Tag Archives: summer

Apple SlapDash

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Starking apples

Such an abundance of apples! Hera would have loved winter here in Pelion when the apple trees are laden with fruit, but the gods only came during the summer to disport themselves on the beaches and relax in the cool shady forests of Mount Pelion. Zeus of the ever-roving eye must have had a grand old time chasing nymphs through the glades, while Hera seethed and sulked. She was probably only too glad to get him back to Mount Olympus for the winter, though by all accounts that didn’t cramp his style.

The sweet, red Starking apples are my favourite. Freshly picked and with a little cheese, they’re a treat worthy of the gods; did Hera ever try them like this? I often buy too many, but apples are so easy to prepare in all manner of ways that there’s no need for any to go wasted.

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Topped with flaked almonds

My apple cake is very quick and easy – it has to be for I’m not known for my culinary skills – and came about one day when friends called, asking if they could drop in later for coffee. I needed to rustle up something sweet, but what? I had apples a-plenty, didn’t feel inclined to make pastry, so decided to fall back on my Mother’s 2-4-6-8 standby cake, and hope for the best. The results were better than I’d expected, so here’s what I do if you’d like to try it.

2 eggs, 4 oz butter, 6 oz sugar, 8 oz self-raising flour.
That’s it, and very useful has this basic mix been to me over the years. You can add some cocoa, vanilla essence, almond essence, etc. to the mixture. This is truly a very basic recipe you can fling together in a hurry, and liven up as you choose.

For this cake, you need apples, obviously, which you either cook yourself or use canned apples.

To prepare the apples:
Core and quarter the apples, peeled or unpeeled as you prefer; I no longer peel mine. – the skins are good for you.
Place in a pot, cover with water and add sugar to taste.
Bring to the boil for a few minutes – you don’t want them too soft.
Drain and spoon into a greased baking dish or pan.
I like to use a square or rectangular one as I find it easier to cut even pieces.
Preheat your oven to 375 degF while you mix the cake.

To prepare the basic 2-4-6-8 cake topping:
Cream 4 oz butter and 6 oz sugar
Beat in 2 eggs and mix well
Gradually beat in the flour
Add a little vanilla essence
Stir in some milk if the mixture seems too stiff

To complete the cake:
Toss some raisins or sultanas over the apples if desired
Sprinkle with cinnamon
Spread the cake mixture evenly over the apples
Sprinkle flaked almonds over the top
Bake at 375 degF until nicely browned (about 30 mins)

This is very tasty served as is, hot or cold.
Ice cream or cream makes it really yummy!

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Quite delicious!

I was once asked what this apple cake is called.
“Oh, it’s really a very slapdash thing,” I replied, and that’s what we call it.

 

Near CATastrophe

Two of our cats are sisters. The tortoiseshell is Retsina, the marmalade one is Ouzo; they are named for traditional Greek drinks.

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Inseparable

We took them into Volos to be neutered when they were little, confidently telling the vet that Retsina was a girl, and Ouzo a boy. He elected to operate on the girl first as the surgery is more involved. When he came to Ouzo, he called us: “You said this cat is male. Well, Ouzo is a girl, and should be called Ouzaki.” We were stunned.

I know that tortoiseshell cats are almost exclusively female, and that a male tortie is so rare as to be considered a freak, but I also believed that an all-ginger cat (no white at all) is exclusively male. Well, all-ginger females do occur. I must say, in a lifetime of being owned by cats, Ouzo is my first ever female ginger.

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Please, We’re Sleeping!


By the way, Retsina is a feminine noun, Ouzo a masculine, so yes, Ouzo should be Ouzaki, but her name has stuck and Ouzo she is. The vet still teases us about our knowledge of feline anatomy!

