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Black olives ’tis the season

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Black olives 'tis the season

They deserve a special place at our table these days.
Sprinkle some fresh oregano, add a slice of orange, a few drops of freshly squeezed lemon juice and some crushed garlic.

Enjoy!

(photo by Vagelis Hasiotis)

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A Keynesian spicy pumpkin soup

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Keynesian spicy pumpkin soup

Serves 8-10
Preparation: well… that depends on your carving skills
Cooking Time: 40′
 

A soup that makes use of your Halloween pumpkin, marries its flavour to cumin to produce a smooth textured mixture sprinkled with sweet paprika and parsley.

40gr/2 tbsp butter
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 finely chopped onions
1 garlic clove crushed
900gr/2 pounds pumpkin, deseeded and cut into cubes
1lt chicken broth
100gr/3,5oz whipped cream
salt and ground black pepper
sweet paprika and parsley to garnish
 

 

First, empty the pumpkin and carve it (but not as clumsily as I did) and remove pulp and seeds.

Halloween 2013

Then, heat the butter in a large deep saucepan over medium heat. Add some of the cumin, onion and garlic and cook for 3-4 minutes or until the onion is soft. Add the pumpkin cubes and stock, cover and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender.

Puree soup in a food processor or with a hand blender until smooth. Return soup to pan and let it simmer for another 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and add the remaining cumin and whipping cream. Serve soup with a sprinkling of sweet paprika and parsley.

Bon Appetit 🙂

 

Food for thought

 A bit of a kiddy entry this one, so here’s a kiddy webpage:

John Maynard Keynes for kids.
Keynes for kids
 
Info, quizzes, games and many more to get you and your kids in a macroeconomic mood.

 Keynes for kids2

 

Why I’m taking it personally

The Irate Greek

For the past couple of weeks I’ve been going to bed at night and waking up in the morning thinking of a person I have never met and will likely never meet. I hardly know anything about the man himself. I only know that his name is Kostas Sakkas, that he’s 29 years old and that he was a university student until December 2010. That’s a lot less than what I knew about all the people I wrote letters for when I was a campaigner for Amnesty International.

View original post 791 more words

To everyone in the States, Happy Independence Day

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The American Independence Day carries such an important message that even in the Hymn to Liberty by Dionysios Solomos, which is the Greek National Anthem, there is a reference to the “heartfelt joy of Washington’s land” that “remembered the irons that bound it as well”.

Γκαρδιακά χαροποιήθη
Και του Βάσιγκτον η γη,
Και τα σίδερα ενθυμήθη
Που την έδεναν κι αυτή.

Little is ever said, however, about the culinary history that accompanies the Founding Fathers. Thomas Jefferson, in particular, is on the list of people who changed the way American people eat.
Here you can find some recipes from the Presidents’ Kitchen to help you celebrate Independence Day in the appropriate fashion.

Happy 4th of July!

Food for thought

I can’t help thinking how differently the American Revolution would be viewed today. History is always written by the winners and we take a lot of things for granted as a result. But something tells me that if this were to happen today, the opposing propaganda would look like this:

American Revolution as it would be seen today

Stuff your austerity, we want gemista!

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Stuffed tomatoes and peppers (Gemista)

Serves 4-6
Preparation 30’
Baking 1h30’
 

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers is a typically summer dish that belongs to the category of Greek dishes called “Ladera”, meaning dishes prepared with fresh vegetables and olive oil without the addition of any other type of fat. This recipe is the easiest around, it requires no pre-cooking, no simmering, no frying. Empty the tomatoes and peppers, prepare the filling, stuff the vegetables, bake them, done.

I only use tomatoes and peppers but my very skillful Greek mom can stuff every fresh vegetable she can find in the open air market, namely courgettes (zucchinis), aubergines (eggplants), vine leaves, you name it. In my experience, the toughest part is opening and emptying the veggies, especially the courgettes. I strongly suspect this recipe comes from a prosperous era when people had enough courgettes to destroy experimenting before getting it right.

This means that the new trend called ‘austerity’ is threatening cuisine too, so before you begin with the recipe scroll down the page and press the link to listen to Mark Blyth’s historical account of the “tighten your belts cause you’ve been living beyond your means’’ sham as you prepare the ultimate vegetarian Greek dish.

9 large, ripe, juicy and firm beefsteak tomatoes
3 large green bell peppers
2 large onions, grated
2 large garlic cloves, grated or finely chopped
1 large courgette, peeled and grated
1 medium sized aubergine, peeled and grated
200gr medium grain rice (glasse, preferably)
3 medium sized potatoes
finely chopped parsley and spearmint
salt and pepper
250ml olive oil
1 cup of water
 
Stuffed tomatoes and peppers (Gemista)
 
 
 

Rinse and drain the tomatoes and bell peppers. Place them in a large round baking pan to make sure they fit before using them all. Cut off the peppers’ tops where the stem is (careful not to cut too low). Most people do the same with tomatoes but I prefer to cut off their bottom instead.  Keep each lid close by because you’re going to need them soon.

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers (Gemista)

Using a teaspoon scoop out the insides removing most of the flesh, juices and seeds. This is easy with the peppers, you can do this by hand but when it comes to the tomatoes you have to be careful not to poke through their skin. What I do is plunge the teaspoon not to close to the skin, work my way around the inside of the tomato and empty it spoonful by spoonful. Mash the inner tomato parts to create a smooth tomato juice.

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers (Gemista)

In a separate deep bowl grate the onions, garlic, aubergine and courgette. Add some finely chopped parsley and spearmint, salt and pepper as desired, rice and a cup of olive oil. Finally, add half of the tomato juice. Use a large spoon to mix the ingredients.

