New for the New Year In My Kitchen

Our adopted Greek New Year rituals were enacted again this year. A (real) pomegranate was smashed on the doorstep for prosperity and the new 2018 gouri (good luck charm) hung in the kitchen.

The blue glass eye (mati) reminded me of the eye opus sectile mosaic we just saw on a cold and rainy visit during the last days of December to the UNESCO world heritage site of Mystra near Sparta. Cracked and ancient, it graces the floor of the mid-14th century church of the Peribleptos Monastery located in the Byzantine city. Certainly an old motif.

I also was given a new ceramic pomegranate – a modern, funky stylised one by the Greek designer Liana Papalexi – to add to my growing collection.

I draw the line with the Greek New Year tradition of hanging an onion (or traditionally the bulb of a sea squill) that symbolises the ability to sprout new life in front of the house. On New Year’s day the bulb is taken down and brought inside to be used to lightly rap the heads of children in the household for good luck throughout the year. For us, onions stay in the pantry or occasionally get chopped up for cooking. However, my annual Vasilopita (a sweet holiday bread for Saint Basil) was made, the ritual cutting performed and the prize (coin) won. The aromatic sweet bread makes an excellent breakfast with coffee. More Saint Basil’s cakes/bread will be made and consumed during the month – clubs, other organisations or corporate bodies have their own special Vasilopita cutting ceremonies throughout January. I’ve also prepared another and very different sort of Vasilopita at home – a new experiment for me this year. But more on this soon in a forthcoming post. I’ll give you a hint – it is savoury and a tradition more common in Northern Greece.

Fresh out of the oven.

Because we also follow the British custom of making curry with some of the leftover holiday turkey, I always like to have a good supply of mango chutney. This is sadly not a common condiment stocked on the shop shelves and when (imported) mangos do appear in the market, they are quite expensive. So, I cudgelled my brains for an acceptable alternative. My new find was a recipe for persimmon chutney – very similar to my recipe for mango chutney with nigella seeds. In December persimmons (lotos, Greek λωτός) are still plentiful in the market and at a decent price (unlike those mangos). The result: brilliant, but slightly different. We now have ample supplies of chutney for curries.

Why are condiments so unphotogenic?

Another condiment also caught my eye. Now, I’m not one for a palette smear of this condiment or an artistic dribble of that sauce on a plate. It always seemed a bit pretentious to me with more thought to the eye than to the palate. But, when we were out a restaurant in the Acropolis region of central Athens and were presented with a meze dish of chèvre cheese logs encrusted with sunflower seeds, cut into segments and placed on a (not so stingy) smear of beetroot and ginger jam, I was in heaven. The combination is superb – just cut into the creamy chèvre with its crunchy crust and scoop up a little of the ruby jam…. I had to try it out at home – not only a new recipe, but a new departure on presentation.

Beetroot & Ginger Jam

  • 400g peeled and cubed beetroot (approximately 2 large beetroots)
  • 15-20g crystallised ginger
  • 500ml to 1 litre water
  • 100g sugar

Peel and cube the beetroot. Cut the crystallised ginger into small pieces. Put the beetroot and ginger into a large pot and pour in 500ml water to start so that the beetroot is just covered. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cover. Simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half (until the beetroot is very tender). Check periodically and top up with water if it is getting too low. Uncover; purée the contents and add the sugar. Simmer uncovered until the jam thickens – about 5 to 10 minutes. Pot up as you would any jam.

Recently, I also made a sourdough version of Chinese scallion pancakes, originally posted by Maree on her blog, Around the Mulberry Tree. They were really delicious and very easy to do. I actually made them up to the snail shape, slightly flattened them and then put them in the freezer. To make the pancakes, I got the required number out, put them on a tray in a warm place and covered them (to prevent them from drying out). Once defrosted, they could be rolled out to a thin “pancake” and cooked on the griddle. They reminded us of chapatis, albeit onion flavoured, and were great with the pheasant paté, but I think they would also be perfect for a curry along with the persimmon chutney mentioned above. They might even be good with a smear of beetroot and ginger jam and a bit of cheese. They seem to be very versatile flatbreads and something I will continue to make whenever we have excess spring onion tops – or even try them out with chopped chives which we have in plentiful supply in the garden.

As an inevitable consequence of the holiday gift giving, new cookbooks are now in my kitchen. I recently ran across an Icelandic word, jólabókaflóð, that describes a “flood” of books specifically at this time of year. Interesting that there is a single word to describe this phenomenon. Two of my new cookbooks are on Georgian Food – a new food exploration for me.

Just before Christmas I was at last able to find caraway seeds here in Athens at a fabulous spice shop new to me (but certainly not a new shop) in the market district. It is now on my radar and I will pop in again to top up on spices. Apparently caraway is better known as κιούμελ, a transliteration of the German for caraway – kümmel. Most places looked blankly when I asked for αγριοκύμινο (Greek for caraway) and tried to sell me κύμινο (cumin). Now that the ingredients are in place, sourdough pumpernickel bread is on the list of things to make.

An Aladdin’s Cave of spices, dried fruits and nuts in the Athens market district.

