with batzina for starters
Spring is here and it is without a doubt the best period for excursions in the countryside. I will be going to Thessaly this weekend, staying at the wonderful town of Kalampaka, at the foot of Meteora. I have way too many reasons to be excited: hiking, sky high rock pillars, medieval monasteries and of course gorgeous food!
Head straight to the recipe
If you are a fan of Greece, I bet it is not the first time you hear of Meteora. Holly Meteora has made it to the list of UNESCO as a World Heritage Site for its unique natural beauty and the exemplary Byzantine architecture of its monasteries. Words seem inadequate to describe this awe-inspiring and somewhat unworldy place.
As for me, it’s not my first time visiting Meteora. I firstly went as a kid, during a winter family break, two things have stuck with me ever since: the mysterious veil of fog playing hide and seek with monasteries built on the edge of the cliffs and the fact that I can seriously not walk on snow. Given that weather will not be causing such troubles this time, there are quite a few activities I am looking forward to.
Monasteries: Once upon a time there were 24 monasteries scattered across the rocks of Meteora, now there are six very well preserved Monasteries, still operating and open to the public. I hear that the biggest of them is Great Meteoron, although I hope to get to visit more than one. A list of the monasteries with opening hours can be found here, a blog from the travel agency visit Meteora, which contains one of the most comprehensive travel information for Meteora and great ideas for hikes.
Hiking, trekking and climbing: Of course Meteora is not well known only for the Monasteries but also for the excellent climbing experiences. There are numerous companies offering organised hikes but also climbing lessons. I did a bit of research and I discovered a very interesting document of climbing routes and also a bit on the history of climbing in the archives of the municipality of Kalabaka website. My glutinous tendencies foretell that I will be stuck downtown enjoying the taverns with some tsipouro, but I might, just might, try to venture out for some of the simpler trails. Plenty of trails, in and around the rock forest of Meteora. Most of them used to serve as communication paths between the 30 monasteries when all of them were in use. Levels of difficulty vary, I will let you know what I try and of course bring back pictures.
Food, of course! I am a guest of the Natural History Museum and Mushroom museum, it’s going to be all about the mushrooms! But there is more to it, I have already been looking into the local recipes of Thessaly and I am very happy to have two experts to guide me. I will be exploring the local dishes with auntie Toula and grand-ma Athina, the ladies will tell me all about regional cuisine.
It goes without saying that I already have a taster for you: batzina, a traditional humble pie they make in the wider area of Thessaly, not just Kalampaka. Nowadays, it is very popular to have batzina with zuchini and feta cheese, but in older times they would be using the absolute basics: olive oil, flour, water or milk and feta cheese found in abundance, as the area holds a very strong tradition of exquisite dairy products. A pie with no eggs or pastry. I had never tried it before, and I obviously had my reservations thinking it might lack in flavour and texture. I was wrong, it might be simple but it is delicious, very filling, very quick to prepare. In short a winner:
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
- 200 gr of plain flour
- 450 ml water or milk
- 120 ml olive oil
- 500 gr feta cheese
I used a round 22 cm baking tray
What to do:
- In a large bowl add the water and olive oil, then the crumbled feta cheese.
- Start adding the flour, sieved and mix well to combine your ingredients, you should get a runny mix
- Lightly oil the baking tray and pour the mixture.
- Bake for approximately 30 minutes at 180 ºC in a preheated oven.
Enjoy with a glass of fresh milk for a light supper, as they used to enjoy in the villages around Thessaly. Also feel free to use it as inspiration and add on any bits and pieces found in the pantry to spicy it up.
from Athens with love