Sunday, 29 April 2018

A Cookery Dream

Özlem Warren's Blog  has been my go-to destination for recipe checking and inspiration for several years now.  I joined the chorus of her many friends urging her to put all her recipes in one place and write a book.  She has gone further than this and produced a cookery memoir that paints an aromatic picture of what it is like to grow up in a Turkish household that appreciates its Eastern Mediterranean culinary heritage. Özlem has written a book that is so lovely to look at that my copy will be kept on the coffee table, not on the kitchen shelf. 

Book Launch in Vout-O-Reenee's

Congratulations to Özlem for creating a work of art - on the page this time rather than on a plate, and to have sold over 700 hardback copies before the book has hit the bookshops, shows how many fans she has around the world.  

Three blogger-cooks finally get together. Joy , Özlem , and BacktoBodrum

Özlem is on her way to Turkey this week end for book signing events in Istanbul, Izmir and Fethiye. Details here.  We are looking forward to seeing her in Bodrum in September. 

Saturday, 21 April 2018

Spring into action


Spring may be all red poppies, bouncy lambs, budding trees and ever lightening mornings for the majority of folk and I enjoy the luscious green of the awakening countryside as much as the next person, but for me Spring is hard work.  A large terrace and courtyard covered in pebbles is a great place to entertain and lounge around, it can even host a wedding for 60 guests, but those invited rarely give a thought to the thousands of weeds and baby trees that spring up amongst the stones every March and have to be pulled out one by one: a back-breaking task that takes a work force of one, with much encouragement from a doggy spectator, nearly a week to accomplish.  
An arrival in Summer will bask in the warm waters of the pool, maybe sit on the steps with a well iced G&T, having no idea that a couple of months before their seat was the playground for baby frogs, toads and snakes - who have to be evicted before the chlorinated water takes over. 
A clear blue pool is the past and the future but the present is green and murky. 
Inside is no better. Spring heralds the falling off of any plaster that has allowed damp to creep beneath it and in one of my bathrooms - that means most of it is on the floor.  If you visit me in early May you will be met by a be-masked figure, covered in white dust, in a mood to kill and that is before I try to remember which paint I used the year before and if the small roller worked better than the large one. 
My labour is often accompanied by a scorpion or two.  Thinking the house abandoned, because it only takes a couple of months of absence to appear so, wildlife returns and colonises what was once theirs.  Spring is for birds and bees, blossom and bulbs.  I wish it also came with blokes with bulging biceps or a bottomless bank account to hire one or two.   Every year the prospect of getting the summer house back into shape looks daunting but once started progress is satisfyingly noticeable and sitting under the acid green grape vine, cold beer in hand, Spring is forgiven for another year. 


Monday, 16 April 2018


Visit any Aegean market this week and you will see piles of globe artichokes.

You will also see the stall holders peeling all the green outer leaves/petals and popping the creamy hearts into a plastic bag of lemony water. While making the eating of the vegetable much easier it is such a shame to waste these cast-offs.  My favourite way to eat an artichoke is to cut off the stalk at the base and boil the  globe in salted water until a petal will come out if gently pulled.  Drain and allow to cool until you can handle easily.   Prise open the centre with your fingers until you come to the translucent  petals, then pull these out as one and you will see the inedible choke - using the edge of a teaspoon, gently scrape this away from the heart underneath - it sounds complicated but after a few attempts you will be an expert.  

Make your favourite salad dressing - mine is a good olive oil with balsamic vinegar and a dollop of grainy mustard and quite a bit of sea salt - then pour into the centre of the artichoke.  The best bit is pulling the base of each leaf through your teeth to get the soft flesh at the base.  When all the leaves are finished, take a fork and a slice of crusty bread to the heart.  In Spring this is my supper at least once a week. 

Full of antioxidants, fibre and vitamin C, you'll be doing your health a favour, and as artichokes contain silymarin and cynarin which are liver cleansers, I don't feel guilty about the glass of red which accompanies this frugal meal. 

