Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Kalamata Olive and Walnut Dip
and an update on the old family house in Limnos


Around six weeks ago my dad Takis and his wife Julia left Melbourne for another 9-month stint in Limnos, Greece. For the last ten years they have been making this annual pilgrimage to spend their retirement years slowly restoring our old family house and generally enjoying the relaxed Limnian lifestyle.

I've previously written a little bit about the Limnos family house here on the blog and thought I would talk some more about this very special place, especially given that Tony and I will soon be back in Limnos ourselves.


I was a young teenager the first time I visited Limnos, way back in 1983. The house was then used as a holiday house during the summer months by my dad's sister Efterpi and her husband Andreas. For the rest of the year the house was occupied by families of mice and cats, and in winter was subjected to the many damages that ice and snow can bring to an old uninhabited house (yes, it actually snows in Limnos!).

For many decades, the 150-year-old house had survived earthquakes, inclement weather, bad renovations and neglect, but ten years ago my dad and Julia started the process of bringing the house back to its former glory.

Unforgiving winters still present problems for the old house during the months that dad and Julia aren't there. The mice and cats still take residence during that time and things deteriorate rapidly. So when dad and Julia come back to Limnos each year in early Spring, the first jobs usually involve repairing cracked pipes, drying out damp rooms, sweeping up mouse poo and rejuvenating garden beds.

This year's Limnian winter was not so harsh, and tasks around the house and garden were kept to a minimum. This allowed my dad to focus on the things he really loves – tinkering around in his workshop, mastering the art of cappuccino-making, or cooking up a storm in the kitchen. With the help of his trusty little helper, Anesti, he also loves to get involved in larger projects around the house like bathroom renovations and out-house constructions. My dad turns 81 this year and yes, he still renovates bathrooms.

Below: The site of dad's workshop, before reconstruction. September 2004.


The new workshop, reconstructed entirely from stone found on the property.


My dad in his element, woodworking in his workshop.


Bathroom renovations underway.


Reconstructing the laundry house with Tony (centre) and Anesti (right). August 2009.


The finished laundry house (and my proud dad!)


Julia is dedicated to maintaining and constantly improving the garden of the property. Ten years ago she transformed the plot of weeds and rubbish into a flourishing quarter acre of beautiful landscaped gardens and vegetable beds. There are some original 100-year-old olive, fig and almond trees that still bear fruit and nuts, and recently planted pear, peach and apple trees provide an abundance of fruit each year.

Every meal that is cooked in the house sources a bunch of ingredients from the garden, from garlic, onions, herbs and salad leaves, to peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and eggplant. There's an old well in the middle of the garden that supplies plentiful water for the garden, and an outside wood oven called a "furno" that has been restored from a pile of rubble.

Below: Julia enjoying her daily garden potterings. That's a genuine Hills Hoist washing line in the background, brought over to Greece from Australia – Julia couldn't live without one!


The house and garden, before any renovations or landscaping. September 2004.


House and garden today.


The outdoor furno (wood-fired oven) before reconstruction. September 2004.


Restored furno, ready for wood-fired pizza!


Tony and I have been visiting Limnos together every year for the last four years. Airfares from Australia to Europe are not cheap but this annual holiday is the one thing that I would gladly spend my last pennies on to ensure that we make it to Limnos each year.

Dad and Julia have put so much work and money into making this house the beautiful structure it is today. Sadly though, this is a large, high-maintenance house that they can't look after for ever. One day the responsibility of maintaining the house will be left in the hands of the willing and able. Tony and I are more than willing, but at this stage, not able. We both have work commitments here in Australia, and the expenses involved with keeping a house of this size are substantial. Unfortunately, there are no other family members interested enough to take on the financial and physical responsibilities of the house so my dad is now considering options to rent it out in the future, find someone who might want to turn it into a bed and breakfast, or, as a last resort, he might have to sell it.

But my dad isn't doing anything yet. His connection with the island and his country is stronger now than it ever has been and he will move mountains to make sure the house stays a part of the family for as long as possible. At the same time, Tony and I make the most of every one of our visits to Limnos.

We keep hoping for a miracle that one day we might be able to take over the responsibilities of the house, but for now we are looking forward to going back to the island next month – to spend time with family, cook in the Limnos kitchen, eat at the sea-side tavernas, swim in warm shallow waters, pat some cats, feed the stray dogs and of course take millions of photos.

Below: Riha Nera beach, walking distance from the house. Riha Nera is Greek for "shallow waters".


Gorgeous Greek kitten at a taverna.


Wind-surfing at Riha Nera beach.




My recipe for today is a simple Kalamata Olive and Walnut dip. It can be made up in a few minutes and is the perfect appetiser to enjoy with crusty bread, crackers, or celery and carrot sticks.


Kalamata Olive and Walnut Dip


Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pitted Kalamata* olives
  • 1/2 cup shelled walnuts
  • 1 tablespoon good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 3–4 teaspoons plain Greek yoghurt**

* Kalamata olives are grown in the city of the same name in Southern Greece. They have Protected Designation of Origin status in the EU and are available at good delicatessens world wide. 

** To veganise, soy yoghurt can be used. The role of the yoghurt is to smooth down the consistency of the dip so you could also use a liquid such as soy milk, almond milk, olive oil, or even water to replace the yoghurt.

Instructions

  1. Pulse the olives, nuts and olive oil in a food processor until a paste is formed. This can be used as is, similar to how you would use pesto.
  2. To turn the paste into a dip, add 3 to 4 teaspoons of yoghurt and continue to pulse until it reaches the desired consistency.
  3. Told you it was easy!




31 comments:

  1. I really hope the house stays in the family! I can see how it would be pretty sad if your dad had to sell it. Enjoy your holiday!

