I had been seeing my boyfriend for about 3 months when we decided to go on holiday together. I remember some of my friends raising an eyebrow about the fact we’d rashly booked a holiday without ever spending a whole weekend together. But it was that early period in a relationship where you are both keen to impress so…in an attempt to appear relaxed and spontaneous (instead of the now-apparent reality of mild control-freakery and abject anxiety) I booked us a cottage on a far-flung Greek island. Having spent some time living in Greece as a teenager I thought I would be able to impress him with my rudimentary language abilities and knowledge of the country and culture.
But, it soon became apparent just how rudimentary my knowledge was. Keen to demonstrate my bi-lingual abilities, I began showing off as soon as we stepped off the plane onto Greek soil. Spotting a Greek sign I began to translate; “So that’s a G, then I think that’s an R, an A, that one’s an F I think and then E, I, A – so look it says Grafeia!”. I was triumphant. The BF looked impressed…and expectant. “Wow, and so what does it mean?” he asked… Of course, I had no idea. In linguistic terms I was pre-school – I could barely read the alphabet and certainly couldn’t identify many actual words. To his credit, BF only looked crestfallen for a couple of seconds. Undeterred, we looked for a taxi to take us from the airport to the port. I felt quite relaxed about this – I had taken 100s of taxis as a child and could even remember how to say left and right in Greek so I was brimming with Travel Confidence. We queued up for a taxi in the baking midday heat. The line moved quickly and we were soon as the front of the queue. In stilted English/Greek I requested the driver take us to the port. He nodded and directed us to a taxi where a large Greek family of 5 were packing themselves and a bird in a birdcage into the back seats. The driver escorted the bewildered BF and I towards this already over-occupied taxi. He motioned for us both to get into a single passenger seat. Along with our luggage. Flustered, we did actually attempt to do this until it became apparent that we would have to sacrifice either my suitcase or the lower half of my body. We sheepishly scrambled out of the taxi, back into the queue – all the while trying to appear nonchalant about the ordeal.
Some time later, after having secured a whole taxi to ourselves, we arrived at the port. Our mission was to find something called a Flying Dolphin which would take us to the island we’d be staying on. We had 15 minutes to do this. In my youth I’d taken many a ferry to many an island so I felt sure I could bounce back here. Struggling across the harbour with our luggage, red-faced and damp with exertion but purposeful – I was looking for anything that would float. I headed for what, with hindsight, appeared to be a Russian Super-Tanker. “This’ll be our boat” I gasped as I half-ran, half stumbled along the water-side. For anyone trying to reach Skopelos in a hurry it is worth noting the following:
This is a super-tanker:
This is a flying dolphin:
No need for further details here really but after some complicated Anglo/Greek/Russian negotiations we narrowly avoided a trip to Minsk and were safely aboard the correct form of transport headed for the correct Island.
I regained my composure on the boat and after disembarking in the pretty harbour and getting into a taxi to our villa I was in good spirits again. The taxi headed up hill towards some sun-dappled olive groves. And it carried on and on and on until we’d been driving for about 30 minutes, seemingly vertically up the side of a mountain. I only mention this because I specifically booked a villa that was within walking distance of the little harbour town because neither the BF or I drive a car. The villa itself was gorgeous but, later that evening, as we walked down the mountain torch-in-hand, we nervously took photos of landmarks along our route to ensure we could find our way back home again.
Later still, we relaxed with a glass of Ouzo in a seafront taverna and I confidently ordered a selection of mezze dishes. “You’ll love Spanakopita”, I enthused, “spinach pies – delicious little triangles of fillo pastry filled with spinach and feta cheese”. When it arrives it looks like a cumberland sausage made of puff pastry. Weirdly this seemed to be the final straw for the BF. “Sorry Lyssa but did you ever actually live in Greece? Did you you make it up?” the BF, quite reasonably, asked. In my defence, it had been 15 years since I’d lived there so, yes, my memories of Greece were perhaps a little too vague to be helpful but, frankly, things had changed too. Well the pies had anyway.
In the early hours of the morning after a long, lovely dinner we stumbled home up our mountain. The only light for miles around was the flickering light of our torch and the fireflies that lit our path through the olive grove. The Cicadas were silent and the faint tinkle of a goat’s bell was only interrupted occasionally by our wheezing as we climbed the steep incline home. This (and probably the ouzo) made me forget the humiliation of the day and it all seemed rather charming and whimsical and, well, just Greek.
Anyway, long introduction to a short recipe.
Pack of fillo pastry
Large knob of butter melted melted butter
2 big packs of spinach
Pack of Feta
Half pack of ricotta
Half nutmeg, grated
Pre heat the oven and a baking sheet to 200 degrees. Wilt the spinach in boiling water and squeeze out all the water. It’s worth being anal about this bit otherwise you’ll end up with a soggy bottom. When all the spinach as wilted crumble in the feta and ricotta cheeses and grate over the nutmeg and mix thoroughly. Take the baking sheet out of the oven and start to layer up the pastry sheets one by one, brushing melted butter generously onto each sheet. After you have layered half the pack of fillo pile the spinach/cheese mixture on top pressing the mixture to the edges of the pastry. Then layer the rest of the fillo pastry on top of the spinach mixture – again brushing each layer with butter. Then put into the oven for 20-30 minutes – keep an eye on it as it burns quickly. Unfortunately there’s no tidy way to cut the pie into pieces so just dive in – like this: