Everywhere But In My Kitchen

This last month has whizzed by and from what I can remember, not much of it was spent in my kitchen. Except, early in the month kitchen prep was dominated by traditional foods for Easter. Being a movable feast, it only happens occasionally – like this year – that both Western and Orthodox Easter are on the same day. Naturally, we dyed eggs the typical crimson (representing the blood of Christ) on the Thursday before. The weather was lovely and the chicken basket with its eggs looked more at home roosting out of doors.

Friday was the day for Hot Cross Buns – remembering our Anglo-Saxon heritage.

But, the night was out of doors again for the Orthodox tradition of the candle-lit epitaphio at our nearby monastery. We’re waiting for the procession of the icon to begin.

Saturday was prep work for the Sunday feast. Kalitsounia (Cretan Easter cheese pies) were made this year using a softer dough than I made before. Much better, I thought.

By the time of the Easter feast we moved out of the kitchen again. Goat chops were barbecued outdoors on the grill.

The buffet table groaned with communal offerings, as seen after the hungry hoards made their first foray. Mine was the gigantes – giant baked beans – and the platter of cooked chicory (harvested from our garden) served with lemon wedges.

Then, almost immediately, we were off to the island of Chios for a short break. The kitchen in our little holiday flat – newly done inside a medieval building – sported these very popular handmade tiles I’ve seen in other places. I think they are manufactured in Rethymno, Crete. They seem to be a modern mix of older styles, mismatched – almost like patchwork – in an interesting way.

The only thing created in this kitchen was morning coffee. We were off exploring and sampling local cuisine – much of it flavoured with mastic, a hardened resin from the evergreen Pistacia lentiscus tree. These mastic trees only grow in the southwestern area of this island – and its resin is only harvested in this small corner of the world.

So, a lot of food flavoured with mastic was consumed – like the chicken pieces rolled in ham and cooked in a mastic cream photograped below. I’m experimenting with sauces at the moment based on our experiences, so perhaps there will be a post or two coming up.

Meanwhile, I’ve collected many photos of doors from the interesting mastic villages (known collectively as the Mastichochoria) where the ‘tears’ of hardened sap are harvested. My Doors of the Mastichochoria series is designed to give a little insight into the mastic growing area of Chios. (Plus, they serve as an outlet for a new hobby – door spotting). The village of Mesta has been posted, but others from Pyrgi, Olympoi and Vessa are in the works.

Just back from that wonderful break and adjusting to cooking in my kitchen again: supply of mastic included.

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 Sherry @ Sherry’s Pickings. Earlier IMK posts can be found on former IMK host blogs: Liz @ Bizzy Lizzys Good Things, Maureen @ The Orgasmic Chef) and the fabulous Celia @ Fig Jam and Lime Cordial who began the IMK phenomenon. 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.
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25 comments

  1. I’m very keen to learn how to use Mastic, an ingredient that sits on the shelf in our Greek influenced supermarket in Brunswick. Any posts you do with Mastic will be devoured. I love that sink/basin next to the BBQ- just perfect. Nice Easter Spread. Bringing along a dish to a communal feast is the best way to go.

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    • Until we went to Chios, I only ever had mastic in holiday breads/cakes and in the popular mastic ice cream. I like the former, but not the latter. I’ve now had the spice in a number of savoury dishes – usually as a mastic flavoured butter/oil or in creamy sauces. It is more versatile than I originally thought. The BBQ pit here is fabulous and we use it for collective dinners throughout the warm weather – starting now!

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  2. Wow Deb. so many wonderful things in your kitchen. i love those mismatched tiles- so fabulous. and all that lovely food for easter. and what about that exquisite church? the red eggs are a delight to the eye. do you use/eat them after? I don’t think i have ever had mastic in any form. does it have a particular taste? those doors are a wonder. and your easter pies look so tasty. thanks for joining in.

