Soda the Greek

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Once again the kids and I went on our cross-Europe escapade/pilgrimage to the Camera Zizanio Film festival for young people and their parents! Usually I am the only parent walking around the peculiar litle city of Pyrgos while the kids busy themselves with film-making workshops and screenings. I try and stay out of the jewellery shops and resist eating too much fried haloumi and souvlaki, not to mention the pastries, spinach pies and ice cream…. too good. While trawling the archives of my blog I found this  post from many moons ago which is sweet.

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 Why Greek food doesn't have the same international reputation is beyond me, it's all about Italain and French but Greek food is rustic and unpretentious, made with love and attention to old ways and good ingredients. Each little restaurant we vsisited on our week stay made everything with pride and perfection. Salads are fresh and simple, many places having their own signature versions. I love the classic Greek salad though, with fresh tomatoes and a scattering of Kalamata olives and oragano, simple, delcious and just a little bit healthy. 

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I learned about an old classic of what a Greek salad used to be; the Triadafilo Tomato, simply a tomato cut into a 'rose shape, with little wedges of red onion between the slices, drizzled with olive oil and a smattering of dried oragano blown at it like a kiss, with a couple of olives on the side. Simple reverence to important things. The Greeks are spoiled with oranges, lemons and limes growing just about everywhere and clementines for the pciking as you strolled along the streets. Outdoor markets display abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, olive oils, honey and grape syrup, packaged simply in plastic bottles and sold cheply by jovial vendors. The abundance of raw materials in supermarkets says the Greeks like to cook from scratch. 

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And so on this trip I had a job to do. The nice folks at the Zizanio decided to put my book Bread on the Table, on the programme of events. I was to show some local women how to make soda bread, then we would bring the bread, with the new olive oil to the festival as a peripheral event. I would need a translator as my Greek goes as far as Nostimo – yummy, Oreo – beautiful, Scoopiodenakes – rubbish bin, and so on. 

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We went, armed with flour and yogurt, as no buttermilk was to be had and showed up at Velas house where I speedily displayed the simplicity of soda bread in her kitchen, much to the disbelief of her friends. We baked a few variations, adding feta cheese and sun-dried tomatoes to one and olives and rosemary to the next. We ate caramel covered cream cakes while we waited for the laoves to bake and then shared the fresh bread on the porch. A plan was hatched to bake loaves the following day for the book event and we went shopping for enough bread to feed 150 hungry onlookers. 

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Katerina was such a willing and happy baker in her pristine and cosy home, full of Greek paraphernalia and such useful kitchen utensils. We baked five huge loaves in her two ovens and even her mother-in law gave us some helpful tips. As we loaded the bread into baskets and heaeded back to the city, the phones were ringing looking for us. To say the book launch was a lottle chaotic would be too kind, but it happened and it was fun and showed the Greeks enthusiasm for home-cooking and al things traditional when it comes to food. Some people bought my book, which is really cool as they don't know me but now my book is in some homes in Greece and I hope they are enjoying the recipes. I hadn't considered before just how versatile soda bread is, you can add so many things to it and even get some sunshine into it. Maybe a new bread movement is born, Greek style yogurt soda bread. 

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