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Helpful Kittens

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And Yet More Help


Both cats are highly nervous, highly strung, very timid, which I attribute to their early days as kittens born to a semi-feral cat. In fact, many of our friends have never even seen them as they tend to hide away during the day. It gets quite hectic around here a great deal of the time as both are frightened of the other cats, and it’s often a case of “Shut the bedroom door! Ouzo’s on the bed!” or “Don’t let Raki into my study! Retsina’s in my chair!”

Sometimes they disappear all day, particularly in the summer, and only creep in through the cat flap at night to sleep inside, where they evidently feel safe. There are plenty of foxes about, feral cats, feral dogs, and even European Wildcats which can present a threat to them. But mostly they are intimidated by Raki. That little demon, much adored as he is, torments the poor girls at every opportunity, and their lives have never been the same since he arrived.

Where’s that pesky Raki?

Still Looking

Ouzo left the house early on Wednesday night – unusual that she didn’t sleep inside – and no sign of her all day yesterday. I called and called through the early evening, with the wind roaring and the waves crashing. Nothing. She did not put in an appearance. Not a trace of her this morning. She hadn’t come in during the night, and heavy rain had set in. I was extremely uneasy, to say the least. I’ve mentioned that few people remain in the village now, and that many houses are boarded up for the winter.

A ghastly thought began to run through my head. Surely not? I couldn’t put the notion that she was somehow locked in somewhere out of my mind, so I set off in the pelting rain, calling. I walked and called. Called and walked. Suddenly, a faint sound. Could it be? Was it a cat’s cry? I called again. A louder cry seemed to answer me. I stumbled on, confident that I was hearing Ouzo. Yes! Her crying was coming from a storage basement in a closed up holiday property nearby. I couldn’t see her at all, but she was clearly down there, and the owners are down in Athens.

So I did the only thing I could and activated the bush telegraph, which has been greatly improved since the advent of the mobile phone. I called Costa, our marvelous Albanian who is the general factotum of most of the village. He called Elias, our equally wonderful Albanian stonemason, who called I know-not-who, who located Niko, the caretaker, who has a key. He lives on the other side of the Pelion Peninsula, quite a long way to come on his old motorbike and in the rain. Bless the man, he said he’d come.

Meanwhile, my husband walked over to see what he could do. Ouzo beat him back to the house! We found out later that Niko had been at the property on Tuesday, securing it for the winter, and hadn’t noticed that the door to the little-used storeroom wasn’t properly locked. Ouzo must have sneaked inside and the wind blew the door shut. Hence her absence.

Ouzo’s asleep now in my study, well fed and warm, but Niko would not have been back for months. I think I need a drop of ouzo ….

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Retsina, not appearing to miss Ouzo

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Ouzo Recovering

 

IN THE PINK

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Jason

Cyclamen Graecum – Greek cyclamen – is native to the eastern Mediterranean, lying low during the hot, dry summers, to awaken slowly into full bloom as the autumn rains make their entrance. Where there is shade and a little moisture, a few eager blooms begin to appear in late summer, a gentle reminder to make the most of summer’s remaining days. The flowers seem delicate, but these plants are hardy and thrive in poor soil, peeping up among the rocks, and even quite literally out of a rock if there’s a bit of soil caught in a hollow.

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Anywhere it Can

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Hanging On

Here on the Pelion where there are large areas of open ground on the hillsides and among the olive groves, the cyclamen are quite a sight scattered about among the rocks and stones. Other wild flowers are preparing for their spring debut, and their leaves are pushing up wherever they too can find a space. Wild oregano and fennel waft their scent through the air, adding to the pleasure of those who take the time to walk through the fields to wonder at the cyclamen.

Seeing such beauty every day is inspirational, so I dived deep into my stash to capture something of it, with the result that Jason has another hat. He made no sound as I hauled him through the fields of pink, seeming content to fix his glassy eyes upon the lovely upswept petals in their shades of pink, arising from heart-shaped dark green leaves.

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Will an olive fall on my head?

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Gazing in Wonder

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Maybe a Centaur Will Appear

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Are there spiders in there?