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    1. Thanks Veganopoulous. We hope so too! We're really looking forward to going back to Limnos and seeing everyone again.

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  2. I love the photos, the stories, and the recipe,,, thanks for sharing it all..

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    1. Thank you Judee. I love talking about the house and Limnos. Sometimes I think I might be boring people with these stories so it's nice to hear when people are enjoying my ramblings :)

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  3. lisa, OH MY. i'm in awe of what your father and step mother have done with that gorgeous home. i loved going to greece and can only imagine how lovely it must be to stay in that home. or have that as my home. i hope your father can figure out some way to keep the house in the family and doesn't have to sell the family home.

    this dip combines my two favorite things- walnuts and olives. i cannot wait to try it!

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    1. Caitlin, it's amazing the work they've done. The house was on the verge of collapse when my dad and Julia took over. It was an enormous challenge for them to take on but they've turned it into something magnificent. We can't wait to go back.

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  4. It looks beautiful. The work that they have done is great! I love the recipe too, kalamata olives are so yummy :)

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    1. Thanks Ann. There are still a few rooms in the house that need work. We're hoping to help dad and Julia with some of the renovations this year - should be a lot of fun!

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  5. That looks delicious and super easy to make. Might have to give it a shot with 50% tahini and 50% almond milk for some vegan love. Yum!

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    1. Oh that sounds delicious, adding a bit of tahini. Might try that myself!

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  6. Oh my! I can't believe the amount of hard work your dad and Julia have put into the house. That workshop is just- stunning! As is the entire house. I hope it stays in your family. But the thought of the B&B does sound good, right? Who wouldn't want to stay in such a gorgeous house on their vacation!

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    1. Oh I know, Shvetha. My dad is such a trooper, and he is totally in love with his workshop :) I really hope the house stays in the family too - Tony and I have considered running it as a B&B ourselves but it's hard work and long hours and we've not had that kind of experience before. You never know what might happen one day though :)

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  7. I would be happy changing towles and making a few beds if it meant spending summers on a Greek Island 2 minutes walk from the beach!
    Tony :)

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    1. Oh, my dear Tony, I would love nothing more than to watch you change towels and make beds. Even in our own home would be nice ;)

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  8. I always look forward to reading your blog. :) It feels like catching up with an old friend! The before and after photos of the house are incredible. They definitely show the dedication and passion your dad has for the property. I'm sure that one way or another, you will figure out a way to keep the house in your family!

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    1. Thanks Kiersten. I love sharing these stories too :) And there are plenty more before and afters to come! I can't wait to see what other improvements dad and Julia have done since we were there last.

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  9. What a beautiful house and the garden... you need some kind of book deal so you can go and live there and write the ultimate Greek vegetarian cookbook. The winters sound quite fierce though. I hope you are going to keep posting while your enjoying your holiday. Greece has so many fantastic vegetarian recipes... and thanks for the recipe I love olive pastes and this looks like a good one.

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    1. Oh wouldn't that just be a dream come true - a five-year book deal living on a Greek island, writing at my leisure about the food I love… heavenly :) Yes, I'll definitely keep posting while we're away. My fabulous Aunt Koula will be staying at the house at the same time and no doubt we'll be getting up to all sorts of adventures in the kitchen together. Can't wait!

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  10. Wow what an incredible blog post and visuals, I feel like I have been on an amazing journey and even better it ends with a divine looking recipe too!

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    1. Thanks Rebecca! It's always wonderful to see new readers here. Hope to see you here again soon :)

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  11. What a beautiful house! I think if you turned it in to a B&B you'd have a flock of your blog readers over there in no time! Maybe you could run greek vegetarian cooking classes there at the same time!

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    1. Great idea Lizzie! Greek vegetarian cooking classes would be brilliant in that setting... Oh, if only...

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  12. A wonderful dip! Those are my favorite olives. That house is so pretty.

    Great clicks, I really love the one of that cute kitty!

    Cheers,

    Rosa

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    1. Thanks Rosa :) I love the colour of the kitten's eyes - they are like opals.

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  13. I just made your wonderful briam again (I added some peas this time, nice), and realized that I never thanked you for the recipe that brought back so many good memories for me. So thanks! :)
    And I enjoyed your story, and the beautiful before-and-after photos of all the work your father and Julia have done to the family home on Limnos, very much. Lucky you and Tony, to be able to spend your winter holidays in such a beautiful place!
    Ina (who loves all things Greek except olives).

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    1. Thank you Ina, and you're most welcome! I am so pleased that you enjoyed the briam - peas would go really well in this dish, I must try that next time.

      Tony and I are very fortunate to be able to spend each year in Limnos and with winter in Melbourne being particularly cold this year, we are very much looking forward to our next trip to Greece in just a few weeks!

      It's so lovely to know people are enjoying the photos and stories about the house. I will be posting more about that soon!

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    2. Great, I am looking forward to more Limnos stories and pictures. Enjoy your working holidays!
      I just had some white bean/onion/tomato soup, very Greek, except that I put garam masala in.... Very good though!
      Ina.

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    3. Your soup sounds lovely Ina. I use garam masala in many dishes too. It finishes off the flavours so well :)

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  14. beautiful pictures! Thank you for sharing

    I really enjoyed this olive dip the walnut was a great touch! Added a new spin on a favorite of mine

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    1. Thanks Sean. The walnuts add a bit of crunch and go so well with the strong olive flavour. The olive dip you linked to looks amazing! I'll have to try that one.

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  15. great blog. you have a great way of writing, I hope u leep it up.
    ive started experimenting with mastic recently. I have added some in my buckwheat milk and its great.
    Fb: david chiwawa

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