours on the island of Halki instead of the usual three and a quarter. With the fact that the temperatures were only about 20+ in the sun and considerably lower in the shade (owing to a fairly "keen" wind) it seemed the perfect opportunity to walk the four kilometres from the harbour to the old abandoned "Horio" up on the mountainside below the kastro, and then on up to the fortification itself.

Armed with just my iPad Mini and a bottle of water, having left my rucksack at Levkosia's taverna for safe keeping, I strode up the lane away from the harbour-front, determined to see if what I'd been told by a German guest on one of my excursions of the 2012 season was true. This particular gentleman was probably somewhere in his sixties, travelling alone and wearing the kind of clothes and footwear that spoke volumes about what he liked to do. His shoes alone were enough to tell me that he was a walker. We hadn't been on the quayside for more than a minute or two when he'd enquired as to how long it would take to walk up to the kastro. Like, how would I know? I was only the escort after all. Anyway, he was graciousness itself when I owned up to having not the faintest idea, and promised me that he'd set off at a brisk walking pace in the 38ºC heat (this was August, after all) and would report back to me upon his safe return, should he in fact make one.

Make one he did. I was lazing at Levkosia's, the last few dregs of my Fix in the glass around which was wrapped my right hand, gazing out at the scene which never fails to entrance me, when this wiry gent in lederhosen (alright, so maybe I'm exaggerrating a bit there) returned in triumph. My plate revealing that I'd just enjoyed a sumptuous, leisurely lunch, he strode up and announced, "It vas easy. It only took one hour to reach the castle, and slightly less to make the return, since it was downhill coming back!"

This information had remained in my brain ever since and had on more than one occasion stood me in good stead when other guests had asked me if it was feasible to make it to the castle and back on foot during our stay. I could now reply with good authority that if one was fit and able and carried a bottle of water, one would make it to the top in about an hour. I kind of usually left out the bit that I hadn't actually done it myself. Well, the nearest I'd come until last Sunday was to go up to the Horio and along the opposite side of the valley in the minibus on the occasion when Zois from Babis taverna had taken myself, Grace and a clutch of slightly more indolent guests up there for a camera call.

So, anyway, here I was this past Sunday striding up through the village away from the harbour, intent on ending my period of mild hypocrisy. I was going to make it to the kastro, come what may. You know in advance that it's going to be a difficult climb since, as one approaches the island by sea from Kamiros Skala on Rhodes, you see the mountain on which the kastro stands rising like a pointy pinnacle sheer above the village, making the castle look quite small, even nothing more than perhaps a lookout tower. See above photo (courtesy of

Not long after leaving the inhabited harbour village behind, you descend the gentle slope down to Potamos beach, the easiest beach on the island from which to swim in the beautifully clear indigo waters with which the island is blessed.

As you pass the back of the beach, on the fairly newly concreted road, you come across this rather curious plaque on a small obelisk, right beside the road…

Apparently, it's to commemorate the fact that the descendents of the Halkiots who'd left the island in the mid 20th century and settled in Tarpon Springs, Florida, had financed the surfacing of the road leading up to the old village, the very place from which their ancestors had emigrated a few decades earlier. The Halkiot community in Tarpon Springs is apparently very close-knit and dedicated to preserving their Greek heritage and culture. Thanks Tarpon Springs people, it makes the walk which I am now undertaking a whole lot easier. It's difficult to walk too quickly at this stage because the views across the small bay of Potamos towards the windmills on the far ridge are so beguiling. I really love the light at this time of the year, because the sun's lower position in the sky produces these jewels on the surface of the water as it shimmers and twinkles in the bright daylight.