Stuff the tomatoes and peppers up to three-quarters, in order to allow the mixture to expand while cooking and to not overflow or break up the vegetable and cover them with their tops. Add the potatoes in-between the tomatoes and peppers (this will also help them stand up straight) and pour the remaining tomato juice and olive oil. If you have some leftover filling, pour that on top too. Add a cup of water and you’re ready.

Stuffed tomatoes and peppers (Gemista)

Place the baking pan on the middle rack of the oven and cover it with some aluminum foil. Bake for 1h, remove the tin foil and let it bake for another 30’ until water has evaporated and the tomatoes and peppers have taken on a brown colour on top. If you see they need water during the first hour, don’t hesitate to add some more to the bottom of the pan to keep the tomatoes and peppers moist.

Take them out of the oven and allow them to cool. I personally prefer to eat them warm but this is a dish that most people like to savour straight from the fridge the next day. Don’t forget to accompany them with feta cheese, bread and wine.

Enjoy!

Food for thought

As an introduction to Mark Blyth’s speech, I’d like to copy paste a set of laws from a wonderfully sarcastic MMT blog I discovered only recently, just to get you in the mood:

Mitchell’s laws: 
●The more federal budgets are cut and taxes increased, the weaker an economy becomes.
●Austerity is the government’s method for widening the gap between rich and poor,
 which ultimately leads to civil disorder.
● Until the 99% understand the need for federal deficits, the upper 1% will rule.
● To survive long term, a monetarily non-sovereign government must have a positive balance of payments.
● Those, who do not understand the differences between 
Monetary Sovereignty and monetary non-sovereignty, do not understand economics.
● The penalty for ignorance is slavery.
● Everything in economics devolves to motive.

And now here’s Mark Blyth himself. 🙂 

Greek Frappé since revolution might be televised after all

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The lost signal of democracy. 

I’m back! With a vengeance. Blame it on excessive workload but also developments in Greece and Turkey that kept me constantly busy, sleepless but still going nevertheless. The secret to emergency doses of stamina is no other than Greek iced coffee, otherwise known as frappé.

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Accidentally invented in 1957 in the city of Thessaloniki, frappé is now the most popular coffee among Greek youth and foreign tourists becoming a hallmark of the post-war outdoor Greek coffee culture.

It is also a statement of relaxation and not giving a damn. It has been blamed for the apathy among Greek people to the plight of many of their compatriots due to the recession. However, it is also a powerful tool against fatigue or even burn out.

It’s irresistibly tasty too. I remember my English friends trying it, sipping it quickly and asking for another. It was extremely difficult to make them understand that a frappé in late afternoon can be disastrous, never mind a second one. Well, they learnt from experience.

The recipe for frappe is no different to any recipe for coffee. You can have it black or white, with or without sugar. But make sure you have ice cubes available, cold water, a drinking straw and a good cocktail shaker. Alternatively you can use this little gadget here, but trust me, shaken is much tastier though I have no idea why.

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Use a tall glass and add the amount of instant coffee and sugar you prefer. I use Nescafé Gold Blend myself, but any instant coffee will do. Add some lukewarm water to cover. You can whisk it now if you use the mixer but if you’re using a shaker then throw in a couple of ice cubes and shake the hell out of it to form a foam.

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Slowly pour the coffee foam from the shaker into the glass. Add some ice cubes (in case you’ve used the mixer) and some evaporated milk if you like your coffee white (this is called frappogalo). Add cold water and serve with a drinking straw.

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Enjoy!

Food for thought

So what happened with Greece, ERT and the national orchestra that deserved so many posts and blog negligence on my part?

Occupy ERT

Occupy ERT

I have written before here how the coalition (made up of three parties: conservative ND, socialist-my-foot PASOK and leftist-my-other-foot DIMAR) has used every fascist tactic there is to impose austerity measures and implement the so-called memorandum. To this end, instead of passing laws through parliamentary procedures they have been using decrees that according to the Constitution (44th Article) should be issued “under extraordinary circumstances of an urgent and unforeseeable need” and “be submitted to Parliament for ratification, as specified in the provisions of article 72 paragraph 1, within forty days of their issuance or within forty days from the convocation of a parliamentary session.” It goes without saying that the government must have insured majority in the parliament to issue such act.

Question no1: Which exactly were the “extraordinary circumstances of an urgent and unforeseeable need” that called for the closure of public television network (ERT)?

Answer:  That depends on who’s answering. If you ask a law professional or an ordinary citizen, they will tell you that there were none. No earthquakes, no tsunamis, no wars in sight. And even in those circumstances, ERT would be more useful than ever since it is the only TV station able to reach even the remotest areas of the country. It is also broadcasting abroad through its ERT World service.

BUT: ERT was DIGEA’s main “opponent” in the competition that will take place at the end of the month for the acquisition of digital distribution of television signals in the country. And who is DIGEA (Digea Digital Provider Inc)? It is a private company established by the shareholders of the private national TV network stations ALPHA, ALTER, ANTENNA, MAKEDONIA TV, MEGA, SKAI and STAR who have been broadcasting without state permission since 1989. And who are these shareholders? Some of the richest businessman in Greece and maybe in Europe: Vardinogiannis, Bobolas, Kiriakou, Psiharis, Kontominas and Alafouzos.

Question no 2: What was the reason for 19 such acts in the past 12 months?

Answer: Same as above. Nothing but the need to secure that very few individuals and companies take hold of the country’s reigns irrevocably.

Question no 3: Did Mr Samaras (PM) made sure he had parliamentary majority to proceed with such act?

