In an Athens Holiday Kitchen

A roundup of our first Christmas and New Year in Athens: Since all of my antique and vintage Christmas decorations are back in the UK, it was IKEA for Christmas baubles – my first fake (flat pack – naturally) Christmas tree ever. Makes sense here in this slightly warm climate (20 degrees C on Christmas Day) – no needles dropping. Plus, handy battery operated lights. And, it is amazing what a can of gold spray paint can do. Things from the garden – pine cones,  flower-like oleander leaves  and box hedge sprigs – were covered with mettalic glitter. Bay leaves from recent pruning and cypress foliage provided the greenery.Orangey rosehips complemented the arrangements. A mini Christmas tree was made from folding a magazine (naturally spray painted gold) topped with a toothpick star. The latter is definitely a regression to childhood. I vividly remember making these from old telephone books back in primary school – too many years ago.


In the kitchen, there was a modest amount of baking. First, S made a huge double batch of melomakarona, one of the two traditional Greek Christmas cookies. The house was pleasantly scented with cinnamon for days after! We also discovered just how quick and easy it is to make florentines, although I would call these “cheat” florentines, not being a true chewy florentine, but more of a macaroon type of biscuit. We added chopped glacé cherries and candied citrus peel to the slivered almonds, confectioner’s sugar and egg white mixture. Dark chocolate drizzled on with the tines of a fork after baking adds the final “elegant touch”. Plus, my usual shortbread. The cookie stamps came with me – a little bit of home here in Greece.


Masses of mini nutty oat cakes were also made using the wonderful recipe from Sandra @ Please Pass the Recipe. They were topped with a smear of Stilton (direct from Britain) and a slice of ruby red quince (also a recipe from Sandra). These are now my favourite little finger foods to serve with drinks.


The American Farm School in Thessaloniki ships out their organic turkeys across the country for Christmas. However, I am still getting used to the monster catering oven – or blast furnace, more like – and the turkey was a tad bit on the brown side. Consequently, not entirely photo worthy, but still delicious. Our Christmas excursion made up for the turkey singeing – graceful Sounion by the Attic sea where we played spot the Byron graffiti on the temple. Little quails bobbed and scurried around the site reminding me that game – boar, venison, pheasant, and (yes) quail – also appear in the markets for the holiday season. Boar pot-roast soon…on the stove top, I think.


As a Christmas gift, we were presented with bottles of Greek wine for us to expand our knowledge of the wide variety of quality wine the country is producing. We’ve been enjoying it and I’ve been doing a bit of research into the ancient grape varieties. More, I hope, on this theme later.


For good luck, a friend gave us a Greek γούρι-γούρι (“gouri-gouri”) charm for 2016 to hang in the kitchen. Γούρι simply means luck and by repeating the word, it reinforces it – like the word for good, καλά, transforms into very good by uttering καλά-καλά. These little ornaments are everywhere, in all the shops, at this time of year.


We also participated in the ceremonial cutting of a massive Vasilopita, the New Year’s bread, and the smashing of a pomegranate on the door step at a friend’s house where we celebrated the New Year. A second pomegranate met our own doorstep when we returned home in the wee hours of the morning. Again for good luck in 2016. My lovely new ceramic pomegranate, however, will not be sacrificed. I’m thinking of starting a New Year collection.


Wishing everyone health, wealth and prosperity for 2016.

A monthly IMK (In My Kitchen) post. Check out other IMK bloggers, each of us writing about what’s been happening in our kitchens each month, hosted by Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef. For earlier IMK posts, see the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who, began the IMK phenomenon and until 2016 listed all of us IMK bloggers. A chronological listing of my In My Kitchen blog posts can be found on a separate page, just click the link or look under the heading of Diaries in the Menu bar above.


  1. A lovely visit to your Athenian kitchen Debi, you were beautifully creative with your Christmas decorations, it’s amazing how gold paint transforms the most mundane of things. I feel really chuffed that the recipe I publish are used, thanks for the shout out X 2. A delicious Happy New Year xx

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  2. It sounds like you had a wonderful and very Greek Christmas. I love the little γούρι-γούρι ornaments – may I wish you γούρι-γούρι repeated times 365 for this year Debi.
    Although I don’t eat Turkey, I cooked a free range breast this year and wrapped it in muslin to bake- a technique recommended by Stephanie Alexander, to use on a whole bird or breast, to keep things moist. My mother assures me it was the best Turkey she had eaten. I ate a morsel – it was OK, but rather bland as far as poultry goes and the free range chicken tasted better to me.
    I also love the look of all your biscuits and when the temperature cools a little, maybe in April, I must give them all a go.


  3. I LOVED visiting your Athenian kitchen and tried to put myself in a situation where I would have to make or buy everything for a holiday celebration. You win, hands down. I swooned over your pomegranate and the good luck charm.

    Thanks for being a part of In My Kitchen this month!


  4. As much as I enjoy a real tree, artificial is so much more convenient. Those (%@^#&!) needles alone were enough to drive me to distraction. Beyond the tree — and making allowance for your blast furnace oven — it sounds like your had a wonderful, cookie-filled Christmas.Yay!


  5. Adore this glimpse of Christmas in another land – it all sounds perfectly relaxing and delicious. Your creativity with the decorations makes me want to whip out the gold spray paint right now. Happy New Year.


  6. Got me Debi! I thought that beautiful pomegranate was a hand painted number. I actually think they would decorate well, might try. Not sure why, but my mental image of Greece didn’t have Ikea in it, but why wouldn’t it? Those oat cakes are a hit with a few of us it seems. γούρι-γούρι to you for 2016! Cheers, Maree.


  7. Such lovely decorations you made, gold paint seems to do wonders! I can understand the attraction to artificial trees but I still can’t give up the smell of a real pine, even if I am cleaning needles for a month or so after Christmas! Such a delicious looking Greek Christmas, despite oven issues. Love the ceramic pomegranate, I wouldn’t sacrifice that either.


  8. Debi, I enjoyed reading and seeing your Christmas in Greece! Glad you brought a tiny bit of home with you (cookie stamps) — even the littlest ‘familiar’ thing has a way of tying together the old and new and turns a celebration into the best of both. Your decorations look wonderful! Thanks for the link to Sandra’s cracker recipe, too — I like how you served them. Must make!


  9. […] We have adopted a few Greek New Year practices and, as we did last year, we cut the Vasilopita then smashed a pomegranate on the doorstep and put up a new γούρι-γούρι charm for 2017 in the k…. Ten little matia (evil eyes) on the tree of life should keep us protected throughout the […]


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