Now the road begins to rise as the gradient begins to steepen. When you wander the harbour area of Halki these days you'll spot various different-coloured wheely-bins. They are colour-coded because some are for plastic bottles, some for cans and others for paper. Yes, the island's "dimos" is trying to do its bit for the environment by recycling household waste. Of course, here in Greece one can be forgiven for thinking, "Yea, well, having the bins is one thing. Actually recycling the waste is quite another." Well, if you make this walk you can see the evidence that they really are following through with the process, because a few hundred metres further up the lane from Potamos beach you pass the council's recycling yard on your right and, sure enough, there is the evidence in the shape of a crushing machine, which is surrounded by bales of crushed cans, plastic bottles and compressed paper and card, not to mention a few curious goats. Bravo Halki Dimos I say. The yard may not be the most photogenic part of this island, but it represents a responsible attitude toward the environment that other islands would do well to follow. These bales are awaiting shipping to Athens for further processing by the way.

As the gradient steepens my sweat glands begin to respond accordingly. It may not be the hottest day of the year, but striding up the lane briskly still induces that hot feeling. I take a deep swig from my bottle of water and turn to look back at how far I've come…

Already the view across to Rhodes is starting to look impressive and I've barely climbed to any appreciable altitude as yet. I turn around and press on. As I draw closer to the abandoned village above the road begins a series of tight hairpins, approximately fifty metres from turn to turn. In order to maximise my progress as I climb, I take the "racing line" from corner to corner. After all, there's no traffic up here today. Wait, I spoke too soon. After a couple of these hairpins I hear the sound of a vehicle engine, combined with the thumping of music from an in-car hi-fi. I can hardly believe this. I'm half-way up a mountain on a tiny Greek island and I believe I'm hearing some young "πάλι κάρι" [pally ka'rry - young (usually unmarried) kid, as in "cool dude hanging out"] with his windows open and his mindless "house music" or some-such pounding away while he taps his fingers on his steering wheel.

I am wrong, thank goodness. Looking back I see hurtling up the lane towards me a Japanese pickup, with the driver's window wound all the way down and as the vehicle draws nearer I can make out the music much easier. It's a bouzouki I hear, not some rapper shouting the odds. Unable to see the driver for the sun reflecting on the front windscreen, I shield my eyes as he zooms past me and am a little surprised to hear him blow his horn and the elbow that had been sticking out from the driver's window is transformed into a waving hand. Is this simply a matter of Halkian friendliness, or do I know this man? The answer comes sooner than I'd have expected as, just a hundred metres or so further up the lane, the pickup screeches to a halt and my good friend Mihalis, who runs Levkosia's taverna with his mother, the redoubtable Levkosia herself, jumps out, throws me another wave and shouts "Ya'sou Gianni!! Ola kala!?" I hardly have time to answer before he's off down the boulder strewn hillside beside the road and lost among the olive trees.

There I had been, for a split second, about to ask myself why my friend hadn't offered me a lift (which I'd have declined anyway), when it becomes apparent that he wasn't going far enough beyond my location before stopping. Quite what he is doing is to become a little clearer later on.

I press on past his empty pickup, engine still running and bouzouki music still pounding out from the open window at a decibel level of which any young "dude" would have been proud. Twice more before I reach the old village my friend passes me and a similar scene is played out, each time with Mihalis striding off into the countryside beside the road. But, after he's passed the turning for the village and proceeded up the other side of the valley, I realize what he's doing and why he's going about it in earnest. He's gathering his flock of sheep, which until now have been scattered all across the hillsides on both sides of the valley. As he steps and jumps from boulder to boulder, stick in hand, he calls to his charges. Listen…

No you can't see him, but it's his voice you can hear.

This moment, listening to my friend doing something that men have done since time immemorial on these slope and countless others like them all across this land, I am stilled, my steps halt and I reflect. How amazing to be somewhere where I can hear the shepherd's voice and, better still, begin to see as his sheep respond and, assembling from all points around the amphi-theatre of hills in which I stand, trundle across the terrain in twos and threes until a discernible line of woolly bovines can be seen making their way obediently up the steep, craggy hillside to their unseen pen somewhere over the ridge, all the while to the background of their shepherd's calls. Why, I could be standing here at any point in time from the past three thousand years, if you take away the sight of a bunch of plastic barrels in that pen over there of course.

