Posts Tagged ‘corfu’

Volunteers–how would the Olympics manage without them?!

This is not about people though, it’s about Mother Nature.

Each year we are surprised and delighted by unexpected guests–volunteers.

Hollyhocks called Henry and Californian poppies…

…wild strawberries and  Love-in-the-Mist (aka Nigella).

Some, after an initial scattering of seeds, make their seasonal re-visitations–like the swallows on Corfu–adding to the color and general well-being around here.

Mysterious and miraculous are these return visits to the ignorant–like me.

Bring them on–I say–you’re welcome anytime–see you next year!

This year the sunflowers were first in the mint patch–attracting the attention of the mystery muncher.*

They were followed, closely, by two strong tomato plants–the real thing rather than the tiny cherry variety that pop up everywhere–with big green bunches ripening soon (we hope!).

There are the volunteers who like it so much here they decide to dig in and stay en permanence–sometimes raising a family too.

The self-planted Judas (Redbud) tree close to the house in the courtyard is growing apace and will soon provide us with an emergency exit from the first floor in case of fire!

Three years ago, a “thing” grew out of the mint patch and started heading for the compost heap.

Charting it’s progress we laid bets on how far it would reach. Then–wonder–it started having offspring.

Beautiful yellow marrow-like fruit appeared at regular intervals.

I tried to make a dish with one, but it collapsed.

They made a pretty picture against the wall though.

Yellow mellowed into burnished orange as these courge aged.

The following year, it reappeared, travelling in the opposite direction from compost heap to the mint patch–throwing off fruit like the year before.


* Our friend and neighbor Alice thinks it was a hungry cow who was the mystery muncher of the sunflowers. I was hoping for something more exotic!

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Pile of uncooked prunes

I like my daily prune.

I took a jar of cooked prunes to Corfu.

Seems eccentric–my mother must have had a hand in establishing the habit.

“Keeps you regular, Robin!”

There’s a funny side to prunes–mention of them can make people smile.

(Anything to do with body functions tends to bring a smile to English faces.)

The word itself has a comic sound– PROONE and it’s wrinkled appearance is not beautiful.

BUT they are delicious when soaked first and then gently stewed and allowed to cool.

The prunes here are from Agen–a couple of hours to the north west of us and they are extra as the French say of something special.

Some people eat them dried.

I prefer them after they’ve been through the Method–soft and melting in the mouth–as an essential part of breakfast.

The Method (for a pound of prunes):

  • Empty the prunes into a saucepan.
  • Cover them with boiling water.
  • Let them stand for a half hour.
  • Gently bring them up to the boil.
  • Cover them and let them simmer for another half hour–covered.
  • Leave them to cool then store them in the fridge.

Here’s one in Meredith’s breakfast bowl–heaven she says!

“There’s no more faith in thee than in a stewed prune….”–                                                                                                          ~Jack Falstaff to Mistress Quickly in Shakespeare’s Henry the Fourth Part One.

I couldn’t possibly comment on that–but I have enough faith in prunes to take a jar of them to Corfu.

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Where am I?, I wondered, waking this morning.

Still in Corfu? It was hot enough at 7 am.

I quickly established that I was in France by looking out of the window.

No sign of the Albanian hills or the infinity pool.

Back to earth! But hot! hot! hot!

At the end of the garden though it was cool enough to tie up the tomato plants that had grown as much as the chickens in our week away.

The bees were still snoozing so it was safe to sit on a stool and talk to the plants!

Then off to Réalmont and its Wednesday market.

I’d missed the markets–they are rare in Corfu.

This is green bean time and here on the stalls they are piled high–picked last night I am assured.

a pile of beans


Cooked enough to be tender,  yet still a vibrant green–but not too much so that they become flabby and dull in color. It’s hard to tire of them.

It’s always good to discover new ways to cook them.

I spotted this simple recipe in The New York Times a few weeks back. As I’d bought half a kilo of new season garlic and ginger this morning, Give it a go!, I thought.

