Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Hand Picked Greece~Cretan Cookery Class in Crete

When I visited Crete, I was very fortunate to be invited to a Cretan cookery class through Hand Picked Greece. Hand Picked Greece is a company that offers various different workshops in Crete. These include cookery classes at their Olive Farm to Olive oil soap making classes, Bee garden experience, Gastronomy experience and also yoga retreats.

My friend Heidi and I spent a really enjoyable afternoon at the Olive Farm in Litsarda Create. The Olive farm is run by Yanis and Valia. The Olive Farm is amazing with an out door kitchen surrounded by gardens full of wonderful herbs, vegetables, olive trees and chickens. Set amongst the hill tops  it boasts amazing views.

On arrival, after enjoying some drinks, we set about on a walking tour around the gardens, exploring them. We were amazed at the quality and quantity of the organic herbs and vegetables that Yanis and Valia had grown.

Lots of fresh produce and olive trees surround the al fresco cookery school. Beautiful and picturesque the cookery school is rustic but very well equipped with an outdoor wood fire oven, a homemade distillery, pantry and a range and a sink.The concrete table in the centre is so beautiful and can accommodate up to 16 people around it for the class.

We learnt how to make stuffed wine leaves Dolmades, Cretan spinach and feta pastries called Tiropi, and Cretan stew called Kleftiko which is lamb and vegetables but it was adapted for me since I am a vegetarian by replacing the meat with mushrooms so it was more like Simbetherio a Cretan vegetable stew, which we enjoyed with homemade bread, tzatziki  and Greek salad dressed with lashing of organic olive oil.

The magnificent feast we cooked with organic produce was simply amazing. We feasted whilst being serenaded by some authentic Cretan Music.

In all the cooking experience was really enjoyable and fun. I would highly recommend it to any one visiting Crete. Yanis and Valia were amazing hosts and I am totally grateful to them both for inviting me to participate in their class and learn so much about Cretan Cuisine. You can book a similar experience on their website Hand Picked Greece.
You can read about Heidis Experience here.

Other posts in my Crete Travelsyou may like:

Botanical Gardens Fournes
Chania and Olea Villas Crete
Greek Feast at Olea Villas Crete

Friday, 6 July 2018

Gardening a new hobby???

I have never been very good at gardening although I love a nice garden and plants. This year we had our drive and patio done as all the paving stones had cracked due to subsidence.Whilst the drive was being done our lawn suffered badly so we also laid a new lawn and tidied up the flower beds. Neither my partner or I have any gardening knowledge so we got some beginners gardening books to brush up on our skills. Having a best mate who also owns an allotment is really useful too as Heidi  who blogs at kitchentalkandtravels is always giving me tips and advice.

Personally I find gardening rather challenging as I really don't have green fingers at all and have a tendency to kill all house plants I have had in the past. I believe this is because I over water, something I need to pay attention to with the garden.

To keep things simple we dug up the flower beds and prepared them for planting. There were lots of rocks so a gardening sieve from Wham came in really handy to sieve all the debris out. Once the soil was dug and sieved we mixed it with some shop bought comport and mixed it into the ground.The flower beds were now ready to plant.

We also filled the cauldron pot, some small plant pots and a plant trough from Wham with the compost for the bedding plants. Wham have a lovely selection of pots, herb planters, troughs and gardening items at a very reasonable prices too. To check out their full range check their website.

We chose a selection of bedding plants for the pots and wall baskets and perennials for some parts of the garden so that they would bloom year on year without having to replace them.

Whilst the perennials take time to settle in and grow, the bedding plants give an instant colour to the garden The added advantage of growing  annual plants is that you can change the colour scheme of the garden with different types of bedding plants seasonally It is also an inexpensive way to brighten up your garden as you can get trays of 12 bedding plants for as little as 3-4 pounds.

The bedding plants also look great in window boxes, hanging baskets and wall planters. They are easy to maintain and I also discovered that once a week watering them with a plant food helps to enhance the colour and bloom.

We also chose some ever greens so that we had lots of foliage in the garden all the year round. I learn't from the gardening books that evergreens can also have coloured leaves that will help to add colour to your garden in the winter.

Gardening is certainly some thing that needs lots of love and care and its hard work too. However  its very satisfying to see the results.

Our next project for the garden is to start off our vegetable patch and herb garden. We are currently preparing the vegetable patch as the soil is full of clay and very hard to grow anything init. In the mean time I have planted some tomatoes and chilli plants in pots.I am really excited as the tomato plants are flowering and hopefully I will have my very own homegrown tomatoes to eat.

I am not sure what we are doing is absolutely correct as its a very amateur attempt, however its a learning curve for us and we are hoping that in time our garden will flourish.
I am also planning to grow some herbs  in an indoor kitchen garden, I will share this in my next post.

