So... after a massive 36 hour trip, and an unexpected stop in Zurich, I have finally arrived to join Mr K in the truly spectacular Ionian islands. Kefalonia to be exact. I feel like I have just arrived in paradise. It has been a while since my last post and while I am in Greece, I am determined to return to photography, writing and cooking the wonderful local produce - and to share our adventures!! My kefalonian diary.
We are staying in a small little village, which is a short stroll away from the aqua and turquoise waters of a tiny inlet called Klismata Beach. We walked down to the beach early this morning. On the walk to the beach, we were occupied by identifying and gathering wild herbs on the roadside, such as thyme, dill and wild fennel. There was also a myriad of gorgeous white and yellow daisies and many other wild flowers. In the soft filtered morning light, we looked back onto the island of Zakynthos, the birthplace of my mother in law.
The main port town of Argostoli is just a short 10 minute drive from our villa. After swimming at the local beach, we headed to Argostoli in search of souvlaki - not the yeeros kind, but juicy pieces of locally raised pork - crispy and smokey from the grill. Eating a Souvlaki is one of the first things that has to be done when arriving in Greece. The fluffy grilled bread, juicy tomato, sweet onion and tzatziki filled bundles of goodness have no equal in Australia. But as Mr K says, once you have had one - you have to ration them out to only one per week!
Mr K's Hellenic radar was in full swing to find the best source of souvlaki. It was to be found via a little window, next door to the bus station and the little blue tables and chairs were packed with locals, including many fishermen who had returned from their early morning work - had rested and were ready to eat. Like every taverna in Greece, we enjoyed our souvlaki in the company of a tumble of cats and fluffy, hyperactive ginger kittens.
After lunch, we wandered through the main town, taking in the color and smells of the local shops and markets. Like many Mediterranean people, once you have had your first meal - you are thinking of your next and Mr K and I were no exception. The beautiful produce, artistically displayed was a wonderful source of inspiration.
While autumn produce such as warm yellow quinces, chestnuts and golden-pink pomegranates filled the markets - the remnants of a hot Greek summer were still in place by way of brightly colored peppers, juicy heirloom tomatoes, eggplants and even courgettes with their bright yellow flowers.
We couldn't resist selecting some of the beautiful courgette flowers to use in the evening - a vegetarian antidote to our smokey, grilled meaty lunch. We also stopped by the ζαχαροπλαστείο ( zacharoplasteío - patisserie) for something a little sweet to enjoy later evening with thick, dark Greek coffee.
To use both the courgette flowers and the courgettes themselves, I decided to return to our gorgeous villa and make kolokitholououda gemista (stuffed courgette flowers) and kolokithiakia me skordo (garlic stuffed courgettes). Mr K had recently visited his home island of Zakynthos and had bought with him a huge bag of the local currants - beautifully sweet but musty bursts of flavour - these also had to go in the pot, along with olive oil from the family olive groves. My mother in law also recommended using karolina rice for any kind of stuffed dish - so I also sourced a packet at the market. It is similar to aborio rice.
Stuffed courgette/zucchini blossoms (kolokitholououda gemista)
6 courgette/ zucchini blossoms
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 cougette / zucchini, grated
2 ripe tomatoes, grated (skins discarded)
1 cup of Greek karolina (or aborio) rice
1/2 cup chopped fresh wild dill
2 tbs Zakynthian currants
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbs Greek tomato paste diluted in 2 cups warm water
1. Trim the bottom part (stem), remove the stamen and rinse the blossoms under tap water and set them upside-down to dry.
2. In a large frying pan, add a little olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, garlic, grated tomatoes and cook until the onion are translucent. Add the grated courgette, currants, rice, dill and stir to combine and simmer for another 15 minutes. Add some sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste.
3. Gently open a courgette / zucchini blossom and add a teaspoon of the rice mixture into each. Fold the petals inward to seal the filling and place in a large baking dish. Repeat filling the remaining zucchini blossoms.
4. Add your tomato paste/water and the remaining olive oil.
Garlic stuffed courgettes /zucchini
6 small cougette / zucchini
6-7 garlic cloves, thinly
1/2 cup fresh dill, chopped
6 slices of feta cheese
1. Cut a slit down the middle of each courgette / zucchini (don’t go all the way to the way through - or right to the end). Remove slit from each courgette / zucchini.
2. In a bowl, mix together: garlic, olive oil, dill and salt and pepper.
3. Add mixture to each slit on each zucchini / courgette.
4. Add a slice of feta to each zucchini/ courgette covering the length of the slit.
5. Add to the baking dish with courgette / zucchini blossoms, cover and bake for around 1 hour. Remove cover towards the end of cooking so feta becomes golden brown.
Enjoy with a local wholemeal wood fired bread - and a village produced red wine.