Tuesday 20 July 2021

Aeolian Dreams

I am just longing to jump on a plane and spend a few days in Greece or puttering around the Aeolian Islands. Imagine those clear skies and azure blue seas and little tavernas by the seas with spanking fresh grilled fish, sizzling saganaki, a freshly chopped Greek salad - gorgeous sunny Summer food. I've never been to Greece in Winter but I also love those rich bean soups, lamb and beef stifados, and an occasional pork or wild boar and butter bean stew...

The closest I'll come to that in the near future is a trip down memory lane with Rosemary Barron's Flavours of Greece, originally published in 1991 but it has never gone out of print and has recently been republished by Grub Street.

Many books have been written on Greek food since then but Rosemary's book is still considered to be the most authentic and authoritative collection of Greek recipes.
In the 1980’s, Rosemary owned a cooking school in a 450 year old village house on the island of Crete, the first of its kind in Greece and described by Vogue as one of the best cooking schools in Europe. Her recent courses on Santorini explore the foods and flavours of Greek antiquity.

Greek summer dishes are just the sort of food I am loving at present. A selection of mezze to set taste buds tingling.

Mezze can be a simple or an elaborate selection, so easy to put
 together – 5 to 25 dishes...marinated Kalamata olives, chunks of feta or kefalotiri cheese, radishes, toasted salted almonds, taramasalata, hummus, broad beans, aubergine in many guises, spanakopittas (little filo pastry pies) stuffed with meat, vegetables or cheese, peppered figs, dolma wrapped in grape leaves, octopus, smoked eel, tiny fried fish....serve with lots of pitta or flat bread and a glass of crisp Greek wine. I’m also dreaming of Avgolemono - a delicate and comforting chicken and rice soup, light and refreshing for Summer evenings. 

I can virtually smell Souvlaki – chunks of pork marinated with juniper and coriander, a dash of red wine and lots of garlic and oregano charring over the charcoal…
Grilled Kephtedes (spicy beef and lamb patties) are also irresistible with a dollop of Tsatsiki and of course a Greek Salad - chunks of sweet ripe tomato, cucumber and spring onion dressed with gutsy Greek olive oil and freshly squeezed lemon juice. (Try making your own using one of my favourite recipes.)

A quick aside on marjoram and oregano, as there seems to be considerable confusion between them. There are several different forms: Common marjoram is a perennial, it re-emerges every year, but annual marjoram has an infinitely superior flavour and is closest to the Greek oregano. (see photograph). Annual marjoram, also known as knotty marjoram is closest in flavour to the Greek oregano. 

Follow with a platter of deliciously ripe
 fresh summer fruit and berries on a 
bed of fig or grape leaves served with some Mizithra cheese and Hymettus honey - divine.

Simple as it sounds, it can be very difficult to reproduce here in Ireland when it's so difficult to find ripe figs and stone fruit in summer but a platter of ripe fresh local berries would be sublime if you can find them.