‘In Greece one has the desire to bathe in the sky’… and in the θάλασσα… I mean, the sea. The Aegean sea. The wonderful wonderful wonderful sea. Close at hand.
Mediterranean diet. Greek food, in particular. Grilled cheese. Olive oil everywhere.
Fruit & vegetables which do not only look like fruit & vegetables. Fresh produce markets right in the streets. COLOURS.
Old (ruined, abandoned) houses in the historical centre. Colours. The sound of the scooters. Cats everywhere (and everything that entails from it, ahaha, enTAILs, indeed). Narrow streets going up up up up.
Hundred-year-old tavernas where they first bring you water, bread and olive oil and you’re already full.
Agitated babushkas in black dresses (loudly) gesticulating and not less agitated dedushkas always sitting somewhere in the sun together, smoking, sipping at their never-ending frappé (which is actually enjoyed by every generation) and (loudly) discussing their life and politics.
There has already been a post dedicated to Strasbourg, so logically enough I will now turn to Θεσσαλονίκη, I mean, Thessaloniki a bit, especially after all my posts with various Greek recipes (pies, beans, cheese tart, courgette pie, even more pies, bread, a very easy pie, more bread, the famous bougatsa and equally famous koulouria). I’ve been talking about Greece and Greek food so much in the previous posts though I somewhat never talked about the city I lived one year when I was SUPPOSED to be studying hard and scribbling away my Master’s thesis. Thessaloniki was the second city where I lived during my Master’s program, and after France this was a real therapy – for my soul, body and brain. The city (as is Greece) is un-European despite all the efforts to make it such. And it’s also un-Greek in a sense that the Byzantine, Roman but mostly Ottoman element (the city belonged to Turks) makes it different from the picture of Greece that you might have after visiting its more Western islands (but Corfu is more Italy-like, for example). The famous White Tower, formerly a part of the city’s fortification system, is one of the symbols of Thessaloniki (and if you manage to secretly mount on the roof of the National Theatre opposite it, you can have a great view over the Thermaic Gulf and the sprawling city) as well as is the entire seafront.
I’ve been throwing away and recycling lots of things recently – but still not enough… – and found this note with some quotes from Henry Miller’s The Colossus of Maroussi (1944) and they speak about Greece (the one right at the beginning of the post is also from this book):
When the narrator was in Athens, he remarked this (and once with my sister we experienced the same thing): ‘The glass of water. Everywhere I saw the glass of water. It became obsessional. I began to think of water as a new thing, a new vital element of life. Earth, air, fire, water. Right now water had become the cardinal element’.
And then there’s also this: ‘Marvellous things happen to one in Greece, marvellous good things which can happen to one nowhere else on earth’. (true!)
I have so many memories from Greece, starting from those of the late 90s when we managed to go there somehow and ending with our epic journey from Thessaloniki to St Petersburg (including the way to Thessaloniki first and also Greek beaches, a Greek island, a Greek dacha, Macedonia, Serbia, Slovakia, Hungary, Poland, Belarus…). The thing that always remains in my memory and my heart is the warmth of Greece – the warmth of everything from the climate through the colours, food, music and to people. Greece is obviously not just a country on the map for me – and for my family either.
The Thessaloniki post has been waiting its turn to be completed from the end of November last year, actually, and now (it’s my 100th post!?) you can already feel the spring in the air even if there’s snow all around. The sun is crazy in this time of the year (if it has the kefi (desire) to show up, of course). The birds are already chirruping and the pigeons are making attempts at mating. Let these Greek recipes bring the spring!
Let’s start with the semolina-based halva (χαλβάς, khalvas) recipe which comes from the Greek region of Macedonia. It’s different from the nut butter-based halva, more like a spongy pudding. It’s not the first time I make this semolina variety of halva, and I’m usually looking for the recipes which require less oil. For this one I used the same gooseberry confiture which topped the Italian polenta cookies I made recently – I used it instead of honey and thought that the result will be veeery sweet but actually no, so we ate it with the same confiture on top!