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Snaps from the Past

I love looking through our old family photo albums - there are only about 6 of them and I know all the pictures by heart. There is no one even a tiny bit famous.
Imagine finding old chests, suitcases and drawers stuffed with pictures of your great aunt with Sophia Loren, Alan Ladd, Melina Mercouri, Anthony Perkins, Aristotle Onassis, Niko Ghikas ( the artist I mentioned at the end of March ) and more. 

Ekaterini with Sophia Loren 

Ekaterini Paouri (1900 -1986) played a leading roll in Hydra's high society and entertained billionaires, movie stars, Greek tycoons, artists, hippies and members of royal families in her house on the quay, on her caique and in her country house in Episkopi. 

Sophia Loren keeping warm between takes

Her house on the harbour has been renovated by her great nephew and the ground floor turned into a gallery where some of these wonderful photographs were displayed last week.  I caught the last day of the exhibition on my last evening on the island

Niko Ghikas second from the right 

Ekaterini behind Alan Ladd

Ekaterini standing next to Anthony Perkins

Saturday, 7 April 2018

Everyone loves a cat picture

I missed Jake in Hydra. Travelling with a dog instigates assorted conversations with strangers. Travelling alone doesn't. I reverted to my Nobby-Nomates status. But not having a dog by my side at least gave me the opportunity to get to know the island cats a bit better and take plenty of feline-filled photos.  Here are a few before Jake gets home and threatens to take over the blog again.

Also read: Previous post about Hydra Ark looking after street animals in Hydra

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Greek-Turkish Fusion

Our two countries may not be on a friendly footing at the moment, but the two cuisines blend together as befits a shared environment and history.  A favourite in Turkey for the home cook is a pie made with thin pastry and herbs - ditto in Greece.  I find Greek phyllo more difficult to work with than Turkish yufka, being much thinner and more easily broken but it gives a crispier finish and can elevate a simple borek into a dinner party dish.

This pie is cooked in a frying pan so chose one that can go in the oven. My filling varies depending on what is to hand but an onion, a couple of leeks, a few sticks of celery, three or four garlic cloves and a handfull of parsley all chopped into a fine dice, is a good place to start.  This one also has the leaves and stalks of a bunch of beetroot. When this has softened in a glug of olive oil, add three cups of frozen spinach or half a kilo of well washed fresh and carry on cooking until most of the moisture has evaporated. Just to be sure, tip the contents into a sieve and leave to drain for 30 mins. Which ever country I'm in,  I always find too much pastry and too little filling so my pies are made with just one layer of yufka or two sheets of phyllo. Turn on the oven to heat up to 200 degrees C. Wash and dry your frying pan and brush with olive oil and lay the sheets so the edges overlap the pan.

Tip the filling into a bowl and add two whisked eggs and crumble 200g of feta or white cheese into the mixture and stir well.  Then tip into your frying pan and fold up the edges of the pastry to cover.  You may need a little extra phyllo/yufka if the filling isn't completely covered.  Brush the top with a little egg mixed with oil and place the pan on a low burner.  As it begins to cook, keep moving the pan so the bottom of the pie doesn't stick and when you see the sides are beginning to cook transfer the pan to the hot oven. 15 to 20 minutes is usually enough to crisp up the top and cook the filling, but just check with a finger that the centre is solid, not runny.  If your frying pan has sloping sides you should be able to slide the pie/borek/kopita on to a serving plate. I needed a little help from palette knife. 
Anglo/Turkish cooking from Greece.

Sunday, 1 April 2018

Hydra's Trail Event

  While Western Europe was celebrating Easter, Hydra was in Lycra. The annual running races took place in windy conditions, but the light was bright and perfect for photographs, so I went down to the harbour on both days to take photos.

Anyone who came to Hydra for a quiet week-end before the noisy Easter celebrations begin will have been disappointed as speakers pumped out very loud music for most of the two days - I lost count of how many 'Final Countdowns' I heard. I hoped each would be the last but no. 

The children ran on Saturday

The adults on Sunday 
 No areas were cordoned off so interested spectators mingled with the runners

 It must be one of the most scenic venues

Some competitors were more serious than others.  I saw several running while chatting on their phones. 

It didn't inspire me to put on my training shoes - just climbing back up the hill was enough exercise for my still dodgy ankle.