Author: Jennifer Barclay
Release date: March 4th 2014
Buy Link: Amazon
Synopsis via Goodreads:
The Best Gifts in Life are the Gifts We Give Ourselves...
Breathtaking ocean views, tranquil beaches, delicious food, and warm-hearted people...these are just a few of the reasons why Jennifer Barclay loves the Greek islands. But her dreams of living there full-time seem out of reach, until a break-up turns her world upside down.
Jennifer realizes she is responsible for her own happiness-and decides to cut back on work, stay out of relationships, and vacation for a month on Tilos, her favorite Greek island. Life becomes instantly sweeter, and she resolves to uproot her life to Tilos. But then the strangest thing happens...
A glimpse into life on a tiny Mediterranean island, Falling in Honey is a testament to the power of being good to yourself.
I'm so excited to welcome Falling in Honey author Jennifer Barclay as she talks about some delicious recipes from Greece as part of the blog tour. Thank you so much for joining me!
FOOD FOR A GREEK ISLAND – from the Laziest Cook in Tilos
I am perhaps the world's laziest cook. If there's an easy way and a complicated way to prepare something, I will always take the easy option. I live on a Greek island and could probably survive on fresh fish, tomatoes and oranges, thick creamy yoghurt with thyme honey, and sunshine. Helping myself to fresh figs from trees along the path in the summer, cooling down with watermelon smoothies.
Greeks, on the other hand, will often take the harder road, at least when it comes to traditional cooking. This is, after all, the nation that invented moussaka. Don’t get me wrong, I adore those rich flavours of juicy eggplant, meaty tomato sauce and creamy béchamel; but all those different layers take some preparing and, to be honest, I reckon that’s why restaurants were invented: so we don’t have to cook moussaka at home. Basically I’d rather go for a swim at the beach to work up an appetite for moussaka made by Maria at the taverna.
The island of Tilos, where I came to live three years ago, floats in the Aegean Sea not far from the coast of Turkey. It is tiny, with a fluid population that at times barely tops 300 inhabitants, so from October to Easter most of the restaurants shut down. During those months, therefore, the oven – which has been out of action all summer as it’s far too hot for baking – is back in business. Shopping is done from a handful of mini-markets and farms, a few ingredients are gathered from the garden and fields, and we eat what’s in season. The kitchen has certain fundamental ingredients, though.
That myth that Greeks use a lot of olive oil in their cooking? It’s not a myth. Olive oil here is taken seriously, and I now agree with them – don’t spoil good food by adding olive oil that isn’t fresh and extra virgin. Garlic goes in just about everything too; I never knew you could use garlic in an omelette before, but it tastes amazing fried with onion and green peppers, and free range fresh eggs from the local farmers. The herb I use most is oregano, which grows wild here along with sage and rosemary and thyme, so you simply pick it in spring and leave it to dry in a cool, dark place. I have a stash of locally gathered sea salt, and my own lemon tree in the courtyard. So, once you’ve stocked up on flavoursome basics, let’s get cooking… and bring an easy, healthy, Mediterranean feast to the table!
Salad varies depending on what’s in season, though I love the classic Greek salad of juicy tomatoes, cool cucumber, zingy peppers, red onion, creamy feta cheese and olives, sprinkled with pungent oregano and doused liberally in olive oil. The Greek word for this salad is Horiatiki or Village Salad, and the best have a local ‘village’ touch. In Tilos we add capers – both berries and leaves – gathered from the cliffs and preserved in brine and vinegar. In Sitia, on Crete, I enjoyed a wonderful salad using the region’s sharp, soft white cheese called zigalo. A favourite light meal of mine is Dakos, where you layer the bottom of the bowl with hard rye bread or rusks, cover it with a thick layer of chopped juicy tomatoes, crumble feta cheese on top with herbs and drench the lot in olive oil, so the tomato juice and oil start to soak into the bread.
Use any small fish that are in season – whitebait, anchovies, sardines, mullet – the smaller the better as they don’t need to be gutted. Wash and leave to dry a little, then dip in flour, adding a touch of salt to bring out the flavour if desired. Fry in a deep pan of oil until crispy golden brown, then drain off the oil as you put the fish on a plate and squeeze fresh lemon over them. Fried fish are great served with lightly boiled spinach-type greens and potatoes mashed with olive oil and pepper. Chunks of bigger fish fried or barbequed go well with skordalia.
