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An Ode to the Flavours of Rhodes

My Antidote to the Unpredictable British Spring

By Caroline JanePublished about a month ago โ€ข 4 min read
9

I write this as the sun shines. The blades of grass that are ankle-high on my lawn shimmer as the wind ruffles through them in swirls. They look like they are watching an erratic tennis match. From here, in my kitchen, it is tempting to imagine sitting amongst them, perhaps with a bowl of strawberries and cream on my lap. But then, a big, dark, blooming cloud sashays across and blocks out the sun, stealing the shimmer of the grass and the golden light from my patio window. Cold drops down like the blade of a sword, and I remember that I can't sit on the grass because the earth beneath it is soaked with months of rain and that if I wanted to enjoy the warmth of the outside, I would need thermals to see the distance. The swing in temperatures going on today is verging on violence

It is perhaps a typical British spring day. One that Charles Dicken's famously described in his opening to chapter 54 of Great Expectations:

When the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.

He describes it far more poetically than I can; he makes it sound almost romantic. However, I live in the Northwest of England, a few degrees of latitude north of Gravesend, London, where the scene he goes on to describe is set. Today, if Dickens set his scene here with me, he would be adding the intermittent sting of hail and the slash of horizontal rain.

The weather has a huge effect on us Brits. To not know from one day to the next, sometimes, like now, from one hour to the next, where to go, what to do, what to eat, where to wear, it is a jarring experience. Plans that are forever in contingency are tiresome. We Brits can't look forward with much certainty because we are so governed by the spurious nature of our weather.

A conversation in our house often sounds like this: "Tomorrow we shall go to the lake unless it rains, and then we will visit Mum. If we get an hour of dryness, we can go to that place near the canal. If it rains all day, we will have to go to the other place. If it rains too badly, we had best stay at home because the motorways could get a little dicey at that time." Honestly, it is draining juggling so many weather-dependent ifs in your day-to-day plans.

Thank goodness for Thomas Cook's pioneering strength in the 1950s and the advent of the package holiday! They saw that there was money to be made in getting Brits into consistent weather. Getting away from the unpredictability is certainly something I look forward to, and I am allergic to the sun!

So, the week before last, my family and I jetted off on a modern-day package to Rhodes, an Island in Greece. An island where the sun shines every day, where the tides of the Aegean Sea are so slight they are barely noticeable, where every day you can say with some certainty, "Today I will do this", and by goodness, you do it! It is wonderful. The constancy of the sunshine, the routine of it, the surety of it, the easiness to it all... magnificent!

People tend to wax lyrical about their holidays in terms of what they saw, where they went, and what they did. They talk about the sparkling seas and crystal clear skies, the endlessness of sandy beaches, but nobody really speaks about the calm that comes with the certainty of the weather that makes all these wonders possible. Honestly, that is all my holiday dreams are made of!

I am sitting right now with my coat on. I have just collected my son from school and the first thing I did when I walked in the door was put the heating on. Summer may be flashing by outside, but it is only flaunting its wares. It is as cold as Winter here and I am already missing the sunshine incredibly.

As I do, when I get a bee in my bonnet, like today with the weather, I find comfort in creating food that reflects the themes in my thoughts or, as is the case today, food that will cheer me up.

Today, I made a creation that compliments the season's unpredictability while saluting the incredible flavours of Greece. It uses Tahini for that quintessentially Greek nutty, sesame flavour, chickpeas, which are their ubiquitous staple, and butternut squash because, although it is innately a Winter vegetable, it also glows with the colour of sunshine. A fitting combination for the hotchpotch of weather of my current Spring day. All these elements bound together with the rich flavour of roasted garlic, olive oil, and juicy pitted dates, and you have a light, earthy, and succulently sweet dip. It has to be said, if there is one thing the Greeks do well, it is a dip!

This is my ode to their rich collection of recipes.

Note: I have not tried many Greek wines, but I can imagine this snack pairing well with a chilled, dry Sancerre. I shall report back!

To dip... simple tortilla chips will work perfectly.

Enjoy!

The Recipe:

1 Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and cubed.

1 whole garlic, cloves peeled but not chopped.

Olive Oil

Can of chickpeas drained and rinsed.

Heaped tablespoon of Tahini.

Around 8 average-sized dates, pitted.

