Foodbuzz 24,24,24: Grandma’s Dinner-cooking the family recipes

table-1web

Hello again! It is March Foodbuzz 24,24,24 event and this time I have no fancy recipes for you. The concept for this month was to cook a whole meal for the family and for my grandmother out of her ‘little blue book of recipes’, and to see whether grandma would like my take on her recipes. The first change in plans was the time of the dinner which was transferred to lunch, so that it would be easier for my grandmother to attend. The second change was that last minute grandma could not make it because of the flu, which was a real shame. So, I guess I will be cooking for her again very soon!

After the jump you will see more about this lunch….


Some history

My paternal grandmother was born in 1920 in a small village of Messinia. Her family owned a lot of land and were raisin producers. Grandma did not like working in the fields, so she helped her mother prepare lunch to feed the 20+ workers that needed a nourishing meal at the end of a hard day. She got married to my grandfather in the mid-40’s and followed him around the Greek countryside, because his job at the Bank meant regular transfers. By the end of the 60’s however, the family moved to Athens as the two boys, my father and uncle, were about to go to University.

The blue book

blue-book-1webThe little blue book was actually started in Athens around the time the family moved there. Grandma could not remember exactly when, but I guessed it from the style of the recipes.  You see, in 1970’s Greece, the “modern” woman would have been trying to break free from tradition and cook  french-style inspired recipes that appeared in books written by the chef to the Palace, Nikolaos Tselementes and by the Greek star-chef Chryssa Paradeissi. So recipes like “creme caramel” and “spinach au gratin” appear in the book next to tahinopitta (tahini-pie) and halva.

The other interesting fact about this book, is that it consists of 95% baking recipes (hence the title “Eleni’s Dessert Recipe Book), as I think my grandmother was a baker deep down in her heart, and not a cook.  The book is absolutely packed with koulourakia (cookie) and cake recipes. There is even a carrot cake recipe which was given to her by her sister who lived in the States! Savoury dishes are very few and I have to admit that I struggled trying to find something to cook. Moreover, while all dessert recipes have very well laid out instructions, the savoury dishes are very minimal. Sometimes, just the ingredients are mentioned without any quantities or the method employed. If you think about it though, it does make some sense. Quantities are essential when making sweets, and while you can easily fix mistakes while cooking, that doesn’t apply in baking or patisserie at all.

blue-book-2webAs you would expect from a personal recipe book, recipes are not only written on the pages. They are written in every available scrap of paper lying around. Some very interesting ones include: an election vote, a funeral thank you note, and a postcard/picture from Meteora. A lot of the recipes mention the names of the ladies who gave them to my grandmother: Aglaia’s soutzoukakia, Mary’s cake etc. and many are written more than once!

A vintage kitchen

utensils-1webApart from the book, grandma has been giving me pieces of her household for quite a while now. She feels that I will be making more use of them now that she doesn’t cook that often and the truth is that I do! Despite their apparent vintage feel, these are practical gadgets, which add up if you want to buy them new and still function the way the did 35 + years ago.

In the picture you see the items I use more often in my everyday cooking: original tupperware, the famous 70’s Braun mixer, cookie cutters, melon baller, mould for rice, creme caramel ramekins, flour sieve etc. as well as two tablecloths, one of which I used to set the table for the lunch,  a set of 10 glasses, aprons and various other bits and pieces. I always wonder however, how on earth did she manage to fit so many different things in her tiny kitchen?!

The recipes

As I said above, finding recipes for a dinner in the book was really hard, but I made my final choice based on my personal tastes and my family’s preferences. The meal was a great success with everyone and I think I will make some chicken pie for my grandma soon. It was my favourite dish!

