I’m delighted that Eugenia has invited me to write a guest blog to share an insight into my life in Kritsa, a village in the east of the Greek island of Crete.
Together with my husband, Alan, I enjoy life ‘at home’ in Kritsa, a traditional village on the Greek island of Crete for several months each year. We vary the times of the year that we visit, and the length of our stay to enjoy different seasons, festivals, and events. We love to explore the area, sometimes via our small 4×4, but more often by walking in the mountains, over plateaus and through gorges. If we are in Crete during the height of summer, most days include a few hours on one of the many beaches.
During cooler months I love nothing more than to get out the cookery books, especially those full of Greek or Cretan recipes as most also contain snippets of history or folklore connected with the dishes. Back in the UK, where I live when not in Crete, modern techniques mean that fresh produce has lost its seasonality with strawberries at Christmas, pumpkin in spring, green beans in November, and even brussel spouts in June…
However, a weekly visit to the huge farmer’s market in Agios Nikolaos, a town near to Kritsa, certainly keeps me in touch with the seasons and I’m still thrilled the week tiny bright strawberries make their first appearance. In the UK, a market often has second quality produce with the best quality available in supermarkets. Not so in Crete where all the produce in the market is prime quality, most only having been picked the evening before. However, some products need extra attention prior to use. A good example is the large leaves of spinach that are so full of grit it needs careful washing. This spinach bears no resemblance to the tiny leaves in vacuum bags that I buy in England. On more than one occasion, I’ve bought a plastic carrier bag full of spinach at the Agios Nikolaos market, then washed and drained it before storing it in the fridge in a plastic bag and then forgotten it, probably because I bought too many other scrumptious veggies. A week later I’ve opened my bag of spinach to find it green, crisp and ready to use, whereas any spinach overlooked for a couple of days in England turns into a green slime!
Now what girl doesn’t love a bouquet? Here’s the sort I prefer. They usually contain leeks, chard, fennel, and parsley or celery. At first, I used the ingredients separately, throwing away the large white stem in the chard and using only the smallest amount of fennel when I cooked broad beans, Then I had a flash of the blindingly obvious, if the bouquet was sold together then the ingredients should all be cooked together…doh!
I fry the sliced leeks in glug of olive oil and then add in the chard stalks cut in bite size pieces. I let that cook down then add in all of the herbs chopped together including the green celery leaves, (the heads of celery we buy in the UK are leafless). Then I add the washed and torn chard, the water on the leaves creates enough cooking fluid if you use a pan lid. I usually turn the heat down and cook for 15 mins before adding the zest of a lemon. I previously added lemon juice but it takes the bright green away from the vegetables, so now I add juice, if required, at the table.
If you get the time, Eugenia I’d love to know what you’d do with such a bouquet.
While some people get excited over chocolate, I get a buzz seeing a vegetable I don’t know. Like these beans that measure 30-40 cms. I can’t find any recipe that calls for such beans and without their name I can’t use Google to look up a recipe. If you know, Eugenia please tell me how to use them to best effect. Meanwhile I’ve blanched and frozen them for use them when my sister visits; she follows a low carbohydrate diet so I’ll use the beans instead of spaghetti to go with Bolognese sauce. For now, I’m calling them spaghetti beans.
We always end our walk down through the market with a stop at a lakeside cafe. In the summer when it’s hot we are usually back home in Kritsa by 9.00 a.m. then I spend the rest of the morning sorting out my shopping and having a grand cook up as I like to have meals pre-prepared in the freezer.
If you’d like more insight into my Kritsa life, then you’ll be welcome at www.kritsayvonne.com but before I go I’d just like to say a big thank you to Eugenia for the chance to say hello here. Xby