Saturday, 30 January 2010

Choice cuts (Καλή μπουκιά)

The beef and pork stood out at the meat counter of the supermarket, which always looks splendidly full on a Saturday morning, and especially inviting on a cold winter's day, when most people are trying to decide what they'll be cooking at home during the weekend.

french beef beef and pork
French beef is sold in large multinational supermarket chains (INKA, the locally owned supermarket, sells only Greek beef); I bought a kilo each of beef (left) and pork (right).

But take note: the beef displayed here is not local food; this beef is imported from France. We prefer French beef to the locally reared beef, mainly because the locally reared beef is very stringy and fibrous; it takes ages to cook, and never seems to have that melting quality about it that French beef has. France has a longer history in raising beef; Crete has a tradition in pork and lamb/goat, but not beef.

Whole onions, preferably small ones (scallions), are a traditional feature of Greek stifado.
beef stifado

For the beef, I decided on Souvlaki for the Soul's stifado, a stew cooked in the traditional Greek style, with dry spices and lots of onions. Stifado is often served with fried potatoes in Greece, but it also goes well served on a bed of rice or mashed potatoes. We had this with some green salad, sourdough bread to mop up the sauces, and some imported English ale, which is now becoming easier to buy - competitive supermarket price and product wars are all part and parcel of the more globalised place that Crete has now become.

pork and quince
This is what the pork dish looked like when it went into the oven - we forgot to photograph it once it was cooked!

For the pork, I sliced up a ton of onions, placed them in a baking tin and laid the pork in thick slices on top of the onions, filling in the gaps with quince slices, which gave the whole dish an enticing aroma. There was no real recipe to this; its simplicity won over in terms of taste. Quince cooked with pork is a popular combination in Greek cuisine.

This kind of cooking style is typical of my Sunday meat dishes. They are usually simple, but they are always cooked with olive oil, using high-quality fresh ingredients.

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When shopping, I usually go to a range of stores. It isn't uncommon for me to go to two different supermarkets on the same day if I'm searching for food items that I know are only available in the one or the other. For example, we like the bread found at the local supermarket, but prefer the beef at a branch of a multinationally-owned supermarket. Here's what the meat counters looked like at two different supermarkets on the day I bought these cuts of meat.

the local super the local super
Above: the local super. Below: the multinational super.
italian chickens the multinational super the multinational super

Notice how animal's tail is still attached at the local store. That's how people buy their meat in such a store: this way, they know it's a goat and not a lamb. Likewise, they ask about which village or farm the animal was raised, what it was fed on, and if the animal was a male or female(!). This kind of information is clearly not available in the multinational store, where all meat is displayed in an almost packaged form. To be global, or not to be global, that is the question these days...

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