28 February, 2009

Octopus, Shellfish and Pickles

Some photos from Piraeus Market this week.



The coming Monday is Shrove Monday (Katharideftera) and the Market has been very busy with the people looking for the nistissimo (=lenten) foodstuff.



For example, octopus.





It is allowed to eat octopus, squid and cuttle fish, but octopus is the most popular. Those are defrozen octopuses from Morocco. In the past, the octopuses were easily fished in the Aegean, but due to the overfishing the locally fished octopuses are rarity.


It is allowed to eat shellfish as well. The mussles are the cheapest at less than 5euros a kilo (they are still much more expensive than in UK where I sued to buy a kilo for 2.20 pounds). Then come the Gyaristes (the ones at the middle) for about 10 euros a kilo and then kidonia (at the left end) for 11 to 12 euros a kilo. These prices were then increased by 10-20% at the weenend due to the higher demand.



The Greeks eat more pickles (toursi) during the lenten period; small cucumbers, cabbage, green tomatoes, beets toursi etc.




I like sour pickles, but not the over-salted Greek toursi and Hubby does not eat either of the types at all.

And I need to buy talama for talamosalata. Here in Greece, people still make their own talamosalata from talama and stale bread. I have never done it, but will give it a go.

Kali Sarakosti!



27 February, 2009

Halvas of Drapetsona

This Friday, on my way to LIDL in Drapetsona, I encountered a long queue in front of a shop.



It was a queue to buy Halvas from a famous manufacturor-retailer of Halvas in Drapetsona (Halvas Drapetsonas).



Halva is a type of sweets made of sugar and sesame seeds, popular in Greece as well as in Middle East. As it does not contain any animal fat or protein, it is consumed typically during the Lenten period.

Another type of halva - semolina halva - is also free of animal derived ingredient and, thus, is also typical of this period. Different from sesame halva, semolina halva is easy to prepare at home. I am planning to make one in these days.


[Shopping List: LIDL]

Orange Juice 1l -- 1.59euros

Grated mixed cheese 200g - 1.49euro

Chili salza 500 ml - 1.59euros

Soy sauce 250ml - 1.29euros

Trivelaki (fusilli) pasta 500g - 0.40euro

Small tube pasta 500g - 0.45euro

Manly Cheese

Went to Piraeus Market for shopping and found much more people than usual; they were buying things for Sragosti (Lenten period), things like octopus, prawns, crabs, talama for talamosalata (evidently, here in Greece, many people make their own talamosatala at home from talamo and I see more talamo than talamosalata in shops), pickles called toursi, halvas etc.

But we are still in Cheesefare week and I bought some cheese leaving Sarakosti shopping for weekend. These are from a cheese shop near the market.

What I meant to buy (and actually bought) was Kaseri cheese.


Kasseri
When I said I wanted some Kasseri, the cheeseman asked me "Kasseri from where?" and then before I could answer, he just responded by himself and gave me Mytilene Kasseri.

Kasseri cheese is a nice yellow cheese that it to everyone's taste: it is soft, smooth and does not have too strong a character. It is very versatile as well.


And then I saw this unfamiliar cheese and could not resist trying.


Arseniko cheese from Naxos. The name reminded me of arsenic poison, but according to later inter Internet research, it is rather from αρσενικός meaning male or masculine. It is from goat and sheep milk and also known as Kefalotyri Arseniko Naxou. It does not seem to be much known as Hubby's mom, who is knowledgeable about food, has never heard of it.

The part close to the rind has almost parmiggiano like dry and hard consistency, while the central part is moister and butterier.

The rind looks aged and very hard.

Now the taste. There is some granularness in texture and, in taste wise, although there is strong umami sweetness, it is also peppery and slightly bitter. It has much stronger character - more masculine, manlier - than, say, Kaseri. Hubby liked it, but I, who is not a cheese-eater, find it too strong to my taste.

I packed both of them into Hubby's sandwich for lunch. He will tell me later if they are nice in sandwich as well.

26 February, 2009

A Small Metal Pot

I have been looking for a metal pot for olive oil for some time. We bought a bottle of olive oil from laiki market. It is in a normal pet bottle and it has been awkward to pour small amont of oil from the bottle and we needed a small pot that can be put on the dining table.

