Xinohondros- a fermented milk/cereal mixture

The combination of ground cereal grains and milk or yogurt to produce a highly nutritious, storable foodstuff is a common practice among the countries of the Eastern Mediterranean.

There are two Cretan variations under this category: xinochondros (sour ground wheat) which is the boiled mixture of fermented goat’s or /and sheep’s milk and “chondros” and galochondros (milk-ground wheat)  which consists of fresh unfermented milk and chondros. Both are usually consumed in the dried form.

Chondros is called the coarsely ground wheat on the islands of Crete, Carpathos and Kythera. According to Geoponika,* in ancient Greek chondros was the dehulled  emmer wheat grain (Triticum dicoccum) that had been  pounded, boiled and gradually mixed with white, fine gypsum and a quarter part of the whitest and finest sand for each part of gypsum ( a practice that contributed to the grain husking). When chondros was all husked, they passed it though a rather coarse sieve. The best was the first-sieved chondros; the third sieved chondros had the worst quality.

The pre-procession of cereals is actually an idea  dating back thousands of years.

The archaeobotanical remains of ground einkorn and barley grain from northern Greece and Santorini indicate that preparations created by parboiling cereals and combinations of ingredients such as cereals and milk go back as early as the third millennium B.C. in northern Greece and mid-second millennium B.C in Santorini. Although the archaeobotanical finds of processed cereals cannot tell us much about the techniques and the recipes involved in their preparation, the description of Geoponika is reminiscent of bulgur preparation.

As I’ve already said,  the cereal grain that is know under the name chondros in Crete, Carpathos and Kythera is simply coarsely cracked wheat. For a very long time it was home produced and in the hands of women, men were not completely excluded from the grinding though. Nowadays, the manual grinding process has been replaced by the mechanical one and women buy chondros from the market. Sometimes bulgur is used instead of cracked wheat.

Chondros is mainly produced using Triticum durum, so in the recipe below I used mavrathera, a local variety of Triticum turgidum subsp. Durum.

HOW TO MAKE XINOCHONDROS

Keep the raw, unpasteurized milk in a room temperature until it begins to turn sour and thick. Stir once or twice per day.

Put the sour milk into a pot. You can use the whey too. Bring to a boil.

Carefully add the ground wheat (in a ratio 1 wheat: 3 ½-4 milk). This is the time to make the sign of cross or blow three times, thus you will bless the xinohondros or  you’ll awake the apotropaic gods. :)

Simmer stiring  constantly. When it thickens and spoon stays in the centre of the xinohondros, remove from fire.

 Leave the mixture  to rest overnight and then spread in the form of spoonfuls or  rectangular pieces in the sun to dry. If you will make a large quantity, keep it in a pillowcase or cloth bag.

Xinohondros is made in the summer, when there is enough sun for it to dry out.

Though it  is usually consumed in a dried form, fresh xinohondros has a wonderful taste and can be served for breakfast. Dried xinohondros is found in a myriad of recipes in place of rice. It is  used in soups and stews  or  it is cooked with chicken, or okra, or pork, or  snails, or vegetables, or legumes,  or simply milk.

* Geoponika, edited by Beckh, published in 1895 Leipzig by Τeubner

A fast and easy method to make Garum

 

 

I don’t think my neighbours appreciate my attempts at making garo (ancient Greek: garos or garon, Latin: garum) , the liquid that results from the 2-3 months fermentation of small fish or of fish intestines in brine. The smell is very unpleasant. However garos- when used  with a light hand- gives a delicious savory quality to dishes. Ancient Greeks, Romans and Byzantines  used to put it on just about everything.  They also mixed it with wine, vinegar, pepper, oil, or water.

But

This time I will follow a  fast and non stinky method.

Whole anchovies (innards and heads included) and oregano are ready to be boiled in salted water until become a thick liquid. I am thinking of adding some sweet wine too. After having passed the fish liquid  several times through a cheese cloth I will have the precious garo.

I am really curious about its taste.

Of course, I will keep it in the refrigerator since my sauce will not be a result of fermentation.

Για Ελληνικά εδώ

The impressive hawthorn of Zominthos

 

 

 

In the archaeological site of Zominthos (Psiloritis/Crete) there is a particular hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna)  which stands at a height of 12 meters. It is really impressive considering that its family usually grows like shrubs or small trees. Since it is the tallest known example of its species in Greece, it  has been declared as a “Listed natural monument”.

