Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Tikvitchki (Τικβίτσκι)

It's that time of year again when our garden is starting to produce more than we can eat. I'm talking specifically about those long shiny creamy green vegetables topped with a bright yellow flower on their crown. We've already had zucchini fritters, boureki, boiled courgettes with horta and zucchini chocolate cake, no less than twice this past month. I've also put away no less than four baking tins of boureki in the deep freeze. I won't run out of zucchini this summer, but I may just possibly run out of creative recipes to use them up.

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We've graduated to growing kinkier varieties of zucchini, like the round one in the photos (it's not a pumpkin).

I remembered having Georgia's dish of fried courgettes layered with tzatziki dip, which she had made for us last year while she was looking after my mother-in-law who was recuperating from a broken leg. She came from Bulgaria, and told us that she used to make this dish often back in her home country. At the time, I called it a kind of Bulgarian boureki, as it seemed similar to the Cretan boureki pie consisting of layers of sliced courgettes and curd cheese (instead of yoghurt). With a little research, I even found a name for Georgia's dish: tikvitchki. We had this recently with some pan-fried veal steaks and horta.

bulgarian savoury dish
Georgia's rendition of tikvitchki (above) was creamier than mine; she used plain yoghurt spiced with garlic, while I preferred to use Greek tzatziki.
pan grilled veal steaks and onions tikvitchki
Veal is very expensive in Greece, but it is worth buying when you find it; Greek beef is very tough, even when cooked, but this veal took only half an hour to be cooked in the pan.

Bulgarians constitute a major group of economic migrants in Greece, making a major contribution to the workforce. Bulgarian cuisine shares a lot of similarities with Greek cuisine, and no wonder, since the countries neighbour each other and share a similar history from the period of Ottoman rule. Ingredients for traditional Bulgarian recipes can be found easily in Greece. Bulgarian dishes are generally uncomplicated, spiced up with lots of onions and garlic, with heavy use made of seasonal produce.

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Although Bulgarian cuisine hasn't passed into the realms of the commonly known widespread repertoire of international cuisine, I was secretly pleased to see that the Bulgarian economic immigrants of Hania have passed from the status of kitchen hands to taverna owner-operators, as I was passing by the old harbour in Hania on the east side near the marina. That's a positive sign of socio-economic progress in a migrant community, and it reminded me very much of the way my own parents built up their status as Greek immigrants in New Zealand.

BG eatery Boliari BG eaterie Boliari
In front of Mehana Boliari (the nobles' taverna), there is a large open shadeless courtyard which was being used as a carpark for a long time. The freshly painted walls of the building where the taverna is housed (presumably it operates in winter too) become easy targets for the depravities of graffiti artists. From a brief look at the menu, I noticed some Bulgarian favorites like tarator soup and ovcharska salad, as well Greek standard fare. The whole set up reminds me of my Greek parents who used to cook fish and chips and serve them up to Kiwis. I'll be visiting this place for sure one day - it's bound to tickle my memory of my time in New Zealand.

Economic migrants often undertake the dirtiest, most mundane tasks in their adopted country. While the locals run businesses and manage offices, these people keep the work areas clean and provide them with food. This is all part and parcel of both the country's and the migrant's successful progress. Who says migrants aren't acclimatising into Greek society?

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