Turning to face uphill once again I spot something else that gives me a tingle. There, to my right and just across the lane from the entrance to the old village is its abandoned chapel and graveyard. Graves that have lain there for centuries still stand in silence as the October wind whistle between them under the intense sun and I find myself wondering about the folk lying beneath. How they in their time had loved, eaten, farmed, herded, laughed, toiled and died and all many decades before I was born.

"Come on Johhny boy," I tell myself, "onward and upward." I gaze up across the impossibly steep slope on which the village stands at the Crusader Fortress looming high above. I've got to find my way up there somehow. I glance at my watch. I'd left the harbour-front at 11.05 and it is now 11.40. Do I think I'll make it to the top in twenty minutes? If my German friend from the previous year is to be believed then it has to be possible. Doesn't look it mind you. I strike up through the village, my heart pounding under my ribs as I negotiate the steep pathways between houses now devoid of roofs. Where a roof once sheltered humble, hardworking people from both the merciless sun and the biting wind of winter there now flourish mature olive and fig trees.

I notice, however that there is electricity up here and I know why. Not only do the islanders from below come to the village annually for an August festival, but there are also a few who have begun to renovate these old properties for their aging family members to spend time up here in the cooler temperatures afforded by the altitude on long hot oppressive summer days. The views become ever more spectacular and a buzzard circles in the deep blue over my head as I climb ever upward. Now conscious of two other couples not far above me, all bent on the same goal as me.

A small, recently renovated church looks so photogenic that I just have to snap it…

Pretty soon I catch up with the first pair, a young French couple who are struggling to make sense of the many potential paths which may lead one to the summit and the castle's entrance. More than once we, now walking together, think we've struck the correct path, owing to the fact that it's newly paved, only to find that it ends in a sheer drop.

Finally, the other couple yet further above us call down to us. Well, the man does anyway. He's older than any of us three, probably in his mid-sixties, also French, and very fit-looking. Which is just as well because anyone not in good shape would never make this climb. Already I feel as though I'm hanging off the edge of a mountain and beginning inwardly to question whether this was such a good idea. Above us there appears to be just a jumble of rocks and boulders, none of which looks particularly easy to clamber over and there is no clearly discernible route from this angle at all. The older man, whose head only is visible over a boulder several metres above, encourages us by telling us that if we just go a little to the right, then take a left, we'll see the route to the top…

Suddenly, within about fifty metres of the top, we see this inscription

Can you see a pathway here? It's there, believe me!
 Finally, with the cool wind whipping through my regulation TUI polo shirt, I follow my two new friends under a wooden scaffolding, up a few more metres of slippery, stony ground and we arrive at the castle's entrance. How on earth anyone managed to build a fortification up here heaven only knows.

Once we step through the narrow entrance into what would have once been a kind of lobby, we step through yet another small door, no doubt built that way to inhibit the progress of would-be invaders and we're into, or rather, onto the castle proper. I say "onto" because to the South there are virtually no remaining walls, thus affording the footsore explorer magnificent views of the South Western coastline of the island of Rhodes a few miles away. Once you're inside the structure of the castle it becomes apparent that it's not as small as it looked from way down below. It's very elongated and thus covers much more ground, or rather crag, than one would imagine when viewing it from the waters of the harbour whilst making an approach to the island.

So, folks, this is what you get for your trouble…

The chapel is being renovated as it once held an icon which is now kept in the church on the waterfront in the harbour several kilometres below. How on earth they're getting the work done I can't begin to imagine. Not after the climb we five have just made.

