Kantouni Village Sausage and Tzatziki

In this edition of the Food blog, I’m taking you on a journey to beautiful Parga in Greece – with an authentic Greek recipe and a rendition of a simple but tasty dish.

Charming and radiating a warm welcome, Parga is one of my favourite holiday destinations.  A small town on the mainland of north western Greece, the beaches and olive groves are idyllic and unforgettable.

Kantouni is a taverna in the centre of Parga’s small, winding streets.  The visitor is sat in a small square, tourists and locals milling around – it’s a wonderful location to put your feet up and watch the world go by.

The menu at Kantouni is varied and authentic, with lots of  traditional Greek food available.  My family and I have visited many times and it’s always delivered excellent food and service, in a unique setting.

Here I’m going to sow you how to recreate a basic taverna meal in the style in which it was served.  Kantouni offer many dishes that are more complex than this, but this is easy to replicate with the right ingredients – and attitude.

Kantouni Village Sausage

Ingredients:

  • Village sausage (available from Lidl in Greek week)
  • Pitta bread
  • Onion (1)
  • Tomato (beef tomato works best) (1)
  • Oven chips (French fry style)
  • Tzatziki (see below)
  1. The first step is make sure you know when Lidl are doing Greek week.  Get down there and buy a pack of the village sausage from their chiller section.
  2. Cook your village sausage in the oven for around 12 minutes.  Next, cut the sausage lengthwise (ie butterflying) and place in a frying pan to finish off for about 10 minutes.  This gives it a more char grilled flavour.
  3. Cook your oven chips in the oven as normal.
  4. Wash your tomato and cut into slices, then slice your onion.
  5. Pop the pitta bread in the toaster and toast till warm.

Yes, this is a very simple meal, but it’s all about recreating a basic dish in the authentic manner.  Serve the prepared ingredients on a plate as shown in the picture, together with mustard (American style is best) and tzatziki (we’ll discuss how to make this next).  You can eat the meal however you choose, but I recommend combining the ingredients in a pitta to make a sort of sausage gyros.

Don’t forget a glass of retsina or Mythos beer, and ensure you have some Greek music playing in the background.  I have an extensive library on Greek vinyl, all of which I’ve bought for pennies from charity shops.  So, no excuse.

And now, the really important part: a recipe for authentic Greek tzatziki…

Tztaziki (serves 2)

This is an authentic Greek recipe that was passed on to us from a Parga local.  You will need:

  • Full fat Greek yoghurt (half tub)
  • Cucumber (1/2)
  • Fresh garlic (2 cloves)
  • Fresh mint
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Lemon juice
  1. First of all, peel and grate the cucumber.  Put this in a sieve over a bowl.  Then put a clean tea towel on the cucumber in the sieve – placing a heavy weight on top to draw out the liquid.  Leave for 15 minutes.
  2. Scoop the cucumber up into the tea towel, then ring it out to remove as much liquid as possible.
  3. In another bowl, put the Greek yoghurt – half a tub should do the job.  You need the full fat version, low fat doesn’t work as you need the creaminess.  Add to this the cucumber, chopped fresh mint (as much as you like), and chopped garlic.  Then add 1 dessert spoon full of olive oil, a splash of lemon juice and salt.  Mix this all together.
  4. This is best made the night before, or at least on the morning that you’re going to serve it.  Adjust quantities to suit number of people.

There you go – an easy Greek style meal to make.  If you take care to add to the ambience with music and drinks, this can be delicious and bring back holiday memories.  Pretend you’re in Greece – a little comfort as travelling is so unlikely at the moment!

Thanks to Vanessa for doing all the work, and to Christos from Irini Studios for the tzatziki recipe!

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #11

It’s time for another night of spinning wax and drinking booze, as we endure another Singles Night at Platinum Al’s Virtual Hot Tub!

This is all about playing through a never ending pile of old 45 rpm vinyl singles, and making the best of it.  Some of these songs are bona fide classics, some are far from it.

The only rules are: play whatever’s in the pile, in order, A side then B side.  No skipping records – however much you may want to.