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    • Hi Sherry, I’ve been seeing those tiles everywhere we go. They certainly are popular here and I’ve also looked up the web site of the manufacturer in Crete. They have some fabulous tiles, including some rather pricey ones that look just like Turkish rug. The church is in a monastery not far from my home – definitely Byzantine in origin and it is very lovely. The trick to red eggs is to use the brown eggs to dye them and you polish them in olive oil after the dye has dried. I eat them after, but then I also make sure that they are refrigerated before hand. Many people here simply dye them and leave them out in the heat as decoration. It is the Greek custom to take and egg and knock it against one that someone else holds – if it does not crack, you will have good luck. Kind of like Christmas Crackers! Mastic is an acquired tasted, kind of like rose water or orange blossom water, and should be used in small quantities. More doors of Chios mastic villages coming up!

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  3. Your descriptions and photos of this island are wonderful and delightful. I recently read a book about the Greek islands but it had few photos — this is better!

    sincerely… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    • The trick to the eggs is to start with brown eggs and to polish them with olive oil afterwards. Mastic does not appeal to all and I’m having a hard time to come up with a description of its taste, but one thing it is not is sweet. It’s kind of piney (but not really) peppery (a bit), bitter (a little, particularly if you use too much). I think of it as an acquired taste. It is used particularly in holiday breads and cakes, but people are now using it in savoury dishes as well. We’ll see what I come up with!

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  4. I’m loving the cultural connection you are making in your posts, and admit to be a tad envious that you were immersed in a real Easter rather than it being an excuse to have a holiday, not that I’m religious, it’s just the continuance of tradition I enjoy. I tried a mastic flavoured dessert once, wasn’t a big fan so I’m keen to see your posts using it

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    • It would be a shame if I wasted our time here in Greece and didn’t make these cultural connections. It’s fun, too, exploring something different. I am also not so religious, but do like anything traditional. Mastic – particularly when too much is added – can be overpowering and not to everyone’s taste. I detest mastic ice cream, but I use it sparingly in my Greek holiday breads and I’ve now had it in savoury sauces which (in my opinion) is much better. We’ll see what I come up with!

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    • The HCBs were a bit hit here. I had to keep making batches of it. I posted my recipe for it just before Easter. The tiles really catch the eye and I really like how they’ve taken old patterns and made this patchwork style floor.

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    • More Mastichochoria doors coming up this month. I’m spacing the posts out and mixing them with other things fir a bit if variety. Glad you liked them. I find the colours and textures very beautiful + the stories behind them.

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  5. So much to love in your kitchens not the least of which are those fabulous mismatched tiles. I laughed when you said the only thing prepared was the morning coffee. We have been travelling and I insisted on a kitchen but did little prep as we grazed away across South Australia. Still, to have some plates and a good knife handy is always a bonus as is space to move. Love that chicken basket – yes, very much at home outdoors.

    I’m back from a break from blogging and reading blogs so enjoyed reading your post. Thanks for sharing.

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    • I do agree about having a kitchen when you travel! Morning coffee for us is essential – caffeine addiction driven, no doubt. Plus, we are early risers and nothing is open at that time. I would go spare! We plan our day over that coffee and emerge when things begin to wake up around us, ready to explore. The tiles are great, aren’t they? We all need breaks – in life and blogging – now and then, but I’m glad you’re still participating in our blogging community. Thanks for reading!

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  6. Debi, it was such fun “following you around” during your movable feast! Each event was significant and added to the following ones… thank you for your beautifully written explanations. Looks like your “gigantes” and chicory were popular items on the buffet table! The grilled goat chops and mini cheese pies and mastic “Cordon Bleu” were enticing, too. Belated Happy Easter!

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    • Happy (very) belated Easter, too, Kim. We had a wonderful feast and then like magic (though in fact by plane) we were transported to the island of Chios where we had a wonderful time. Spring in Greece is my favourite time – pre tourist season when it is still cool, but alternately sunny with blue skies.

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  7. What a delicious looking Easter feast! The tiles are simply gorgeous, I’m quite jealous. Sadly we didn’t get around to coloring or decorating any eggs this year, your’s look lovely.

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    • The Easter feast was delicious and as usual, too much food! The eggs were easy to do – the standard red food colouring with a little vinegar in hot water. When cool, they were polished with a little olive oil which I think gives them a lovely shine.

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