Answer: No. Mr Venizelos (PASOK) and Mr Kouvelis (DIMAR) strongly expressed their opposition to the decree, which means that ERT closed while knowing that it would open again in 3 months the latest.

Banners hanging outside ERT headquarters for the greatest classical music concert ever (6 orchestras + 3 choirs, 500 musicians).

Banners hanging outside ERT headquarters for the greatest classical music concert ever (6 orchestras + 3 choirs, 500 musicians).

So, here’s a brief account of events:

Tuesday 11th June: Government minister Simos Kedicoglou announces through national network the closure of ERT and the dismissal of all its employees. A few hours later there is black on our TV screens and thousands of people outside ERT headquarters.

ERT newscaster, Denia Sarakini with her son, looking optimistic.

ERT newscaster, Denia Sarakini with her son, looking optimistic.

Journalists and technicians continue to broadcast through the EBU (European Broadcasting Union) as if nothing has changed. Panels with journalists, unionists, artists, academics and opposition party politicians (gvt politicians are invited too but they refuse to go of course) fill the program aired on 24-hour basis having 4, 5 million viewers in Greece so far, according to the EBU. Finance Minister Stournaras, who is now appointed to ERT, threatened any and all television channels, even the EBU, with legal action unless they stopped re-transmitting ERT broadcasts. Empty threats if you ask me and to this day they are.

ERT Headquarters

The Council of Europe, the OSCE, the International Press Associations, and many other organisations expressed their opposition to the manner in which ERT was closed, and the principles behind it. This includes 50 Directors General of European public broadcasters, who sent the following letter:

ERT MUST BE RESTORED TO AIR!

“We, as Directors General of Europe’s public broadcasters, express our profound dismay at the action taken by the Greek Government on Tuesday, 11 June in shutting down ERT with immediate effect.

This undemocratic and unprofessional action of the Greek government undermines the existence of public service media in Greece and its independence from the government.

For that reason, we strongly urge the Greek Prime Minister to immediately reverse this decision, allowing ERT to go back on the air in Greece and we wholeheartedly support the open letter sent by the EBU President and Director General on 11 June 2013.”

Silas Serafim, stand up comedian at OccupyERT.

Silas Serafim, stand up comedian at OccupyERT.

Monday 17th June: The Higher Court ruled that ERT must be opened immediately, something that has not happened to this day. In any democratic country, Mr Stournaras would be behind bars, since he’s not protected by parliamentary immunity, but hey, this is Mr Samaras’ sultanate.

Little girls dancing to Mozart at OccupyERT.

Little girls dancing to Mozart at OccupyERT.

Thursday 20th June: Mr Kouvelis (DIMAR) announces that he leaves the coalition and withdraws his ministers. PASOK stays to finish what they started in 2010.

So, what else has been going on since the 11th June in ERT’s headquarters apart from broadcasting? Concerts, talks, stand up comedy, happenings with thousands of people attending every single day. This has prevented the government from sending police forces to evacuate the building but they won’t be able to hold back for much longer so please, keep an eye on us, will you?

Municipality of Athens Philharmonic Orchestra at OccupyERT this morning.

Municipality of Athens Philharmonic Orchestra at OccupyERT this morning.

You can read a more analytic report on this issue here.

Video

The last concert of the National Symphony Orchestra and Choir of ERT (Greece)

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Dear colleagues, fellow artists, musicians and managerial staff of State Radio Television Broadcasters worldwide,

This is a communication letter from all 3 Music Ensembles of the Greek Radio Television (ERT), which as you already know is now SHUT DOWN after a government decree. As of Tuesday the 11th of June 2013 the “National Symphony Orchestra” (est. 1938), the “Contemporary Music Orchestra” (est. 1954) and the Choir (est. 1977) of ERT have ceased their activities.The new institution that is proposed at the moment from the government there is no room for music whatsoever. Our very existence is at stake. We are asking for help and solidarity in any possible way. It is of the outmost importance to make them understand why a Public Television should include Music Ensembles. We would mostly appreciate a written formal statement of support (in both email and normal post if possible) addressed to the Greek government (Prime Minister’s Office, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Culture, Ministry of State, GENERAL SECRETARIAT OF INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION) and to your own respective governments as means of applying pressure for the existence and functioning of the Music Ensembles and ERT in general. A European country’s decision to shut down its national Broadcaster constitutes a major strike against democracy and culture that concerns all of us.

Music Ensembles of European Radio Television traditionally are pillars of civilization.

The unhindered artistic creation and freedom ofexpression is an essential part of the human existence.

The Musicians, Choristers and Managerial Staff of the Music Ensembles of ERT

PS. The importance of the situation demands your immediate response
Please communicate every action to the email of the Artistic Director of the Music Ensembles of ERT .

Mr. Markos Moissidis
markosmoissidis@yahoo.gr

Addresses needed

Minister Of State
Dimitrios Stamatis
Lawyer
Post. Address:
Maximos Mansion
19, Herodou Attikou str.
106 74 Athens, Greece
Telephone: (+30) 210 33 85 488
Fax: (+30) 210 33 85 274
e-mail: gram@ypep.gr

Ministry of culture and tourism

Minister: Mr. Kostas Tzavaras
Address: Mpoumpoulinas 20-22, 106 82 Athens
tel: +30 2131322100
fax: +30 210 8201138
Email: grplk@culture.gr
URL: http://www.yppo.gr

Ministry of Finance
Minister: Mr Stournaras Ioannis
Κ. Serbias 10,
105 62 Athens
tel: 210 337 5000

Video

A concert like no other

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All music ensembles from Athens and Piraeus have flocked to public broadcaster ERT headquarters for a grand solidarity concert, the greatest this country has ever seen. It took place inside the ERT studios while thousands watched outside via big billboards. Musicians, soloists and maestros in their jeans and sneakers have joined forces to protest against ERT’s closure. I managed to sneak in the studio during KOA’s (State Orchestra of Athens) performance of Verdi’s Va Pensiero from Nabucco. Enjoy.