The Menu

Chicken pie (with some simple green salad on the side)

kotopita-1web

Salt-Cod Plaki

bakaliaros-4web

Creme Caramel

cremme-caramel-4web

At first I thought that I would leave the recipes as they were, but that was just impossible to do, since there is always room for improvement. What I mainly adjusted was the amount of oil and sugar used, as I found it excessive and I also left out the rice in the pie, because I really didn’t like it. I could have chosen a more traditional dessert, but creme caramel is such an iconic 70’s dessert and I also had the ramekins to cook it in! And, yes, I did add some double cream in there, when only milk was called for…

To view the recipes simply click on the name of each one!

caramel-ramekins-3web

18 comments

  1. Love this post …. my grandmothers were very influential in my cooking, just like yours – this is a lovely way to celebrate that

    Thanks for sharing
    Joanna

  2. this is an incredible post. if read between the lines, we get the feel of how food customs have been handed down from one generation to another, and just how important it is to maintain certain traditions.
    your menu today does sound simple, but it also makes a hearty filling meal for a family who waits for the oldest female in the house to look after their nutritional needs

    i also want to thank you for sharing your personal life in this post, which has given me some ideas about a post of my own using my mother’s cookbooks. i inherited almost all of my mother’s ‘kouzinika’ and still use them. and just like your grandma, my mother’s recipe collection includes mainly ingredient lists, and lots of little bits and pieces

    congratulations for honouring your grandmother in this way.

  3. Jo this is an absolute beautiful tribute to your grandmother and a fantastic way of showing your appreciation for her recipes. I love the menu and I also have to tell you that my kitchen has a number of vintage gadgets too! My “mix master” is from 1970 and still works beautifully!

  4. what a wonderful post! some points I would like to make:
    1. your decision to make this a lunch rather than a dinner was great! this way you can spend 4-6 hours easily and enjoy yourselves
    2. I congratulate you on the table layout; I particularly liked the embroidery of the tablecloth
    3. I have a very special request: Aglaia’s soutzoukakia! any time you can, please share the recipe with us! I am a “soutzoukakia” fan!
    4. the use of double cream in the creme caramel shows that you are a splendid patisseur!
    5. the cod dish has a dark inense colour: what gave it?
    6. favour number two: chicken pie recipe please please please!

    • Thank you for your questions!
      1. I have asoutzoukakia recipe on this blog which is pretty good actually, go check it out!
      2. The dark colour in the cod is probably from the cod skin.

  5. Great post Jo and I love your grandma’s little blue book! I just think it is amazing when recipes go from generation to generation! Unfortunately I think I am the only one in the family who likes to cook (now that I think about it) My mom never liked it and I can’t remember if my grandma liked it…. (she passed away a long long time ago) My sisters don’t like it at all either and my brother… well, I am sure he has never as much as cooked an egg probably…
    So I think it is safe to say that I did not get my love of cooking from my family…:) I love your vintage kitchen things as well!!

  6. Μμμμμ… Λατρεύω τα παραδοσιακά μενού… Ελπίζω να μας δώσεις και τις συνταγές, ειδικά για την κρεμ καραμελέ που είναι από τα αγαπημένα μου γλυκά!!!!
    υ.γ. και η κοτόπιτα όμως φαίνεται υπέροχη!!!!!

  7. Ioanna, you have to re-write and create a new “syntages tis giagia’s” so that these recipes are never lost and so that you may one day pass them on to your children and grandchildren.

    You’re becoming a pro at the “24” dinners and I do love the look of that chicken pie!

  8. Another 24,24,24 event? You’re good! This was a really great post … thank you for giving us a sneak peek into your Giagia’s past. I love reading stories like that.
    And the food looks amazing–creme caramel is one of my favorite desserts ever!

  9. Hello fellow “24’er”.

    Congratulations on being selected to do a 24, 24, 24 meal. What a great way to honor your grandmother, with her recipes. You are blessed to have such kitchen treasures.

  10. your post is really interesting!the idea to make the menu basing on your grandma’s recipes was very good and i think i’m gonna do the same very soon for some Sunday lunch..lol
    Ps recently i bought very cheap frozen blackberries but i don’t know how to use them..do u have any idea?thank u

  11. Συγχαρητήρια για το όμορφο κείμενο. Μου θύμισε Κυριακές στο σπίτι με μαμά και μπαμπά! Κληρονομήσαμε και το ίδιο μίξερ 🙂

  12. How beautiful! I too treasure my hand-me-downs from my grandmother, and can only wish I hand such a wonderful handwritten collection of her recipe’s as you have for your grandmother. Great job!

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