Well, I've snapped a way a while and checked my watch to find that I did indeed scramble up on to this pinnacle almost one hour to the minute after setting out from the harbour below. I should never have doubted my intrepid German guest from last year. If only I could talk to him now and tell him how accurate had been his report. So it's time to attempt the descent. I omitted to mention that, during the ascent from the village to the castle itself there were sections where one had to negotiate steep walkways of timber planks, laid laterally and with laths nailed on to their top surface to stop the walker from slipping and sustaining certain serious injury. I stared out of the entrance and snapped this before beginning my descent…

Yes, that IS the only way down…
 After having nearly slipped down those wooden walkways at least twice and imagined calling an air ambulance to pluck me from the mountainside, I finally make it back to the old village and thence to the road. I am half-way back down the lane to the beach at Potamos and out of nowhere Mihalis bounds out of the undergrowth on to the lane beside me, a huge smile cracking his well tanned face.

We talk for a moment or two and I tell him that my rucksack's in his taverna and ask if he'll also be there today. He replies that yes, he'll be there directly, after he's trekked back across the hillside to the pickup where he left it and nipped home for a shower. He tells me that there had been a run on lamb from the menu and thus he'd not only had to round them up but choose a couple to be prepared for the table, whereupon I tell him he's a true "voskos" (old Greek for shepherd). He laughs his agreement and says "ta leme amesos" before trotting off once again, after explaining that he can't give me a lift because the pickup's now somewhere across country and he has to run to reach it in his old yet still sturdy cross-country boots. My footwear whilst good for walking, isn't good enough to spare me a broken ankle were I to try to keep up with him.

Almost two hours exactly after I'd set out, I stride back, sweaty yet satisfied, into Levkosia's taverna in anticipation of a well-earned lunch of kalamari and chips, washed down with a large beer. As I approach the doorway of the taverna, Mihalis emerges, all smiles, and welcomes me without the hint of a sign suggesting he's registered my wonder at how quickly he'd made it back to the pickup, dashed home and showered and then arrived here to bid me welcome, whilst exuding the impression that he'd been there all along.

Note: Don't forget, that by clicking on any of the photos you get a larger view. Right-clicking on the larger view gives you the option to "view image". once in that mode you should get the magnifying glass with a little plus sign in it, which means you can click for a larger view again, thus giving you a very high definition version which may even need moving around your screen in order to see it all. This definitely works in Firefox, dunno about other browsers though - JM.)

Saturday, 5 October 2013

Putting Jack in a Flap

I know, I know, it's a piece of cake. Well, no, actually, it's a piece (in fact loads of them) of Flapjack. Or, in the case of many residents of that huge country across the pond, pancakes. Pancakes? Where are you comin' from guys? In the UK a pancake is a Crèpe (well, almost). Not an oat in sight.

Anyway. Simple it may be, but, since my wife makes arguably the best flapjacks in the UK-English-speaking world, I'm gonna share her secret with the rest of you. If you've ever wondered how a big huge man like me (I can dream) gets from 6.30am (breakfast) on a Friday, when he does the Halki trip in summer, to around 1.30pm, when he finally gets to eat at one of his fave tavernas on Halki harbour-front, without flaking out from starvation, this is the answer.

My beautiful and considerate wife (a few points scored there then) regularly sets to in the kitchen, regardless of the heat generated by what she's about to selflessly do, even in the heat of July or August, to produce a batch of flapjacks, just so that her hardworking (LOL) hubby doesn't collapse from malnutrition whilst out on his excursions twice or three times a week. 

Now, I know that there are zillions of recipes for Flapjacks, but to be honest, by far the majority will have you suffering from diabetes within the week - they're that sweet. So, my thoughtful and ever-health-conscious, better half adjusts the ingredients to significantly reduce the sweetness, thus bringing out the flavour of the other ingredients, whilst also sparing me the bother of having to source huge quantities of insulin in later life. So, here goes folks, a recipe!!!

Flapjacks à la Y-Maria:
300gm butter 
(she doesn't use "marge", which is only a molecule away from petroleum, read this and be very afraid)
You can use olive oil instead of butter, if you want to be even healthier. The taste is almost identical, but the slices do tend to fall to pieces rather too readily.

