Hello everyone! All two of you that might still be waiting for me to post again on the blog. I am so sorry for taking such an extended leave of absence – I feel terrible about neglecting this space, especially because my only excuse is that I've been busy with work.
This would be completely legitimate if I was genuinely snowed under, but that hasn't been the case. I pretty much have the standard amount of work that anyone else has to deal with. I only have to look at dedicated bloggers like Veggie Mama who works and has two small children, and Liz over at I Spy Plum Pie who also works and posts almost every day, and I have to confess that my real problem is just laziness.
I mean, it's not like I spend every waking hour working. I spend many waking hours just sitting around thinking about dumb stuff, procrastinating about the housework, and worrying about things that I can easily fix with just a little motivation.
Blogging is something that I do enjoy, but like other things in my life, once I get out of the routine it's difficult for me to get inspired again – not helped at all by my annual struggle with post-holiday depression! I do, however, gain a lot of inspiration from other bloggers and over the weekend I spent some time catching up with many of my favourite blogs.
Thanks to blogs like Veganopoulous, Where's the Beef, Souvlaki for the Soul, Oh My Veggies and The Vegan Chickpea, I woke up this morning feeling excited about posting on here again.
So before it's too late, I'm going to try my best to make up for my tardy behaviour. This blog hasn't been around for very long but in the 10 months that I've been posting here, I have been nothing but humbled by the amount of support and kind comments from so many lovely people, and I really don't want to lose that.
I haven't been cooking much since we returned from our trip, and my photography has been narrowed down to staff portraits for work, but I'm hoping that getting back into the blogging momentum will reignite my passions for both cooking and photography because these are the things that make me happy.
The blog also serves as a record of our trips to Greece which have now become an annual event for Tony and I. These days I rarely print my holiday photos and they inevitably end up hidden away as numbers in folders on my hard-drive. Having them on the blog means they will always be in easy reach to look back on and remember the fun we had on our holidays.
So here I am, trying to make a comeback, sincerely hoping that I haven't lost too many readers over the last few weeks, and desperately hoping that my burst of enthusiasm that I've managed to harness today gets me back into the practice of perpetual blogging.
When last I posted from Greece, I'd just started to tell you about the wonderfully blissful time we'd spent in spectacular Santorini.
Created after a huge volcanic eruption over 3,500 years ago, Santorini is a staggeringly beautiful ring-shaped island with the most amazing views out to the Aegean Sea. Our small villa was perched high up on the Caldera's edge, 300 metres above sea level in the quiet village of Imerovigli – our minds repeatedly blown away by the incredible vista that greeted us every morning from our own private terrace.
We spent four days in Santorini, mostly walking around the towns of Thira and Imerovigli, admiring the views and taking ridiculous amounts of photos. We also explored other parts of the island on a motor scooter, riding out to Perissa Beach where black volcanic sand burns your feet, and spending a day at beautiful Oia drooling over the boutique art and craft shops.
Okay, prepare yourself now for the barrage of photos from our never-wanted-it-to-end affair with this fantasy island.
Meticulous pebble-work covers the foot ways and squares of the main villages. This one, located in Thira, is of a double-headed eagle, a beloved Greek symbol that is often used as a decorative motif.
We couldn't get enough of the panoramic scale of this place. Here I am enjoying the view from the same vantage point that I have managed to find each of the three times I've visited Santorini. It's the roof of a villa in Imerovigli, and somehow, amongst the maze of cobble-stoned pathways that riddle the island, I've been able to locate this spot every time...
And here I am on the same roof, over 20 years ago:
More incredible views.
Even the cats enjoyed the views.
Another view that mesmerised me to no end was the delectably-stocked mini-market shelves, loaded with all those Greek goodies that you can only get at specialty delicatessens here in Australia. These mini markets were dotted all over Santorini, this one a stone's throw from our villa.
The village of Oia is not only known for its amazing sunsets, but also for its abundance of boutique art and craft shops and street stalls.
This dog wasn't all that interested in shopping. He was happy to just relax in the shade with the cool marble beneath him, away from the hot Santorini sun.
Black volcanic sand of Perissa beach.
(quote taken from the plastic bag scene of American Beauty.)
Could there possibly be a more outrageous place to live? Yes, I believe this was someone's private property:
Below is the view from the our gorgeous little studio villa. We stayed at Artemis Villas, run by a Greek Australian guy named Chris and his wife Angela. We had our own private terrace from which to take in the vast expanse of the indigo seas and not for one minute during our four days here did we stop marvelling at this ridiculous view.
How gorgeous is this? Every day the towels on our bed were sculpted into the shape of a different animal by the most friendly (and talented!) room attendant I think I've ever met, Juliana. She was such a lovely and delightful lady, and every afternoon delivered complimentary cake and champagne for us to enjoy on our terrace.
Menu choices when eating out in Santorini were a mix of traditional Santorinian fare along with quite a range of western and other international favourites to cater for the vast variety of tourists that visit the island. I'm always drawn to the Greek appetisers for vegetarian options, but was pleasantly surprised to find Vegetarian Moussaka was a specialty dish at Argo Restaurant in Thira. I also loved the way it was served in its own terracotta dish.
The landscape of Santorini is very dry and arid with harsh volcanic ash soil, however these conditions enable some unique produce to be cultivated on the island such as the indigenous Asyrtiko grape, beautiful white eggplants, and deliciously sweet cherry tomatoes.
The intensely-flavoured tomatoes of Santorini are grown using a centuries-old method called dry farming. Plants are nurtured until established, then all watering is stopped which forces the plant to find water deep underground, in turn encouraging it to be more proactive in producing fruit. The hot, dry summers of the mediterranean are perfect for growing tomatoes this way. The fruit is smaller but the flavour and texture is incredibly rich and sweet.
It's no surprise then that Tomatokeftethes is featured on just about every taverna menu in Santorini.
During our short stay in Santorini, the best tomatokeftethes we came across were at Thalami Taverna in Oia. Golden brown and oh-so-crispy on the outside, soft and sweet with a hint of tartness on the inside.
I knew I'd never be able to reproduce these at home without access to Santorini-grown tomatoes, but with the help of some tomato paste and a bit of pre-frying to intensify the flavour, my version of Tomatokeftethes didn't turn out too badly.
Most of the recipes you will find online don't include egg in the batter, but after a little experimentation with and without egg, I found it necessary to use egg to hold the batter together (without the egg I pretty much ended up with little bits and pieces of brown crumbled rock – which may or may not have had something to do with my worn-out "non-stick" frying pan which is anything but non-stick). I'd be interested to hear if anyone (other than the phantom internet people posting all the eggless recipes) has had success making tomato fritters without egg.
Santorinian Tomato Fritters (Tomatokeftethes)
Makes around 20 fritters
- 400g cherry or mini roma tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 small red onion, grated
- 2 teaspoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 120g self raising flour
- 1 egg, lightly beaten
- Olive oil for flying
- In a medium saucepan, fry the onion in a little oil over medium heat for a couple of minutes.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and stir to combine. Reduce heat to low and cover for 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Transfer the onion and tomato mixture to a large bowl, add tomato paste and herbs and season well with salt and pepper.
- Add the flour and egg, mixing, until it forms a thick batter, adding more flour if necessary.
- Over high heat, pour some olive oil into a large non-stick frying pan until it reaches a depth of around 1cm. Once the oil has heated, drop a small amount of the batter into the oil and if it sizzles, the oil is ready. Turn the heat down to medium.
- Drop heaped tablespoonfuls of the batter into the hot oil and fry both sides until golden and crisp.
- Drain over paper towels and serve immediately with fresh Greek yoghurt.