I am curious if the fruits of this tree had ever been used as food. Wild foods were traditionally important as a supplement to the diet (particularly during times of scarcity) and small hawthorns have quite edible fruits, which can be made into  jams and liquors. Also, the dry fruits were ground to powder and used as a flour substitute in times of starvation.

So,

does anyone have information about the fruits of Zominthos’ hawthorn?

 

 


 

ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΕΔΩ...

GOING HELLENISTIC

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When Macedonian Caranous gave his wedding banquet, early in the third century,  only 20 men attended as his guests. As soon as they had sat down, a silver bowl was given to each of them as a present.

When they had drunk the contents of the  bowls, then there was given to each of the guests a loaf  of bread on a bronze platter of Corinthian workmanship, of the same size; and chickens, ducks, pigeons, and a goose and lots of other items. Each guest took the food and gave it, platter and all,  to the slave who waited behind him. Many other elaborate dishes  were also served. And after them, another platter came, this one was made of silver, on which  was placed a large loaf, and on that geese and hares and kids, bread curiously made, and doves, and turtledoves, and partridges, and a great  abudance of many other kinds of birds.

After  some flute-playing women and musicians had played a prelude, other girls came in, each one carrying  two  bottles of perfume bound with a gold cord and they gave a pair to each of the guests.

Then a great treasure was brought in: a silver platter with a golden edge, and large enough to receive a roast piglet of huge size, lying on its back, showing his belly, stuffed with many delicious things: roasted thrushes, and paunches, and a most countless number of fig-peckers, and the yolks of eggs spread on the top, and oysters, and scallops.  And to every one of the guests were given these items, nice and hot, together with the platters.

But this was not the end of the banquet.

Many more items were brought until the serving time of the after- dinner tables: hot kid, roast  fishes,  Cappadocian bread, real Erymanthian boars  and rivers of wine.

Finally, the after-dinner tables: flat cakes – Samian types and Attic types-  Cretan gastrin, along with the special cake- boxes for each of the guests.

What a feast, indeed!  And what a plethora of ingredients and combinations for those who demanded (and could afford) the best, most extravagant,  most fashionable and ultimately most expensive foods.

You see,

after Alexander’s conquest Hellenistic civilization was spread through the E. Mediterranean and Near East.  Long distance trade between West and East expanded; crop varieties were exchanged;  new fruits were introduced and spices were imported from the East;  new foodways were imported  as well.

Therefore,

that wedding dinner  manifestates -among other things-  the dramatic changes of eating during  the end of fourth and the early part of  third century.

As  the Greek cities were dominated or governed by the Macedonias and  the successors of Alexander competed with each other in manifestation of magnificance and power,  those different foods and foodways became widely adopted by the elite. The wealthy had a large and gastronomically elaborate menu  in a style  influenced by  Macedonians, Persians and the polished Magna Grecia  that had reached a high degree of refinement.

Of course,

such dinners also  contributed to the display of the wealth.  Silver and golden platters, dancers, singers, gifts to the guests  etc. emphasize the manifestation of wealth rather than concern the food itself.

Of course,

the local cuisines of the Greek cities were considered old fashioned or old or simply poor .

However,

it is worth pointing out that  two centuries later the availability of a great selection of herbs and spices and the wide range of their combinations  imply that Greeks did’t consider them extravagant anymore.  Obviously, they had become familiar with them.

A good example of the abundance and combinations of condiments is myma, a meat dish of the 1st century B.C.  Stirred into the meat and giblets were  13 herbs and spices-cheese was among them- and blood.

All these details show how far the Hellenistic people had developed the art of cooking.

But…

Today,

can we recreate Hellenistic recipes?

Hmm…  For the first dinner of the  Edible history poject which took place at Evmaros (Cultural Association) I made goat cheese and hydromeli; I made  breads with ancient wheats   and plakountes; I baked them in a sort of  klivanos and  in the wood fired brick oven of the bakery in my neighborhood;  I pickled radishes with home made vinegar and home made wine and 20 days later I minced and mixed them with minced raisins and mustard seeds (many varieties of vegetables and greens have disappeared; never thought that it was so difficult to find radish with long root); I stuffed a piglet….

