“Explore Crete” brings you a selection of Mediterranean recipes prepared by the chefs of Crete. This month Michalis and Eleni prepare Veal with Aubergines (Moschari me Melitzanes in Greek).
Just past the Palace of Knossos, a few minutes walk, some rather interesting diversions lie in wait for the intrepid explorer. First is the sight of an Arabian aqueduct looking very picturesque, home these days to a colony of ravens. Beside this structure sits our destination today, the small and very charming Taverna “O Hreiazomenos”.
The taverna straddles the corner of the main highway and a smaller country road. Follow this latter path and you will soon discover a sort of nature reserve, actually a very fine park. Here in Crete, so close to crowded Heraklion, such an undisturbed expanse of green wilderness is a valuable thing and we heartily recommend that you take the time to visit “Agia Irini in Spilia”, as it is known. Consider bringing a picnic for a casual meal.
Alternatively, if you’re in the mood for authentic, healthy Greek cuisine, pay a visit to Michalis. His family’s surname, Hreiazomenos, translates to “needed” in Greek, underscoring their importance in the area around the old Minoan palace, a place often bustling with tourists.
The key to success for Michalis, who speaks good English, is “freshness first”. The preparation of his, and Eleni’s, food comes to them as naturally as breathing, following slight variations on recipes that are informed by tradition and the seasonal availability of fresh ingredients.
In this husband-and-wife culinary team, both are skilled cooks. Today, our focus is on Eleni in the kitchen, where she skillfully manages our inquiries while cooking. Meanwhile, Michalis is busy serving customers, frequently entering and leaving the kitchen with plates full of hot food.
Here is a version of one simple Mediterranean staple, Veal with Aubergines. In Greece, veal is simply younger beef. The word for beef, vodino is rarely used here, everyone asks for moskhari, veal. Melitzanes, aubergines, are available everywhere.
The recipe: Veal with Aubergines (eggplant)
This simple recipe serves four:
1 kilo of good beef, or veal
1 kilo aubergines
1 large onion
4 large tomatoes
Salt and pepper.
First, and most important, get hold of good fresh ingredients. Ask your butcher, if you want, to cube the meat, ‘kopste se kivous’. Sorry for the Greenglish translation.
The aubergines are roughly cubed, as shown, each into four or five pieces. Most people sprinkle a thin coat of salt onto them at this stage, removing any bitterness. Rinse off the salt after 10-15 minutes. The meat is cubed into fork-sized chunks. Leave a bit of fat on the meat.
Chop your onions and soften them in a frying pan. Don’t use too much oil, the beef will provide its own. Add the veal and cook at a medium heat. Grate your tomatoes and add them too. Fry the aubergines separately in plenty of oil, hot enough to sizzle. When browned, remove from the pan.
Now, both aubergines and meat are fully cooked and all you have to do is to add the fried Aubergines into the veal. This recipe is not made to look pretty on the plate, but is simple and delicious.
Yannis and Louis
* Article by Louis Tracy and Yannis Samatas
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