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….
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
The 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.
As 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
Apart 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?!
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!
Chicken pie (with some simple green salad on the side)
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!