But…

the truth is  that  if we cannot cook over an open fire (though we use replicas of ancient utensils) an if  we don’t raise the same animal races  or cultivate the same varieties of  vegetables in the same ways as the ancient Greeks, recreating ancient dishes is very difficult. Since we ignore quantities and cooking times, it’s getting  practically impossible.

We do know that Hellenistic people had a sweet and sour cuisine – probably, less sweet and sour than the Roman cuisine-  which blended the sharp tastes of vinegar, wine, herbs and spices with the sweetness of honey, raisins and grape molasses but we cannot revive it.  We can only give a flavor of the  foods that they may have eaten.

Hors d’ oeuvres

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Boiled pork tripe
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Clockwise from top left:
cabbage, cucumbers, apples, pomegranate seeds;
black olives;
arugula sprinkled with Vietanmese nuoc mam, a good substitute for garos (the ancient fish sauce);
mushrooms with oxymeli ( a boiled  mixture of honey, vinegar and water);
pickled radishes;
pork belly stuffed with liver, bulgur and blood;
boiled tripe  served in sharp vinegar, cumin and asafoetida. Originally it was served sprinkled with the famous silphion (latin: silphium), a plant that marked rich dinners. After its disappearing, it has been replaced by asafoetida which was brought by Alexander the Great to the West.

 Breads

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(Photo by Ivy of Kopiaste.org)
Bread made with emmer flour and sprinkled with poppy seeds. The leaven was grape must. The bread was baked in the oven of my neighborhood’s bakery.
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During hellenistic years new kinds of bread became popular; Cappadocios artos- a bread apparently native to Cappadocia- is one of them.  It was also called  “apalos” (soft). It was  made with flour, a little milk, olive oil and sufficient  salt.  I mixed 1 cup of wheat flour with salt and warm milk and set it in a warm place. Five  hours later the mass had become porous. I added a little olive oil and flour and  mix them to form a quite soft dough. Then I poured it into a bread mold and  set it in a warm place.  Cappadocios is a very fine, white bread with slightly sour taste.
Main course
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Epainetos says in his Art of Cookery  that “A myma of any sacrificial animal, or chicken, is to be made like this: chop the lean meat finely, chop liver and offal finely, mince with blood and flavor with vinegar, baked cheese, silphium, cumin, fresh and dried thyme, Roman hyssop*, coriander leaf, coriander seed, Welsh onion**, fried onion or poppy seed, raisins or honey and the seeds of sour pomegranate. You may also serve it as a relish.” (1st.cent.BC, apud Athen. 662d)
If you want to make myma you need access to some blood. Talk to your local butcher about it.
Next to myma: bulgur cooked in free- range chicken broth.

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In ancient Greece, fresh meat required to be slaughtered and prepared by a mageiros, a butcher, sacrificer and cook) with appropriate religious ritual. Oven roasting became popular during hellenistic years. It was also introduced from the East allowing the development of extravagant stuffed meat dishes, which later became popular in ancient Rome.

Our piglet was stuffed with chicken breasts, roast thrushes,  fig-peckers, paunches and yolks of eggs.

   Desserts

  “Defterai trapezai” (second tables) corresponded to our dessert. They were called so because clean tables were brought in. Dessert consisted of different kinds of fresh and dried fruits, nuts, cheese, cakes, sweetmeats etc.

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 Cheese-plakountes (bread-cakes)  have their ingredients (fine flour, honey***, fresh goat chees, water)  mashed into a pulp or they were made in a form of stuffed bread.

* Satureja thymbra,  za’atar rumi.

** Welsh onion has nothing to do with Wales. According to Wikipedia ‘Welsh preserves the original meaning of the Old English word “welisc”, or Old German “welsche”, meaning “foreign”. The species originated in Asia, possibly Siberia or China’.
***Best honey was still agreed to be the thyme honey of  mount Hymettus.

****Black pepper was imported from the East and presumably was more expensive than silphium.

HERE, ANOTHER DESCRIPTION OF THE DINNER (ΒΥ ΙVY OF KOPIASTE)

EDIBLE HISTORY#1 ~ GOING HELLENISTIC

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On Friday, November 19, I will recreate a flavor of what rich and fashionable Hellenistic Greek society might have eaten. 

