I think I may upset a few people if I tell you exactly where I am right now, but I really don't think I can keep this to myself. I kid you not when I say I am sitting outside at a taverna on a Greek island, right on the beach, and I mean literally on the sand. The sun has just gone down over the flat sea horizon, the clear sky tinted pink and mauve as the waxing crescent moon makes an appearance. The air is warm, the cicadas are in full song, people are chatting in Greek about the good times they had today, and in the background a young musician is gently playing classical guitar while I sit here using free wifi on my little laptop.
We are at Manos Beach Bar on the island of Limnos. This is the island where my father's mother was born, the place where generations of my family have spent their summer holidays for over one hundred years. Our family house still stands tall on a cobble-stoned road five minutes from the beach, a house that my Dad and his wife Julia have been painstakingly renovating over the last ten years to ensure the preservation of the family holiday home.
My partner Tony and I have been coming here every year for the last four years to take a break from our busy lives and escape the bitter cold of Melbourne's winter, and while we treasure the days we have here each time we make the lengthy journey to Greece from Australia, this year our four weeks of bliss are being put to particularly good use after working ourselves to the bone for the last 11 months.
We've been here almost a week and are just now settling into our Limnian routine of waking early to roosters' crows, enjoying a morning coffee on our balcony then strolling down to the beach for a bit of sun and a swim.
Around midday we might walk into the town centre where the locals shop and families and friends meet for frappes and cakes, or we might take the motor scooter for a ride along the scenic coast.
By 2pm we've made our way back to the house for lunch out on the terrace with the family, sitting under the shade of the vine-laden pergola overlooking the Mediterranean garden.
Afterwards we retreat to our rooms for siesta, some of us sleeping, others reading or going out into the quiet streets to take photos of cats, and later as the island wakes up again we might take another walk down to the port to wind up the day with dinner at a seaside taverna or drinks at one of the many beach bars.
It's an idyllic lifestyle that my Dad and Julia enjoy for around 8 months every year. Over that time many of their friends and relatives visit the island and stay at the house. At the moment my Dad's brother George and his wife Koula are here and next week their son (my cousin) Nicholas will join us.
Of course one of the things we enjoy while we're here is cooking. The incentive to cook is always greater when there's more than just yourself to cook for, and with a family of six that's happy to enjoy Greek vegetarian cooking two days a week, it's an opportunity for me to let loose in the kitchen.
Today's lunch was a simple spread made up of a huge Greek salad and a batch of highly addictive Kolokithokeftethes (zucchini and feta fritters) served with a side dish of tzatziki for dipping.
Koula helped me with the fritters, adapting the recipe from a local Limnian cookbook, and guess what? I got to use authentic white zucchinis! (You can read about my childish obsession with white zucchinis here.)
So here we are in Limnos again, feeling totally zonked after the busy year we've had. We have another three and a half weeks here then a couple of days in Athens, and in that time I will try my best to muster up the energy to post a few recipes, taverna reviews, stories of our adventures and photos from this beautiful island. It won't be easy though, tearing myself away from the lure of the gorgeous beaches, the cold beers, and the lazy days on the terrace eating baklava and sipping on frappes!
Kolokithokeftethes (Zucchini and Feta Fritters)
Makes around 20 small fritters
- 6 small to medium zucchinis, grated
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 400g feta cheese, grated
- Small handful of fresh mint, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons plain flour
- 1 egg
- 1 cup additional flour for dusting
- 1 litre of vegetable oil for deep frying
- Place grated zucchini and salt in a large bowl and mix well.
- Squish and knead the zucchini for a few minutes to release all the juices.
- Transfer zucchini to a large colander or strainer and squeeze in handfuls to remove the liquid, placing dry zucchini back in the bowl.
- Add feta, mint, flour and egg and mix thoroughly with your hands.
- Heat oil over high heat in a deep pan.
- Prepare a plate with evenly-spread flour for dusting and drop dessert-spoon blobs of the zucchini-feta mixture onto the flour. Roll with your hands to form small patties or slightly flattened balls and place on a separate flour-dusted plate until ready to deep fry.
- Carefully drop the patties in the hot oil and fry until golden.
- Remove with a slotted spoon and place onto paper towels to drain.
- Serve with fresh tzatziki.