Botrini’s Restaurant, Athens, Greece

Σάββατο, 1 Δεκεμβρίου, 2012

I recently visited Botrini’s Restaurant in a suburb of Athens, Greece.

Hector Botrini is one of the best chefs in Greece today. One might call him controversial, as he has followed the «Kitchen Nightmares» trail of Chef Ramsey’s TV show, hosting the Greek version of the show.

But cooking is cooking, regardless of how much you like the personality of the chef. So lets get to the real thing.

Botrini’s Athens restaurant opened in the summer of 2011.

As expected, the menu is short, and is divided in two parts. The «a la carte» and the «set menu» part.

My companion and I both had the set BOE menu.

Amuse Bouche

It all started with a Mediterranean «map on a tray» with the amuse buche. Nice presentation and a fun way to start the meal.

Anchovy and Red Pepper Terrine

The star of the tray was the anchovy and (sweet) red pepper terrine. This was an exercise in balance. The sweet pepper, balancing the sour anchovy. In my view the result was perfect. I would love to see this terrine as a first course.

Olive

Close second the «olive», accompanied by cheese and pastry concoctions.

Copa with melon and shrimp a la planca

First: Coppa (capicollo) with melon and shrimp grilled on a metal plate (a la planca). The shrimp is hidden under the cone of coppa, sliced very thin. Wonderful combination of surf and turf, with the icy melon bringing you down to earth.

Corfu fritura, feta cheese snow flakes, and stuffed sardine

First: Corfu Fritura with feta cheese snow flakes and stuffed sardine. The inverted fragment of a cone on the left side is a «sponge» that has absorbed tomato juice. The ball to its right is made of «lavrak(i)», or Mediterranean seabass, next to it is a shrimp, and then there is another ball of seabass, and two pieces of squid. You cannot see the stuffed sardine. On the right side you can see the «snow flakes» made of feta cheese. Overall, a tasty dish. I would have preferred to have less seabass and more stuffed sardines.

Bio chicken

Second: Bio Chicken. Cooked on a metal plate, deskinned, the bio chicken was juicy and tasty.

Goat

Second: Goat served with sea garlic cream, on a bed of koum kouat and sweet and sour «Mavrodafni» sauce. I particularly enjoyed the goat. Perfectly cooked, tender and moist.

Goat detail

I would like to make a special mention to the somelier of the restaurant, who served excellent greek wines from producers who have small volumes and therefore are not available in the retail stores. And the wine was included in the price of the set menu!

Although the restaurant was busy on a Friday night, the service was excellent.

Overall, great value for money, the complete dinner for two costs less than a meal in an ordinary fish taverna.

I will definitely visit Botrini’s restaurant again!

Greece: voices from the past

Κυριακή, 25 Νοεμβρίου, 2012

Mermaid – Γοργονα

As Greece continues to suffer from the worst financial, social and political crisis since the civil war of 1945-1949, I retreated back in time, and heard some voices from the past.

Καθως η Ελλας συνεχιζει να ευρισκεται εις την δινη της μεγαλυτερης οικονομικης, κοινωνικης και πολιτικης κρισης μετα τον εμφυλιο (1945-1949), αποσυρθηκα εις τον παρελθοντα χρονο για να ακουσω καποιες φωνες.

Kokinia between the wars (1918-1939) – Η Κοκινια στον μεσοπολεμο

«Οι μικροαστοι επιθυμουν τη δικτατορια μοναχα σα φτασουνε στο τελευταιο σταδιο του φοβου ή της απογνωσης ή της αβουλιας. Μα οσο υπαρχουν ελπιδες μιας εθνικης και ατομικης ανορθωσης, θελουνε να βλεπουνε τους λογαριασμους του Κρατους, να τους συζητουνε ελευθερα και να νοιωθουνε πως μπορουνε να αλλαξουνε το προσωπικο κατα το κεφι τους, σα νοικοκυραιοι.

