it was 2007. we were on our way to the uk on a round the world ticket… always wanting to visit greece, i asked nic if we could stop on the way in athens, then take a ferry to an island close by. this is how we ended up on the island of paros towards the end of the summer season when most of the tourists were gone and the locals were preparing to close their stores and go elsewhere until the sun brings everyone back for another season.
we have a charming little apartment an easy walk from the dock. it’s basic but i’m smitten. i’m on a greek island… somewhere i have imagined being since hearing travel stories when i was a teenager.
last week, on a trip north to mangawhai, we stopped at the puhoi cheese shop and cafe to stock up. home again, we still have loads of cheese left and, with the rest of the ingredients already in our pantry, i dig through my memory palace and am transported back to the sunset-glazed dinner we had on the balcony of a restaurant on paros 11 years ago – specifically the baked feta with tomatoes, olives and garlic that was a revelation to me and a dish i’ve recreated many many times over the years that have followed.
that one evening’s memory revives others – hiring a tiny car and zooming around the narrow roads of the island, the gentleman and his donkey who travel the narrow stairways in the village selling vegetables door-to-door, the cafe in the courtyard near our apartment that we visited daily for coffee and to watch the kittens tumbling about in the sun, the bouganvillea, the way the shops all close in the afternoon so the locals could indulge in their afternoon naps, the churches, the cat who came to visit us every day we were there… good food and travel memories that have stayed with me and influenced my cooking even many years later.
do you have food memories from places you’ve been? i would love to know about them!
baked feta with tomatoes, olives, garlic & lemon
- 1-2 dozen whole olives (i use kalamata)
- 1 dozen cherry tomatoes
- 1 lemon
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 block goat feta (puhoi is my current favourite)
- 1/4 red onion (optional)
- olive oil
- salt & pepper
- fresh crusty bread (to serve)
- pre-heat oven to 180 celcius
- tumble olives into an oven-proof dish (i like enamelware, but pottery bowls work well too)
- cut tomatoes in half and add to the dish
- quarter the lemon lengthways, squeeze 1 quarter into the dish, then cut the other 3 pieces in half and add to the dish
- finely slice the garlic and add that too
- if using the onion, cut into large(ish) pieces and add it in
- crumble the feta in on top, then add the olive oil, salt & pepper
- mix gently then cover with tin foil
- bake for 20-30 minutes or until tomatoes are juicy and the feta is soft
- serve immediately with fresh crusty bread for sopping up the liquid