This past month started with hot cross buns for Easter. As a moveable feast, this year Orthodox Easter was a week later than Western Easter, so I had a little bit of extra time because I only make them for this holiday. Otherwise, they really wouldn’t be special. This is my third (and final) batch of lemony sourdough HCB (Hot Cross Buns) ready to go into the oven…
And out of the oven…
But, Easter Day was reserved for tsoureki – a mastic flavoured bread. One of our favourite sweet shops supplied the bread with “Happy Easter” (in Greek) written on top. I was too busy making those HCBs to be bothered with making my own tsoureki. There is only so much one can do.
I am now gearing up for harvests from the garden. Artichokes have already been plentiful this year – and a few more to come. Surprisingly, there are a number of varieties – green, red, and one spiky wild one.
I have no idea how this happened since I bought the plants all at the same place in the Athinas market, all sold under the label of ankinara (αγκινάρα). Well… they strip down the same way. Most of them were preserved in herb infused oil – after boiling in a mixture of water and vinegar.
Some of these were used in a spring risotto. This seasonal recipe I make quite often – with chicken, fresh broad beans (podded and stripped of their outer shells), and basil. This time it had an addition of sliced preserved artichoke hearts.
I also had to use some of last year’s preserved basil oil instead of fresh leaves. New plants are in, but they are still at the baby stage. Bamboo souvlaki sticks guard the plants from pesky birds.
The last of the rather monster fennel has been harvested – too big and not so tender to be used as shavings in salad. Instead, we sliced and and sliced, then caramelised them in olive oil, sprinkled in a little lemon juice at the end to bring out their sweetness. The caramelised pieces will be used as toppings on crostini spread with a little contrasting sharp and creamy goat cheese. Below you see them in their raw, pre-transformed state.
The market is yielding new spring crops as well. Greek asparagus is called sparangi (σπαράγγι), a word close enough to the English to be understood by the linguistically challenged (I speak of myself here). Like everywhere else, the vegetable has a short season. Also, if you are lucky enough to be in the countryside at this time of year, you will see the tiny, thin wild versions cropping up everywhere – incredibly delicious raw, but it take a lot of concerted effort to pick enough for a meal. Mine comes from the market, grown in the farming region of Imathia, an area of vast agricultural plains in Central Macedonia, Northern Greece.
Some of that asparagus was combined with a few more market purchases to make up what I am calling my spring market garden pasta. It was served with as salad of sliced first-of-the-season tomatoes from Crete – also harvested from the market.
New fresh garlic, ‘traditional’ Cretan pasta (‘from the abundance of Crete to your table’ as the slogan translates) that look a lot like Ligurian trofie, a hard organic cheese from Kythera recently brought to us by friends (which tastes a lot like a good Parmesan), and baby courgettes with their blossoms still attached. The blossoms are finely shredded and added near the end to wilt. And, since I had a few more broad beans left, I added those as well.
I’ve also posted two recipes for plaice (Greek glossa) recently: Fish plaki (with a difference) and Baked plaice with avgolemono (egg & lemon sauce). We seem to be craving light and fresh fish dishes this time of year.
Lemons – integral to those fish recipes as well as my version of HCBs – have been harvested. Most of them were zested and juiced – the products frozen for use throughout the year. Although, with my experiments in lemon sorbet, the supply might be depleted at a faster rate. The other citrus are now in bloom, scenting the air with their perfume. The bergamot blossom is touched with a pink blush. We’ll soon be watching the baby citrus form.
Beautful blossoms to celebrate the 1st of May!