Normally, it is in glass or plastic pots, but the ones I have used tend to clog or to spill. So I have been looking for a metal one that pizzaioli (pizza-making men) use to pour olive oil onto the pizzas. However, they are often too large for table use and pretty expensive, above 7 euros.

Yesterday, I happened to find this small pot for 5 euros and decided to give it a go.



This is probably meant to be a tea pot and was sold among oil pots in the shop, so I guess I can use it as oil pot as well.

What surprised me on close inspection was that it was apparently made by hand. The lines are far too irregular for a factory production. There is no indication where it was made, but the one made in Chine was being sold for 2.50euro suggests it was made elsewhere. From the country where I am from, there is no way to make profit making it by hand and selling it for 5 euros. It made me reflect on the economic scale of Greece.

25 February, 2009

Cannot Wait Sarakosti?

Sarakosti (Lenten period) is starting from this Monday, but, evidently, some people cannot wait starting it!



Fishmongers are selling putting octopuses and king prawns on the front and selling them hard and people buy them. I don't understand. As we have to keep on eating these for 50 days, I - who probably won't do the full fasting, but will avoid meat and fish - do my best to avoid them when I can, i.e. until Monday. I might buy frozen ones to stock in freezer but not to eat them now.


And a random cat photo of the day.

24 February, 2009

Snack Bread

This Saturday, while shopping in Aghia Trianta area of Piraeus, we felt famished and entered a bakery displaying various type of snack bread and pies. Look the variety; these are only a part of them.



One of their specialities is chocolate tsoureki (tsoureki is sweet bread with egg, sugar, and egg, consistency firmer than brioche). I was very attracted by toureki filled with chocolate and soaked in syrup; never seen this before. Did not buy, because it should have been too messy to eat on the hoof.




Instead, I got this: smoked turkey ham and mozzarella cheese in multi-seed nest (1.90euros). Hubby got a calzone with ham, cheese and mushroom tomato sauce (1.90euro).


Section made with my bites; I did not have any knife with me.


The bread was nice, but as a whole it was not satisfying. Mozzarella cheese turned out to be bechamel sauce and quality of turkey ham was rather poor (well, although I expected this). Hubby's calzone was OK, but tomato sauce was far too salty.

To tell the truth, we have already tried this bakery a couple of times, and, although everything looks very promising, it has never got as good as our expectations. It failed us again. As we have not found any other bakery in this area, we might well go there again, but I will try to explore more and find alternatives.

23 February, 2009

Theatre-Going in Athens

Hubby won a couple of theatre ticket on a radio programme competition. He usually never wins any lottery and it was a great joy for him.

The tickets were for this play: Εκτοός ελεγχού...όλα (Out of Order). Originally written by Ray Cooney, it was a satirical commedy of the Thatcher period.

The main actors are Giorgos Konstantinou and Vasilis Tsivilikas, the latter being the translator and the stage director. Hubby said Konstantinou had some big hit TV commedy drammas, when he was younger.



Unfortunately I don't know Greek well enough to understand what was funny about conversation, but I could recognised that it was funny and well acted (the audience was very happy). Especially Tsivilikas was fantastic and even the other actors, who must have seen him acting so many times since the opening in November last year, could not help laughing.

If you are interested, it is still on at Peroke Theatre near Metaxourgio Metro station, ticket priced 23 and 20 euros (I guess it differs depending on day and time).

That is all about the play, but I also want to write about the theatre.

When you buy the ticket, you are given a coded memo like this. With this, you have no idea where you can seat.

And that is exactly the point. You have to ask theatre attendants which seats are yours and you have to pay tip only for this service. Hubby, unfamiliar to the theatre, did not pay her and she did not complain, but we observed most of the people were paying them some coins, mostly a euro, but one woman paid a 5 euro note! (but I think she was just showing off and it is not the norm). Inside the theatre, there were also programme vendors (5 euro for a small pamphlet).

This is the view from my seat; although they were give-away tickets, we were given decent seats.

