Thursday, July 14, 2011

Greece Greece you sexy beast – the week of heat or tales from the barbecue

Sitting here in sussex looking out at the blank greyness of yet another summer’s day, it is difficult to believe that just over a week and a half ago I was eating far more than is good for me, drinking far more than is good for me and sunning myself on the sunny shores of Greece’s Pelopponesse.

The Peloponnesse, a peninsula off the mainland, is often overlooked by tourists, who instead seek the cultural immersion of Athens or island adventures. Their loss was indeed my gain. The peninsula is huge, with some glorious beaches and stunning mountain landscapes laid out at our fingertips (well, at the wheels of our little rented bipabout).

Our villa was amazing and our hosts Jackie and Pete, who lived in the villa next door were the best source of knowledge for exploring the area. A big thank you!

Obviously, being the gluttonous little lady that I am I was very very interested in the food and it did not prove to be a disappointment – it was unabashedly punchy sunshine food. Food that you couldn't possibly eat in the depths of winter (unless you are under one of those fake sun simulator things) but that makes you revel in the summer sun like a pig in shit.

Want an experience? held on a Wednesday and Saturday, this is the place to go to get your fresh produce. I don’t know whether I’ve been going to the wrong markets recently but in comparison to those I go to at home, it was so down to earth – take it at face value.

There were no fancy labels, extortionate prices, sellers yelling in your ear. In fact, half of the stallholders looked like they were plump and ready for their siesta, whether you bought the produce was up to you. But of course you were going to. Why? Because it was fresh and lovely. The market sellers didn’t have to do the shouting. The food did it for them. Although sometimes it was shouting something on the gorier side of things.

Based in Kalamata, it would have been a sin not to try an olive or two. Or three. But there’s more to the story than just popping olives. No no my friends, Jon and I geared ourselves up for some serious eating pleasure. We ate deep fried anchovies and sprats drizzled with lemon juice, moussaka, kleftico with hefty chunks of lamb sitting on the plate, salted pork by the sea and obviously mounds and mounds of greek salad with slabs of shiny white feta perched atop the veg.

But as much as eating out was a pleasure, I don’t think I’ve ever had so much fun cooking as we did that week.

The first thing we rolled out on the barbeque were some pork and vegetable kebabs with our very own Greek salad.

There was a return of one of my favourite ever Nigella recipes quick preserved lemons with sea bass, in bastardised form with a local fish (what it was we never quite discovered but dammit it flaked like a lovvie and soaked up the flavour of the preserved lemon marinade beautifully so thank you to the fish man). Ps if anyone can read Greek, help would be appreciated in solving the fish mystery, it was wonderful and I would like to get it again...

Although the making of the preserved lemon syrup takes a little bit of time, it’s not remotely fiddly and, once it’s done you can just slap it onto the fish, wrap it in foil and put it on the barbeque. It is every bit as easy as it sounds.

From that particularly gory little lamb pictured earlier, we had a very meagre but flavoursome rack of ribs, marinated with a little bit of oregano and olive oil, again barbequed for a quick meal. We served it with courgette flowers stuffed with beetroot, feta and chilli and quickly fried.

I still dream about that dinner.

And the last barbecue - king prawns and Greek sausage with butter bean salad and our local vineyard wine... four euros for 1.5 litres. And it was NICE. I know you won't believe me but it really was. Thank God booze isn’t that cheap here (unless you make it) or I could run into a few problems.

To wind it all up, I’d love to say we had a smooth trip back but no, there was a 6 hour delay in Kalamata Airport. Our local Morrissons is bigger than that airport, not fun and Thomas Cook were right old pains in the arses but, it was a brilliant trip. Get to Kalamata my friends.


youngandfoodish said...

Beautiful post. Wish I was there to help.

Julianna Barnaby said...

Thanks. It was a beautiful place - will definitely return...

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