Sunday, March 16, 2008

bring me sunshine, or... move over Darling!

The weather and Darling's Budget have pretty much been the predominant themes in the UK this week. Yawn! After the strong winds earlier in the week, the sogginess (and flood warnings) are back, so... conducive to a quiet weekend enjoying the pleasures of home. Still, that doesn't stop my mind wandering to warmer climes. In case you could do with an injection of sunshine too, I thought I'd share a recollection (and some healthy, tasty, sun-inspired recipes) from a blissful visit I had to a wonderful, authentic, family-run restaurant on the water's edge on the pretty Ionian island of Zakynthos.

Picture the scene. You're walking along the harbour, inhaling the ozone and enjoying the sights. Fishermen are still hauling in their catch; in the background you can see the white-washed villages, nestling in the pine-scented hills, as a picturesque backdrop to the elegant yachts and cruisers. The sea is a beautiful, soothing hue, serene as the most inviting swimming-pool, with crystal clear blue waters. The sky is deep unbroken blue. To your right is the celebrated church of the island's patron saint, Dionysos. To the left, perfectly placed to take in the blissful panoramic vista, is an elegant taverna with its pretty stained glass windows concealing the tables inside. For a real treat you can opt for a table at the sea's edge and bask in the water's reflective glory while you eat.

Komis Fish Taverna is not just another Greek taverna. You'll probably realise that as soon as you walk in and are welcomed warmly by Yiannis or his brother, Stakis. If you're in the mood for fish you can check out the catch of the day, in the refrigerated cabinet, which will then be expertly cooked by the third Komis brother, Nikos. As a vegetarian, you'll also have many tempting dishes to choose from. If you're anxious about the language barrier there's no problem here, Yiannis, a former frogman in the Greek Navy, is fluent in five languages and very charming. If Yiannis' English wife, Linda, is on-site you'll be in for a truly holistic experience as she is a Reiki master, spiritual healer and yoga guru.

As soon as your order has been taken, you'll be brought an elegant wooden breadbasket filled with delicious local village bread. But first you'll relish the taste of oreganopsoumo, the mouth-watering Italian-influenced appetiser presented to each diner before their meal. The recipe follows together with their delicious house salad.

1 thick slice of dense, country-style bread
1 ripe medium-sized tomato, skinned and coarsely grated
half a garlic clove, chopped
1 teaspoon capers
1 teaspoon baby black olives
extra virgin olive oil

Grill the sliced bread. Top with the tomato, garlic and capers. Sprinkle over the olives and oregano. Season lightly. Serve and enjoy!

Garden Fresh Salad
1 handful of rocket
1 handful of purslane leaves (or lamb'slettuce)
1 ripe beef tomato, cut into eight
1/4 ripe avocado, sliced
1/2 red onion, sliced
1/4 cucumber, peeled, seeded and thickly sliced
1/2 small red pepper, chunked
50g red cabbage, sliced
2 teaspoons capers
50g large butter beans, cooked and cooled
2 teaspoons sunflower seeds
2 teaspoons pumpkin seeds
small handful baby black olives
extra virgin olive oil
red wine vinegar
sea salt

Don't be daunted by the list of ingredients - they almost take longer to read (and write) than the salad does to prepare.

Place the salad leaves and sliced cabbage in your favourite salad bowl (wooden, preferably). Add the tomato, avocado, cucumber, pepper and beans. Sprinkle in the seeds, capers, olives and oregano. Drizzle with olive oil and vinegar, to taste. Season lightly with freshly ground sea salt.

This sunny blog item is partly reproduced from a feature previously published in LiveWell, a healthy lifestyle magazine, I used to edit. ©amethyst

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