Friday, 24 August 2012

Metohi Vai

Dinner last night was great, we though that we would head out for a change to a tavenra that is tucked away on the eastern peninsula, just before you fall of the island out of Europe and into well, Africa!

Metohi Vai is like a desert oasis, a collection on unassuming buildings hidden on the side of the road. They where once rooms in which the shepherds would take refuge when they where out watching over their flocks.
Times have change and the rooms have been converted into a tavena and small hotel / rooms for rent. Looking at them from the outside of the property they are nothing special and if it wasn’t for the big photographs on the out side you would be forgiven for driving straight past them, but the inside is really quite lovely. The property has been beautifully resorted to accommodate guests who wish to escape from the hustle and bustle of the season. The gardens are very pretty and each room has is own veranda to relax on.

We have been coming to the taverna since we moved to the island. On one of our more recent trips discovered the best steak for miles around. As cows are extremely rare on the island you can imagine that a good steak is almost impossible to find, but we have! So as we drove out there last night my mouth started to water at the prospect of steak for dinner.

At this point I must apologize for the photo quality they where taken on my phone with poor light. 

Over all the food is really very good at the taverna, the menu is vast and I have yet to be disappointed. The service is great and the owner is full of interesting information about his end of the island. I thoroughly recommend stopping for lunch or dinner.

If you would like to make a booking this is their web site. 

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Back to the garden

Since Dynomite left we have been, well, busy. Unfortunately it’s the kind of mundane busy that’s not really worth writing about for fear of boring you all into a prolonged coma, a list of jobs and tasks the length of my arm which no sooner have you crossed one thing off another thing leaps on with such pure determination that it seems impolite to leave it off. So sitting quietly at my desk, for perhaps the first time in a very very long time, I have been working my way through the list. This has of course left me with a rather large gap in the blog.

The garden on the other hand, has also been busy, pumping out tomatoes at such a rate of knots I do my best to try to collect them all before they fall to the ground. To date we have had over 900 tomatoes ranging in sizes from that of your thumbnail to that of a golf ball. With so many arriving so quickly I have taken to sun drying them. My garden table doubles as a drying rack and given that we are blessed with such strong sun it seems only right to put it to use. So far I have made at least ten large jars of sun-dried tomatoes, I say at least as I have started to give them away - it’s a shame to squirrel them all away.

I also embarked on an experiment on Saturday. I was given a large bag of grapes, I like grapes a lot but I struggle to eat as many kilos as I either buy or am given (or a bit of both) so I thought that I would try making raisins. Sitia was once famous for its raisins so I thought I would try to rekindle the flame. Going down the same theory of tomatoes – which seems to work - I have added them to the drying table … currently they are going from green to brown and starting to wrinkle, we will have to see how it works out.

My other weekend experiment was drying herbs. A while ago I planted basil, mint, coriander, parsley and some chives. The basil has grown so fast that it has been turned into all sorts of things - mainly large quantities of pesto. But the basil I decided to dry is what I was told is the Greek version. Its leaves are somewhat smaller than that of common basil. The plant which I have was, when it was given to me, about the size of a small bread roll. When I put in into a new pot and gave it a new home it grew prolifically, which was brilliant, only it grew so fast than I couldn’t keep up with it so the leaves became too heavy for the stalks to support and it started to fall over.  As we are in a recession I thought I should dry them out and so cut the stalks down and tied them up. Needing a protective place to hang them to dry I borrowed the shutters on my husband’s office, consequently his office now smells of basil and lavender, incidentally the lavender also met the same fate.

The pepper plants are about ready to dump a large number of peppers on us. It seems that the garden has teamed up in an Olympic like race and everything wants to cross the finish line at the same time. I suspect that the peppers will also meet the same fate as the tomatoes - sun dried and preserved in olive oil!

Sunday, 5 August 2012

A Sea Side, Cottage Cheese Pie

Apologies for taking a while to put this up.

A couple of weeks ago you may recall that we went to a friend’s sea side cottage for what was originally planned to be a drink that turned into lunch and then dinner!

One of our friends, in the spirit of all things super simple, knocked up an extremely tasty and super fast cheese pie.

Sea side cottages are lovely and generally have the best views, on Crete they are generally the original family homes once belonging to grandparents of parents and passed down from one generation to the next. They tend to be tiny and the kitchens in the older houses make the galley on a submarine look like the kitchen in a palace. Big enough for one person to operate, much like the galley on a submarine. The cheese pie was concocted on the balcony, which was a good thing as we got the chance to see how it was done.