Here we go:

  1. Elvis Presley – “Are You Lonesome Tonight” / “I Gotta Know”
  2. Frank Sinatra – “Love’s Been Good To Me” / “A Man Alone”
  3. Marcello Minerbi – “Zorba’s Dance” / “L’Isola Del Sole”
  4. Tom Jones – “Without Love” / “A Man Who Know Too Much”
  5. Chas & Dave – “Rabbit” / “Sideboard Song”
  6. Louis Armstrong – “What a Wonderful World” / “Cabaret”
  7. Bobby Goldsboro – “Honey” / “Danny”
  8. Wonder Dog – “Ruff Mix” / “Living on a Farm”
  9. The Four Tops – “Back to School Again” / The Cast – “Rock-a-Hula-Luau (Summer is Coming)”
  10. Right Said Fred (+others) – “Stick It Out” / “Stick It Out (Aerobic Mix)”
  11. Procul Harum – “A Whiter Shade of Pale” / “Lime Street Blues”
  12. Neil Diamond – “Rainy Day Song” / “Be Mine Tonight”
  13. Spitting Image – “The Chicken Song” / “(I’ve Never Met) A Nice South African”
  14. Carpenters – “Yesterday Once More” / “Road Ode”
  15. Bonnie Tyler – “Holding Out For a Hero” / “Faster Than the Speed of Night”
  16. Boney M – “Ma Baker” / “Still I’m Sad”
  17. The Kinks – “Come Dancing” / “Noise”
  18. Haysi Fantyzee – “John Wayne is Big Leggy” / “The Sabres of Paradise”
  19. Depeche Mode – “People Are People” / “In Your Memory”
  20. Roxy Music – “Avalon” / “Always Unknowing”
  21. The Jam – “Just Who is the 5 O’Clock Hero” / The Great Depression”
  22. Blondie – “Dreaming” / “Sound Asleep”
  23. U2 – “Angel of Harlem” / “A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel”
  24. The Vanilla Fudge – “You Keep Me Hanging On” / “Take Me For a Little While”
  25. Robert Palmer – “Addicted to Love” / “Remember to Remember”
  26. Canned Heat – “Let’s Work Together” / “I’m Her Man”

A real eclectic selection this time, with not much of preferred rock till the end of the session.  Still some great fun songs, a few novelty hits and some easy listening master pieces there.  In my defence this time, a few of those records were given to me (and I’m stupid enough to take them).

If you’re wondering what Wonder Dog is, it’s basically a pop/disco number with a dog barking the melody.  It’s actually not as bad as it seems.

And I quite enjoyed the Four Tops song – I’ve only just found out that it’s from the film “Grease 2”, which is apparently a disaster.  As the first “Grease” film is garbage,  the sequel must be really bad.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #10

Playing music, having a few drinks – it’s fun.  In this case, what I do (as regular readers will know), is play through a stack of 45 rpm singles and see what Lady Luck decides to bestow on me.

Some of the singles are classic, some less so.  Some are cheesy, some have at least some small notion of integrity.  One thing’s for sure: one way or another, all of the following 7 inch singles are part of my vinyl collection – there’s no hiding from the shame.

Lets see what we got this time:

  1. Elvis Presley – “The Wonder of You” / “Mama Like the Roses”
  2. Chris Isaak – “Wicked Game” / Angelo Badalamenti – “Cool Cat Walk”
  3. Ned’s Atomic Dustbin – “Happy” / “Twenty Three” / “Hour Toothache”
  4. Duran Duran – “The Reflex” / “Make Me Smile (Come Up and See Me) – Live”
  5. Inspiral Carpets – “This Is How It Feels (Radio Mix)” / “Tune For a Family”
  6. Transvision Vamp – “Sister Moon” / “Oh Yeah” / “Walk On By”
  7. WAR – “I’m the One Who Understands” / “Corns & Callouses (Hey Dr. Shoals)”
  8. Frank Sinatra – “My Way” / “Blue Lace”
  9. Rocky Sharpe & The Replays – “Rama Lama Ding Dong” / “When the Chips Are Down”
  10. Gene Vincent – “Say Mama” / “Be Bop Boogie Boy”
  11. Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass – “Without Her” / “Sandbox”
  12. Tracey Ullman – “Move Over Darling” / “You Broke My Heart in 17 Places”
  13. Billy Joel – “Uptown Girl” / “Careless Talk”
  14. Boney M. – “I’m Born Again” / “Bahama Mama”
  15. The KLF – “What Time Is Love? (Live At Trancentral)” / “What Time Is Love? (Techno Gate Mix)”
  16. Billy Fury – “Because of Love” / “Running Around”
  17. Nat King Cole – “Let’s Face the Music and Dance” / “Let There Be Love”
  18. The Crusaders – “Stomp and Buck Dance” / “A Ballad for Joe (Louis)”
  19. Bobby G – “Big Deal” / “It’s All for Jan”
  20. Duane Eddy – “Rebel-Rouser” / “Stalkin'”
  21. Ricky Nelson – “It’s Late” / “Never Be Anyone Else But You”
  22. Tears For Fears – “Shout” / “The Big Chair”
  23. Yannis Markopoulos – “Who Pays the Ferryman?” / “Fanfare for Charon”

 

a selection

There you go: and those selections (random as they are) weren’t all that cheesy after  all.  Boney M.?  Under rated.  And that b-side reminds me of summer.  So rather than a few pungent offerings, there’s quite a few great ol’ rock’n’rollers dominating that playlist.

A final word regarding Ned’s Automatic Dustbin and Inspiral Carpets.  Both indie bands, my least favourite genre of all.  I found those singles super cheap in a charity shop, tried ’em and they weren’t too bad, really.

Still hate indie music though.

Singles Night at the Virtual Hot Tub #9

Come in, number 9!  Yes, it’s another night of spinning 45s and boozing – a ritual I like to call Singles Night.  Because I play 7″ singles, obviously.  There’s an ever growing stack of 45 rpm singles and I need to deal with them.  This is the latest session.

Starting off with Elvis, as is now tradition, what other wonders will we hear?

  1. Elvis Presley – “Always On My Mind” / “Separate Ways”
  2. Siouxsie & The Banshees – “Happy House” / “Drop Dead” / “Celebration”
  3. Albert King – “The Very Thought of You” / “I Get Evil”
  4. Queen – “Los Palabras De Amor (The Words of Love” / “Cool Cat”
  5. ABBA – “The Winner Takes It All” / “Elaine”
  6. Gerry Rafferty – “Baker Street” / “Big Change in the Weather”
  7. Bryan Ferry – “The Price of Love” / “Shame, Shame, Shame” / “Heart On My Sleeve” / “Its Only Love”
  8. The Steve Miller Band – “Abracadabra” / “Never Say No”
  9. The Rolling Stones – “The Last Time” / “Play with Fire”
  10. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – “Ruby, Don’t Take Your Love to Town” / “Girl Get Ahold of Yourself”
  11. Donovan & Jeff Beck Group – “Barabajagal” / “Trudi”
  12. The Kyriakos – “More Greek Themes: Syneeta Platia” / “Mia Fora Monaha Ftani” / “Moraxia” / “Iliachtida”
  13. Boney M – “Rasputin” / “Never Change Lovers in the Middle of the Night”
  14. Herb Alpert & Tijuana Brass – “The Lonely Bull” / “Acapulco 1922”
  15. Yardbirds – “For Your Love” / “Got to Hurry”
  16. Billie Jo Spears – “Blanket on the Ground” / “Come on Home”
  17. Tony Bennett – “(I Left My Heart) In San Francisco” / “Candy Kisses”
  18. Geordie – “She’s a Teaser” / “We’re Alright Now”
  19. Neil – “Hole in My Shoe” / “Hurdy Gurdy Mushroom Man”
  20. Talk Talk – “Life’s What You Make It” / “Life’s What You Make It (Live)”
  21. The Art of Noise featuring Duane Eddy – “Peter Gunn” / “Something Always Happens”
  22. The B-52’s – “Roam” / “Whammy Kiss (Live)” / “Dance This Mess Around (Live)”
  23. Bobby Vinton – “Blue Velvet” / “Blue on Blue”

Wow, another eclectic bunch of tracks there!  Points of particular interest include Geordie, who feature (of course) the legendary Brian Johnson in his pre-AC/DC days.  And yes, that is Neil, alias Nigel Planer, from the Young Ones.