Petite bourgeoisie are in favour of a dictatorship only when they arrive at the last stage of fear, desperation, or lack of direction. But as long as there are hopes of a national and personal recovery, they want to see the finances of the State, discuss them freely and feel that they can change the political personnel as they desire, like good housekeepers. (1)

Greece between the wars – Η Ελλας στον μεσοπολεμο

Η κοινοβουλευτικη συντεχνια βρηκε μια λυση της πολιτικης κρισης, που εσωζε τους θεσμους διχως να προσβαλλει τις σταδιοδρομιες και τα φιλοτιμα των κομματων και των προσωπων: Κυβερνηση συνασπισμου. Τα κομματα της συμπολιτευσης και της αντιπολιτευσης μοιραστηκαν τα υπουργεια με ενα κοινο «προγραμμα περισυλλογης», αφηνοντας εξω μερικες μικρες ομαδες των ακρων. Βρεθηκε ευκολα και ενας επιβλητικος γερος κοινοβουλευτικος, που ειχε καλες προσωπικες σχεσεις με ολους τους πολιτικους αρχηγους, και του δοθηκε η πρωθυπουργια. ..

The parliamentarians found a way out of the political crisis, that retained the institutions without assaulting the carriers and the pride of the parties and the political personnel: a coalition government. The parties of the majority and the opposition shared the ministerial posts on the basis of a common «recovery programme», leaving out the small groups of the extremes. It was easy to find a respectable aged parliamentarian, who had good personal relationships with all the party leaders, and make him the prime minister… (1)

Open air market in Thission, Athens – Λαϊκη Αγορα στο Θησειο

Ενιωθε και κατι αλλο, που σε λιγο αρχισε να το νιωθει κι ενα μερος του κοινου: οτι η Κυβερνηση του συνασπισμου απο τη φυση της, ειναι ανικανη να παρει γενναιες πρωτοβουλιες και να επιβαλει ριζικες λυσεις στα οικονομικα και κρατικα ζητηματα, που παραλυανε τη ζωη του τοπου. Ουτε την ξεκουρδισμενη μηχανη της διοικησης μπορουσε να φρεσκαρει και να ξανακουρδισει, ουτε το στρατο να καθαρισει απο τα ταραχοποια στοιχεια του, ουτε αληθινες οικονομιες να πραγματοποιησει και να ισοσκλεισει τον προϋπολογισμο, ουτε την εθνικη οικονομια να διευθυνει και να τη συγκρατησει σ’ ενα ανεκτο επιπεδο μες στη συγχυση των διεθνων οικονομικων συνθηκων.

He also felt something else, which was also felt by the public: that the coalition Government was by nature unable to take bold initiatives and implement all-encompassing solutions to the financial and adminsitrative issues that were paralyzing the life of the country. The government could not refresh the broken down machinery of the state, nor clean up the army of its radical elements, cut public spending, balance the budget, and adequately manage the national economy in the midst of the international confusion.» (1)

Festival in Delphi – Δελφικες εορτες

«Γιατι λοιπον να μη μ’ ανησυχει και να μη με εξοργιζει οταν διακρινω ξεδιαντροπα να καλλιεργειται μια κουλτουρα δηθεν εθνικη απο ατομα ή οργανισμους ή κομματα και με εναν σκοπο, την υποδουλωση σας, τον πνευματικο και αισθησιακο ευνουχισμο σας, την υποπτη αντικατασταση της ανησυχιας απο την ακινδυνη παραδοσιακη γραφικοτητα; Κι υστερα δεν ειναι επισης καπως υποπτη η αυθαιρεσια ορισμενων κομματικων οργανισμων να οικειοποιουνται την προοδευτικοτητα σα να’ ναι γεννημα τους; Και ποία η διαφορα σ’ αυθαιρεσια μ’ εκεινους τους αλλους, τα τρωκτικα του τοπου μας, που ετσιθελικα οικειοποιουνται την εννοια του εθνους, ώστε όταν εναντιωνεσαι στις παρανομες επιδιωξεις τους να γινεσαι αυτοματα αντεθνικος; (2)

Maroussi

So why should I not be worried and outraged when I see people, organizations and parties promoting without shame a supposedly national culture with only one objective, your enslavement, your mental and sensual castration, and the suspicious substitution of concern by the harmless traditional stereotypes? Following that, isn’t it somehow suspicious to see some political organizations pretending that they are the owners of progressive ideas and beliefs? And in what do they differ from the others, the rats of our country, who declare themselves the owners of the concept of the nation, so that when you rise against their illegal designs you automatically become an enemy of the nation?» (2)

Technical Lyceum – Σιβιτανιδειος Σχολη

«Ο φασισμός στις μέρες μας φανερώνεται με δυο μορφές. Ή προκλητικός, με το πρόσχημα αντιδράσεως σε πολιτικά ή κοινωνικά γεγονότα που δεν ευνοούν την περίπτωσή τους ή παθητικός μες στον οποίο κυριαρχεί ο φόβος για ό,τι συμβαίνει γύρω μας. Ανοχή και παθητικότητα λοιπόν. Κι έτσι εδραιώνεται η πρόκληση. Με την ανοχή των πολλών. Προτιμότερο αργός και σιωπηλός θάνατος από την αντίδραση του ζωντανού και ευαίσθητου οργανισμού που περιέχουμε.

