Kefalonian Days - meeting the fishermen

The best time, said Katerina, to buy your fish was at 8am. "You will find the fishermen, their boats and the catch, lined along the bay in Argostoli." The sun is late to rise in the Kefalonian autumn. We could hear the muted pop of gunshots - someone was out on their daily round of hunting, as Mr K and I gulped down thick, dark, sweet Greek coffees in the hazy early morning light. We grabbed our market basket and headed straight to the main town, Argostoli.

The stereotype of the Greek, partying late and rising late could not have been more wrong. The bay was absolutley humming with life - proof of the importance fish and seafood hold in the Greek diet - and I think their hearts. Their were yia yia's sitting on the benches that line the bay, chatting animatedly and, "po, po, po-ing" under the palm trees, while there husbands with the soft thud of komboloi and a waft of Karelia cigarette smoke asked the fishermen, "do you have any octopus", "when is the best season", "is there any tsipoura or lavraki?", "how much per kilo??".

Most of you lovely readers already know about my husband's love of fish and seafood. At the market, he looked like he had just arrived at the pearly gates of heaven. Quick as a flash, his very fluent Greek was in speedy operation to start mixing with the papou's, minus the Karelia-Komboloi combination, to find the best fish for our lunch.

The fish, carefully selected was gleaming silver tsipoura, gilt head sea bream. Mr K was anxious to return to the villa as soon as possible, to get these shiny beauties on ice - and the coals fired up in the BBQ. The only stop we made on the way back to the villa was for a few potatoes, some lemon and a big herbaceous bunch of rigani - for some rigani and feta dusted chips, some tomatoes and sweet red onion, and of course - a little village wine. When purchasing the wine, we saw Greek hospitality at its best. Mr K only had a large euro note (for our 3 euro bottle of village wine). "Δεν υπάρχει πρόβλημα" said the lovely shop keeper, "no problem! You take the wine, drop in the euros when you come back for your next fish!!"

To prepare the fish, Mr K rubbed it simply with a little Greek sea salt and some olive oil, placing it straight onto the coals, once the fire had died down a little. In the beautiful open kitchen which looked out to the sea, I peeled the beautiful creamy autumn potatoes, to make some chips - coating each batch with a little of the rigani. The juicy red tomatoes and onions were sliced and doused liberally with the pale pink Greek wine vinegar and another sprinklining of rigani. Next, I took some organic chicken stock, the white local butter, some Greek red saffron and the karolina rice to make a saffron pilaf. I probably should have used more of a basmati rice, but the karolina made a beautifully creamy dish. Lastly, I melted a little butter, adding some capers and lemon juice to drizzle over the crispy skin of the fish.

Greek Saffron Pilaf

1 cup rice

1 onion finely diced

2 cups of chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 cup olive oil

1 tbs butter

Pinch of Greek red saffron

1. Rinse the rice under cold water and set aside.

2. Add a pinch of saffron threads to the hot stock. Set aside and allow the saffron to infuse.

3. Melt butter and oil in a pan, add the onion and cook until translucent (do not brown).

4. Add the rice and coat all the grains, then add the stock and saffron. Turn heat to a gentle simmer and allow the rice to cook. When it is nearly cooked through, take the pan off the heat and remove the lid. Place a clean tea towel (folded) across the top of the pan and then add the lid back on top - until ready to serve. Fluff the grains of rice with a fork before serving.

Greek potato chips with feta & rigani

3 large potatoes, cut into desired thickness

Oil for deep frying

Flaked Greek sea salt

Dried Greek rigani

100 grams of Feta

1. Cover potato chips with cold salted water in a pan and bring to the simmer over until just tender. (if you prefer thinner chips, skip this step and simply rinse throughly and drain)

2. Drain, then spread on a tray lined with clean tea towels and set aside to dry.

3. Heat oil in a large saucepan. Fry chips in batches until golden, drain on absorbent paper and set aside.

4. Combine sea salt and rigani in a bowl and then sprinkle over the hot potato chips, at the same time also crumble over feta and serve hot.

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Maira Gall