300gm of healthy runny thyme honey 
(you can use whichever type you like, only make sure it's not the mass-produced sugar-processed stuff that sells really cheaply in supermarkets)

600gm of porridge oats 
(which the Greeks rather charmingly call Kwacker, after the fact that they usually only see oats for sale in cardboard tubes with the brand name Quaker on them! We, of course, have a regular chain of supply smuggled from the UK of oats in sacks from Tesco, Asda or Sainsburys!!)

Teaspoon of Cinnamon

Dates, or mashed banana - included in the honey weight allowance.

Melt the butter, add the honey (and whatever) and cinnamon, beat with hand whisk until a bit caramel-ish. Then add the oats and mix well.
Place in a tin, the one Y-M uses is 22x29cm and it's this one...

Yea, it's pretty battle-scarred, having served faithfully through many a culinary campaign. But still serving faithfully nevertheless.
Once it's all evenly spread in the tin, shove in a pre-heated oven set to 180ºF (82ºC) and bake for 20 minutes. Cut when warm, remove to cool when, ...well, ...not quite as warm! Be prepared to slap away partner's hands as they reach for a sample before you're ready to allow such a thing.

So, when I reach the Butterfly Valley at, say 9.00am on a Friday, I'll cheerfully send my guests off to explore, grab a frappé from the kiosk and head back to the coach, where I extract my small tupperware container from my rucksack and tuck in. 

Flapjack and frappé. Who says there isn't a God?

Thursday, 3 October 2013

A "Commoner"?

Thought you might like to share our appreciation for this current resident of our garden. It's known as a "Common Swallowtail" and is very rare in the UK. Evidently some East Anglian fens occasionally host a small population. 

It's rather demeaning to call this magnificent creature common though, don't you think? I rather think he's one of nature's royalty!

Common Swallowtails are found across most of Europe and normally fly from April to September. Here we are, 28ºC in the shade on October 3rd, and this beauty evidently enjoys the free lunch he gets from the nectar of our Lantana flowers...

On the evening of September 21st, we played host to some friends for an al fresco dinner. They all tucked into the superb Moussaka which Kyria Levkosia, from Halki, had very kindly made for me to bring home with me. See this post.
Before they came I thought I'd snap the dinner table, laid in readiness for the guests to arrive...

I'm glad to report that everyone present commented that they'd never eaten such a good Moussaka. 

Kyria Levkosia's reputation is intact folks.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Worth a Thousand Words

In the recent post "Of Moussaka and Men" I mentioned that I'd had the privilege of meeting Graham and Wendy Clarke, from the UK. Graham is a very interesting and personable man whom I took an instant like to. He put me in mind of Captain Birdseye with a dash of that bloke who's supposed to climb down chimneys in late December but, what really shone was his propensity to smile frequently. 

He's also very creative as you can see from taking a peek at his very good website, which is here. To be accurate, that link takes you to his page about his Greek artwork. There is also a lot of other stuff there if you go back to his home page. His illustration called "Octopolis" which is loosely based on the harbour at Halki is a joy to study. You can click on it and get a much larger view once you get to that page which I've linked above. 

The other work you'll see on the right of that page is his highly entertaining and extremely beautiful book called "Octopolis to Halki" which is packed full of amusing notes and clever illustrations around the theme of that most beautiful of islands. A few examples...

I really like his style and I hope you do too. Graham and his wife Wendy have been visiting Halki for many years and it's quite understandable. Very few people who go there come away without having fallen for the place.

If you do check out Graham's web site I'd suggest you have a good riffle (I do so hate that word, as it's pronounced rifle, but spelt as though it ought to read riffle as in "piffle". It breaks the rules you see!)  through all the pages as it's very absorbing!

If you'd like a print of something Greek on your wall that's just a little different, yet exudes the spirit of the place, or indeed a splendid and fairly-priced illustrated book about Halki on your coffee table, you could do a lot worse than avail yourself of something by Graham Clarke.