The menu includes, among others:
 ~ Myma, a luxurious spicy dish made with chopped meat of chicken or sacrificial animal, liver, offals, blood and flavoured by melted cheese and 12 kinds of herbs and spices.
~Roasted suckling pig stuffed with hen breasts, thrushes and eggs.
~Bulgur cooked in a well sealed clay pot.
~ A dish of wild greens and cultivated vegetables.
~Voletinos bread, milled with ancient variety of wheat and baked in a sort of “clivanos” (ancient Greek portable domed clay oven); flatbread and a soft bread said to be typical of Cappadocia.
~Plakous, a cake made with fine flour, home made goat cheese and honey.
~ Gastris: a Cretan specialty made of various toasted nuts and seeds mixed with honey.
Please make the reservations until 17th of November.  evmarosart@gmail.com   tel: 210 6207824.
 
Evmaros Cultural Associaton~ 26, Fokidos st., 11526 Athens
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

1st GREEK FOOD BLOGGER CAMP & ANCIENT ATHENIAN BREADS

Imagine this: informative sessions; people with similar interests; beautifully made food ; great wine; gifts from the sponsors.

Yes, I am talking about the first Greek Food Blogger Camp, which was totally worthwhile.

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The organizers Vicky and George (creators of the Greek Food Blogs Portal) did a fantastic job, the speakers* kept everyone very interested, and as I’ ve said, besides the great inedible information, there was fantastic wine and food prepared by bloggers and catering.

 

My gift to GFB Camp bouffet was a modern re-creation of two kinds of ancient Athenian breads: a streptikios and a cheese & honey bread.

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Ι already talked about those breads here.

Bread making has been traditional in Greece since ancient times but today is very difficult to reproduce the flavor of ancient breads because the recipes are incomplete.

For my breads I chose emmer (Triticum dicoccum) and durum wheat (triticum turgidum) because most ancient Greek wheat bread is made from them. Triticum turgidum produced semidalis, a fine flour.

Ancient sources inform us that there was a wide variety of different kinds of breads with loaves with coarse texture and loaves with a fine consistency. Kernel hardness is one of the most important factors influencing the flour texture since crushing is more difficult for grains with hard endosperm. Emmer and durum wheats are all hard, their hardness is variable though. Moreover, emmer is a hulled wheat, which means that husks enclose the grain. During threshing the outer chaff  don’t release the grain.

For this experiment I bought 1kg durum wheat grains and 1 kg hulled emmer grains. I dehulled them by pounding them in a wooden mortar;  initially the emmer chaff remained almost unaffected. The dehulling process was difficult and time consuming but when I used a stone mortar it became more efficient.  Before grinding the grains with a rotary hand quern, I coarsely broke them.

 

After 60 minutes of grinding, both emmer and durum flour had a fine texture, contrary to the belief that querns can’t grind durum wheats into fine flour. They certainly can, but it takes effort.

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Emmer flour 

 

 

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 I substituted grape must for sourdough in streptikios. Excellent as always.

 

 

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 Streptikios was a bread made with a little milk and there was added pepper and a little amount of olive oil; if not oil, then lard. I used emmer flour, olive oil, goat milk, sea salt and freshly ground pepper.

 

 

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 The honey & cheese plakous was made with t.t.durum wheat, honey and cheese. Original “recipes” do not specify the type of cheese to be used but since cheese and honey provide the flavoring in this sweet bread, I used a  flavorful soft fresh goat cheese and thyme honey.

 

Both breads were baked in the wood fired brick oven of the bakery in my neighborhood (THANK YOU guys for your support!). In the “On the Powers of Food”  Galen says that the bread from a large oven is the most digestible bread. This view may have been shared by ancient Athenians who bought bread from bakery shops and bread sellers.

 

 

 

 

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Egkrides, plakountes, 8 white and 8 black breads. Manufacture and use of dough in Classical Athens.

In Plato’s (c. 400 B.C.) ideal state men would lived on a healthy diet eating wholemeal barley or wheat bread and galettes. Socrates, however, suggested that this meant the whole population would be living on pig-food. The truth is that  in those days, Athenians  featured barley cakes (maza) and barley bread in their diet but they liked their bread white- the favourite bread of the rich too.

To many modern people it may seem surprising that Athenians  enjoyed about 66 kinds of bread and cakes, with more or less interesting names as regards ways of baking, shape of bread, ingredients and origin. A variety of breads were made for some religious festivity and to be offered to some particural divinity as well.

