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It’s been four years since I last soaked up that glorious Mediterranean sun in Greece. Four years since I travelled from one island to the next on the Blue Star ferries and dined on Moussaka and Greek salad at waterfront tavernas.
I can’t believe it’s been that long! And yet in six weeks I will be there again.
I think it is safe to say that I am beside myself with excitement!
I have my mum to thank for my interest in Greece.
Twelve years ago she visited Greece and stepped off the ferry at the wrong island. This island was Poros in the Saronic Gulf. She stayed on Poros for a week and she has returned to Greece (and Poros) almost every year since.
Of the four times I have been to Greece since 1998, three have been with my mum. It has become a bit of a tradition for us to ‘meet up’ in the Greek Islands. Sounds terribly bourgeois, I know.
(The Greek Islands can be surprisingly easy to travel on a budget however, and this is something I will be talking about in more depth in a later post.)
So what is it about Greece that draws me back time and again? Besides a great mum and daughter getaway…
Greece has so much to offer and I love all of it: getting lost amongst the adorable twisting blue and white alleyways, the amazing quality of light, the weather, the history, the lovely nature of the Greek people…I could keep going…
BUT, when I think of the Greek Islands, this is not the first thing that comes to mind. This is not what I get excited about.
It’s the food.
Oh. My. God. The food!! It’s enough to make you weak at the knees.
Is it awfully shameful to admit that? Probably. But it’s the truth.
I think food probably plays a large part in most traveller’s adventures. But there is nowhere else that I can think of offhand that I would place the food FIRST and FOREMOST.
Mostly it is the natural environment, landscapes and wildlife, hiking/outdoor activities potential, art and culture, or urban landscapes that draws me back to a place.
Shameful or not, this is not the case with Greece. It’s the food.
(Not to downplay all those other things – they are great too, just not as good as the food!)
My stand out Greek dish is Prawn Saganaki, closely followed by Moussaka (lamb mince layered with potatoes and eggplant and topped with bechamel sauce) and barbequed octopus and you can find a recipe for my own version of Saganaki at the end of this post.
I also have weakness for Retsina, a traditional Greek white wine infused with pine resin. Disgusting?
Well, some liken it to drinking pine-scented disinfectant, but I disagree. Obviously.
In his writings about Greece, Lawrence Durrell wrote that Retsina tastes like:
“…pure turpentine which has been strained through the socks of a bishop…. but it is to be recommended most warmly. It is mild and you can drink gallons without a hangover … If you drink Retsina you will live forever and never be a trial to your friends or waiters.”
We all know that Greece has been in pretty dire straits since 2008 GFC and the February rioting in Athens against newly imposed austerity measures, reinforces the severity of their situation.
Several people have raised the question about whether now is really the best time to be travelling to Greece.
That maybe it would be best to wait until their economy has recovered a little.
Quite the contrary. I feel that now is the perfect time to go.
I know I am only one person but all those tourist dollars make a huge difference to an economy.
I bet you can’t guess what I plan to spend most of mine on….
250g raw prawns peeled
400g tin diced tomatoes (or equivalent fresh)
3 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp sweet chili sauce (optional)
½ red pepper, finely diced
½ green pepper, finely diced
1 brown onion, finely diced
I clove garlic, finely diced
2 tsp dill
2 tsp oregano
Small handful of fresh basil
Approx 150g of diced feta cheese (add more or less as desired)
1. Pan fry onion, garlic, and red and green peppers in some olive oil until soft.
2. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, sweet chili sauce, dill and oregano and allow the mixture to simmer and reduce for about 20-30 minutes. Sauce should not be runny.
3. Add the prawns and stir until cooked.
4. Once prawns are cooked, add the feta cheese and basil and continue to stir for about one minute. (You want the prawns to be cooked through and the feta just beginning to melt)
5. Serve with rice and a Greek salad…and enjoy!