Mostly In Other Kitchens

Most of last month was spent travelling, so I’ve been away from my kitchen. We had fabulous meals out – lots of fresh vegetables in addition to the usual fish and meat. I know others who travel sometimes search in vain for fresh vegetables. But, when you travel in Greece, vegetables are always on the menu. I am still dreaming of a vegetable platter we had as a seasonal meze – roast red peppers from Florina, delicately steamed baby broccoli, ruby beetroot wedges and perfectly cooked “greens” (vlita), laid out individually, all dressed with fresh green olive oil and served with quarters of lemon. You can always count on horiatiki being served in most places (except in the depth of winter where lettuce or cabbage salads predominate). Horiatiki is the standard Greek “village” salad of tomatoes, cucumbers and onions topped with a scattering of olives, and a dressing of fresh green olive oil, vinegar or lemon juice with a sprinkling of dried oregano. Sometimes a chunk of feta or slices of raw peppers are added for more flavour and colour.

If you are lucky, you will eat at a place that grows its own, providing super fresh produce. The countryside still has these wonderful tavernas that must have once been wayside inns – Ottoman hans – along old routes, now relegated to rural areas with the construction of faster modern highways that lead major traffic away. We happened upon one such wonderful place where the border of northern Thessaly and western Macedonia meet. The taverna is called Platanos after the huge plane trees that grow in its forecourt. Here we had what was the best souvlaki we have yet to come across – and of course a horiatiki that was quite likely fresh from their garden. You could see the veggies growing in a patch behind the taverna next to their chicken coop.

For the first week we were away, we had this view (below) from the kitchen/dining area of the house we rented with its large picture window. It was located on the coast of Lake Orestiada looking towards the town of Kastoria. I’m afraid we didn’t do a lot of cooking in the kitchen beyond brewing coffee to be sipped watching dawn over the lake. We are obscenely early risers. By 7 o’clock, the light was up and the birds are out – geese, ducks, pelicans and storks – and a tad later the rowers. This is one of the best lakes in Greece to row (scull) to train for the Olympics or the Balkan Rowing Championships.

One memorable meal in Kastoria (there were many) was at a lakeside place that specialised in mezedes (small plates), we had their version of fish n’ chips. It was beautifully battered salt cod (bakaliáros) and fried potatoes. Although, carp is the main fish that is found in Lake Orestiada, the locals tend to eat seafood brought in from the coast (including salt cod) or farmed trout that comes from nearby mountain streams. While eating our Kastoria fish n’ chips, a procession of geese waddled by. Goose was not on the menu.

On the further end of the same lake, we had a taste of an exceedingly ancient kitchen – at the reconstructed neolithic lakeside village of Dispilio. The reconstruction is based on the excavations of a neolithic site found nearby. Each one room hut would have been kitchen as well as living and sleeping quarters. To instruct school children who visit the place (it is part of the curriculum in local schools), a diorama was constructed in one of the huts to show life at the time – including the hearth, cooking pots and a grinding stone. Goose, other birds and fish were most likely on the menu here.

Further north (at the borders with Albania and FYROM), we headed into bean country to another lake. On Lake Prespa we lunched on trout accompanied by a fabulous bean salad. You can read a little about the Lake and Prespa Beans in my previous post.

Naturally, we brought kilos of Prespa beans back to Athens along with rye flour, barley flour and Macedonian mustard from a deli in Kastoria. Later, in Metsovo in the Pindos mountains, we stocked up on cheese, wine and hilopites, the latter a particular shaped pasta from Epirus. We’ve already made headway into the cheese and wine. The new INIMA range of Averoff wine takes its name from the Vlach word for soul – a very poetic name for superb wines. I’ll be posting more on Metsovo cheese in a post later this month.


We’re now gearing up for the new academic year, well stocked with northern supplies. We’ve also been sorting out the pantry here in Athens and discovered the barrel of olives we had brined last December, which I blogged about in that month’s IMK: In My Olive Kitchen. It had been set aside and nearly forgotten – a happy coincidence as it turns out. What we thought was a failure turned out to be a great success. Brining took its time to work its magic! Now we have a huge supply of very tasty Kalamata olives.

With any luck, more IN my [own] kitchen next month!

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.

23 comments

  1. Glad all was not lost with the home brined olives, they look great! Most Aussies who travel to Greece concentrate on Athens and the islands so I really enjoyed the snapshot of the countryside and the foods you enjoyed off the beaten track.

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    • It’s not just Aussies who concentrate on Athens, the Peloponnese and the islands! This is one of the reasons why we chose to travel north – to see something totally different. It was one of the best holidays we have had. It helps that my husband speaks fluent Greek! Those olives will certainly come in handy – plus they have a story to tell around the dinner table.

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  2. You have documented so many unusual foods here, or foods that are exotic and imported in our part of the world. Brining your own olives is impressive. Those Greek salads are so different from the so-called Greek salads in restaurants here in the USA! Beautiful photos, too… enjoy it when you get back to your own kitchen.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    • I’ve lived in a number of countries now and I can see that where one thing is common, it could quite easily be exotic in other places. That’s a fun part of travelling and living in other places – experiencing different foods. Brining olives was a first for me. Thanks for visiting, Mae.

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  3. That Neolithic village must be fascinating. wow those olives! they must taste great after brining for 9 months 🙂 I usually do mine for just a couple of weeks. I see not much has changed in Greece since we were there years ago. Cafes full of men doing nothing while the women are off working!:) Thanks for joining IMK this month. cheer sherry

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    • The neolithic village was fascinating, but I was glad we saw it on a day that school groups were not there! Brining olives was a new experience for me and I got so many different tips on how to proceed, that in the end I went with the simplest method which was pretty much leaving them alone rather than daily rinses. Greece does change, but some things are sacred – like the late morning coffee break for these farm workers at this taverna.

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  4. Those beans look fabulous and the sound of all those freshly picked and dressed vegetables makes my mouth water. Good to hear that the olives worked. Mine have been stashed since April and hope they behave the same way.

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    • I am relieved that the olive brining worked! I would have hated to throw them away. The lake at Kastoria is very beautiful as was the lake at Prespa a little further north. These are areas of natural beauty that many tourists miss. Definitely worth going to.

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  5. Debi, it’s fascinating to read about kitchens (and food!) whether you’re reporting from your own or not. Thanks for sharing a glimpse of “other” kitchens — that Neolithic one was a great find! Sounds like you’re stocked up for some fabulous “meze” with that soulful wine, Macedonian mustard, and your home brined Kalamatas among other things. Enjoy your coffee & sunrises… we’re doing the same thing here. 🙂

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    • The reconstructed neolithic village was a find – very interesting to see what the archaeologists have done – not fanciful and quite accurate. I really loved the thought of drinking “soul” wine from Epirus mountains. We are definitely enjoying the northern products. The cheese is almost half gone!

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    • I have to admit that I prefer the countryside to the cities. Exploring places in Greece that are not on the usual tourist trails is fantastic and you see such spectacular scenery. Veggies are always great in Greece. It’s now getting time for the cool weather ones – a variety of greens, beets, broccoli, fennel…

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    • Thanks, Shari. I tried to leave a message on your IMK, but it wouldn’t go through. Loved the way you used leftover oatmeal – particularly the pancakes. I’ve made Derbyshire oatcakes using leftovers, too. And, pumpkin pikelets are inspired. I guess you can tell that I have a thing for pancakes!

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