Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Fresh Nectarine & Tomato Salsa

First off I have to start by saying that neither my mother or I can take the credit for this recipe in its original form. The credit must be given to a lady called Jennifer Hill who has an awesome food blog called foodess.

Now that that is said and done, the recipe is beautifully simple and you can throw it all together in under ten minutes. You can also swap out the ingredients to suit what’s in season.  

  • 1 medium nectarine, pitted and diced
  • 1 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup finely diced sweet onion
  • 2 serrano chilis, seeded and minced
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (American for coriander), minced
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 3 tbsp white vinegar
  • Salt
  1. Combine all ingredients in a serving bowl and season generously with salt.
May be made up to 6 hours in advance – refrigerate until ready to serve.

Sweet and Sour Cucumber Salad.

We threw a little party at the weekend for our birthday. Mum manned the battle station - the kitchen - we (my Dad, Brother, Husband and I) were given our marching orders at various points in the day. When all was done and the battle was won mum had roasted 5 chickens, made healthy potatoes wedges, invented a desert, and created at least 7 side dishes and a vast number of salads. She had as always, created a feast of glorious colours, flavours and aromas. Just at the very sight of all the food my taste buds went into an imaginary over drive and like my two huge lumps for dogs that had gone crazy at the sight and smell of so many chickens in the oven, I was drooling.
One of her creations was a cucumber Salad, which was a pleasant surprise on the pallet, sweet yet sour. I thought that I might share it with you all. The great thing about this is that you probably have almost all the ingredients in your house already.

Original recipe makes 8 servings
  • 4 cucumbers, thinly sliced 
  • 1 small white onion, thinly sliced 
  • 1 cup white vinegar 
  • 1/2 cup water 
  • 3/4 cup white sugar 
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill, or to taste 
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  1. Thinly slice the onions and cucumber then toss them together in a large bowl.
  2. Combine the vinegar, water and sugar in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, and pour over the cucumber and onions.
  3. Stir in dill, cover, and refrigerate until cold. This can also be eaten at room temperature, but be sure to allow the cucumbers to marinate for at least 1 hour.

Monday, 15 October 2012

building an Island in Xerocampus

On extremely short notice my Brother managed to get an extra day off work and so joined the family for the weekend here in Crete.  Given the line of work that he is in and the hours he puts in it is a very rare occasion that he actually makes it over to the island. On this occasion he pulled it off.

He wanted to go for a swim, and my Mum wanted to take him somewhere that he hadn’t been before … so after a minor debate we settled for Xerocampus. Given that we live on an old volcanic rock, a majority of our beaches – at this end of the island - are dark brown in colour, however Xerocampus beach is sort of white.  With a slight stretch of the imagination, it’s as if you have been transported to a West Indian island.  The water is almost always crystal clear and the off white sand gives it a turquoise look, even now at what you would call the end of the season when the clear blue skies can no longer be guaranteed (we have had at least 3 clouds this month!) the water still looks inviting.

We packed up the whole family, excluding two very disappointed dogs, into the car and drove to the beach. This beach is on the south coast and is a little bit on the remote side. There are two ways of getting there from Sitia.  One is to head south as if you were going to Makri Gialos but in the middle of the island take the road to Zeros which will eventually take you to Xerocampus. The other way is to take the road to Palikastro and then over to Zakros where you will find the signs to Xerocampus.

My Brother, like most members of my family, is completely incapable of sitting still for longer than 30 seconds, when a beach is added to the situation the 30 seconds seem to become 15!  He decided, in all his wisdom, to make himself an island. He is as strong as an ox and within no time at all and to the great amusement of the rest of the family, had set about building the foundations of his island in the form of some rather large rocks. The Island then became a bridge and half an hour later had extended to one of the small rocky outcrops a few metres from the shore. Mission complete my Brother was ready to eat!

The beaches in Xerocampus are fairly safe for swimming, there are no strong currents and the water is quite shallow to start with, making it a good place to take young children. There are plenty of rocky outcrops to have a look at so take a mask and snorkel. There are also plenty of little coves if you would like a bit of privacy and at the same time the main beach is very long and open so take a sunshade.