**This post is in collaboration with Wham who kindly sent me some pots and tubs.

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Friday, 15 June 2018

The Botanical Gardens in Fournes Crete

On my recent trip to Crete, I had the opportunity to visit the Botanical Gardens at Fournes. I learnt that the Botanical Park & Gardens of Crete was reborn from the ashes after a devastating fire spread in October 2004. The wild fire started when an  electricity pole was struck by a storm near the village of Skordalou.The fire burnt for more than 24 hours and destroyed the entire surrounding area burning down Orange groves and over 60,000 olive trees some over 400 years old. The charred olive tree still remains standing sad and forlorn in the gardens as a reminder of that tragic day.

The village was ruined both financially and ecologically and many people lost everything they owned. Farm land was burnt to ashes. Petros Marinakis and his two brothers who also lost much of their farmland decided to rebuild the burnt land and turn it into a Botanical garden that would be open to the public for trekking, education and recreation. It would also create jobs for the villagers who lost their livelihood in the fire.

Work began on the Botanical gardens and with lots of research and careful planning it opened its doors in 2010. Petros and his brothers decided to divide the Botanical Gardens into sections; Tropical, Mediterranean, Wine section and the Lake. 

The gardens have 3 different climate zones; Tropical, Sub tropical and Alpine. Within the different zones you will find fruit trees, spices, herbs, medicinal plants, citrus trees, and tropical plants and Alpine shrubs and trees. Crete has a micro climate and all the different variety of plants grow easily in the gardens.The gardens are tended by local gardeners from nearby villages.

The Botanical Gardens also grow their own vegetables that are used for their Cretan restaurant on site. All the produce is organic and seasonal and the chefs create recipes according to what ingredients are available. 

There is a shop on site that sells honey made from the gardens own bees, together with olive oils and other Cretan products, olives, cook books and delicacies. The Gardens are open from March to November.

To generate extra income the gardens host music festival, put on traditional dance shows and local music shows for the public in their amphitheatre overlooking the beautiful gardens and hill tops. 

They also support the smaller farmers, provide employment for the local people and help to bring tourism to Crete.

During our visit to the gardens, we were lucky to have the opportunity to have a Cretan cookery class by one of their resident chefs Emilios Asllanis. Emilios is very passionate about his cooking and makes recipes he has learnt from his mother and grandmother. How lovely it is to see him carry forward the Cretan cooking he has grown up with.

We made Marathopita a fennel pie, Haroupopitaki a carob pastry filled with a spinach and cheese, which we had for our lunch in The Olive Restaurant together with lots of other delicious Cretan dishes.

The restaurant serves delicious local Cretan Cuisine that is freshly prepared daily using the finest home grown produce. I was totally mesmerised by the pots of stew bubbling on outdoor oven that they have. There can't be a more authentic way to cook than this.

It was a wonderful and most enjoyable experience looking around the gardens which were tranquil, spiritual and offered majestic views. We even spotted a peacock resting amongst the trees.

I would highly recommend a visit to the Botanical gardens if you visit Crete. The tour of the gardens is very educational and interesting. You can even take a rest on the benches just to enjoy and savour the peacefulness and hear the peacocks.

To look around the gardens at a leisurely pace and finish off with lunch I would probably allow at least 5-6 hours. Although for the more adventurous people you can spend an entire day just exploring the gardens. It is highly recommended to wear comfortable shoes as some of the paths are rather steep. A bottle of water and a hat are also handy as the walk back up to the Olive Restaurant is tiring as its all up hill climb on the way back.

I was a guest of the Botanical Gardens and I can say that the visit was truly memorable.

Check the links below more posts about my recent trip to Crete: 

Chania and Olea Villas ~Crete
Greek Feast at Olea Vilas Crete
Hand Picked Greece
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Wednesday, 13 June 2018

French Flag ~Tour de France Bostik Challenge

This month the Bostik box is all about Tour de France. The box had a lot of blue, white and red crafting item. Little M my crafting buddy came over to help me create our monthly craft, we were looking through the box but to be honest this month we struggled with what to make. But then Little M and I started talking about France and so we made these cute flags for the theme.

To make the France Flag you will need:

  • 1 sheet white card
  • Blue, white and red funky foam
  • 1 wooden skewer
  • Pencil
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Bostik Glue
  • Sellotape

How to make:

1.On the white card draw rectangle 17 cm x 10cm and cut it out.
2. On the white cut out card, draw a 2cm margine on the right hand side and using the scissors score the line so you can make a fold over it.
3. Place the skewer with the pointed side up on to the fold line and using Bostik glue stick the flap over the stick. You may need to secure it with a small piece of sellotape to hold it in place.