Fascism in our days appears with two faces. Either provocative, on the pretext of reacting to political or social events that do not favour them, or passive, where fear about everything going on around us is prominent. Tolerance and passivity give room to the challenge of fascism. We seem to prefer the slow and silent death to the reaction of the live and sensitive self inside us. (3)

George Theotokas (left). Athens 1941

Και μη βρίσκοντας αντίσταση από μια στέρεη παιδεία όλα αυτά δημιουργούν ένα κατάλληλο έδαφος για να ανθίσει ο εγωκεντρισμός η εγωπάθεια, η κενότητα και φυσικά κάθε κτηνώδες ένστιχτο στο εσωτερικό τους. Προσέξτε το χορό τους με τις ομοιόμορφες στρατιωτικές κινήσεις, μακρά από κάθε διάθεση επαφής και επικοινωνίας. Το τραγούδι τους με τις συνθηματικές επαναλαμβανόμενες λέξεις, η απουσία του βιβλίου και της σκέψης από τη συμπεριφορά τους και ο στόχος για μια άνετη σταδιοδρομία κέρδους και εύκολης επιτυχίας.

Not finding any resistance from a solid education, all these create a suitable ground for egocentricity to bloom, emptiness, and of course every animal instnct. Notice how they dance (the fascists) making these militarymovements, away from any desire to contaqct and communicate. Their song, with the coded repeating words, the anbsence of the book (reading) and thinking from their behaviour, and the goal of a comfortable career and easy success. (3)

M. Karagatsis in his youth

Βιώνουμε μέρα με τη μέρα περισσότερο το τμήμα του εαυτού μας – που ή φοβάται ή δεν σκέφτεται, επιδιώκοντας όσο γίνεται περισσότερα οφέλη. Ώσπου να βρεθεί ο κατάλληλος «αρχηγός» που θα ηγηθεί αυτό το κατάπτυστο περιεχόμενό μας. Και τότε θα ‘ναι αργά για ν’ αντιδράσουμε. Ο νεοναζισμός είμαστε εσείς κι εμείς – όπως στη γνωστή παράσταση του Πιραντέλο. Είμαστε εσείς, εμείς και τα παιδιά μας. Δεχόμαστε να ‘μαστε απάνθρωποι μπρος στους φορείς του AIDS, από άγνοια αλλά και τόσο «ανθρώπινοι» και συγκαταβατικοί μπροστά στα ανθρωποειδή ερπετά του φασισμού, πάλι από άγνοια, αλλά κι από φόβο κι από συνήθεια.

We experience day after day the part of ourself that is either scared or does not think, seeking to maximize personal benefits. Until we find the right «leader» to command this despicable side of our existence. But then it will be too late to react. Neonazism is you and us – as in the known play of Pirandello. It is us, us and our children. We accept to be inhuman when we face AIDS carriers, due to lack of knowledge, but so «human» and understanding in front of the humanoids of fascism, not only because of lack of knowledge, but also because of fear and habit.    (3)

Greek Civil War 1945-1949

Και το Κακό ελλοχεύει χωρίς προφύλαξη, χωρίς ντροπή. Ο νεοναζισμός δεν είναι θεωρία, σκέψη και αναρχία. Είναι μια παράσταση. Εσείς κι εμείς. Και πρωταγωνιστεί ο Θάνατος.