Salt and pepper

Method: Place the cubed squash and cloves of garlic in a roasting tin and cover with olive oil. Roast on a medium heat until tender. Drain and rinse the chickpeas and put them in a blender. Add the tahini and the dates. Once soft and well-roasted, add the garlic and squash to the blender. Add a little more oil, just a glug or two. Pulse your blender. If it is too dry, add a little more oil until it is well mixed but not runny. Add seasoning to taste. Serve however this brings you happiness... and enjoy.

Finally, just because no British Holiday would be complete without them, here are a couple of holiday snaps, you know, doing all the stuff we set out to do in Rhodes. Hurrah!!

View of Lindos Acropolis with my morning coffee
Me, swimming in the warm waters at Kallithea Springs

Take me back!!

With love,

CJ

xxx

recipe
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About the Creator

Caroline Jane

Warm-blooded vertebrate, domesticated with a preference for the wild. Howls at the moon and forages on the dark side of it. Laughs like a hyena. Fuelled by good times and fairy dust. Writes obsessively with no holes barred.

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  • Cathy holmesabout a month ago

    I swear we get the same weather in Nfld. I am quite familiar with "horizontal rain." Speaking of weather, just this past weekend, I went to visit friends. We we sitting in their garden, having a drink, and I couldn't tell you how many times I removed and put in my jacket with the sun/cloud mixture. Anyway, that dip sounds great, but what is Tahini? I've never heard of it.

  • Jay Kantorabout a month ago

    So, Cj ~ Who's 'not' the Foodie Writer; certainly 'not' you. And 'By Goodness' so glad you see it all crumb-through. I always seem to get the munchies while reading you re; those comfort foods. Caroline - I'm not much of an atta/boy/girl guy. But, you told this story so brilliantly bringing us such a visual of your adventure; thanks for the peek. I even envision CockneyChatter in awe at all the sites. And of course the constant did- ya-know updates with all family gatherings, in tight spaces, may yield; probably just me. Jk in 'Sunny' l.a. ~ Fog Free is not always (+/-) the best way - It ain't as Chickpea-ish as you see it to be.

  • JBazabout a month ago

    interesting and I know for a fact Ill be trying it. I like how you balance the recipe with a story, it adds so much to the cooking process.

  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    I make a homemade hummus with Tahini, chickpeas, garlic, red peppers. Your recipe sounds amazing, and I learned so much about UK weather...here in the South in America, we say we are going to do something or other if the "creeks don't rise."

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Hehehehehehhe I giggled when I saw Tahini because I used that to name a female character in one of my stories. I just love naming my female characters after condiments. I've used Tahini, Aioli, Harissa and Mayonnaise. But I digress. Thank you so much for this recipe!

  • Hannah Mooreabout a month ago

    Butternut squash hummus? I'm not a million miles from Gravesend or London, and we took have been lashed by gales, doused in hail, rain and a few flakes of snow, and bathed in glorious sunshine today. Perpetual menopause, the British weather.

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    Perfect description (of Pacific Northwest winters also): Cold drops down like the blade of a sword. Your recipe sounds delish but I don't like chickpeas (that and eggplant are distasteful to me ๐Ÿซค). Loved your story!

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    ๐Ÿ˜ฎ I agree with Caroline. Write a cook book!

  • Caroline Cravenabout a month ago

    Please write a cook book. I will buy it. I love all your stories behind the recipes. Excellent. Also - I agree. Brits are obsessed with the weather. I have lived in the US for (coming up on) six years and I can't shake the habit of talking about it!

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    With each line I read, the weather beyond my window changes in lock step. It is as if you are willing it -- you write, I read, the weather changes... Rather impressive skill set you have! Here in Northern Virginia, we have been treated in recent days/hours to weather that behaves like Spring but the breeze is something out of a nightmare. I'm desperate to permit myself to believe that jacket days are over for now and that the days of short sleeves have returned. But that's not a given here, either. Our weather is not the taciturn system you endure in England, but it is painfully fickle of late. Your story gets me where I live! Thorough enjoyed it. I loved it all but this line resonates most profoundly: "the calm that comes with the certainty of the weather". So true. How many lucky souls never even have to think of that. But they're also missing out. What skills we fine tune, juggling and patience first among them. Consider me jealous of your vacation. I'm in need of one badly!!!

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