In the fabric of life, traditions are the warp and weft that bind us together.
Experimentation – a forum for innovation and creativity – design and embellish the cloth.
That rather fanciful metaphor at the head of this post occurred to me after thinking about textiles in my latest post, Patchwork. Naturally enough, those thoughts spilled over into thinking about this month’s IMK post when I realised that both traditions and experiments are often woven together in my kitchen.
Last month in my kitchen began with the Greek tradition of cutting the vasilopita, the New Year’s cake in honour of Saint Basil. We had our own on New Year’s Day just after the stroke of midnight after smashing the pomegranate on the door step and hanging the new gouri-gouri ornament that I described in my last IMK post, In a White Kitchen. A few days after the staff returned from holiday, we assembled to cut another vasilopita. Like last year, we made two giant cakes – one a tsoureki style bread/cake flavoured with mastic, mahlepi and anise; the other an orange cake with buttercream icing. The buttercream was an innovation from last year and, thus, eliminated the powdered sugar sprinkled on clothing and carpets. You can catch up on this communal Greek tradition in my post from January 2016, Divides & Binding Traditions.
Remember a few months back when I reported on our unexpected olive harvest? We experimented with a brine and vinegar solution to cure the olives. Now to report: the slit olives absorbed too much salt too quickly and had to be put into clear water (with a little vinegar) so they would leach out some of the salt. They leached too much and we have a crop of rather bland and slightly soft olives, though they still have that excellent olive taste. Perhaps these will be used to make tapanades and other pastes where we can adjust by adding seasonings. On the other hand, the olives left whole fared better and these will be perfect just as they are. I have now been given several different (and more complex) instructions. A very complex issue here where everyone, it seems, has an opinion on the best and traditional way to cure olives.
I am also still experimenting with those endless egg whites – particularly after a foray into ice cream making which produced yet more of the stuff. A report on this subject soon – depending on success…something that has been rather elusive.
On the other hand, another experiment in the kitchen achieved instantaneous and positive results. Lovely old silver plate fish knives & forks were restored using an aluminium/baking soda bath.
I saw these little silver fish in the market and it reminded me of my post Silver Fish that explained how to easily and safely remove the tarnish from silver plate.
And, speaking of markets, we made one of our tri-annual trips to the massive warehouse that stocks all sorts of foodstuffs and paraphernalia that keeps Athens restaurants and catering services running. We stocked up on bulk supplies of cooking oil, flours, sugars, pastas, crates of tomato passata, giant bags of nuts and dried fruits, well…any manner of things that will store well. The car was absolutely packed on the return journey. The morning out in the industrial suburbs required me to put my feet up for the rest of the day.
The customary shopping style of our local laiki is more to my liking. Winter greens are back in full force in the market which means more tsigarista making!!!
These traditional Cretan sautéed greens would go perfectly with fish – so perhaps I will be able to use those silver plated forks and knives after all, reviving an old-fashioned practise.
Our annual marmalade making has commenced. The nerantzia, our bitter oranges, are ripe and ready for picking, despite their earlier dusting of snow.
This is also the first year my little potted kumquat tree has fruited. Experiments here, too, with kumquat marmalade with liqueur, trying a recipe posted by ladyredspecks@Please Pass the Recipe over 4 yesrs ago. Hint: Cointreau goes well with kumquats.
So, another year begins, the weather will turn fair then foul and back again and the seasons will slowly change. The garden continues to produce – hearty herbs, wild greens and citrus now with more tender warm weather produce to come. The laiki sets up its fruit and veg stalls every Friday, and friendly faces are still to be found. It is comforting to know that life goes on with its traditions and creative experimentation, particularly in these changing, challenging times.