And Evil is lurking without precaution, without shame. Neonazism is not theory, thought, or anarchy. It is a show. You and us. And Death is the protagonist. ” (3)

Young women on a boat outside the port of Alexandroupolis – Κοπελλες σε βαρκα εξω απο την Αλεξανδρουπολη

«Στο αναμεταξυ (1921) οι νεοπλουτοι, μπουχτισμενοι απο ευκολοκερδισμενο παρά και λιμασμενοι απο μακροχρονια νηστεια, το’ χαν ριξει εξω. Γινοταν ενα γλεντι αλλιωτικο, ουτε πρωτογονο ουτε συμβατικο, μα κατι το ατοπο, το χυδαιο. Προβαλαν μεσα στην ξαφνιασμενη κοινωνια της Αθηνας ανθρωποι αγνωστοι, μυστηριοι, που κανεις δεν ηξερε πούθε βαστουσε η σκουφια τους, με τις τσεπες φίσκα στο χρημα και διχως συναισθηση τι παει να πει χρημα. Σπαταλουσαν ποσα αφανταστα σ’ ενα γλεντι κακογουστο κι άνοστο, μη λογαριαζοντας τιποτα, μην ξεροντας πως να διαθεσουν τα εκατομμυρια τους. Βασικη προϋποθεση του γλεντιου ηταν ν’ αποχτησουν αμερικάνικο αυτοκινητο και να τριγυρναν στους ανυπαρκτους τοτε δρομους της Αττικης, αραζοντας σε ξωτικα λιμανια – Ραφηνα και Σκαραμαγκα – που ο μη εκατομμυριούχος μοναχα στ’ ονειρο του μπορουσε να τα ιδει. Ησαν εκει κατι βρωμοταβερνες, που παρισταναν τα κεντρα πολυτελειας, που πουλουσαν τα τηγανητα μπαρμπουνια και τον μποτιλιαρισμενο σταφιδιτη σε τιμες αστρονομικες. (4)

Rafina 1930

In the meantime (1921), the newly rich, fed up by easily won money and starved by long abstinence, were going overboard. They were partying in a different way, neither primitive nor conventional, but somehow out of place and vulgar. Unknown, mysterious people, who nobody knew where they were coming from, were emerging in the midst of the puzzled Athenian society, with their pockets stuffed with money and no conception whatsoever of what money means. They were wasting unimaginable amounts of money in pasties of bad taste, disregarding everything, not knowing what to do with their money. A basiv requirement for them to have a good time was to buy an american car and roam the non-existent roads of Attica, arriving at exotix ports – Rafina and Skaramanga – which an ordinary person could see only in their dreams. There were some horrible tavernas there, pretending to be luxurious restaurants, selling fried barbounia and bottled wine at astronomical prices  » (4)

Miss Europe, 1926

«Η Ελλαδα πεθανε και τη σκοτωσαμε εμεις – δεν ειναι ρητορικο σχημα. Δεν υπαρχει προηγουμενο λαου που με αποφαση της Βουλης (ομοφωνη) να καταργει τον τροπο της γραφης που συντηρησε τη γλωσσα του ζωντανη δυο χιλιαδες χρονια. .. Ο ευρωπαιος, οταν υιοθετησει το μηδενισμο, ελεγε ο Ντοστογιεφκσυ, εχει τα ιδια ερεισματα ζωης που συντηρουσε και θρησκευομενος: την προτεραιοτητα της λογικης, τον ωφελιμισμο, τη θεσμοποιηση των ατομικων εξασφαλισεων, γι’ αυτο και δυσκολα φτανει στην κοινωνικη αποσυνθεση και στο χαος. Ενω λαοι που επεζησαν μεσα στους αιωνες χαρη σε διαφορετικα ερεισματα ζωης – οπως οι Ρωσοι ή οι Ελληνες – οταν γινουν μηδενιστες, «βουτανε κατακεφαλα στον παραλογισμο» – δεν ξερουν μετρο. » (5)

Musicians – Στης μαστουρας το σκοπο

Greece is dead and we killed her – this is not a rhetorical statement. There is no precedent of a people who with a unanimous parliamentary vote abandons the way of writing that has preserved his language alive for two thousand years…. The european, when becomes a nihillist, wrote Dostoevski, has the same pillars in life that he had when he was a believer: the priority of rational thinking, utilitarianism, the institutionalization of the personal, and so it is difficult for him to arrive at social disintegration and chaos. While peoples who have survived through the centuries thanks to other pillars in life, like the Russians or the Greeks, when they become nihillists, «they go all the way to insanity», they know no restraint.  (5)

Korina in the Allatini Factory (6)