My slightly adapted version

for 4

1lb green beans— topped, (no need to tail)

1 teaspoon of salt

2 cloves of new garlic-– (or the best looking you can find)

a large thumbnail size piece of ginger–peeled and chopped small

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons of olive oil

  • Have a bowl of cold water ready to plunge the cooked beans into.
  • Pound the garlic, ginger and a teaspoon of salt into a pulp.
  • Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil.
  • Add the beans and cook them until almost tender to the bite–(a pair of cooking tongs comes in handy here to whip a bean out for a bite test).
  • When you judge they’re ready, transfer them quickly into the bowl with the cold water–to stop them cooking further.
  • Drain them and leave to dry a little.
  • Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan.
  • Add the beans and the gorgeous garlic and ginger gunge.
  • Over a gentle heat turn the beans in the mixture until they are nicely heated through.
  • Taste them and add more salt if needed.

We had them for lunch today…

with a butterflied pork chop–of which more later….

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Alan Bates (very young innocent 1950’s sounding English voice):

Are you married?

Anthony Quinn (very gruff, worldly 1950’s Greek-sounding voice):

Am I married?–I have a HOUSE, a WIFE, CHILDREN–the full CATASTROPHE!”

It’s a sequence I’ve been dining out on ever since I saw the film in the Sixties.

Anthony Quinn and Alan Bates start to dance in the final scene of Zorba the Greek.

Roll forward to Sunday morning in “our” nearby village and a group of youngsters ( late teens for the most part) are gathering for a final dance rehearsal.

They’re leaving at five this evening for an international dance festival in San Sebastian on the north east Atlantic coast of Spain.

Along one wall of the rehearsal hall–below the many colorful photos of dances and costumes– the neat pile of suitcases is growing.

The level of chatter from the excited young dancers is getting louder–many of the group are probably leaving Greece for the first time.

Meredith sat opposite Maria–the mother of one of the dancers and also a member of the troupe–two nights ago, at a seaside taverna dinner given by our hostess, Peggotty, for Corfiot friends, made over the many years she and Andrew have been coming to Corfu for holidays.

When Meredith asked Maria where she could see some authentic Greek folk dances, Maria had a whispered exchange with nearby friends at the table then turned back to Meredith and said that if she liked, she could come to the final rehearsal on Sunday at the hall in Sinies.

The answer to her prayers!

By ten it’s already hot as locals and holiday makers come by to collect their day’s bread supply from the village store opposite the rehearsal hall.

Word has got round our group and it has grown like Topsy–the final rehearsal is turning into a non-dress performance–not a bad thing perhaps for the young dancers to experience a real audience.

Inside the hall it’s sweltering, as the three musicians (accordionist, balalaika player and guitarist) start to play

and the informally dressed dancers begin to circle,

under the encouraging eye of Ioannis Vlahos, one of the best dance teachers in Corfu– we are told.

For the next hour they run through their repertoire.

It’s an impressive display.

The assurance and ease of movement, the lightness of touch and the commitment to a tradition is delightful to watch.

Then after a pause to catch their breath and drink some water they regroup for the final dance–ZORBA!

As we approached Corfu Town on our way to the airport just before six that evening, a big tourist coach passed us at speed on the dual carriageway.

In the back window a large sign announced it was carrying members of THE CULTURAL ASSOCIATION OF SINIES! They were on their way!

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Seven o’clock and the sun has just risen over the Albanian mountains, catching the white headboard of a ferry out in the channel moving east for Athens or Igoumenitsa with a precious cargo of holiday makers, ready to spend their euros in the shops, hotels and restaurants of this troubled country.

There was an election here on Sunday–a critical one that could decide whether Greece stays in the eurozone–even whether the eurozone itself survives! But none of the razzmatazz and frenzy of an American or English election day.

Greeks we asked about it in Corfu Town summoned up little interest and we saw not a single sign indicating a polling station.

The Corfiots (the name the locals go by) we were told, leave town on a Sunday and head for their villages where they vote if they have a mind to.

Two friends who arrived from Athens reported the same thing in the capital; the town felt empty, they said.

Not much activity either in the Internet Café on the beach.

Just us and two busy swallow parents dashing back and forth under the beams of the terrace feeding their nest of youngsters.

(Our waiter told us it’s considered bad luck in Greece ever to remove a swallow nest.)

Only a scattering of sunbathers along the stony beach, making it feel more like the Costa Brava my parents took us to in 1953—unspoiled and beautiful.

But Lloret del Mar back then was supporting a mere five hotels and a few bars—nothing as remotely needy of tourism and trade as this beautiful part of Corfu today.

Another ferry on its way–

Let’s hope those two empty loungers above will be occupied next week!

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