What surprised me not the least was the messy floor: the small pieces on the ground were broken crisps. Evidently the did not clean the floor between the first and the second show.


I don't know much about the theatre, but in cinemas of the countries I lived, there always is cleaning time after each projection. I would have prefered to have more cleaners than attendants in the theatre.

Goodbye Meat + Correction

On the Thursday last week, Tsiknopempti, I wrote that it was the last day we are allowed, according to the Orthodox tradition, to eat meat before Easter.

I was wrong.

It is actually from today (23 Feb. 2009, Monday) we are not supposed to eat meat, yesterday being the Meatfare Sunday (Kyriaki tis Apokreo). This week is Cheesefare Week and after Cheesefare Sunday (Tyrini), no more dairy until Easter, according to the rule book.

Hubby claims the fasting does not start until Katharideutera (Clean Monday), so I will cook as he likes. I am not convinced by the Orthodox fasting practice and will do in my own way.

I did do it once for full Lenten period, but could not feel the benefit of it. I cannot agree that the Lenten diet is good for health or that shrimps, prawns, octopus, or shellfish are not animal. I never understand why fish eggs are allowed, while fish are not.

Mum-in-Law says that there is no use in doing fasting, if, while not eating the prehibited food, one does not eat in moderation. It is true. During the fasting period, it is difficult to control the quantity of food intake, as one cannot easily satisfied with the allowed food and ends up in eating more.

Let's see how it goes.

20 February, 2009

Greek Sourdough Bread (Me Prozimi)

As I probably mentioned before, I love Greek bread. When we lived in UK, we used to consume less than 800 grammes of bread a week, and now we eat easily 1200 grammes per week. Not because our diet pattern changed, but we are eating extra bread, as it is so good (and it is bad for our weist line!).

I like horiatiko bread and it is my first choice, but I buy also me prozimi (με προζύμι) bread. It literaly means bread with yeast, but in practice it means sourdough bread. The fascination of 'me prozimi' bread is that it is so different from one bakery to another.

Yesterday I tried this bakery for the first time; it is in Passalimani area of Piraeus, Greece. Evidently it in business since 1929.

Ntakas
Normally, the Greek bakeries give you the bread in prastic bag, but this one wrapped the bread in a piece of paper. As the freshly baked bread need to 'breath', this is the correct way to handle the warm bread (yes, it was still warm).




It had an intriguing shape, as if it was twisted. The shape of the bottom suggests that the dough was pretty soft when it was put into the oven.



Section. It is light and airy. The crust is cruntchy and the slightly yellow-ish white part is soft and moist.




It was fine, but I prefer heavier texture and I would have liked more deapth in taste. It is quite a matter of personal taste, but I have eaten the ones I liked better.

My quest for perfect Greek bread continues...


19 February, 2009

Peiraiki in the Wind

Today it was a very fine day, but windy as well. I went out to see how the things were and here are some photos from Peiraiki area of Piraeus, Greece.


One of the street near our flat; it looks as if the sea is coming to you.





OK. You cannot perceive from this photo, but I tell you that I could not stand still while shooting it.



Aphrodite Bay and the Oratory of St. Nicholaus (I think).

When I came home, I noticed my eye-glasses were filled with fine crystals of salt.

I don't believe the temperature wasn't that low, but, because of the strong wind, the perceived temperature was much lower. Even the cats were feeling cold.


Now it is quarter to 21 o'clock, but the wind is browing ever stronger. I don't like much the sound of wind...

Tsiknopempti Today

It is Tsiknopempti today; the last day the Greek Orthodox believers are allowed to eat meat before the Easter.

The word Tsiknopempti is a composite of tsikna (smell arising from meat grilling) and pempti (Thursday). As from next Monday the Orthodox Christians are not allowed to eat meat, I guess they celebrate the day grilling the meat.

I still don't know how much proportion of the modern day Greeks observe the Orthodox fasting to the word. My impression is that not a few observe it only the first and the last week of the Lent, but I don't know many, except, of course, the priests, do it to the full.

