Last Sunday was “Cheese-eating” Sunday. This is the last Sunday of Carnival. Greeks call it that because tradition dictates the housewives use up the last dairy at home to make pies. The next day is Lent Monday – which marks the beginning of the 40-day fasting period in Greece that ends on Easter day (Orthodox Easter, which is April 24 this year).
Anyway, On “Cheese-eating Sunday”, we had this meal photographed here. I guess I honoured my father’s land that day, because the meal consisted of my father’s own organic crop of beans from the island of Limnos where he was born and raised. The cheese pie I accompanied it with was made with the traditional “Kalathaki” cheese of Limnos that is utterly delicious when bought fresh. There is also the dry variety for frying or grating, but I love the fresh one as it’s wonderfully unsalted and makes for the best cheese pie with fresh herbs.
My father ventured to the fields near home and picked organically grown fennel for me to put in the cheese mix. With the greens of fresh onions the mix turned out delicious. I have to admit, though – I cheated! Once again the pastry was shop-bought.
This is an old photo of my dad and his granddaughters separating the beans from the husks in the traditional way in Limnos. It’s done by stepping on the husks once they’ve turned really dry and crunchy. A strong wind serves well too to remove the unwanted debris after the husks have been crushed!
My mussel risotto went down very well on Lent Monday. We accompanied it with the traditional lagana (flat bread), beans in tomato sauce, dolmadakia (vine leaves stuffed with rice), and chalva (semolina cake) for dessert.
As Lent Monday marks the start of Lent, no dairy, and no fish or meat are eaten. On the contrary, seafood is greatly enjoyed in Greek homes on this day. Octopus, kalamaraki, squid, prawns, and seashells of all kinds – clams, oysters, and mussels, of course.
My husband and I have had mussel risotto for decades now on Lent Monday, so by now it’s our very own family tradition. Especially as we can buy the mussels fresh, all year round, from the local mussel-farmer families. They sell them at permanent kiosks on the roadside (I live in a small coastal town near Athens).
Now that the “Sarakosti” (40-day fasting period) has started, once again I need to muster all of my self-restraint!
I never fast too strictly, but, like every year, I intend to steer clear of meat altogether. Well, I can try. Problem is, I daily sit down to eat with two men (my husband and my father) who love their meat, so I know I’ll be cooking it! Peg on the nose? Cooking on a full stomach? I am still considering the best way to do it this year. Any ideas? LOL!
Wish me good luck, folks, as the temptation is a tough thing to beat, especially when hubbie ‘has the munchies’ and talks of souvlaki pitta LOL!
Before, I go. If you’re interested in Greek food, you’re welcome to check out on my blog my favourite recipes. Many traditional Greek dishes among them, like gemista, moussaka, fakes, briam, koukia, bourtheto, chicken soup with avgolemono and lots more!
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