Cyclamen, derived from the ancient Greek word, kyklaminos, meaning shaped like a circle, which probably refers to the round tuber, are very popular in gardens and as pot plants. There are many cultivated varieties in every possible shade of pink, ranging through to stunning crimsons, and what a vibrant display they make.

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Cultivated Cyclamen

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In the Market


And so many colours!

But there’s something about field after field of these little flowers whose history traces deep back into antiquity that can’t be captured in a pot.

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What IS this??

THE LAST BOATS OF SUMMER

As I have already mentioned, the summer visitors have left the Pelion peninsula, sad to go, I would think. The weather was glorious. The refreshing waters of the Pagasitic gulf welcomed the swimmers and divers, and played gently with the littlies who paddled and splashed away happily. All manner of watercraft made its way up and down the gulf, the traffic increasing quite a bit in August when most Europeans take their vacation. Great fun!

There’s an expression in these parts to the effect that the lights go out on the last day of August, and to an extent it’s true. People seal up their summer homes, closing the shutters firmly, tightening everything up against the winter gales that make ancient olive trees vulnerable to their fury, while Poseidon whips the Pagasitic into a frenzy of white water.

No calendar alerts me to the end of the season. The little motorboats being towed up from the resort at Paou to their winter storage tell me that it’s over, that summer is shutting down. Two by two they go, a boatman in front pulling an unmanned boat behind him.

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All by Myself

Then he returns, sometimes alone, and sometimes with another boatman, to fetch more. There’s something so final about it. The empty boats, part of a holiday package deal, passed by last week. It’s easy to imagine they were tired, and indeed they are, for they’ve been taking holidaymakers around since early May. They will be cleaned, repaired, painted and freshened up to make memories for vacationers next year.

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Escorted

The people who work so hard in the tourist industry, invariably cheerful through the long, blistering heat of the summer, are making winter preparations also. Some, but not all of them, will be able to take a well-earned rest.

 

VILLAGE STYLE

We usually avoid the Saturday market during the tourist season, a busy time on the Pelion Peninsula, as it’s extremely crowded and parking is always a problem, but today we drove up knowing that things would be quieter. Most of the vendors are regulars who occupy the same positions year round, while those who come only during the summer to sell their wares set up tables along a side street. Those summer sellers are gone now, but there was the usual throng of hawkers around the crossroads, selling their goods from the back of a van. Fishmongers, their vans surrounded by cats; gypsies selling handwoven baskets alongside cheap, machine-made carpets; Mr Cluck-Cluck as I’ve dubbed him, who sells chicks from his big truck parked in front of the church, and several souls, usually older men, selling produce from their lands. These chaps are my favourites. They may have only a basket or two of fruits and vegetables, perhaps a few eggs. They sit on the low wall around the church, on a carton, or on a chair they might have brought along, chatting away and catching up on all the news. This is organic produce in the fullest sense of the word. Organic with a capital O, no mass production here. The tomatoes are fat and fresh, so fresh. They are round and red. They often have their stalks. They have blemishes. They are absolutely delicious!

There was a vehicle there today I’ve not seen before, perhaps because I haven’t been to the market for a few weeks. Two men were selling cheese from a small white van with sheep painted in rather romantic style on the side.

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The Store

I intended to take a photo of this artwork, but it quite slipped my mind once I got caught up in the excited discussion.

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The Stock

They had come from Crete, Greece’s largest island, with their cheese, travelling by ferry – an overnight trip. They handed out samples, cut with a penknife, no plastic gloves.

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Service Counter

“Here, taste it!” I managed to avoid doing that, and bought a whole cheese, a small one instead. It is very tasty indeed, quite mild and fairly firm. We ate some for lunch, with wholegrain bread still oven-warm from one of the village bakeries, honey-sweet tomatoes from a delightful character outside the church, sprinkled with basil from my garden, and our own oil and olives.

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Lunch!

“So, what’s this cheese called?” enquired my husband, and you know, I forgot to ask.