Sunday, 15 March 2009

Sunday roast (Ψητό στο φούρνο)

My uncles live in a village close to my home. A little while ago, they invited us (that's a lie: I invited myself) to have traditional Greek Sunday roast with them.

wood fired stove cum oven

Here's how they heat themselves in the winter: a wood fire range which doubles up as a stove and oven. The top left compartment is where all the wood goes, which is then lit with a piece of newspaper or other natural fire lighter (eg twigs). To disperse the wood evenly so that the fire doesn't go out, you can lift the top element with a special rod and stoke it from there.

You can see the logs on the left hand side in a cardboard box. The wood comes from the prunings of their olive and orange trees.

wood fired stove cum oven
This photograph has notes on it - click to enlarge it and see the notes.

The lower left drawer is where the ash collects, which needs to be emptied regularly when the range is in use. The top element is used to boil garden vegetables, make bean soups, cook stews, among other functions. This element is always very hot when the oven is in use, while the smaller one next to it is simply warm, which is why they often keep a pot of water on it to use for cleaning the dishes. The right hand side is the oven. A baking tin can be placed here. It's very useful for keeping food warm. It can also cook a roast, but it will take longer than a conventional oven.

The only disadvantage with this oven is that every single part of it is scalding hot, so it's not child-friendly. These ranges are slowly going out of fashion because of the way new houses are being built and the demand for convenience rather than tradition. They need to be cleaned out in a similar way to fireplaces, so you have to put up with a lot of smut, ash and soot.

Here's what my uncles cooked for us on the day we visited (but not in the wood fire - they preferred to use their gas oven that day): roast lamb and potatoes with tomato and olive oil. Every single ingredient was cultivated or collected by them on their land.

roast at galatas hania chania

Of all their nephews and nieces, I am the only one living in Crete, while the others are dispersed among Athens, London and Wellington. This makes me a little special around them. They have also taught me many kitchen tricks which I've shared with you in my recipes.

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