Several genres covered there and a fine evening’s listen.  More soon!

Horrible Histories Playlist

My daughter Eloise had her 8th birthday last weekend.  At the moment, she’s a big fan of the BBC children’s TV series, Horrible Histories, and requested a party based on that theme.

If you’re not familiar with Horrible Histories, let me tell you it’s well worth checking it.  Both funny and informative, the show makes history appeal to kids (and adults) by illuminating some unusual – and sometimes gross – facts from various periods throughout the past.

We’ve all become big fans in our house, actually.  So the party was going to be fun – everyone could dress up as historical characters and entertainment geared to the theme.

Only one thing remained – some music suitable for days gone by.  Not having much music in my collection that was actually from previous ages, I had to dig out some tunes that could fit the bill.  Here’s what I came up with…

  1. Hanna-Barbera – “(Meet) The Flintstones [Main Title]”
  2. The Bangles – “Walk Like an Egyptian”
  3. Mikis Theodorakis – “Zorbas”
  4. Iron Maiden – “Alexander the Great”
  5. ABBA – “Waterloo”
  6. Chuck Berry – “Roll Over Beethoven”
  7. Boney M. – “Rasputin”
  8. Clutch – “Abraham Lincoln”
  9. Trio Guadalajara – “La Bamba”
  10. De Danaan – “The Cameronian Reel/The Doon Reel”
  11. Iron Maiden – “Ghengis Khan”
  12. Mariachi Mexico de Pepe Villa – “El Jarbe Tapatio (Mexican Hat Dance)”
  13. Jonathan Richman & the Modern Lovers – “Egyptian Reggae”
  14. Madness – “Night Boat to Cairo” 
  15. Sweet – “Alexander Graham Bell”
  16. Rodrigo Y Gabriela – “Vikingman”
  17. Iron Maiden – “Invaders”
  18. The Kinks – “Victoria”
  19. Boney M. – “Ma Baker”
  20. Sweet – “Wig Wam Bam”
  21. Mikis Theodorakis – “Varka Sto Gialo”
  22. Bananarama – “Venus”
  23. Tom Jones – “Delilah”
  24. The Beatles – “Roll Over Beethoven”
  25. Christina Aguilera – “Candyman”
  26. The City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra – “The Raiders March”
  27. Eric Rogers – “Carry On Cleo”
  28. Eric Rogers – “Carry On Up the Khyber”

Ok, so some of those tracks are less scraping the barrell and more like digging the dust on an archaeological dig, but it did the job.  Basically, without Iron Maiden I’d have been screwed…

Food Quest: To Koutouki, Chester

To Koutouki, Chester

Well Mrs Platinum Al and I deserved a night out, so we packed off the little ‘un to Grandma and Grandpa and headed off to Chester.  A table was booked at a new restaurant in town called To Koutouki, and we were both very excited to try it out.

After years of proclaiming that Chester really needed a Greek restaurant, I was delighted to see, whilst on a recent shopping trip, that the miracle had happened.  Sat at the end of Foregate Street, out of the blue, was To Koutouki – obviously a Greek Taverna, the blue chairs resting outside gave it away. IMG_20160507_194109736

On entering, we were shown to our table upstairs, where the Greek style decor added a real holiday ambience.  Think blue chairs, Greek music and photos of the islands and you’re on you’re way…

We were given some very nice mixed olives and some iced water to begin with.  Drinks were a fairly easy choice for us – the ever reliable Kourtaki retsina and a bottle of Mythos for me!

