Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Briam (Μπριάμ)

This year's summer in Greece was not as warm as other summers (I am going by my measure of not using the air conditioner more than five times throughout the summer months), so we expected a cooler autumn. September was indeed cool, and it gave us plenty of rain. Our autumn nights now darken early; by 5.30pm,when I come home from work, it is dusk. Everything seems to be going like clockwork, but there is still something wrong with the weather.

What has happened to the rain? The last time it rained in Hania was in September. We have not even turned on the heating system, and it is nearly the middle of November; good for our pockets, but not for agriculture. Despite the long breezy summer being well behind us, this year's winter in Crete seems to have been seriously delayed. If it does not rain soon enough in Hania, the olive crop will suffer. Olives are usually irrigated naturally; the rain does all the job. Even if they are watered by pipes and hoses, the olives still need to be dampened by the rain itself before they start on their growth spurt, fattening and ripening to become olives fit for pressing into olive oil.

Every year, I find that the cold weather starts later and later in Hania. I think this is the latest that it has ever started for us. I usually tell my foreign students that by mid-October, it will be too cold to sit by our lovely old Venetian harbour; they must be thinking that I want it all to myself...

From one day in hania
Every evening, the daily weather report promises rain for Crete in the very near future; the BBC weather reports do the same thing, but rain never comes to Hania. Maybe everyone is just trying to subdue our fury over the dry weather.

Our garden has found it very difficult to let go of the summer. I finally picked the last two courgettes from the zucchini plants and uprooted the chunky stems of the plants, with their tinder dry brown leaves still clinging to them. I've added the zucchini, cut into thin slices, to my basic eggplant pizza recipe, turning it into the Greek version of ratatouille, briam.

briam vegan briam vegetarian
(vegan briam; vegetarian briam - add the cheese in the final cooking stage)

Instead of grated hard yellow cheese, I've used white goat's cheese, the local mizithra. Briam is perfect for vegans and vegetarians alike; the addition of cheese is optional. Potatoes may also be added in thin slices for those who prefer more carbohydrates with their baked vegetables.

With Christmas so close, I'd say that briam would make the perfect Christmas meal, with its red and green hues. It was such a surprise to see the Christmas decorations being put up in the shops when the sun is still shining down on us. Even the leaves of our poinsettia have just started to redden at the peaks of the stalks.

chirstmas decorations poinsettia eggplants at dusk in mid november hania chania
(these photos were taken today at dusk)

Some people find it very hard to let go of the summer; I would like to see an end, at least, to the eggplant excess in the garden, as it's getting very difficult to find storage space for them.

This is my entry for Weekend Herb Blogging, now run hosted by Haalo. This week's host is Heather from Diary of a Food Fanatic.

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