A note from the heart of the Mediterranean: A family from Greece and local peaches
Look at the picture, close your eyes, imagine a world full of brightness. Imagine the safety of an invisible cocoon of warmth, yet having the freedom of not being wrapped up in heavy garments.
Imagine an island surrounded by clear waters, of blue cloudless skies in the middle of a hot summer. Imagine the sun working its magic on the fruits of the land.
Imagine those roots nurtured in a soil with special properties plumping up the food that will appear on our plates the same day.
This is the island where I happen to live.
And this is not a dream but a privilege of being alive every day here.
And imagine juicy, ripe, fat peaches, the skin so thin, delicate and full of flavor, completely edible and ready to be harvested today.
Imagine the happy colors from the Richard of York rhyme that most of us learnt as children to remember the sequence of the rainbow. These are the colors contained in every peach here.
And this week purely by chance, completey unplanned brings me to the land of peaches and all sorts of melons and i meet local farmer Joseph Callus.
If you want to eat fresh food, buy local produce. I could make you visualise the island but not the smell of these fresh peaches heaving on the trees, dying to be picked, eaten and enjoyed. The smell of peaches in Joseph's fields is intoxicating, nearly dizzingly so, and this is what is missing when you buy fruit that is imported. This aroma is not there. The perfume of pure peach is so strong, that the anticipation from just smelling them is as good as the taste from the juice that oozes out as soon as the skin is ruptured, a smell as good as that luscious fleshly texture unique to the peach.
And i am reminded again of the hard work of our local farmers. I see Joseph in the blistering sun at noon working his land. Today he will fill the standard large green farm boxes with his peaches and take them to the local vegetable market (Pitkali) for a modest return. Why buy imported produce when local is available?
How can we show appreciation to the local farming community and support their work? Very simply by choosing to buy local, by asking our local vegetable shop to identify what is local !
And in this week's paper, i wrote about local produce and explored the Mediterranean kitchen in more depth with the help of Ambassador and Mrs Rallis of Greece and their children. You will be able to watch them on Monday on One TV during my cooking segment on Indigo when Ambassador Rallis' 15 year old daughter Nina Maria makes Greek sweets.
I met Ambassador Rallis when i first arrived a few years ago but only had the pleasure of meeting Stella Rallis and their children last week. They are a pleasure and we had a very lively and animated studio at One TV when they came in to record the programme
Ambassador Rallis has come to the end of a long posting of 5 years on the island and he moves on to Canada at the end of the summer. The Ambassador and Mrs Rallis both come from very distinguished familes in Greece with 5 former Greek prime ministers related to them.
He has loved every day here on the island and he is very enthusiastic about the culture andsociety here. He sees the Maltese as being so proud of their country and heritage and he admires this. The Ambassador tells me that his wife and two chidren immediately integrated with the way of life here. Although his daughter goes to school abroad she has taken some Maltese lessons and his son George who is at law school in Cyprus has a wide circle of Maltese friends.
Ambassador Rallis feels he has integrated with life in Malta so well that at times when he is abroad he believes he is representing Malta as well as the Hellenic Republic!
With regards to his mext posting in Canada, Ambassador Rallis says that he will make every effort possible to always show support to Malta's position. He explains to me how there are more than 3000 Greeks of Maltese origin still living in Greece.
The Ambassador also spoke about the evacuations from Libya. He praised Malta's help to offer every citizen who wished to feel safer to come to Malta and leave the troubled zone. He also praised the Minister of Foreign Affairs for responding immediately to a request from the Greek government to assist Greek nationals and evacuate via Malta.
Ambassador Rallis expressed a great admiration towards the Prime Minister Joseph Muscat. He says that the Prime Minister respects all Maltese people as a whole and not just those who may have voted in favour of the Labour Party during the General Election. This aspect he believes is very important for Malta’s development as it provides the best assurance and guarantee for the future of the country and this is why Maltese people have entrusted him with the responsibility of government.
The Ambassador also mentioned the immigration situation in the Mediterranean. He strongly believes that Europe needs to tackle the immigration issue on a collective level and in no way must anyone feel it reasonable that Malta can do this job alone. Necessary legal framework and resources need to be provided as well as immediate relocation for those who are saved by the Government of Malta.
And finally which Greek Dish would His Excellency recommend to a visitor in Greece? Ambassador Rallis says that the best meals are the ones shared with friends, where the enjoyment comes not only from the taste and quality of the food and ingredients but from the company of those close to the heart. The Greek tradition of going to a Taverna and sharing an aperitif of Greek Ouzo with a selection of Meze, followed by a hearty dish of Moussaka and finishing with Galactompoureko is the best meal one could have for a taste of Greece. Some Greek music of course, perhaps Syrtaki made famous by Zorba and 'Never on Sunday' sung by his aunt Melina Mercouri!
And the Ambassador will be amongst us for a few more weeks but do remember to tune in to One TV on Monday to see more of him and his family.
And finally, a visit to the vegetable market this week and there is so much variety and it is a shame not to make the most of it. Someone asked whether I mean that they should go to Pitkali. The answer is No of course bot but each one of us must support our local shops and local community. Ask your usual vegetable shop to identify local produce! Stick with the people you know and trust ...
Lea Hogg is a food columnist and feature editor. She specialises in the food and cooking of the Mediterranean Region and is currenty working on a project relating to sustainable agriculture and the transparancy of the food chain of local ingredients and produce. Her work has recently been featured in the Irish Times. She writes for Orizzont daily and Independent on Saturdays. She also writes 'A note from the heart of the Mediterranean' every Sunday on Di-ve News online. Lea is a regular contributor to Air Malta’s inflight magazine. Her blog is www.goodfoodeveryday.wordpress.com. She hosts a weekly food segment on a daytime show for One TV.
With thanks to Benny Scerri for the beautiful first photo of this post.
Today's recipe uses 0% fat Greek Yoghurt or you can use local if you live on the island.
The free version is 57 calories per 100g as opposed to 98 calories for the full fat version. I sprinkle some bee pollen on top. It is considered to be a great superfood and it looks very striking scattered over dark chocolate.
You will need :
100g double cream
200g Greek yoghurt or use local
2 tbsp honey
4 spoons chocolate spread, I used a very dark one
Bee pollen for garnish, optional
A mix of chopped nuts with a spoon of brown sugar, some cinnamon and some crumbled up cookies. This is optional.
You will also need a piping bag if you wish a smooth finished look like mine. I like using disposable piping bags, no need for a nozzle for this recipe.
Whip the double cream until stiff. Fold in the yoghurt. Add the honey and use a metal spoon to mix in gently. The Greek yoghurt does not make the cream runny at all, it actually firms it up like a mousse. Add half the chocolate spread and keep the rest aside if you would like the same effect as mine. I make it in two layers with the darker chocolate layer on the top.
In a separate bowl have the cookie crumble mixture ready.
Pipe half the cream mixture into glasses or pots. Sprinkle a dusting of cookie crumble mixture. I also mixed some of the crumble mix with the bottom later of the chocolate cream and left the top layer smooth.
Add the rest of the chocolate to the remaining half of the cream mix for the darker top layer. Pipe into the glass. Scatter some bee pollen if desired. Do not overdo it. A delicious lightish dessert to finish off a meal ....