After my wild dream about feta snow, I am going to tell you about one of my favourite vegetables for Christmas, the beetroot, and the almonds from the volcanic peninsula of Methana. Together they make this colourful beetroot and almond dip that looks fantastic on your Christmas table. Having said all this, I do sincerely hope I am not going to dream about almonds this time, and surely not about beetroots. Having it snow beetroots would be a bit scary…
My friend Annette loves beetroots even more, especially during Christmas time. But we love them for different reasons; I love them for their beautiful soft and sweet taste and their ability to adapt in different combinations keeping their character, taste and unique earthy flavours. Annette loves them because they make such an amazing colour in her pictures!
Almonds or walnuts
You could replace the almonds in this recipe with walnuts. My mother says it is much more “normal” to use walnuts, and actually it is more traditional to combine the beetroots with the walnuts, both for a fuller and sweeter taste. As always, I tried a few different versions and this time my guinea-pigs were Rik and Petros. A tasting session is not only about the pure flavour of the recipe, but ‘my victims’ also figure out how my recipe goes together with beer or wine. Rik is always my first choice, but he is not the most reliable as he is way too easy to please. So, I was very happy that Petros, or Petrit, volunteered to try some of my experiments.
Volcanic peninsula of Methana
Petros has been working with us for the past 4 years. He is our handyman who will fix everything, from building stone walls to taking care of the vegetable garden. Sometimes he is also my recipe critic. He is actually a pretty good recipe critic who is not afraid to tell me his opinion when one of my experiments fails. At Odyssey we all love him. For him, problems do not exist; he always comes with a solution for each challenge with his wonderful down to earth approach. Petros lives in Methana and he is very proud of his hometown. He believes that they have the best climate and that all products from the nearby peninsula are of superior quality.
Methana is actually one of my favourite places to visit; It has stunning landscapes, beautiful small villages with great views and extremely interesting and diverse vegetation. With friends we often visit the area for beautiful walks and we always come back with food that we gathered along the way, like horta or almonds. When guests ask me about Methana I always advise them to go. There are fascinating routes to the fishing villages of Agios Georgios, to the baths of Pausanias and the ancient city of Methana at Paleokastro with the remains of the classical walls and gates of an acropolis.
Therapeutic sulphur bath
The town of Methana itself is also one of my favourites because of the nostalgic atmosphere it radiates. The entrance to the town is maybe a bit confusing because it plays a trick on your senses; You see a beautiful landscape but you smell something rather unpleasant from the sulphur that is bubbling up from the bottom of the sea, from the volcano of Methana that is still active. I like to mention the possibility of enjoying a therapeutic sulphur bath in the sea in the harbour of Methana. It’s just the smell of sulphur that might make people less enthusiastic to actually give it a try. I tried it myself, and with a good shower the smell quickly disappeared.
Almonds with crispy taste
The very nicely proportioned buildings of 1870 made it a very popular spa town during the first decades of the last century. Not only for Athenians, but also people from other European countries. The peninsula is covered with fantastic pine forests, and barren moon landscapes near the volcano itself. Thanks to its very hard-working citizens through the centuries, it produces fantastic products like wine, figs, olives and olive oil, oregano and almonds. Because of the volcanic ground, the taste of its produce is amazing. The almonds from Methana have such a lovely crispy taste that in the past they were exporting them to big cities nearby.
Beetroot and almond dip
When Petros said that the taste of my first experiments with this recipe were not that good, I asked him if he could analyse why. Actually, even Rik was not his enthusiastic self when I asked him his opinion, so I realized that I really needed to improve the taste. Petros suggested that instead of walnuts I should try almonds. And voila, here we are…!
Serve the beetroot and almond dip with some crusty bread and feta. The salty taste of the feta and the sweet and spicy dip will be a very nice combination to serve as an appetizer.
I want to give a special thank you to Tobias Schorr for letting us use his beautiful pictures of Methana!
Now that I think about it…maybe I did dream about this dip…
Food photography: Annette Spaan
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