Author: thefoodinterpreter

fig salad

Figs, rocket and ‘xinotyri’ salad

When in Naxos we have more figs than we can handle. Just two fig trees produce such quantities than we do not even have to stretch more than where our arms reach to collect whole baskets. We feel somehow obliged not to waste such glorious fruits and we try to come up with new ways to prepare and preserve them. Two years ago we decided to use them for chutney. I do not remember with how many kilos of dubious fig chutney we ended up. This year we continued to explore. We wanted to combine with other local ingredients. Potatoes, fish and protocyladic art were opted out… but honey and xinotyri    – the local variety of goat cheese – were a hit! We adapted the following salad from Ottolenghi’s ‘The Cookbook’. Serves 4 600g figs ( approximately 8 large figs), washed and cut into quarters 200g xinotyri from Naxos ( or any goat’s cheese of your liking), cut into large chunks 100g rocket leaves (preferably wild) handful of basil leaves 2 Tbsp thyme honey …

happy easter

The bad conscience of a meat eater

Seht ihn! – Wie? – als wie ein Lamm. (Behold Him! – How? – As a Lamb.) -BWV 244 ,’Matthäus-Passion’ On Easter Sunday Greeks roast a lamb. That is, a whole lamb is skewered on a spit and roasted over charcoal. The spit usually pierces the scull of the animal or appears though the teeth, next to the prolonged tongue, in pure gore fashion.  Family and friends gather around the spectacle and celebrate Easter, preferably in gardens and yards in the countryside, among poppies, chamomile and daisies. Jesus is associated with the innocent lamb, scarified during Easter. What perverse association established the custom of lamb eating on that very day I do not know. Perhaps a suppressed kurgan inclination managed to resurface in the most sacred of celebrations to mock the orderly Christians, betting on the carnivore within. Or, even more bizarre, it has to do with something much more sinister and ancient: cannibalism. We have not completely lost the association to the living young lambs, sweet and innocent, recipients of our affection. Nevertheless we eat them, teaching …

Waiting for Santa

The Greek Santa visits on new years’ eve. He is Saint Basil, and comes from Anatolia. He was a major theologian of the eastern church, who excelled in the ‘nature of beings’, still ‘living among us, as he talks through the books’. He is very byzantine, and we have a description of his looks: “As of the character of his body he was long. Dry and lean, dark and yellow in colour of the face, long nose, cheeks and beard. His face was wrinkled and with some scars. He looked like someone who thinks”. He had an elder sister (one of the few early Christian women thinkers – Basil recorded a discussion with her ‘on the nature of the soul’) and a theologian-philosopher younger brother. One of his fellow students during his years in Athens was Julian the Apostate, the last pagan roman emperor. I prefer this austere Santa to the chubby guy on the slate (Tim’s Burton version excluded). He doesn’t smile and was probably not very agreeable, but he is closer to our hearts and …

fanouropita

Lost and found: vegan olive oil cake

Did you loose your car keys or partner? Did your boss fire you? Are you a shadow puppeteer and business is not going well? No worries – just prepare this cake with seven or nine ingredients, take it to church, divide it to forty pieces and give it away. It is a ‘Fanouropita’, in honour of Saint Fanourios, a martyr that was rediscovered in the 14th century, when an ikon was dug up while fortifying the walls of Rhodes. The local bishop Nilos (Nile) interpreted the icon and concluded that it depicted the passions of a forgotten martyr. So the cult of Saint Fanourios started. The Saint’s name sounds like ‘reveal’, and people started praying to him to ‘reveal’ lost items, persons or jobs. As to why he became the patron saint of the shadow puppeteers, no one knows. Perhaps it has something to do with the odd number ( 7, 9 or 11)  of ingredients required to prepare the cake – or the words that have to be spoken while baking it. In any case it …