Skordalia, or Garlic Dip
Chop a couple of medium potatoes into chunks, boil until soft, then drain most of the water off and mash them. Chop up two or three medium cloves of garlic and mash using a pestle and mortar, and add to the potato mix; a touch of vinegar, a grind of pepper and a generous glug of olive oil, then mix or blend until smooth. If you prefer the garlic to be more subtle, you can use less and add it to the potatoes while they’re boiling.
Grate half a cucumber into a bowl (peel the cucumber first if the skin is bitter). With your hand, squeeze most of the water out of the grated cucumber (and drink it – it’s delicious and good for you!). Chop up two large cloves of garlic, mash with pestle and mortar, and add to the bowl. Add about two cups of thick, strained Greek yoghurt, organic or farm-produced if available, a generous glug or two of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and mix until smooth. This is a great accompaniment to meat or rice dishes, and scrumptious on its own with fresh bread.
This is one of the tastiest – and, importantly, laziest – things to cook, and the more of the ingredients that come from local farms, the better it will turn out. Buy organic pork if you can. Arrange chunks of meat, some of it on the bone and with bits of fat, in your roasting tray. Roughly quarter several potatoes and add to the tray, along with some crushed and roughly chopped cloves of garlic, and sliced green pepper. Squeeze a lemon over the meat and potatoes, drizzle the whole thing liberally with olive oil and a cup of water or white wine, then sprinkle with lots of oregano. Add sea salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste. Then leave to cook in a medium-high oven for an hour or two. Add water if it looks like it’s drying out, especially if you want to leave it on a lower heat for another hour.
Gigantes, or Giant Beans
Vegetarians, take note: there are various Greek stews that use pulses – chick peas with garlic and onion, olive oil and lemon; lentils with rice – but this is my all-time favourite. Soak half a kilo of the large white beans known in Greece as gigantes – lima or butter beans – overnight in a big pan. Next day, boil for about 45 minutes until tenderising. Scoop off the froth as the water boils, leaving just enough water to cover them. Add a handful of chopped carrots, a few chopped cloves of garlic, a couple of chopped onions, a few chopped tomatoes, and handful of flat-leaf parsley or wild celery (or celery leaves), a bay leaf, a good cup or two of olive oil, and salt and pepper to taste; then leave to cook for another hour, ensuring the beans are covered in liquid. They’re ready to eat once they’re soft, but to finish off you can put them in a hot oven for about half an hour covered, then remove the lid, stir, and let them crisp and brown on top for another half hour. Serve warm with fresh bread – or put some potatoes in the oven for the last forty minutes to bake.
In Greece, generally you don’t eat separate courses but load up the table with plates of everything, and spend a leisurely hour or so sharing the food and conversation and a karafe of wine with family or friends. I hope you’ll enjoy your Greek feast in a similar way – tasting, savouring, and imagining a sunny afternoon with the waves lapping the shore… As we say in Greece, Kali orexi! – bon appetit!
Jennifer Barclay is the author of Falling in Honey: How a Tiny Greek Island Stole My Heart (published by Sourcebooks) and her updates from a Greek island, including her irregularly updated Lazy Cook page An Octopus in my Ouzo, can be found by clicking
Five honey dipped stars.
When I saw this book on Netgalley and got invited to the tour, I knew I couldn't resist. Thanks in large part to my dad being a chef, I have always loved Greek food and culture. I actually have a little bit of an obsession with it, and it's only worsening as I get further into my Classics studies in college. I'm happy to say, this book did not disappoint.
The way that Jennifer Barclay writes about her experiences makes you feel like you're right there beside her. You can almost smell the honey in the air and the salt of the sea, you can pretty much feel the warm sun and white sand. It's a relaxing sort of calm that lulls you into the story in the best possible way. As someone currently in the middle of taking their midterm exams, this was a great break in an otherwise stressful life. She writes in amazing detail, and makes you vividly picture the words that she pens, from the people she meets to the villages that she visits.
She also writes of her life and adventures in Greece with a raw sort of honesty and sincerity, like you're just at a bar together and she's letting you know about her life. It feels genuine without being braggy about anything she's done- you just want to pack a suitcase and explore the islands (and gorge yourself on treats) with her.
If you didn't want to travel Greece before reading this book, I can promise that you will afterwards. Falling in Honey is a sweet non-fiction work exploring the author's life, relationships, eats, journeys, and so much more. Prepare to get hungry with a need to travel (or Google Greece to daydream). This is a perfect book for lounging on the beach, or for helping you pretend that you are during the winter. Fans of books like Eat, Pray, Love and Karma Gone Bad ought to check this out.
Thanks to Netgalley and Sourcebooks for my chance to read this, and to Jennifer Barclay for her guest post.