Tomato Bread, 5 minutes to the table

Tomato Bread

Serves 4
Preparation time: 5min
 

To compensate for yesterday’s ordeal. I had a friend of mine call me in the middle of the night as she was still struggling with the tsoureki, although the word “struggling” is rather an overstatement as she was waiting for the dough to rise.

Few simple ingredients for today’s bread:

6-8 slices of French bread or other crusty loaf
3-4 tomatoes, halved
1-2 garlic cloves, halved
olive oil for drizzling
 

To prepare this at its simplest, rub the bread slices with the cut sides of garlic first. Then do the same with the cut sides of the tomato halves, letting the juice and seeds soak into the bread. If the bread is too soft, you can lightly toast it beforehand although I prefer to do it anyway. Finish by drizzling olive oil over the top of the tomatoes.

To make a more substantial snack, serve the bread with a plate of cold cuts, meats and cheeses and let the guests assemble open sandwiches for themselves.

Bon Appetit!

Tsoureki Bread and a response to Rogoff and Reinhart

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Preparation Time 2h15m
Baking Time 30-40m
 

Tsoureki is a sweet, brioche-like bread served at Easter in Greece to break the Lenten fast. It is usually braided with a red dyed hard-boiled egg inserted in the middle. It takes only a few minutes to prepare though you have to wait patiently for the dough to rise.

Having experimented with various ingredients over the years I have come to the conclusion that yellow flour made from durum wheat and fresh yeast are the secret to the tsoureki’s success. But then not every yellow flour would do the trick. The inside of the tsoureki must look stringy and fibrous and that can be achieved by using the correct flour as well as kneading it in a particular way.

This is why I have included the exact ingredients I use in the recipe (and posted links about them) just in case you can get hold of them as well as detailed kneading description (though it’s nothing complicated really).

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4 eggs + 1 for smearing
1 ½ cup of lukewarm milk
1 cup of sugar
¾ cup melted butter or Fitini vegetable oil
60gr/2,2 oz fresh yeast Hirondelle (blue pack)
1kg/2,2 pounds of yellow flour Robin Hood 
½ tbsp of ground mastic  
½ tbsp. of ground mahlab  
sliced almond garnish (see photo below)
 
 
vegan-florentine-cookies-lace-8461
 
 
 

Warm the milk, place it in a bowl and add the yeast. Melt the yeast using your hand. Beat eggs and sugar in a large bowl until mixture has thickened and turned a pale yellow.

Add the milk-yeast mixture and then the mastic and the mahlab and mix gently in a rotary motion. Start adding the flour (900gr of it) and the oil little by little alternately and knead using your fingers pulling the dough upwards to create that fibrous feel and allow it to take some air.

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When the dough is soft and glutinous, cover the bowl with a blanket and keep it in a warm room for about 90m until the dough has risen and has become double in size.

Knead again for another 5 minutes.

Dust a work surface with a little of the remaining flour. Remove a ball of dough (you may have to use scissors to cut it!!) and roll into a strand. Make three of them side by side, pinch together at one end to hold the load intact and braid.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There is plenty of dough left, so you can either repeat the procedure and create more braided breads or use the strands to make smaller round loaves like in the picture below. Now you have to let them rise for another 30 minutes. 

Place them gently on a baking pan covered with baking paper and top smear with a beaten egg very gently and carefully so that the dough does not break. (If it does, all the air will be knocked out and we don’t want that.)

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Garnish with sliced almonds and bake in a preheated oven at 180oC/350oF for 30-40 minutes until golden brown. The bread should sound hollow when tapped on the bottom.

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Enjoy!

Food for thought

Back on my favourite topic, which is macro-economics. This week we’ve seen the austerity movement become the laughing stock everywhere, even on national network (read and watch the videos for a bit of fun) due to the omissions and miscalculations on the Rogoff and Reinhart report. Remember, this paper has had a major influence on public policy around the world. And it turns out to be wrong not in a subtle way that only geniuses can notice but in a rather obvious one as most of the information it contained was used in a rather fraudulent manner.

Way too many articles have been written about the whole thing, but my favourite one, the most concise and to the point comes from Warren Mosler, whose blog is one of the best around. He’s asked to spread the word so here I am:

Rogoff and Reinhart NYT response

Posted by WARREN MOSLER on April 26th, 2013

The intellectual dishonesty continues.
As before, it’s the lie of omission.

R and R are familiar with my book ‘The 7 Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy’ and, when pressed, agree with the dynamics.

They know there is a more than material difference between floating and fixed exchange rate regimes that they continue to exclude from their analysis.

They know that one agents ‘deficit’ is another’s ‘surplus’ to the penny, a critical understanding they continue to exclude.

They know that ‘demand leakages’ mean some other agent must spend more than its income to sustain output and employment.

They know federal spending is via the Fed crediting a member bank reserve account, a process that is not operationally constrained by revenues. That is, there is no dollar solvency issue for the US government.

They know that ‘debt management’, operationally, is a matter of the Fed simply debiting and crediting securities accounts and reserve accounts, both at the Fed.

They know that if there is no problem of excess demand, there is no ‘deficit problem’ regardless of the magnitudes, short term or long term.