This year was the first that I have seen sunbeds for rent on the beach, they are next to a small café where you can pick up a light refreshment or two. There are tavernas in Xerocampus but I would recommend taking an icebox with some snacks and water.  With the beaches slightly lacking in shade I would recommend an umbrella or at least a ton of sun cream, if like me, you have fair skin.

In September the beaches sprout lilies directly from the sand. It is well worth the trip just to see the beach covered in lilies. Though please don’t pick them, let everyone else have a look at them too.  

Friday, 12 October 2012

Richtis Gorge

So yesterday was our birthday – Dad and I - several years ago I popped out so now we share the day. We try to celebrate together but given that I went to boarding school and then moved away, celebrating together has always proved to be somewhat of a challenge. This year, at the very last minute and by the skin of our teeth, we managed to wangle it!

Having gone to all the effort to get us together we had to decide what to do … after a long discussion that went along the lines of whatever it is I don’t want to sit in the car all afternoon.  Dad and I tried to work out what we hadn’t already done that was close to home, we settled on Richtis George.

Richtis is a small yet surprisingly pretty gorge located just below Exo Mouliana. It is about a 15 minute drive from Sitia to Exo Mouliana and takes around 20 mins to descend down to the beach where you start the walk.

Loaded with sandwiches, water, cameras and a dog we started the trek up the gorge. It is quite an easy walk, though there is potential to get your feet wet at various points where you have to jump across the small river as it meanders towards the sea.

The dog was in seventh heaven, running up down and around. Jumping into the river puddles and generally anything which meant that the inside of our car would resemble a mud pit by the time he got home.

We only walked up to the waterfall but you can carry on up the path. At the foot of the waterfall there is a picnic bench which we made good use of, luckily we were the only ones at the waterfall, in fact we almost had the gorge to ourselves only passing a couple of small groups on our way in and no one on our way out.

The nice thing about the walk to the waterfall is that it’s really not that far, it’s shaded, and you don’t have to be superman in terms of fitness to get there. It took us about half an hour to get to the waterfall. 

Driving from Sitia towards Heraklion you will find the village of Exo Mouliana. As you’re driving through the village on your right hand side you will see the signs for the beach of Richtis, follow these they will lead you down a very steep road which eventually ends up on the beach. At the bottom of the gorge take a right, after about 15m you will find a parking bay. Leave the car here and start your walk.  

Thursday, 11 October 2012

bright yellow limoncello ...

Having completely reorganised my father's week, he arrived on Crete yesterday morning.  To fetch him we had to drive through a huge (thunder and) lightning storm which threw down enough rain to compete with the English summer.  In the pitch black on the cliff hanging roads, a 200 year old old lady, steadied by a zimmer frame supporting a wooden peg leg, would have overtaken us with such speed and velocity that she would, to us, have seemed like Usain Bolt as he took off to compete in the Olympic 100m. 
Thanks to Aegean Airlines he arrived on time and the drive home was, in comparison to the way to collect him, like we had been up graded to a supersonic jet – the sky was somewhat clearer; the road was freshly washed of all the summer's dust and dirt.

Dad had come from Italy via the U.K and from his suitcase spilled a wealth of Italian goodness, wild boar salami, wine, cured pork and amongst other bits and pieces a bottle of bright yellow limoncello. 

When he was in the shop trying to choose the bottle the shop assistant, who he described as very knowledgeable, had recommended this particular bottle.  When asked why she had simply replied the lemons are the best … I guess as the spirit is called limoncello the lemons are a pretty important part.

Last night we sat down at the freshly painted outside table and enjoyed dinner "a la mummy" – always an interesting (good) experience – and as an after dinner drink we opened up the bottle of limoncello.  Having read the bottle in my best Italian - a language which thanks to a very good Italian friend only extends to the swear words – arrived at the conclusion that the lemons were from Sorrento.  Apparently this really does make all the difference. The spirit was sharp (but not bitter) and sweet yet didn’t taste like soap at all.  In our limited experience we have decided that this particular bottle has passed the test!