Θα σου παρουν τον ισκιο των δεντρων, θα τον παρουν

Θα σου παρουν τον ισκιο της θαλασσας, θα τον παρουν

Θα σου παρουν τον ισκιο της καρδιας, θα τον παρουν

Θα παρουν τον ισκιο σου… (7)

They will take away from you the shadow of the trees, they will take it

They will take away from you the shadow of the sea, they will take it

They will take away from you the shadow of the heart, they will take it

They will take away your shadow… (7)

Plakes, Volos

Sources – Πηγες

(1) Γιωργος  Θεοτοκας, ΑΡΓΩ 1936, Εστια. George Theotokas, ARGO 1936, Hestia Publishing.

(2) Μανος Χατζιδακις, Η πολιτκη στην τεχνη και η κακη τεχνη της πολτικης,   Ο Καθρεφτης και το Μαχαιρι, 1988, Ικαρος. Manos Hadjidakis, Politics in art and the bad art of politics, The mirror and the knife 1988, Ikaros Publishing.

(3) Μανος Χατζηδακις, Φεβρουαριος 1993, ΑΒΕΡΩΦ. Manos Hadjidakis, February 1993.

(4) Μ. Καραγατσης, Γιουγκερμαν, 1938, ΕΣΤΙΑ. M. Karagatsis, Yungermann, 1938, Hestia Publishing.

(5) Χρηστος Γιανναρας, Finis Greciae, 1986, Το Κενο στην τρεχουσα Πολιτικη, Εκδοσεις Καστανιωτη. Christos Giannaras, Finis Greciae, 1986, The vacuum in present day politics, Kastaniotis Publishing.

(6) Korina – Ceramics Allatini

(7) Γιωργος Σεφερης, Μερες Ε’, 15 Μαρτη 1947, Ικαρος Εκδοτικη. George Seferis, Days E’, 15 March 1947, Ikaros Publishing.

«Athinaeos Salsa Verde» with Fried Squid and Salted Cod

Παρασκευή, 23 Νοεμβρίου, 2012

Today I want to introduce the «Athinaeos Salsa Verde». The super star of a seafood meal that I enjoyed in a mild autumn day.

Athinaeos salsa verde – closeup

There is a multitude of green sauces in the mediterranean kitchen: persillade, gremolata, salsa verde, pistou, to name a few.

Athinaeos Salsa Verde

My salsa verde is made with ingredients that grow in my garden: parsley, coriander, mint, rocket, garlic and basil.

I put the mixed herds in the mixer, add oliver oil, a bit of coarse salt, and lemon juice.

The salsa is accompanied by fresh fried squid, fried salt cod, a fresh green salad with red-skinned radishes, and home made corn bread.

Fried fresh squid

I like fresh fried squid because it is always a challenge to fry it properly, and even greater a challenge, to buy really fresh squid. the really fresh squid has a flavour and an aroma that is so subtle and yet so prominent, that in my view is worth all the effort to find it and then fry it properly.

Fried fresh squid – detail

The elegance of the fried squid pooses the first challenge for the salsa verde. It should be mild enough not to overpower the subtlety of the squid, yet it should retain its personality and make its presence felt.

The second challenge to the salsa verde was posed by the fried salt cod.

Fried Salt Cod

One of the miracles of ancient seafood engineering, this cured pievce of fish has a unique taste that never fails to reward me, provided that the fish is of good quality and properly desalted and fried.

Fried salt cod – detail

The salsa verde has to stand tall in front of the strong personality of the salt cod, while at the same time it balances on the fine line  created by the taste of the squid.

A nice meal could not be complete without bread and a nice fresh salad.

Fresh salad with rocket, fresh onions, and red-skinned radishes.

The fresh salad contains: Rocket, fresh onions and red-skinned radishes from the garden, washed but not seasoned. Eaten with the hand. You pick whatever you like, sprinkle a bit of alst on it and squeeze a couple of drops of lemon juice. Then straight into the mouth cavity… Pleasure awaits the bold and the daring….

Corn bread

The bread is baked in the oven, and made of corn flour and water. Just that. And simply delicious.

Bon appetit!

Izmir, Turkey: a photo journal

Σάββατο, 17 Νοεμβρίου, 2012

View of the Izmir Bay at Dawn

I recently visited Izmir in Turkey for the first time.