You will need the following:

1          Packet of ready rolled filo pastry.
2          Large eggs.
1          Block of feta cheese.
150 g   tub of crème fraiche or cream.
2          Different grated cheeses, we used local sheep’s cheese but you can use anything. You will need about 200g of each.
            Olive oil for greasing.

Take a deep baking tray and grease with the olive oil. Line the baking tray with one sheet of pastry.

Break the block of feta cheese up with your hands and mix with the other two cheeses and then sprinkle all the cheese over the pastry.

Lightly beat the two eggs and add the crème fraiche / cream then pour 2/3 of the mixture over the cheese.

Cover the cheese with the second sheet of pastry and press the edges over to seal.

Puncture the top layer of pastry with a fork and then pour the remaining crème fraiche / cream and egg mixture over the top.

Place the pie in an oven set at 200ºC for 25 minutes or until the pastry has risen and cooked.

Take the pie out and leave it to rest for about 5 minutes to let the pastry settle down.

Cut, serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Dynomites last weekend ...

Dynomite and my husband returned from their gallivant around the island with sore heads, sore livers and an apparent disdain for all things alcoholic, after two hours of whinging and wining and a good sleep they were back in the game! A very nice vodka cocktail was whipped up and we all sat down to watch the Olympic opening ceremony which I must admit, even if I am British, was ‘rather smashing and a jolly good show!’

The next day was the last that we would have the little Vitara, and so we decided to go on a mission to a place which you can only get to if you have a 4x4 or a boat. Husband dearest, fired up Google Earth and loaded the GPS – he likes his toys and loves his GPS – we filled the car up with all the beach gear and snorkeling equipment and headed over to the other side of the island.

The GPS chose the route and the road went from black top two lanes, to black top one lane, to cement one lane, to gravel road one lane, to gravel track with a hideous drop on one side and finally to riverbed with what appeared to be a track. The drive although quite bumpy, and at some point it was well … interesting, was in all fairness very pretty, it took us through rolling olive groves, down a narrow valley around a sea facing cliff and eventually to a very cute and quite small pebble beach. 

The beach was different from most of the beaches we have already visited, everywhere you looked there were caves. It felt as if at some point in time, the area could have been home to a settlement of troglodytes. Some of the caves you had to swim to, others you had to climb up to, most of them were at least 30 square meters and had clearly been recently used as camp spots given the fire pits which we found.

The snorkeling was quite good there were plenty of underwater caves to explore and for the first time in a while there were fish! They were small fish, but they were there. 

We chilled on the beach for a while and then headed over the mountains to the white sanded beach of Xerocampus. Xerocampus is a little secret, it is hidden away by the mountains on the South East coast. Driving down to the beach you can be forgiven for thinking that you are on a Caribbean island the only difference being that there are acacias lining the beaches rather than palm trees, the sand is white and the beach disappears into the water very slowly so it’s good for young kids. The water is crystal clear, I think we had over 50 meters visibility.

The other thing which Xerocampus has is a natural salt pan which you can walk onto and collect sea salt. To be honest the best time for this is the end of August when the water has evaporated leaving behind large salt crystals, I went over to have a look at the progress of the salt and unfortunately it wasn’t quite ready for collection yet.  

Eventually we where all sunbathed out and headed for home.

Xerocampus is well signposted. You can reach it by heading for Zakros from the north coast and continuing around to the white sand beaches or you can head over the mountains from either Goudaras on the south coast of Papaginadas in the middle of the island. There are a few tavernas in the area for lunch and for the first time, this year there are a few sunbeds on part of the beach. You can also rent rooms and small villas if you want to hang around longer though the town is lacking a bank, pharmacy and reasonable sized supermarket so you may want to shop before you head over there.

The first beach requires a 4x4 if you want to drive, or a boat. It will take you the best part of an hour to descend to once you are on the cement road, there is no cell phone reception in the valley and the beach is quite narrow. It is a good place for snorkeling or camping over night and is sheltered from the north wind, though I would not recommend this beach if the south wind is blowing. See the maps below on how to reach the beach. 

To get there drive to the mountain village of Ziros – drive through Ziros heading towards Xerocampus you will see signs for Kalo Chorio this a an extremely small village, more of a hamlet than anything else. The roads are concrete and squeeze between the houses, you will get to a fork in the road almost in the middle of the village, take a right here and keep heading down the mountain towards Agia Irini. Along this road you will reach one more fork in the now gravel track where you will have options for Xerocampus or a track which leads down the mountain, take the track down the mountain towards the sea. You will eventually reach a thin metal gate which is tied together with a piece of string, open the gate and drive through though be sure to close the gate and secure it both ways as it’s is keeping the sheep and goats in. Not long after the gate you will find the beach.