Tuesday, 20 September 2005

Fish and snails with balls

Last week I wrote about the most popular fish you can find here in the restaurants. There is another fish that gets photographed a lot, but you will not find it in a regular restaurant; the rofos which is actually a grouper. This monster from the sea can grow far more than 1 metre and I really do hope you never catch it with a fishing-rod, otherwise you will have nothing left to fish with.

Swimmers who do not like fish do not have to be afraid of a confrontation with this fish because it likes to dwell over a muddy and deep sea floor. It is one of the favorites for game fishers, who dive from a boat into the water in the middle of the sea, armed with a harpoon. When you do some surfing on the internet in order to find out something about this big fellow, you will find triumphant photographs of fishermen posing proudly next to a rofos. Sometimes the fish is as big as the fisherman himself (a small fisherman can be as big as a large rofos).

Last weekend our neighbour Zina from Mytilini came with just such a whopper to Eftalou. It was a pretty one being more than half a metre. Her son Antonis, who is a game fisher, caught it and gave it to Zina to bring it to the lunch what is given each Sunday by Yannis and Marianthis. Normally all neighbours and their guests who are in Eftalou are invited.

Yannis and Marianthis have an old brick kiln here on the land. You light a fire in it, let it burn in order to heat the kiln, then you empty the kiln, put food in it and close it so that the food can cook. A stuffed lamb needs an entire night to cook there, the big grouper was more modest and needed only two hours to get ready. It was prepared with some herbs, tomatoes, a courgette and a smaller fish and I do not lie when I say that it was the best fish I ever tasted.

The Greeks, especially on the islands, eat what is around. Sometimes I miss my supermarket in Amsterdam, but mostly not. The food you get served here is fair and very fresh, and there are things you will never find in my Dutch supermarket. Because of this way of eating, some meals can be pretty surprising. So when there are snails around, a grouper and some sheep balls, they are all served together in one meal.

I know now that a lot of people start to shiver at the thought, but I started my lunch on Sunday with sheep balls, a delicacy for those who like organ meat. Just like a rofos you will not find those vital parts on any menu. When slaughtering a sheep the farmer mostly keeps the balls for himself. Just like the sweetbread. Sheep balls have a soft taste in between sweetbread and chicken meat. In Greece they are a beloved mez├Ęs, they have become one of my favorites as well.

Last Thursday night it rained a little and on Friday we got a heavy tropical rainfall what came pretty quick over the sea from Turkey. There were buckets of water emptied, many people were taken by surprise and got totally wet and also many a house did not keep dry. After 10 minutes the sky was as blue as it was before. We had to mop the water and find our way through the mud, otherwise you would have thought that nothing happened.

Rain in September means snails. They come out of hiding (not out of their houses!) where they have tried to survive the dry season. They feast upon the rain, like we in our turn feast upon the snails. The Greek kitchen has a different way from the French of preparing snails: for a few days they are put into flour where they clean themselves and then they are prepared with onions, quinces and some tomatoes. It is a very fine recipe and the French with their garlic snails really should try this way of preparation.

So that was my second dish of that Sunday lunch. Where after came the divine rofos. All these plates are wonderful with a glass of ouzo. I do not know how many I drunk, but I do know that I ate quite a lot. And that after this meal fit for a king I needed at least 2 hours of sleeping in my hammock to recover.

Copyright © Smitaki 2005

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