They know unemployment is the evidence deficit spending is too low and a tax cut and/or spending increase is in order, and that a fiscal adjustment will restore output and employment, regardless of the magnitude of deficits or debt.

Carmen’s husband Vince was the head of monetary affairs at the Fed for many years, serving both Alan Greenspan and Ben Bernanke. He knows implicitly how the accounts clear and how the accounting works, to the penny. He knows the currency itself is a case of monopoly. He knows the Fed, not ‘the market’ necessarily sets rates. He knows that, operationally, US Treasury securities function as interest rate support, and not to fund expenditures. He knows it all!

Carmen, Vince, please come home! I hereby offer my personal amnesty- come clean NOW and all is forgiven! As you well know, coming clean NOW will profoundly change the world. As you well know, coming clean NOW will profoundly alter the course of our civilization!

Carmen, Vince, either you believe in an informed electorate or you don’t!?

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In the end, we are all fruit…

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In the end, we are all fruit...

“You know, the root of the word Miller is a Greek word. Miller comes from the Greek word “milo,” which means “apple,” so there you go. As many of you know, our name, Portokalos, comes from the Greek word “portokali,” which means “orange.” So here tonight, we have apple and orange. We are all different, but in the end, we are all fruit.”

Gus Portokalos, My Big Fat Greek Wedding

(Stalin’s) Chicken parcels

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Serves 6
Preparation time: 40-50’
Baking time: 35-40’
 
6 chicken breasts
12 gruyere sticks (about 1cm thick)
2 capsicum peppers cut into thin sticks
mushrooms (optional)
fresh rosemary sticks
1 glass of dry white wine
olive oil
salt and pepper
kitchen string
 

Place the chicken breasts on a cutting board with the smooth side down. Locate the small inner fillet and remove it by cutting away any connective tissue. Set it aside or freeze it for later use. Turn the breast over and, with the edge of a knife parallel to the cutting board, carefully cut down the length of the side of the breast almost to the other edge.

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Next comes pounding. To minimize the noise it is recommended that a towel is placed under the cutting board. The towel also helps to prevent the board from moving while the chicken breasts are being pounded. Cover each piece loosely with a piece of plastic wrap or a freezer bag. You can use a mallet, a rolling pin, a frying pan or even a book! It is important that you don’t go too strong. Start from the centre and work your way out pounding the meat fairly gently yet firmly. Let the stroke go toward the edges of the breast as what you are trying to accomplish is spread the breast wider.

Season and place one gruyere stick, mushroom slices and pepper sticks in the middle of each breast. Fold over the edges into the centre, then tie tightly to create neat round parcels. Put a rosemary stick on top, you can secure it on the string.

Place the packets in a baking pan, add the wine and the olive oil and roast until browned all over. Alternatively, you can marinate the breasts in the wine and olive oil overnight prior to cooking. Hmm… I’ll do that next time for sure.

One more thing to keep in mind is to remove the kitchen string while the food is still hot otherwise it tends to adhere to the cooling crust.

Bon Appetit!

Food for thought

The other day I was having a conversation with a dear friend about the effects of recession. It went like this:

– A friend who is unable to pay his mortgage plays it dumb whenever the bank calls him. He tells them: “What? More money? What about the money we gave you for recapitalization? It’s 5 grant a person, meaning you got 20 grant from this family already. Do your maths and call me after you have subtracted that amount from what I owe you.”

– Allegedly, banks will use that money to hire caretakers from Manolada to confiscate houses.

– That means we’ll have bought the weapons the banks will shoot us with, to paraphrase Stalin. (“A Capitalist will sell you the rope to hang him with.”)

– The Little Father of the Peoples never seems to go out of fashion, does he?

Which reminded me of another Stalin story:

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One day while relaxing with associates at his dacha in the former Soviet Republic of Georgia, Stalin was having some difficulty getting his associates to understand the relationship between control and power.

Seeing the chickens running around the courtyard where he was sitting, Stalin decided to demonstrate his theory. Grabbing one of the chickens, he began pulling fistfuls of feathers from the terrified chicken. The chicken struggled and fought back fiercely, but Stalin held it firmly with one hand while he removed the feathers with the other. To the surprise of Stalin’s audience, as soon as all the feathers were removed the chicken stopped struggling and fighting and became very docile, snuggling peacefully into Stalin’s hand.

Stalin then explained that without its feathers to keep its body heat inside, the chicken would quickly die of the cold if it stayed in the shade and, lacking any pigmentation to protect its skin from the sun, its skin would beseverely burned if it ventured into the sun for warmth.

The chicken, like the millions of people who had had their property taken by the communists, had no choice but to peacefully submit in order to survive.

Sounds familiar?

(source: The Telegraph)

Tagliatelle with caramelised onions and thyme pushing my children’s taste buds to the limit

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(photo source)

Serves 4
Preparation 45min

I found this recipe in a cookery book I was given recently and it looked adventurous and fairly easy. When I announced making it on Facebook a friend asked: “So what will the kids have?” Hmm… good question. Well, house policy dictates that everyone gets to eat whatever I cook for the day, whether they (or even I for that matter) like it or not. I know many moms resort to cooking various dishes to please everyone but not me. I’d rather find other ways of spoiling my children, like take them to a museum or a theme park.

The reason being I tend to get bored with traditional dishes and often try new things – not always successfully I must admit. I feel that my kids have to be trained to different tastes as well as learn how to politely decline a dish they don’t like when served elsewhere without making a scene.

Thyme is an acquired taste, however, so I would suggest having this dish as an optional in case your family members aren’t as understanding as mine. 😉

500 gr (one packet) of tagliatelle

400 gr / 14 oz cream cheese or Greek anthotyro

10 thyme springs finely chopped

6 medium sized onions chopped into fine pieces

1 tbsp brown sugar

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

4 tbsp olive oil

salt

Heat the oil in a pan on low heat. Not medium-low, low-low! The secret to caramelizing onions is patience and you’ll need about 20-25 minutes of it (or even more if you’ve got time!) Stir every 5 minutes or so and when they’ve turned golden brown add some salt, the sugar, vinegar and half the thyme. Let them cook for another 10 minutes.

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In the meantime, boil the tagliatelle in salted water and drain. Add the onions and serve with cream cheese and the rest of the thyme.

Bon appetit!

The Mountain Government as a prelude to side dishes

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No recipe this week as I’ve been particularly lazy and knackered but for a good reason: a trip to the historic village of Koryshades with our good friend Rania and her wonderful family who kindly invited us to spend the bank holiday weekend at their cottage in Central Greece. We had such a good time that I hope you don’t mind me sharing the experience. (This is a photo of Velouhi summit. The mountain gave its name to one of the heroes of the Greek Resistance that I’m going to refer to later.)

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With a population of just 230 people and set out on the mountainside of Central Greece at an altitude of 940m (3084ft) this little village has a history worth remembering.  (On the left you can see the Museum of National Resistance, which is what the trip was all about.)

A little bit of WWII history to get you in the mood:

After the Italians were repelled and humiliated by the Greek Army and their allies in 1940, the Wehrmacht stepped in and broke the stubborn resistance in April 1941. As the Greek ruling class did nothing to hide their sympathy for Nazism, much of the Greek population immediately embraced resistance. Communist activists who were well-used to clandestine activity, having spent half a decade being persecuted by the pre-war Metaxas dictatorship, started building networks soon after the surrender forming the National Liberation Front (EAM) in September.  The EAM quickly established sections for civil servants, workers, women, students, school kids, as well as town and village committees.

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In February 1942 EAM formed a military corps, ELAS, that would first operate in the mountains of Central Greece. The writing on the wall reads: Glory to the heroes and victims of the village. Glory to the heroic ELAS.

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In the halls of this old school, their chief captain Aris Velouhiotis (real name: Athanasios Klaras) and EAM-ELAS found shelter in order to better organize the battle against the invaders. By 1944 ELAS had in its ranks more than 800 military officers of the former National Army.

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Greece being a mountainous country had a long tradition of guerilla warfare. ELAS grew to a point where they began liberating parts of the country, which were known as ‘Free Greece.’

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In 10 March 1944 the EAM-ELAS, now in control of most of the country, established the Political Committee of National Liberation (PEEA), widely known as the “Mountain Government” in Koryshades. The writing on the exterior wall of the school reads: Epidaurus 1821 (which marks the first Greek Constitution) – Koryshades 1944.

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“The National Council, constituted by representatives of the Greek people, met to proclaim their indomitable will to fight to the last breath for the liberation of the country, the complete defeat of fascism and the restoration of national unity and sovereignty.”

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PEEA was elected in both liberated and occupied territories by 2,000,000 Greek citizens covering a wide political spectrum from left to centre. It was also the first time that women could vote in Greece.

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Today this school has been transformed into the Museum of National Resistance.

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Dozens of black and white photos, portraits of the guerillas, documents and resolutions passed by the Mountain Government as well as propaganda material adorn its walls paying a moving tribute to Greece’s liberating heroes.

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You can visit the Museum of National Resistance Koryshades after getting the keys from the Mr. Takis, who keeps a store with souvenirs (like this mug with Aris Velouhiotis on it) right across the square, opposite the church.

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3000ft are bound to whet your appetite so on the other side of the square is this little tavern called To Antamoma (The Meeting).

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Feta Saganaki is a must, though the portion in that tavern was tiny. Here’s a good recipe I found. Be generous with the feta cheese and you won’t regret it.

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Crispy lettuce salad is by far my favourite winter salad ideally accompanying all roast dishes. Finely chop 1 romaine lettuce, 3 spring onions, some dill and add salt, olive oil and all-purpose vinegar.

Enjoy!

Chocolate Easter Cornflake Cakes and the Broken Euro

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(recipe and photo by courtesy of Patisserie Paradise)

This is a recipe straight from one of the best patisseries in Athens. I was fortunate enough to have been classmates with the owner’s daughter (named Zaharoula which means Sugar) and *steal* this recipe for everyone to enjoy.

225g/8oz plain chocolate, broken into pieces
2 tbsp golden syrup
50g/2oz butter
75g/3oz cornflakes
36 mini chocolate eggs

Line a 12-hole fairy cake tin with paper cases.
Melt the chocolate, golden syrup and butter in a bowl set over a pan of gently simmering water, (do not let the base of the bowl touch the water). Stir the mixture until smooth.
Remove the bowl from the heat and gently stir in the cornflakes until all of the cereal is coated in the chocolate.
Divide the mixture between the paper cases and press 3 chocolate eggs into the centre of each nest. Chill in the fridge for 1 hour, or until completely set.

Enjoy and have a nice Easter Sunday!

Food for thought

The broken Euro by Frances Copolla

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Imagine you live in a prosperous country, with a lovely climate, beautiful beaches, blue seas. But there’s something funny about this country. It doesn’t have a functioning banking system.

You can put money into your bank, but you can’t get it out again. At least you can, through ATMs, but only in very small amounts.

If you have money on deposit, you can’t take the money out and close the account. And if it’s a time deposit, when it reaches the end of its life, you can’t have the money to spend. You have to roll it over into a new deposit.

You can’t cash a cheque in a high street bank. You can’t pay bills in a high street bank, either. And no high street bank is lending any money, so if you want a loan, forget it. In fact high street banks are not much use.

Your employer pays you in cash, because there are no electronic payments. Which is just as well, really, because you need cash. There are no automated payments such as direct debits, so you pay all your household bills in cash. Credit and debit cards are no longer accepted anywhere, so you buy all your shopping and petrol for your car with cash. You can’t make phone or internet purchases.

If you have more than one account, you can’t transfer money between your accounts. If only one of your accounts has ATM access, once that account is empty, you are stuck with no money.

You can’t go on holiday abroad because you can’t take any money out of the country. Your employer won’t send you abroad on business, either, because you might not come back…..

All the local shopkeepers will only accept cash, not cheques. That’s because they have to pay suppliers in cash, and once you put money in a bank, you can’t get it out again…..But all small businesses are having a very hard time. Shops are closing, businesses going bust, people losing their jobs. You’re not sure how much longer you will keep yours. You’ve taken a pay cut already, even though it means you struggle to pay your mortgage.

It would really help if lots of tourists would visit your beautiful sunny country. But the place is deserted. Tourists are unwilling to come here now….it’s very cheap, but they can only bring cash with them and whatever they bring must stay here – and if they run out of cash they can’t get any more.

This is Cyprus. Or rather, it will be – next week. When full capital controls are imposed. When Cyprus is ring-fenced from the Euro area and its membership of the European Union is effectively suspended.

I am not being dramatic. The above is a description of the effects of the capital control bill forced through the Cypriot parliament this weekend. From Tuesday, Cyprus becomes a black hole in the Eurozone: any money that goes into it stays there, and no money can leave……From a safe distance, it will appear frozen in time, a small cash-based economy, isolated from the rest of the EU. While inside, invisible to all except those who actually go there – or live there – its social fabric is torn apart as its economy collapses. Note the final clause in the capital control bill:

Any other measure which the Finance Minister or the Governor of Cyprus Central Bank see necessary for reasons of public order and safety

So as people’s livelihoods are destroyed and their standard of living crashes, other measures may be introduced to ensure that they can’t take matters into their own hands.

The IMF acknowledged in a paper a few months ago that capital controls can be helpful in crisis-hit economies. In Cyprus’s case, the immediate need for capital controls is to choke off bank runs when the banks reopen after the extended bank holiday. The trouble is that bank runs are not necessarily acute. As we have seen in other countries, notably Greece and Spain, bank runs can be silent and extended. Even in Cyprus, deposit flight started some time before the attempted depositor haircut last week that forced closure of the banks. It is difficult to see how, with a wrecked financial system and collapsing economy, capital controls can be lifted at all without setting off bank runs. As things are set to get much worse, probably including bank failure and sovereign default in the not too distant future, capital controls are likely to remain in place for a long time. Despite the IMF’s insistence that capital controls should be short-term, recent use of them has been anything but: Iceland has now had “temporary” capital controls for five years, and Argentina for ten (although that is probably for political reasons). Dismantling capital controls is not easy.

But the Cyprus capital controls differ fundamentally from those imposed in theIceland banking crisis. Iceland is a sovereign state with its own currency. Cyprus is a member of a currency union – the Euro. And capital controls make a complete nonsense of currency union.

Once full capital controls are imposed, a Euro in Cyprus will no longer be the same as a Euro anywhere else in the Euro area. It cannot leave the island. The Cyprus Euro will in effect be a new domestic currency. The imposition of capital controls in Cyprus is therefore the end of the single currency in its present form. As this image shows, the single currency will have a bit missing – a bleeding chunk torn from its edge:

Yes, the Eurogroup will claim that it is “business as usual” in the Euro area. Draghi will continue to claim that the Euro is “irreversible”. Eurostat will continue to produce statistics for E17 and E27 including Cyprus. But the reality will be that the Euro will be broken in two. There will be the Cyprus Euro, and the “mainland” Euro (if we can call it that).

One of the interesting effects of capital controls is that the Cyprus Euro would be likely to depreciate against the mainland Euro – a de facto floating exchange rate. This might help to protect the Cypriot economy from the worst of the coming economic collapse. The ECB would of course enforce convertibility at par for any Euros that did manage to get in or out of the island, but as this traffic should be small, the purchasing power of the Cypriot Euro within Cyprus itself would be far more important. Cyprus would in effect have gained control of its own currency without the costs and risks of redenomination.

But this is not as good as it sounds. There would be likely to be serious shortages of Euros in Cyprus once capital controls were in place. Currently the Cypriot central bank cannot print Euros: the Euros in circulation in Cyprus are printed in France and the Netherlands on behalf of the Cypriot central bank and transported to Cyprus. These Euros are printed in accordance with the ECB’s rules, which operate strict proportionality in relation to the size of the economy and overall Euro area money supply, but Cyprus’s need for cash will be much greater when there are no alternative methods of payment. I can’t see the ECB being particularly keen on expanding the physical money supply in Cyprus because of Cypriot capital controls.

Because of this, I would expect to see alternative currencies starting to circulate in the Republic of Cyprus. The obvious candidates are sterling, because of the large UK expatriate community and military presence; and Turkish lira, because of the presence of the (unrecognised) Northern Republic on the island of Cyprus.*
And because of the ban on electronic transactions in Euros, I would not be surprised to see e-currencies and mobile money becoming popular: they would be an effective way of avoiding capital controls. It is unclear exactly how the Government and central bank would respond to this, but remember that final clause in the capital controls bill: is a ban on private use and holdings of alternative currencies beyond the bounds of possibility? Or would they simply accept (gratefully) that use of alternative currencies relieves the pressure on the Cyprus Euro, enabling more economic activity than would otherwise be possible? Much depends, I suspect, on the pressure on public finances caused by the nowinevitable economic collapse. Declining tax take might encourage  a desperate government to enforce use of the Euro, despite shortages, to help ensure that taxes can be collected. Using alternative currencies is of course a standard way of avoiding tax. Personally I think this would be a mistake: repressing alternative currencies would depress economic activity and slow down recovery. But as the Troika would be overseeing Cyprus’s public finances and enforcing the agreed austerity measures (and probably harsher ones too, once the debt/GDP ratio started to rise due to economic collapse), counterproductive repression of alternative currencies to increase short-term tax take seems likely.

The fact that the ECB will still control the purse strings, and the Troika will still oversee public finances, may eventually make the shortage of Euros and the lack of control of monetary policy intolerable. If this were to happen, then Cyprus should formally break free. The fact that it cannot print Euros means that it would then have to redenominate, probably into Cyprus pounds at one-to-one par value with the Cyprus Euro. This is not a step to be undertaken lightly, though: it would mean that Cyprus’s public debt would then be denominated in a foreign currency. Some form of currency peg, perhaps to sterling, would in my view be necessary to prevent collapse of the new currency and disorderly debt default. I’m not at all sure this route should be followed yet. It may be that the fragmentation of the Euro caused by capital controls will give Cyprus sufficient protection to enable it to recover from this awful mess – if the Troika’s hamfistedness doesn’t scupper the whole thing anyway.

So the nature of the Euro will be fundamentally changed by Cyprus’s capital controls. The single currency will exist in name only: the reality will be fragmentation. But it is not just the single currency that will be compromised. The isolation of Cyprus is clearly in breach of the founding principles of the European Union. It is unclear whether the capital controls are legal: Article 63 says they are not, but Article 65 1b and 2 suggests they may be. I leave that to the lawyers: I am more interested in the principles. The European Union was founded on “four freedoms”: free movement of goods, free movement of services, free movement of capital and free movement of people. Capital controls are direct prevention of free movement of capital. In fact it is worse than that, because strict capital controls also severely curtail free movement of goods and services and free movement of people – the other founding principles. Will other countries want to trade with Cyprus, if it is difficult to get money out of the island? How can anything other than subsistence-level trade within the island operate, if payments can only be made in cash? How can people move in and out of Cyprus, if they can’t take any money with them? Indeed, how can any of these freedoms be said to operate in a country with capital controls as tight as those now signed into law in Cyprus? In effect, Cyprus is no longer a full member of the European Union.

And this sets a dangerous precedent. The Troika’s mishandling of the Greek crisis and the ensuing contagion to Cyprus has fundamentally weakened the European project. If it can bully one state into imposing capital controls in clear breach of the principles of the European Union, and in so doing destroy the integrity of the single currency, then it can do it to others. And this is on top of the damage already caused by the disastrous attempt to impose losses on small depositors in Cyprus, and the imposition of highly damaging “deficit reduction” programmes against the will of the people in a number of states including Cyprus. The Troika has already demonstrated that it will sacrifice democracy in the cause of the European project. But now it shows that it will sacrifice the very principles of that project to maintain the sham of unity. How much longer before the whole thing unravels?

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Kala Dionysia!

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Kala Dionysia!

Today (March 21), beginning at sundown, is the 10 Elaphebolion, and thus, brings us the first day of the feastival of the City Dionysia which lasts for eight days.

The Dionysia was celebrated in honor of the god Dionysus Eleuthereus (god of freedom) and included competitive performances of tragedies. There are profound religious understandings exemplified in the tragedies such as piety and right action.

2 processions were conducted to begin the festival. The first, carrying the statue of Dionysus to and from, and the second where various groups proceeded through the city to the theater, arrayed in groups distinguishable by color or other articles of dress, according to Rabinowitz. The ceremonies started at dawn in the outdoor theater, with purification and lustrations, followed by a dithyramb, and then the plays.

Honey Garlic Chicken while digging the crisis

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Serves 4
Preparation: 40 min
 
 
 8 pieces of chicken (thighs, wings or drumsticks)
3 tbsp honey (tip: use this one.
The special aroma of thyme and the deep scent of fir makes this dish amazing!)
1 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp molasses
4 chopped cloves garlic 
1 tsp chopped onion
1 tsp sea salt
salt & pepper


Preheat oven to 200oC/ 400oF/ Gas Mark 6. Season chicken with salt and pepper and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes. While the chicken is in the oven combine all other ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

Remove chicken from the oven and place each piece in the bowl with the sauce. Drain any fat that is on the baking sheet into the bowl with the sauce. Toss to coat thoroughly.

Place chicken, skin side down, on the baking sheet and return to oven. Turn oven to broil and broil for 5 minutes. Remove chicken from the oven and turn to skin side up. Using a rubber spatula, coat the chicken skin with any remaining sauce. Broil for another 5 minutes.

Serve with some roast potatoes.

Bon Appetit!

 

Food for thought

In the midst of all the confusion we’ve been thrown into regarding the economic crisis there are too few voices that can explain plainly but accurately what is going on. One of them is Marshall Auerback in the speech he delivered in a seminar in Rimini, Italy a year ago.  He explains why Europe is in such monetary trouble today – shows that there is an alternative and that the enforced austerity for the 99% and vast wealth grab by the 1% is not a force of nature.

You’ll probably need to fast forward to 1.44 as the introduction is in Italian.