Hubby says he will do it, but I predict he is going to make some exceptions, like milk in his coffee in the morning or on party occasions. I am not fully convinced by the philosophy of the Orthodox fasting and will do it in my own way. The Church says the believers should follow exactly what the rule book tells us and otherwise there will not be any benefit. But, you know, the Church would OF COURSE say so.

This is the first time for me to be able to observe how the Greeks observe the period before Easter and I am very much looking forward to it.

No Bus in Athens from 10:30-16:30

Today (19th Feb. 2009) the buses do not work from 10:30 - 16:30.

Especially the transport between the airport and Athens centre will be limited to Proastiako line (Athens suburban railway), as the Metro has been suspended for work since some days ago.

It might be too late a notice, but be careful everyone all the same!

18 February, 2009

Exodos in Athens

We used to buy a magazine called Athenorama to get information on restaurants, cinemas, theatres, art exhibitions etc in Athens and its surrounding area.

I think it costs 2 euros.


However, I discovered recently another magazine of the same purpose only for 1.30 euros! No, not even that. It is in theory free, as it comes with a newspaper.

It is called Exodos that comes with Eleutherotypia every Thursday.



Eleutheropytia

The arrangement of the contents is almost exactly same as Athenorama.



Exodos

If you think 1.30 euros is too much, it is also on-line.

http://www.exodos.gr/

Check it out if you are after the entertainment information in Athens!

17 February, 2009

Pan-fried Tsipoura

Bought two tsipoures (sing. τσιπούρα- plur. τσιπούρες)from the laiki agora in front of our flat.

It was about the closing hour and the prices of fresh products were being lowered. I could not miss the opportunity.

Tsipoures

The fish looked similar to sea bream that I used to see in UK, but the quick internet search took me to this and this websites giving the English translation into dorado and gilthead bream respectively.

These were fairly large (compare with the tea spoon in the photo) and two of them weighed 900 grammes in total, but there were also smaller and thus cheaper ones.

The price was fairly competitive, but they did not clean the fish (which did not bother me, but some might be put off); if you want have the fish cleaned, maybe you'd better go to fishmonger.


My plan was to wrap them in aluminium foil and steam-bake in oven, but in the evening my brother-in-law with his wife visited us for coffees at 8 o'clock and left at 9:45, I could not bother to spend much time in cooking (I knew that we could not eat at home the day after).

What I did was to remove the guts and scales, to season and to pan-fry them.



I cooked them for 15 min, but as the fish were so fresh, it should have been shorter. We ate them lemon and olive oil and they were so delicious, much more than the sea bream we used to eat in UK.

I cannot wait trying other types of fish.

16 February, 2009

LIDL

Recently we discovered that there is LIDL not far from Piraeus station and today we paid a visit.
The objective was to see the prices there. Comparing to the situation in UK, the supermarket prices in Greece are significantly higher and I was wondering if it is just because I have been to wrong supermarkets or because indeed the food prices in Greek supermarkets are dear.

Starting by the conclusion, Greek LIDL prices are not bad, but are still more expensive than in British LIDL.

I bought, for example, a box of green tea (25 bags) for 1.29 euros. That is OK by Greek standard, but in UK, if I remember well, it was around 90 pence. The ALDI used to sell 50 bags of green tea for a pound, although they were simple bags without handle, the type very popular in UK, but you don't see here in Greece.


A small jar of jam was 1.39 euros, cheap by Greek standard, but in UK, it wasn't more than a pound.


A bag of pasta, 500g, was competitive 40 cents, at the same level as in UK.


Only thing I found cheaper was the shopping bag; small bag was only 2 cents, while in UK it is 3 pence.



The following items are difficult to compare to the British counterparts, but should be useful to compare with other Greek supermarkets.

This is semi-hard cheese to grate on pasta or on rice (the label says 'hard cheese', but not as hard as parmiggiano reggiano or pecorino romano). It is 8.99euro a kilo and tasted all right.


This is Kaseri cheese, 0.85euro a kilo. I have not eaten other kaseri cheese raw and cannot tell if it is all right or not.


Sheep milk yogurt, 320g for 0.89 euro.

I have not compared yet the price with other supermarkets.

