|Top L to R: Signposts, the clear waters near Porto Vromi, Mika's delicious mezedes, our host sharing a glass of wine, the beautiful sunset from Roxa, wild thyme and chammomile on the roadside|
Whilst honeymooning on the island of Zakynthos a couple of years ago, Mr K and I had the absolute delight to stumble upon a gorgeous little hillside Taverna, very near the small village of Koiliomenos.
|The road to Ampelostrates and their beautiful roses|
Set on a family property, Ampelostrates immediately drew us in. Exhausted after a day swimming in the beautiful clear waters near Roxa and Porto Vromi, we were warmly welcomed and offered a little table on the white pebbled stoned terrace. With a chilled glass of wine, we looked out, over the grape vines and gardens heaving with fruit, vegetables and herbs, to the bell tower and rooftops of the local village.
|The view of the rolling grape vines from Ampelostrates|
Mika, the charming host of the little taverna, was both an amazing cook and artist. Sitting under the voluptuous fig tree as dusk rolled down the hillside and over the grape vines, I fell in love with Zakynthos and Mika's delicious mezedes. These delightful mouthfuls were freshly made with organic produce from the property and included rice and herb filled dolmades and tiropitakia (little cheese pies) - to name but a few! The food and atmosphere of this taverna was so good, we had to come back on a second and third night!!
|The terrace and figs at Ampelostrates|
On our last evening in Koiliomenos, Mika kindly introduced us to her family and gave us a tour of her studio and her beautiful art work. Mika's husband also gave us a tour of his very large vegetable and herb garden, noting the ways of organic farming and introducing us to new herb varieties, which were rare and pretty much unheard of in Australia. On leaving, Mika presented us with a very generous gift. A huge bottle of thick green, first pressed olive oil. made from the trees on the property to bring home to Australia.
|Our Grrek feast top L to R; Tiropitakia, lamb on the spit, lemon and rigani potatoes, ouzo, stuffed tomatoes and chilli, riagni and garlic olives|
Inspired by the beautiful Mika and the food at Ampelostrates, this weekend I decided to embark on making my first batch of tiropitakia. Using the notes I had made while staying on Zakynthos, I added a generous handful of both fresh and dried mint. While many recipes suggest that you should ricotta cheese, it holds a lot of water and the potential to make your little pies a little soggy. Using cream cheese is a way to overcome the soggy factor and it provides a nice smooth texture against the crumbled feta. The honey wash is also key - it adds a lovely little caramel crunch - the sweetness of which is the perfect contrast to the salty cheese filling.
When the little pies came out of the oven, Mr K delightfully noted that, "it smells like Greece in here!" With a mouthful of the little pie he added, "...and it tastes like Greece!". High praise indeed.
|A glass of ouzo to get the feast started and the lamb, mid way through roasting|
To complete our Greek feast, Mr K carefully followed Peter Minakis' (author of the wonderful blog Kalofagas) excellent instructions for a rotisserie leg of lamb (with the exception that Mr K used a shoulder of lamb). The result was utterly divine!! Crispy, crunchy salty on the outside and beautifully tender on the inside.
To accompany this garlicky, riagni-scented, to-die-for lamb, I made some stuffed tomatoes, tzatiki and an industrial sized dish of lemon and rigani potatoes. Our Greek feast was shared with good friends in the garden, under the shade of a giant sail from a yacht, nonchalantly strung among the trees to keep us clear of the summer sun showers that kept passing through. A great afternoon could only have been made more perfect if we had Mika at the table, a bottle of the homemade wine from Ampelostrates and a view of the rolling grape vines.
|Stuffed tomatoes, local wines and oils from Roxa and the way to Ampelostrates|