You can probably guess what my New Year’s resolution is. A perennial favouite of mine is to expand my horizons (which I also blogged about last year). It is a resolution I never fail to follow unlike those promises to exercise more which always seem to go belly up within the month. My resolution is to explore new places, expand my knowledge with new ideas, try new things. They needn’t be spectacular places, grand ideas or complicated things; the only requirement is they should be about learning, seeing and experiencing new things (… and to try to exercise more).

Wishing everyone a Happy New Year!

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.


  1. I savoured every moment of this post Debi, from the mati onwards, through that ancient moasaiced monastery, your new pomegranite, ( gorgeous) the promise of savoury bread, your chutney, Maree’s spring onion pancakes (must try) and all the new things and resolutions in our life. Just wonderful. All the best.

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    • It took me forever to find the right gouri this year, but I fell in love with this little mati. Walking all over the ruined cobbled streets of Mystra in intermittent rain was an experience this year. I remembered the eye mosaic from our last visit (summer), but failed to photograph it. The savoury Vasilopita I will soon be posting may not be a bread. The Greek word pita can mean many things – pie, cake or bread. I am afraid my savoury Vasilopta may not be up your alley as it involves meat. However, do try Maree’s version of those scallion pancakes (a sourdough conversion of the recipe from The Dumpling Sisters). I’ve now made them with chives which were fabulous. The persimmon chutney really was a surprise. It is delicious, though a bit different taste from mango, but can be used as a substitute. May your New Year be filled with new things. We never stop learning. All the best, Debi

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  2. Happy New Year . . . and, thank you! Meant to try those scallion pancakes ages ago and now shall and should really try to make some of my own chutneys which would taste ‘real’ . . . But, being a cookery book nut [and the Icelandic word with its three syllables makes perfect sense 🙂 !] I just have to look up those on Caucasus and Georgia . . . being Estonian-born, even if life-long Australian, that also makes sense 🙂 !


    • Books ordered already! You have wonderful friends 🙂 ! Kaukasus gets more raves: even Jamie Oliver heaps praise! The Australian Booktopia I do love is slightly more expensive than the wonderful Book Depository which gets half my orders and sends postage free all the way from the UK!!


      • Hope you like the books (I like Book Depository, too – very reliable). I haven’t made anything from them yet as I’m in the reading and visual savouring stage. Let us know if you make delicious things from Kaukasus!


    • Happy New Year to you, too! I really like Maree’s sourdough conversion recipe for those scallion pancakes. I’ve now made them using chopped chives and they are equally delicious. Homemade chutneys are fabulous – so many varieties to try. I really enjoy making them.


  3. happy new year deb. what a fab post. what a marvellous idea to make persimmon chutney. i can see that it has a similar texture and sweetness to mango so would be perfect. i use a recipe to make nectarine chutney each summer but i also make mango chutney and in winter i use the same recipe for pear and plum chutney. hope you had a great new year’s eve. cheers sherry

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  4. Your photo of the spice shop is fascinating. Some day I wish you would do a post just on what’s available there — and what it SMELLS like!

    Happy New year to you.

    best… mae at


    • Thanks Mae. It’s something to think about. The market district of Athens (around the old “Central Market” on Athinas street) is a fabulous place filled with all sorts of little shops. They tend to cluster spice and deli shops in one area, veg in another, meat & fish in the actual Central Market, and other sections devoted to knickknacks and household goods, baskets and containers, fabrics, etc. After 2+ years, I am only scratching the surface. Happy New Year to you, too!


  5. Happy 2018 Debi. You’re off to a great start. Feeling super lazy here and now have the flu. It’s a good excuse to sit with a good book and let life float past. I have Maree’s spring onion pancakes on my todo list too. Your spice shop find looks like a treasure trove, happy fossicking

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    • Happy New Year to you, too, Sandra. Hope you are feeling better soon. Laziness seems like a wonderful state of mind. I may succumb once family has returned to the UK – hole up for a few days (or a week) with some good books. Meanwhile, still cooking/baking/shopping. Like that word, fossicking. It explains my market adventures to a tee!


  6. I love that pomegranate, what a great thing to collect! and that bread is beautiful – is that the sweet Vasilopita or the secret one? 🙂
    I also really like scallion pancakes, but have never tried them with cheese etc, or freezing them, so will definitely give that a go.
    I first read about Georgian food actually in Nigella Lawson’s Feast, and she wrote so evocatively that I’ve wanted to try it ever since – the BBC food programme also had a couple of shows about Georgian food culture that were great…

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    • The ceramic pomegranate is fabulous; great things to collect. The Vasilopita I show is the sweet bread (tsoureki) type, but the other savoury one will be posted tomorrow. I froze the scallion pancakes since Maree’s recipe makes about 20 – way too many for us to eat at one sitting. They are best fresh off the griddle. It works brilliantly. Georgian food seems to be all the rage lately. I’ve run into it in numerous cookbooks, but these two got good reviews and are recently published. Really enjoying reading them.

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  7. That blue glass eye is gorgeous! It’s always funs to hear about your local holiday traditions, glad the onion stayed in the kitchen. Your chutney and jam sound fantastic. Happy New Year!


    • The blue glass eye is called a mati (Greek for “eye”) and is said to keep the evil eye away. I adore superstitions even if I don’t believe in them. The chutney is marvellous – just found more in the market (very end of the season) to make more. May work up a post with the recipe. Happy New Year to you, too!

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