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

More food, glorious food – dinner …

Rested from our earlier excursion and having re-organised my father and brother’s weekends (more to follow on this) we decided to have a look down the back allies at the little shops and see what they were selling.

The first street seemed to sell nothing but leather, now given that we don't have many cows on the island I don't think I would be wrong is saying that the bags wallets, belts and shoes didn't come from Crete, walking down the street we were instantly transported to the Medinas of Morocco!

Further down the street Morocco spat us out and we were back in Greece, with shops selling olive oil and olive oil related products. I am a sucker for packaging and ended up splurging on some really nice olive oil shampoos and conditioner which are currently winding their way back to the uk for a birthday present - albeit a rather late present, I hope that I am forgiven!

By the time that we had had a look in quite a few shops and had been touted by more greasy Greek men than I care to admit - each one convinced that their restaurant was going to blow our minds away - we eventually found a back street one in the end of town which looked like it had never seen a tourist in its life before.  This we thought would be perfect ... Hmmm we were right and we were wrong. Mum was desperate for some calamari, as we had walked past we had seen a rather large plate which looked really fresh and tasty, the décor well, left much to be desired but we have eaten in some interesting places before and been pleasantly surprised so we thought why not?

A small bottle of ouzo later, a beer, some calimari and a cucumber salad and well we were done. The food was actually quite good, the service well ... it could have been better but what to do. I am not sure that I would return to the venue but that’s not the point, it did the job.

Having wandered around town earlier we had seen what looked to be the makings of a movie set and feeling somewhat nosey we thought we would have a look and see what it was all about ... this of course was what everyone else was doing and as the set was for a scene in what appeared to be the 1930's a heap of tourists in modern attire was not going to make great background material. In my mind this made me suspect that the director was going to wait until the wee hours when everyone was tucked up in their bed before they started filming.

So we thought we would have a cocktail .... a mojito later we headed off towards the hotel, it was after all almost midnight and ironically we walked passed a boat moored on the harbour front called Cinderella, I did wonder if it would turn into a pumpkin on the stroke of twelve.

Outside our hotel was what appeared to be a wine bar serving cheeses and meats alla italian style ... My eyes lit up at the thought of non Greek food and so we decided to have a glass of wine and a cheese plate. The glass of wine turned into a bottle (they didn’t serve the one we wanted by the glass) and the cheese plate turned into a cheese and cold meats plate.  The wine was recommended to us by the sommelier who was extremely knowledgeable, he was a very nice chap who had a lot to say about the area which we found very interesting.

The winery was called Vinerai, it stocked wines from all over Greece and offered simple plates of food – salads, cheeses and meats a bit more up market and with a slightly more European twist than most of the places in the area, it was very nicely decorated and all in all I would highly recommend it.

Eventually some time after two in the morning we made it back to our room and to our beds, tummy full, eyes closed.

Vineria Contact details:

36 Kallinikou Sarpaki, Chania

Tel: 00 30 28210 57590

Food, glorious food - lunch

We made it to Chania in time for lunch and having found the hotel and thrown our bags into the room we headed out to feed our tummies.

We were immediately hit with options, almost everywhere we looked there was some sort of taverna or restaurant dishing out vast quantities of Greek food. This posed a problem as we were spoilt for choice ...

Eventually we had walked as far as our hunger pains would allow and we settled on a restaurant located in the ruins of a building. It had no roof or windows but did have a couple of reasonably large trees growing through the middle of what I assume was once a rather grand house, though instead of ancient oil paintings of rich merchant men there were rusty old bicycles hanging from the walls, which made us giggle and think of Dad.

Despite the fact the we thought we where hungrier than the whole African continent combined we new better than to order the whole menu as my eyes are most definately larger than my stomach.

In the end we had quite a simple lunch - some tzatziki, Dakos and stuffed vine leaves all washed down with a beer.

The food was very nice and all things considered ... we were in the middle of the most touristic town on the island … was not extortionately expensive. It was worth it just to sit in the ruined house/garden!