The average Athenian ate about 800 gr bread daily but bread was also figured in the diet of the very wealthy.

Athenians could grow wheat and barley but Athens had not the ability to produce all wheat it needed on its own soil without resorting to trade. The city-state imported wheat from other countries:  Black Sea Region, Sicily and Egypt.

The diet of Athenians was very simple, why, then, 66 kinds of bread and cakes? Fine athenian bakery developed because there were advances in technology,  economic conditions, political conditions, cultural influences, trade, abundance of ingredients at least among the upper classes, public bakeries’ establishment, evolving taste and fashion…

There were bakeries, yes, but of all household tasks the most serious was  breadmaking.

Pestles for pounding the grains, saddle querns and rotary hand querns for grinding the flour need muscle power. In classical Athens home grinding was done by woman’s muscle power… On a daily basis, farmers, poor women and women slaves spent about 5 ½ hours to make flour for a family of 3 adults and 3 children.

Heavy, heavy task .

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Gorgeous sixth-century B.C. black-figure lekythos from Boeotia. It depicts the entire process, from crushing the grains with a mortar to kneading dough and shaping loaves

 

After all grains had been grinded, the women  pushed the flour through a sieve to remove brans,  kneaded and  baked.

 There were ash baked breads  and lovely crusty loaves mixed with cheese and honey.
What did they taste like?

All these were the subject of ” Egkrides,* plakountes,** 8 white and 8 black breads. Manufacture and use of dough in Classical Athens”,  the talk  I gave  at the invitation of Historical Folklore and Archaeological Society of Crete (ILAEK). I spoke in front of an audience that was curious about ancient breads and cakes, in the beautiful environment of Kipos, the open air cinema in the municipal Garden of Hania.  

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mariana

 

 

To get a taste of ancient Athenian breads and cakes, I made 4 kinds of bread and 2 kinds  of cake that reflected both ancient Greek ingredients and baking techniques.

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Vlomiaios: rectangular bread. Streptikios artos:  made with pepper, a little milk and a small amount of olive oil. Voletinos: a bread flavored with poppy seeds. I used emmer  flour (triticum dicoccum)  for cheese bread and vlomiaios and triticum compactum for voletinos and streptikios. The honey- cheese plakous and the sesame-honey-milk plakous (no photos included) were made with semidalis (durum wheat flour), the finest wheat flour. I substituted grape must for sourdough in voletinos… it gave excellent baking results.

 

Yes, after the talk there was bread-tasting and we had fun doing it!

 

*Egkrides: pieces of dough fried in olive oil.

**Plakountes (pl., plakous~ sing.): a large variety of cakes. There was no really difference between plakous and bread…  although, fine flour, cheeese, honey,spices, seeds and herbs were more appreciated in plakountes.   (The latin placenta comes from an. Gr.plakounta)

 

ΓΙΑ ΕΛΛΗΝΙΚΑ ΕΔΩ

Wheat on Foodista

EDIBLE LITTLE SHOES (Papoutsakia, παπουτσάκια)

Is Aphrodite’s raised sandal a tease or is she intending to slap the goat-legged Pan with it, because she is not interested in an erotic adventure with him?

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 100 BC.  National Archaeological Museum of Athens.*

 

Beautifully decorated sandals were traditionally included in bride’s gifts. For jewelry, perfumes and sandals  provided her with the tools to maintain her beauty of the night of her marriage.

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Greek red-figure amphora with Hippodameia preparing for her wedding, ca 425 BC.
(Museum of Fine Arts, Boston)

 

 Homer called Dawn “Eos with pale- rose fingers”  but Sappho dressed her bare beet in golden sandals: “Standing by my bed / in gold sandals / Dawn that very / moment awoke me”.**

eoslouvredetail

Eos (Dawn) pursuing Tithonus.
(Attic red-figure oenochoe by Achilles painter. 470-460 BC, Louvre Museum.) 

 

And there were sandals with marked soles. Walking the dusty streets, the ancient prostitutes would leave footprints with  ΑΚΟΛΟΥΘΙ / AKOLOUTHI (“Follow me”) written on the ground.

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Tondo of an Attic red-figured cup. (ca 490 BC. British Museum) 

 

Elaborate Byzantine shoes, so brighlty colored but almost hidden by the long draped clothes….
Red was reserved for the Emperor and for women’s footwear in art. 