The seaside promenade in Alsancak, Izmir, Turkey

It was an emotionally difficult trip, as I was overwhelmed by the historical background and the events of 1922 (see my relevant article). The seaside promenade that takes the visitor from Republic Square to Alsancak along the Kemal Ataturk boulevard is a landfill. Back in 1922 the shoreline was running along the paved road that is running by the buildings.

At the north of this stretch is the area where the refugees were stuck in September of 1922, trying to get on board a ship.  This is the site of a humanitarian disaster, one of the greatest before the second world war.

The stand for the ceremonies during Republic Day in Izmir, Turkey

Fate had it that my visit would coincide with the celebration of the establishment of the present day Turkish Republic – Cumhuriyet Bayramı: 29th October 1923.

Decorated Turkish Telekom Building, Izmir, Turkey

The city was fully decorated with flags and portraits of Kemal Ataturk. Very impressive indeed.

Portrait of Kemal Ataturk carved in a rock formation, Izmir, Turkey

On 29 October 1923, the new name of the nation and its status as a republic was declared. After that, a vote occurred in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey and Atatürk was selected as the 1st president of the Republic of Turkey by unanimous vote.

The clock tower, Izmir, Turkey

The clock tower in Konak Square was built in 1901 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of Abdülhamid II’s (reigned 1876–1909) accession to the throne. It is ironic that Abdülhamid II (see my relevant article) marks the end of the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of the forces that will in 1923 declare the establishment of the Republic of Turkey. In this respect, the clock tower is a monument that embodies this historical borderline. The clock itself was a gift of German Emperor Wilhelm II (reigned 1888–1918). It is decorated in an elaborate Ottoman architecture. The tower which has an iron and lead skeleton,, at a height of 25 m (82 ft), features four fountains (Şadırvanı), which are placed around the base in a circular pattern, and the columns are inspired by Moorish themes.

Izmir City Hall (Governor’s Residence – Konak)

Izmir Governor’s official residence (Konak), is an almost identical replica of the original building built between 1869 and 1872, which itself was lost to a fire in 1970.

Izmir Tourism and Information Office – North side

One of the very few buildings of the «Ionian Jewel» that the visitor can see today in the city is the Izmir Tourism and Information Office.

National Bank of Greece, Izmir, Turkey – West side

It used to be the building of the National Bank of Greece. Note that the tower of the North side has been removed.

Ataturk Museum, Izmir, Turkey

The Ataturk Museum is located on the quay, and is one of the historical buildings that have been restored.

Two women on a bench, Izmir, Turkey

The Agora (Market) of Izmir, dates back to the Hellenistic and Roman periods of the city’s life.

Agora, Izmir, Turkey

The archaelogical site is in the area of Konak, on top of a hill.

Shops near Agora, Izmir, Turkey

The neighbourhood around Agora is a working man’s area.

Building in Izmir, Turkey

Izmir today is home for over 4 millions of people.

Outdoor market in the outskirts of Izmir, Turkey

A lot of them have come to Izmir from Anatolia.

Old and new homes for the Anatolian immigrants

The hills surrounding Izmir have been covered by the homes built for the Anatonian immigrants. The old homes are now being replaced by modern multistory buildings. This massive rennovation project will result in freeing the hills from the old homes and create parks and areas of recreation.

Guard in construction site (yapi), Izmir, Turkey

Overall, the building activity in Izmir is intensive, extensive, and very impressive.

Girls on a bus, Izmir, Turkey

In spite of the number of people and the challenges this creates, Izmir is a clean and safe city.

Basmane Gar, Izmir, Turkey

Historic Basmane Gar is İzmir’s main station forAegean regional trains, with connections to thesuburban and Metro lines

Woman and train, Izmir, Turkey

Traces of art of the past can be found in the city, even in some of sort of bad imitation.

Imitation of art, Izmir, Turkey

I am happy that I went. In spite of the fact that the emotions are mixed.

Karsiyaka Iskeleri (Ferry Boat Peer), Izmir, Turkey

After all, so many terrible things in human history have been the result of the quest for «cleanliness».

So «mixed» is ok.

Movenpick Hotel, Izmir, Turkey

If you are wondering what the food is like, you can read my article on the Topcu Restaurant in Izmir.

Good night Izmir.

Izmir market at night under the moonlight

Güle Güle!

Today I cooked lamb offal.