By and large, I was not impressed by the level of price at LIDL as much as I used to be in Britain, but I will go back to pick up some competitive goods to supplement my shopping at Carrefour.

**************************

I see there are many people arrive at my blog searching LIDL GREECE. Here is the Lidl Greece website.

http://www.lidl.gr/

There is the shop locator section on this site, but I am afraid it is only in Greek (but of course you can use Google translation).

Cafe with a View in Piraeus

It is rather chilly in Athens these days, but there are moments of sunny spells which warm up the atmosphere.

In one of these moments, we decided to go for cups of coffee at an outdoor table.

It is a self-service cafe and a cup of espresso costs 2euros and cuppuccino 2.50euros (in the photo is my espresso).




The nice thing about this coffee shop is the view; it is situated on the 9th floor of building and if you get the table outside you have a nice view over the Agia Trianta Church and Kantaros port.



On the other hand, the view on the town is not that beautiful. Piraeus has some nice Neo-classic buildings, but the town is mostly filled up with rather ugly new constructions.




The coffee shop is situated in the Sprider building just behind Agia Triada of Piraeus. Recommended for a fine, warm day.

15 February, 2009

Water pipe cafe in Kallithea (Athens)

Another exotica I found in Kallithea, Athens.

Al Sokareia

Egyptian water pipe cafe, Al Sokareia.

There was an impressive collection of narghiles (water pipes) - I did not enter, but could see it from the door.

Unfortunately, or fortunately, Hubby nor I are smokers, but if they sell coffee, we want to revisit to see what is going on inside.

14 February, 2009

Peiraiki cats

Cat photos.

In Peiraiki we found some cats wondering around. I guess they are fed by the nearby tavernes and might be useful to keep the mice away.

Boss like long-fur black cat.



He was young and very friendly.

13 February, 2009

Kallithea

Went to Kallithea (situated between Athens and Piraeus) today to explore and found this.



Not clear from this photo?

How about this, then?



Russian gorcery shop! I am sure it says "Russian Products".

It is not a big shop, but there are interesting stuff. Bought two small jars of chili sauce and tried one; it was brilliant.

Wonder if I can find the same stuff also in the Roumanian supermarket in Piraeus, which seems to sell also East European products.

Greek Semi-Fresh Sweets

I don't know what they are called, but I like very much one type, or rather, one genre of sweets that the Greeks make. You can find in any cake shops or even in bakeries.

Even I don't know the name, I can show you photos: these photos are from our neighbourhood patisserie Vienneza.



Vieneza

And more.





These are small cakes made of chocolate, biscuit, sponge cake, nuts, cream or combination of these. They seem to have longer shelf-life than usual cream cakes and, although the instruction says we have to eat them immediately, can sit in the fridge easily for a couple of weeks.



This is a box of about half a kilo mix and there are about 9 pieces, which means 1 piece costs little short of a euro (if you don't order "mixed" box, probably you will pay less).



This is a typical example of these sweets.




Take a look at the section.


White cream (I don't think it is fresh whipped cream) is sandwiched by two pieces of soft, syrupy chocolate biscuit and chocolate coated. It is quite decadent; it would be more decadent if it contains boozy component.


For me who never manage to eat a whole slice of normal cakes, these come in a perfect size and I don't feel pressurised to consume while they are quietly sleeping in our fridge. We have a very happy relationship.

12 February, 2009

Olive and Tomato Pita

Greeks snack a lot and their favourite snacks are pies (pites), or, if you are British, 'pasties' might be a better word to convey the idea.

To give some examples, there are tyropita (cheese pie), loukanikopita (sausage pie), spanakopita (spinach pie, often including cheese), etc.

The other day, we discovered a barkery near our flat and decided to try, and to our joy they have some interesting pies.

From several interesting ones, we picked up one (well, actually Hubby picked up one, me not being pie lover). It was quite long; maybe near 30 cm.



Inside, there were olive paste and tomato (+ potato, I thought) paste in two individual lines.



Pie was fresh and fraky and the combination of fragrant olive and tangy tomato was a great idea.

Greeks tend to be very conservative and traditionalist in cooking and to find such a new / different things is often very difficult. We will be back to try some other things.
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