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 Theodora. Mosaic at San Vitale in Ravenna. ca 546 CE  

 

Fleeting glimpses of low cut slippers…

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Maiden of Livadeia, 1825.
(Dupre’s Voyage a Athenes et a Constantinople ou collection des portraits, de vues et costumes grecs et ottomans.  
commons.wikimedia.org)

 

Did the Queen and the Maids of honour wear boots or small heel silk bow shoes?

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 Queen Amalia, ca. 1850
(Philibert Perraud, ΦΑ_1_658, PhotoArchive, Mpenaki Museum)

 

A precious new pair of shoes, just after World War II.

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 New shoes by Voula Papaioannou  (PhotoArchive, Mpenaki Museum)

 

This is the one who got the perfect legs for such fire red velvet shoes. 

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Bracelet. 

 

A shoe that  is not made for walking  and certainly doesn’t  make every man pay close attention at women’s legs….  

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 Though, if  prepared with thoughtful care, it offers an unforgettable pleasure… 

 

AUBERGINE LITTLE SHOES (Melitzanes papoutsakia) 

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8 small aubergines

4 tbs virgin olive oil

MINCED MEAT- TOMATO SAUCE

300 gr minced beef

300 gr minced lamb

3 large cloves of garlic, minced

2 medium onions, finely chopped

3 medium ripe peeled, cored tomatoes, finely chopped

 5-7  tbs virgin olive oil

2 tbs fresh parsley, chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 cinnamon stick

1/3 tsp sugar

sea salt to taste

ground pepper

BECHAMEL

 1  2/3 cups milk

3 tbs all purpose- flour

2 tbs butter

sea salt to taste

ground pepper

3/4 cup grated graviera or Gruyere cheese

  Cut off the stems of the aubergines, then cut in half, lengthwise. With a  spoon, discard the pulp of the aubergine, leaving a shell about 1 cm thick. Salt and leave in a colander for 1 hour to rid of bitterness. Wash well and dry. Brush both sides with olive oil and roast until just soft. (Traditionally they are sautéed  in olive oil).

Sauté the onions in 2 tbs of olive oil. When they soften add the minced meat and sauté briefly. Add the  wine and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, cinnamon stick, sugar, salt and pepper to taste and simmer until the minced meat is tender. Add a little water if necessary.  The sauce should be lightly moist and strongly flavored. Remove from the heat, remove cinnamon stick and stir in parsley and half cheese.
In a saucepan mix the butter with flour over low heat. Stir with a wire whisk. Remove from the heat and add  milk slowly, stirring constantly. Place again over low heat and add salt and pepper.  Stir with the whisk until the sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in the other half of cheese. Allow to cool slightly.
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the aubergines on a baking pan and spoon in the filling. Spoon over  1 – 1 1/2 tbs bechamel sauce.  Cook on the bottom oven rank, until the aubergines are soft and the bechamel top is  browned (about 45 minutes – 1 hour). Serve warm.

 

VEGETARIAN VARIATION ON THE MEAT SAUCE

  2 large onions, finely chopped

3 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 large green pepper, minced

2 1/2 cups tomatoes, peeled and finely chopped

1 cup walnuts, blanched, peeled and chopped

1/2 cup dry red wine

1/3 cup currants (optional)

ground cinnamon

5 tbs virgin olive oil

sea salt and ground pepper

3/4 cup grated graviera or Gruyere cheese.

In a skillet, heat 2 tbs of olive oil and add the onions and green pepper. Sauté for 2 minutes.  Add the wine and cook for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, 3tbs olive oil, cinnamon, salt and pepper. Simmer until sauce thickens. Remove from the heat and stir in currants, walnuts and cheece. Let cool slightly before filling.

 

 *The group of statues bears a solemn votive inscription: “Dionysios, son of Zeno, son of Theodoros of Berytus, benefactor, [dedicates this] on behalf of himself and of his children to the ancestral gods”.