So, the recipe is this: Macedonian Halva (Μακεδονικός Χαλβάς) adapted from greekgourmand.blogspot.com
Changes: I used runny honey (not Greek) but mostly the gooseberry confiture. Add sugar if you want you halva sweeter. I used a mixture of olive oil and vegetable oil. Instead of almonds I had hazelnuts + added some cinnamon. I left out the raisins.
The procedure is easy, just have your moulds ready (I greased silicon muffin cups) before you start toasting semolina.
Result: little puddings with nuts inside which can be sweetened up with jam (or add more sugar to the semolina base or very sweet raisins because the nuts add only crunchiness). Keep refrigerated if you do not eat them quickly.
I like how these emerald berries from the confiture look, although I tend to avoid them when eating it : )
After a typical Macedonian treat, let’s try a Greek soup. They have quite a lot of bean recipes in Greece, I actually learned to eat beans of various kinds and in different dishes there – my favourite being the super-nutritious lentil soup you could get free at the student canteen. Oooh…
This one is a somewhat thinner CC’s Greek Chickpea Soup adapted from www.recipebridge.com – it will result in a cumin-scented tasty soup
Changes: I used more stock (and thus my soup got even thinner) and I didn’t add lemon juice.
Again, the procedure is easy, you just have to remember to soak the chickpeas (which were actually American and long forgotten in the pantry) overnight. I served the soup with mixed chopped herbs. The ground cumin was a very unusual addition to a soup, we liked it!
A slice of Fig Fennel Light Rye Sourdough with Hazelnuts – a very fine combination of sweet dried figs and hazelnuts, but the greatest thing about this bread was the fragrance the fennel seeds were giving out while the bread was baking… Amaaaazing! And if you wish to have a second course after this Greek soup, try these delicious small cheese pies – Τυροπιτάκια με ζύμη (σαν) κουρού from bettyscuisine.blogspot.com (use a translator, the recipe is in Greek). You’ll get a lot of dough – I even made some meat pies for my Dad as well as played a bit with various cheese + herbs fillings.
And now more from the sweet treats, typically baked for Easter. I know that Easter is yet to come and I should be doing crepe after crepe for the Carnival period but… The length of the day is gradually growing just amazingly… long and I made the photos of the koulourakia with the last rays of the sun – it was well after 5 p.m. already… here they are, the Greek Easter cookies:
Aren’t they just good enough for ANY season? Right : ) Oh, you should visit a Greek bakery at least once in your life. And if you’re in a seaside village and the local bakery starts baking its bread early and when you’re passing it on your way to the beach… oooohhhh 😉 So:
Koulourakia – Greek Butter Cookies with Sesame adapted from greekfood.about.com – I halved the recipe and still got a whole lotta cookies!
I mixed butter with oil and still used less than the recipe required, and instead of Ouzo I had this weirdly orange kumquat liqueur from Kerkira (Corfu Island):
It made the batter look a bit… acid at first:
But it also added some particular fragrance to the cookies, as well as colour!
Also, my advice would be to lessen the amount of baking powder, as the dough was just bursting with it!
As for shaping the cookies, I made some twists, also ‘S’ shapes and completely forgot about making some simple circles.
I did not use a whole egg for brushing, just an egg white left from something else + a splash of water.
The next day after baking we had more sun and I made this photo in a very old bread basket we used to take out of the cupboard only for the special occasions, when bread was to be served for the guests:
So, the result – lots of fluffy cookies with crunchy sesame coating, very nice with tea and jam of course. Not overly sweet but with this extra flavour from the kumquat liqueur, for sure. Ouzo might be a more traditional choice but perhaps just not that fragrant.
Well, after all these tasty things and tender memories, I just hope that Greece eeehm continues to exist and somehow starts thriving again or at least keeps its relaxed way of being. We all need it!
Still no job and still looking for it. I’m stubborn.
There are more posts waiting in oura (queue) – coming soon.