Service was friendly and very quick, it wasn’t long before our starters arrived.  My good lady ordered saganaki – a fried cheese.  I had a try and it was exquisite!  My own starter was white bait, or maridaki, which was also excellent – a real Mediterranean style dish that reminded me of warmer climes!  Though small, I chickened out of eating the whole of the fish at first – leaving the heads on the plate.  The waiter advised me to gulp the lot down – which I did!  No problem at all, give it a go!

The main courses were very soon with us, and we were in for a treat.  My lovely companion had chosen kotopoulo kokkinisto, a delicious chicken caserole which was served with rice.  I was allowed to have a try, and it was very, very good indeed.  I’ve never had this meal before, and would definitely order it on a return visit.

For my own main, I chose one of my favourite dishes- pastitsio.  This is a baked pasta dish, with beef mincemeat and bechamel sauce, served like a slice of lasagne, but less sloppy.  I’ve had pastitsio in Greece, and the To Koutouki version was simply excellent.  Cooked perfectly, I was very impressed as pastitsio isn’t always readily available when we visit our favourite tavernas in Parga, let alone Chester!

Finally, to finish off we chose some desserts.  Mrs Platinum Al had portokalopita – a yoghurt cake with orange syrup (had a cheeky try, very nice).  I ordered the classic baklava, with a little ice cream, which was fantastic.  We both had a Metaxa brandy to bring things to a close.

To Koutouki was a great experience, excellent food and great service made a memorable meal and we can’t wait to visit again.  This little taverna has managed to create an authentic Greek feel and welcome, with delicious food that demands a return visit.  Highly recommended!

Food Quest Test 

  • Food: Extensive menu of traditional Greek favourites, expertly created and delicious too!
  • Drink: All the classics are on offer
  • Service: Excellent and friendly
  • Cost: Very reasonable for Chester City Centre!

Greek Taverna “To Koutouki”, 112 Foregate Street, Chester CH1 1HB

01244 951725

The To Koutouki website is here.

The To Koutouki Facebook page is here.

Johnny’s Place Playlist

 

IMG_4299Johnny’s Place, Parga, Greece

My holiday this summer was another visit to Parga in Greece.  It’s a very beautiful town on the west coast; nestled snugly amongst beach and harbour.  In the bay there is a small island with white church resting on top; above the town is an ancient fort – it’s real picturesque stuff.

Parga features many excellent tavernas, restaurants and bars.  A bar I’ve now visited a few times is Johnny’s Place, where the cold beer is “cheap as chips” and the welcome is warm.

Situated in the middle of town, the people watching at Johnny’s Place is second to none.  It’s a relaxing atmosphere with some great tunes.

Over the space of a few visits to this bar, we compiled a playlist of songs that were heard.  In the spirit of reminiscing about another fabulous summer holiday, here are the songs that take me back to that time and place.

Imagine enjoying a cold Mythos (and a plate of meze, as provided gratis here!) and let the everyday stresses melt away…

  1. Survivor – “Eye of the Tiger”
  2. Bee Gees – “Staying Alive”
  3. Boney M – Bahama Mama”
  4. The Beatles – “Come Together”
  5. The Beatles – “Here Comes the Sun”
  6. Aerosmith – “Dream On”
  7. Journey – “Don’t Stop Believin'”
  8. Metallica – “Nothing Else Matters”
  9. Pink Floyd – “Comfortably Numb”
  10. The Eagles – “Hotel California”
  11. Pulp – “Disco 2000”
  12. Duran Duran – “Save a Prayer”
  13. Madness – “It Must Be Love”
  14. The Cure – “Lovesong”
  15. Manic Street Preachers – “Your Love Alone Is Not Enough”
  16. Rod Stewart – “Baby Jane”

If you visit Parga – and I highly recommend you do – don’t forget to pay Johnny’s Place a visit.

The website for Johnny’s Place is here.

The Facebook page is here.

Thanks to Colin for the menu board photo!

Johnnys

Food Quest – Greek Night at The Gallery Coffee Shop

The Gallery Coffee Shop, Hawarden

There is a small piece of the Mediterranean, like a little Greek island, to be found in North Wales.  I’ll take you there in this edition of Food Quest.