4. Cut out three rectangles 5 cm x 10 cm one from each colour red, white and blue funky foam.
5. Turn the flag over so that the stick is now on the left hand side. Spread Bostik glue all over the surface, and stick the funky foam rectangles Blue, white and red in the correct order.
6. Press down to ensure the foam is stuck properly. The flag is ready.

This craft is suitable for young children although, adult supervision may be required for using scissors. If you like this project check the link below for more art and craft projects, that you can do with your children.

Kids Arts and Craft Videos
Kids Arts and Crafts Projects 

Being part of the Bostik 2018 bloggers with Tots100 and Merrily Crafts, I was sent some craft items in a box to create this project.

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Thursday, 31 May 2018

Recipes and posts by email and GDPR

Recipes and posts by email and GDPR

Dear Readers

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I do use some third party sites like Feedburner (owned by Google) who send out my posts by email to you, but they also have to protect your data and can't pass it on. They must store it securely and only use it for the purpose you signed up for. Google have updated their policy on 25 May 2018 when the law came into effect.

Posts by email

If you signed up for my posts by email, I will never contact you personally. My posts will be pulled from my site by Feedburner and emailed straight to you, you will never receive anything else by email from me and this is the only way your details will be used.


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Friday, 18 May 2018

A Greek Feast at Olea Villas Crete

On our recent trip to Crete we had the opportunity to stay at the Olea villas, which are set amongst olive groves facing Loutraki Bay, near Chania Crete The villas are fully equipped with a modern kitchen with all mod cons, crockery and cooking utensils if you want to do self catering. However for those who go on holiday and want total relaxation you can even arrange for a private chef to come and cook a Greek feast for you.

We were very lucky to experience this service. On our second night while we relaxed with a glass of wine, our own personal chef Stefanos Bourdakis and his partner came fully prepared to cook some amazing Greek dishes for us

It was really interesting to watch him create some regional Cretan dishes made from scratch. Being a vegetarian I was amazed that almost every dish he made was meat free and I was able to sample them all.

For starters we had butternut squash soup - Kolokythósoupa. I had a hands on cookery lesson from Stefanos. He sauted onions in olive oil, once the onions were translucent he added the butternut squash, carrots, potatoes in white wine. Once the vegetables were cooked he seasoned it with salt and pepper and added Mytzitahra cheese to it and blended it to a smooth puree. A finishing garnish of Greek yoghurt and cream were added before serving.

We really enjoyed our candle light dinner on the terrace overlooking Loutraki Bay.

The soup followed with a plate of Kolokithakia Tiganita or Deep Fried Zucchini (courgettes). Wafer thin slices of zucchini are soaked in water for half an hour after which they are towel dried. The zucchini slices are then tossed in a seasoned flour to coat them before deep frying them until they are crisp and golden brown. These are so delicious with a squeeze of fresh handpicked lemons straight from the lemon groves.

After enjoying these two wonderful starters there was more to come. Stephanos made us these delectable spinach parcels called Kaltsounia. Greek phyllo pastry filled with spinach and Mytzitahra cheese and herb filling and then shallow fried till until they are golden brown. They are finished with a coating of sesame seeds.  These were served with mini pastry tartlets filled with an avocado salsa.

When we thought that we had finished, how wrong we were there was more to come!!! For the main course we had Simbetherio (συμπεθεριό).This is a type is the Cretan vegetable stew cooked with a medley of seasonal vegetables on the stove top. The meaning of 'simbetherio' comes from the relationship of the parents-in-law of the two members of a marriage; the families become related to each other through marriage (they are 'simbetheroi' to each other). 

The simbetherio dish uses the extended family members of various similar species, cooked in the same pot. This dish had potatoes, peppers, mushrooms, courgettes, tomatoes, aubergines and had a garnish of Mytzitahra cheese. Simplicity at its best!!

To accompany the Simbetherio, we had Melintzanes Stolismenes these are thin slices of eggplant shallow fried and rolled with feta. The eggplant rolls are layered in an ovenproof dish and topped with a spicy tomato sauce and Keseri cheese. The dish is baked in the oven until the cheese is golden brown and crisp.

After this incredible Greek gastronomical feast, our stomachs were aching from the fullness and ready to explode, but there is always room for dessert!!!

So for dessert Stephanos made us these delectable little deep fried Greek honey and sesame coated balls call Loukoumades. They were really delicious and the perfect end to this Greek Feast.

I would like to Thank Stefanos and his wife for spoiling us rotten by creating such a wonderful banquet for us. We were totally transformed into a food journey through Greece with all the flavours and dishes.

In the picture Heidi Roberts, Katilena , myself, with Stefanos and his wife.

If you ever visit Crete and would like Stefanos to cook for you you can contact him via email s.bourdakis@hotmail.com

To read more about my trip to Crete do check the posts below: