It has been some time (since early last May) that I wrote an In My Kitchen post. The months flew by, but somehow I managed to capture each one of them in an image – food related, but not necessarily kitchen related. For the most part, travel kept me away from the kitchen. But, travel broadens your outlook, not least in culinary matters. So, I’ve managed to store away some ideas for those less travelled months.
June saw the end of our artichoke season. They were all gathered in, a little bit past their prime before they became giant thistles. We have a hodgepodge of varieties growing in a small square of ground out the back of the kitchen. They were all pickled, packed and sealed for future use.
Two weddings on Crete this summer was quite a challenge. The first was in Chania in July and the second in Heraklion in mid-August. Both, of course, served the traditional Cretan wedding rice (gamopilafo) – more a soupy rissoto made with a rich meat stock with a little stakovoutiro (Cretan goat milk butter) added for a creamy richness. The boiled meat (lamb/goat, chicken/cockerel) was served first. Generous proportions, but it was quite tasteless. By the time the big bowls of wobbly rice arrived, I realised where all the flavour had gone. Gamopilafo is not a beautiful looking dish, but it is extremely delicious. At the wedding in Chania, to serve the huge number of wedding guests, it was stirred up with a giant wooden paddle in a massive cauldron on the edge of the outdoor reception area – a spectacle to match the lively lyra music and fast footed Cretan dancing troupe.
Late August took us back to Crete again – this time on the far east coast where wild samphire grows on the beach. How I itched to pick some, but no bag to collect it plus it needs to be consumed immediately and we were not due to go back to Athens for another day. I will try to come prepared the next time…
September we were in the opposite end of Greece, in the hills of Epirus and Western Macedonia. In the Vlach village of Samarina, the ladies of the village dry hulled out aubergine halves (along with their hot peppers) and hang them like little bells. It must be a shared Ottoman practice since it is also a common way of preserving the crop of aubergines in parts of Turkey. I was told that it is rehydrated, stuffed with rice and meat then baked with tomato sauce in the oven.
October we were back in Athens for the start of the academic year with a quick trip back to the UK. One of the little pleasures of flying is reading the gastronomy section in the inflight magazine. The issue highlighted Greece’s national cheese: Feta. It really must be difficult to photograph white on white.
In November we took a short break to the Mani in the south central Peloponnesus where we indulged in siglino, the local delicacy – an orange scented ham. One of the local restaurants used it in a variation of the Mani potato and orange salad that is traditionally served at olive harvest. And, yes, evidence of olive harvesting was all around us – a lot of industry with netting spread to catch the fallen olives and workers collecting or agitating the branches with a special mechanical tool. I will try to reverse engineer this salad with its smoky siglino, warm potatoes, Kalamata olives and orange-vinegar-olive oil dressing.
With the holidays coming up, no doubt there will be cooking again In My Kitchen. Check in with Sherry at Sherry’s Pickings for more In My Kitchen posts.