In the village of Hawarden in Flintshire, right there on the Highway, you will find the Gallery Coffee Shop.  It’s open daily offering refreshments exactly as you would expect – tea and coffee, breakfasts and lunches in a cosy environment.  Once a month, however, the Gallery transforms into a Greek taverna, with all the food and vibrant atmosphere that entails.

I have been to the Greek night at the Gallery on a few occasions.  Each time has provided excellent Greek cuisine with the right summer holiday vibe, helped by the music and dancing!Greek flag

The premises are not licensed, so you will need to take along your alcohol if you wish.  That wasn’t a problem for me, as I could easily pick up a few bottles of Mythos from Tesco.  Hunt around and you’ll find retsina – Tesco no longer stock it so Lidl is your best bet.

Greek music welcomed us in to the Gallery, and we were soon seated.  There wasn’t long to wait before the hors d’oeuvres were served.  This began in traditional style with some pitta bread, olives and various dips such as tzatziki and garlic.  These were shared enthusiastically amongst our group.

Next up were several meze dishes.  On my last visit, this included dolmades (stuffed vine leaves); feta sagnaki, Greek salad and calamari.  I’m no fan of squid – on other visits a different option had been offered.  However the food was both well prepared and delicious.

The main course has also varied on different visits, with usually a couple of options to choose from.  On this last visit I chose chicken with ouzo and cream; this was served with potatoes and vegetables.  Again the meal was excellent; combined with the atmosphere I could have been in a Greek taverna enjoying a pleasant holiday evening.

After the food, the fun really gets under way – with table balancing from owner Spiros and plenty of music to dance to!  The Gallery really manage to capture the fun of a night in Greece and everyone was happy to let their hair down.

The Gallery Coffee Shop manages to create an enjoyable and authentic Greek night that will liven up anyone’s weekend.

Please be aware though that they are very busy and often booked up months in advance – book your Greek night soon!

Yiammas!

Food Quest Test

  • Food: No menu as such, but no need to worry as food is both delicious and authentic
  • Drink: Not licensed, so take your own
  • Service: Excellent
  • Environment: You will be magically transported to your own Greek island
  • Cost: Very reasonable – no bar bill, plus a full evening’s entertainment

The Gallery Coffee Shop, 10 The Highway, Hawarden CH5 3DH

01244 533446

I can’t find a website for The Gallery, there is a listing on Facebook if you search.

Another Random Bike Ride Playlist!

A cheeky little playlist from a few weeks back.  You know the score: hit shuffle, see what music provides the soundtrack for my bike ride.  This adventure was around fifteen miles.

  1. GBH – “Do What You Do”
  2. Revolution Mother – “Runaway Train”
  3. The B-52s – “Mesopotamia”
  4. Big Black – “Bad Penny”
  5. Jimmy Sabater – “La Flauta”
  6. Elton John – “Circle of Life”
  7. Big Chief – “Cop Kisser (Mack Fucks Up the Scene at the Freezer)”
  8. Kenny Rogers & The First Edition – “Heed the Call”
  9. Mudhoney – “In My Finest Suit”
  10. Queen – “Bijou”
  11. Machine Head – “Hallowed Be Thy Name”
  12. Ugly Duckling – “Smack”
  13. The Yardbirds – “Evil Hearted You”
  14. Audio Bullys – “Take You There”
  15. Ramones – “Poison Heart”
  16. PJ Harvey – “Down by the Water”
  17. Mikis Theodorakis – “Fragosiriani”
  18. Living Colour – “Ignorance is Bliss”
  19. Slash – “Doctor Alibi”
  20. GangStarr – “You Know My Steez (RMX)”
  21. Kiss – “Comin’ Home”
  22. Corrosion of Conformity – “Loss for Words”
  23. Iggy Pop & The Stooges – “Consolation Prizes”
  24. Public Enemy – “Can’t Truss It”
  25. Revolting Cocks – “Prune Tang”