As it happens most of the time, everything begins with the ingredients. My butcher gave me fresh lamb offal (kidneys, liver, heart, lungs and sweetbread)  and I run to the kitchen to cook it.

I marinated the offal in red wine, a bit of salt and pepper, and fresh oregano.

After three hours I dusted the pieces with flour, let them rest for a few minutes, and then fried (to perfection).

In parallel I baked aubergine in the oven, then mashed it with a spoon and mixed it with a spicy fresh tomato and chilly pepeer sauce.

I served the fried offal with sour lamb’s milk yogurt on the side, dusted with crushed red chilli peppers, and the spicy aubergine mix.

For decoration I used chopped green and red peppers and garlic cubes.

The sweetness of the offal married the sour taste of the yogurt and I got a superb sweet and sour dish!

The aubergine mix was hot and assertive, and matched superbly the yogurt. It provided the textural alternative to the offal.

I recommend a merlot with body to accompany the dish. Patrimo dei Feudi di San Gregorio 2001 is a superb choice.

Enjoy it!!!

Road Sign to Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province

I recently visited Izmir and toured parts of the Izmir province.

Today I publish some of the photos I took in the small seaside town of Iskele (Skala in Greek).

The Swan is the symbol of the ancient Ionian city of Klazomenai

Iskele is located a short distance away from the city of Urla (Vourla in Greek), built near the site of the ancient Ionian city of Klazomenai (Clazomenae), the birthplace of philosopher Anaxagoras.

Goalpost in Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province, Turkey

The city of Urla is located 40km west of Izmir, on the Rythrean peninsula.

Fishing boats in Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province, Turkey

The small port of Iskele in the 19th century and early 20th century was very busy when the famous raisin of the area was shipped abroad. According to some sources, in 1910 more than 1,600 tonnes were exported to Austria alone.

The summer house of the Seferis family in Iskerle, Urla, Izmir Province

Many wealthy families from Izmir and Urla had their summer residence in Iskele. One of the them, was the family of Stelios Seferiadis, a lawyer, and father of the Greek Nobel Laureate Giorgos Seferis, who was born in Izmir and raised in Urla. The residence is a complex of buildings that has been turned into a hotel and restaurant.

Renovated house in Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province

According to the census of 1920, the city of Urla had 50,000 inhabitants; 35,000 Greeks, 5,000 Turks and 10,000 Armenians and Jews. Only 500 of them were living in Iskele.

Public Park in Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province

As I was walking in the small town, a local resident asked me in Greek «where are you from?» And he knew the answer before I gave it to him.

Houses in Iskele, Urla, Izmir Province

Sujuk Borek a la Greque – Μπουρεκι με Σουτζουκι

Τετάρτη, 17 Οκτωβρίου, 2012

This post is about a tasty component of the Eastern Road. The Eastern Road is the gateway connecting the Greek civilization with the East.

I confess that I am eternally fascinated by the multivaried taste of sujuk.

A good sujuk is like a door opening to a new world, for you to discover.

(Sujuk is a dry, dark, spicy sausage produced in the Balkans, Turkey and other countries like Armenia. It can be eaten raw, but I prefer to eat it cooked.)

I was lucky to receive a wonderful sujuk the other day, and by association I instinctively decided to create a sujuk borek.

The warmth, the enveloping flavours, the melting texture, make borek one of the all time favourites in my kitchen.

(Borek or Bourek is a baked or fried filled pastry made of thin dough.)

The filling of the sujuk borek comprises in addition to the sujuk: sliced tomatoes, sliced hard yellow cheese (I used Greek gruyere), and mint leaves.

The phyllo for the borek is made with flour, water, salt and a touch of olive oil. It has to be crispy and dry.

I place the sujuk on the phyllo, then the tomato slices, the mint leaves, and on top of everything the cheese.

I prefer to give the borek the shape of a baguette, as it is easier to bake and serve. If you prefer you can fry it, but baking is far superior for this dish.

The borek needs 20 minutes in 250 C and immediate serving, steaming hot.

It can be one of the most satisfying eating experiences.

Crispy crunchy phyllo, the Spartan side of the dish, partnered by the succulent flesh of the sujuk, flavoured by the mint leave, lubricated by the melted cheese and bound by the acidity of the tomato.

Accompany it with a glass of ouzo. Bon appetit!

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