A general characteristic of November in Athens is the change of weather. It gets cold. Out comes the duvet from storage and I find myself reaching for a cardigan to wear during the day. Perhaps my northern blood is beginning to thin in the 2+ years we have been in Greece. Whatever the cause, comfort food is required at this time of year. Soups register quite high on the list. Recently I made a fantastic sweet potato, coconut milk and coriander soup, a smooth warm orange colour. It is based on my spicy Thai-inspired homemade fish stock.
And since we had some chicken bones lingering in the freezer left over from making a Moroccan tagine, I dug them out and made stock. Instead of simply tossing the bones in water with a few veg, I roasted everything first to concentrate and deepen the flavours before boiling it up – a technique used more commonly with beef or lamb bones. It makes a darker coloured stock that tastes a little like roast chicken. It will probably became the basis for a tagine inspired soup, filled with chickpeas and Moroccan spices. Absolutely what is required for a dull grey day.
To offset that spicy food, I’ve been making sorbets and sherbets suitable for winter – citrus certainly, but also other flavours like chocolate and coffee. Even though it is cold, sorbets and sherbets are another form of comfort food. A new purchase for the kitchen are my rather beautiful Sabatier ice cream scoops. They have a lovely curvy shape. More importantly, they are very robust, eliminating the problem of bent handles that cheaper ice cream scoops are prone to. The pair of Sabatier scoops will also replace my large scoop with its wide head that tends to produce broad ribbons rather than neat little scoops.
While sorbets and sherbets are my sweet comfort food of choice, the addition of cake is always welcome (particularly when served à la mode).
Recently, a sign outside of a cake shop in my neighbourhood in Athens caught my eye. It read: “Skinny people are easier to kidnap. Stay safe. Eat cake 🍰”. Certainly an innovative advertising gimmick, although it did make me wonder what the statistics of kidnapping in the area actually were. And, a more sinister thought, why was it written in English? Perhaps they mean we should comfort eat cake just to avoid thinking about it? Very sly.
Meanwhile, in my own kitchen, more amaretti and nutty macaroon baking has been going on. This time I managed a photo of chocolate covered walnut macaroons and (wonderful) almond “amaretti” macaroons before they were all gluttonous eaten. Very moreish. They are a perfect accompaniment to those sorbets and sherbets. Great little holiday treats, too.
Despite those visions of
sugar-plums moreish macaroons dancing in my head, I’ve been grounded with the lovely root veg in the market. Beetroot is a particular favourite of mine. I’ve been dreaming up more soup – a classic Borscht, perhaps. And, those earthy tasting beet greens might be brilliant in a comforting risotto.
Then there is my variation on Bill’s beetroot, potato and chive tarts topped with goat cheese. It is amazing how a humble vegetable in the market can cause the culinary imagination into overdrive.
And, just because I was in the tartlette mode, these two beauties were also made: smoked salmon and peas with dill, and chicken, porcini mushroom and tarragon. They are perfect for lunch along with a fresh crisp salad.
Last, but not least, I did source that molasses (Greek μέλασσα), so I can now make my grandmother’s Pennsylvania Dutch style pumpernickel. I just needed to pop down to the spice and nut shop for caraway seeds…
But, it turns out that my favourite neighbourhood spice and nut shop only stocked κύμινο (cumin) not αγριοκύμινο (caraway). Although the Greek words are similar, with prefix αγριο – meaning “wild” – to κύμινο, caraway is not “wild” cumin. The seeds may look alike, but they have different tastes and come from two different plants. Cumin is from Cuminum cyminum with an earthy taste and caraway is from Carum carvi with an anise-like flavour. Cumin is common here in Greece, but caraway is not. Success with one ingredient and stymied with another! Will report back next IMK if I manage to find αγριοκύμινο.