**SAPPHO  A new translation,  by M. Barnard, 1958.

LOVE, INVINCIBLE IN BATTLE…

“In truth at first Chaos came to be, but next wide-bosomed Earth, the ever-sure foundation of al the deathless ones who hold the peaks of snowy Olympus, and dim Tartarus in the depth of the wide-pathed Earth, and Eros (Love), fairest among the deathless gods, who unnerves the limbs and overcomes the mind and wise counsels of all gods and all men within them.”  1

eros

Eros stringing his bow, Roman copy of statue by  Lysippos , 4th c. BC 
Museo Capitolino 

Since then, “without warning
as a whirlwind
swoops on an oak
love shakes our hearts”… 2

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Couple hiding under the same cloak, fragment of a red-figure cup, ca. 525 BC–500 BC, found in Athens.  

…and “like a ram racing in the heavens
breaking the branches of the stars” 3

Love hovers “over the oceans and distant lands
and
no immortal god, nor man with his measured days
escapes ” it. 4

eggonop

Nikos Engonopoulos

 Though it can also be “… a cunning weaver of fantasies and fables” 5, parent of strife and fountain of tears 6,   love is “all we have, the only way that each can help the other”. 5

Pastichio with walnuts for lovers

“Beat 6 egg yolks with 300 gr of sugar until thick and pale and add 300 gr ground walnuts, ground cloves and cinnamon. Beat the egg whites very well and fold them into the mixture. Bake in medium oven.”  (Ephimeris ton Kyrion, February 1899) 

1 Hesiod, Theogony, 120 Crane, Gregory R. (ed.) 

2 Sappho

 3 Odysseas Elytis, Monogram IV, transl. C.Neophytou

4 Sophocles, Antigone, act II, 781

5 Sappho.

 6 Apollonius Rhodius, Argonautica 4. 446 ff

7 Euripides.

“Love, invincible in battle….”, Sophocles, Antigone.

FOOD FOR THE DEAD

As a puff of wind, the psyche leaves the body at the moment of death. 

grave-stele

Marble grave stele of a little girl, ca. 450–440 B.C (commons.wikimedia.org/)

 Then, either enjoying the easy life in the Elysian Fields or wandering as weeping shadow among the pale asphodels or ascending to “a place of light, a place of green pasture, a place of repose” *  the psyche  needs honors. In an unbroken continuity from ancient Greek times through the Byzantine era to the present, offerings of food hold an important place among the dead  honors.

nekrikosymposio

Funerary banquet scene, IVth  cent. BC

(Nat. Mus. Istanbul, commons.wikimedia.org/wiki)

On the days that departed souls return to the upper world, they cannot find peace if  not  treated graciously. Because there is a popular belief that souls return to earth. They freely roamed the ancient Athens on the third day, called Chytroi (Pots), of the Anthesteria, a   festival in honour of god Dionysus. They wander at the places they had loved during their lifetime and they sit in the trees watching the living, according to Greek folkore.  On Psychosavvata (Saturdays of the souls), that is the two Saturdays before the Great Lent and the first Saturday after it, the dead are the breath of wind and the shadows at the Carnival feast. 

Though traditions vary from town to town, its a common place that souls cannot find peace if not treated graciously. Therefore, people have to act accordingly. Beautiful flowers and burning candles decorate the graves;  bread and kollyva, a mixture of grains which  echoes the ancient Greek  pankarpia (all fruits) or panspermia (all seeds), are  offered to the neighbours or brought to cemeteries. Cheese, cheese-pies, halvas etc. are included in small lunches at the grave sites (Crete)  in remembrance of those who cannot be seen.

KOLLYVA

kollyva

4 cups  hulled wheat

2 cups  ground blanched almonds

3/4  cup ground toasted hazelnuts 

1  cup crushed toasted sesame seeds

2  cups  toasted and powdered chickpeas 

3/4 -1 cup pomegranate seeds

1 /2 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 cup currants  

2 1/2 teasps  ground cinnamon

2 tsp ground cloves 

3 tsp finely chopped parsley

1 tsp  salt

1 small bay leaf

Clean, wash and  boil the wheat with the bay leaf and salt until it’s soft.  Drain, place under cold water,  drain again and let cool. Spread it on a clean towel and cover with another one to dry overnight. The next morning add cinnamon, ground cloves, parsley, 1/2 cup of powdered chickpeas, nuts, currants and pomegranate  in the wheat. Mix very well.  Place the mixture in a tray and cover it with sesame seeds and 1 1/2 cup powdered chickpeas. Press it smooth on the top. Shift  sugar over kollyva and press smooth with a wax paper. Mix well before serving.

*Book for Commemoration of the Living and the Dead.