You might know the traditional Greek koulouri that I have posted a blog about in 2015. I love these delicious bread rings! For the holidays I created a special version: the Christmas Koulouri! Let me tell you how this all came to be…
Coming home for Christmas
A week ago, we travelled from Poros to Holland to celebrate Christmas. We have family in both countries and that makes it a bit more difficult during Christmas time; we feel torn between Greece and Holland. Our parents are getting older and we would ideally have them all with us during the holidays, but that is not possible anymore. Last year we were in Greece and had a wonderful time with both families. This year we decided that we will celebrate Christmas in Holland.
Last week we packed the car, filled it with our fresh pressed olive oil and took the boat to Italy from Patras, a beautiful city on the Peloponnese. We travel from Greece to Holland over land once a year, for most of the years that Rik and I have been together. Our first trip was in 1988, an epic journey through Yugoslavia. But since the war in Yugoslavia in the nineties we take the boat and I love it. I love having the sea all around me and I have so much fun just looking at it all day. I even love the motion on the boat because of the waves.
I have to admit that this time the trip was a bit too much, even for me. Winds of Force 9 on the Beaufort scale were hammering the boat during the night and kept us awake for hours, mostly because it was noisy with all the banging of everything that was not fastened or locked away. After arrival in Italy we drove to Switzerland and visited our dear and super patient friends that live in the Swiss-Italian part. They cooked us a delicious dinner at 11 pm. The next day we arrived late at night in our hometown in the Netherlands, but still I was determined to put up the Christmas tree and decorate our house the following day.
So that day we indeed drove with our car, still full of olive oil and all the other Greek goodies, to a family farm near our house where we usually buy our Christmas tree. The lady of the farm is an admirer of Greek food and has been in my cooking classes before. When we arrived, it was raining while we looked for the nicest tree. Of course I chose a tree way too big and Rik was complaining that it would probably not fit in the car. The man of the house, a big Dutch Viking, said nicely: ‘My trees always fit, don’t worry’. He picked up the Christmas tree to put it in our car. When we opened the backdoor he saw all the olive oil in cans which stopped him in his tracks. I was afraid that he was going to change his mind and say ‘Sorry, this time the tree does not fit’.
But what happened next, was one of the nicest moments of the past years. He looked at the olive oil containers and said: ‘Wow, are you selling any of this olive oil? How much for a small one?’ Meanwhile pulling his wallet. It turned out that he wanted to exchange one of his Christmas trees for a can of our olive oil! ‘My wife loves good quality olive oil and she cooks so often with it, so what would be a better surprise for her than freshly pressed olive oil straight from Greece!’ Smiling at both of us, we fully agreed with him. How can it get any better? I loved his Christmas trees and he loved our olive oil!!
Once home we were preparing the Christmas tree and I was thinking about what happened all the time. What a wonderful world are we still living in? And what beautiful people we know or meet every time? What a blessing it is to experience this in our life.
Crazy Christmas ideas
The next day Annette (my friend, partner in crime for making Katerina’s Kouzina and photographer for the blog) came to our house to talk, eat, cook and make pictures and have fun. ‘What Christmas recipes shall we cook this year for the blog?’, we wondered. Finding inspiration, I mostly think of the traditional Greek recipes and ideas that are coming from my childhood. Annette has her own Dutch Christmas memories and inspirations from when she was little. They are different to mine, but it’s oh so nice when we manage to ‘marry’ our inspirations.
When Annette proposed pretzels with chocolate, I thought oh no, pretzels are so not Greek! What about the Greek koulouri from Thessaloniki, I said. Then the fun started. I started cooking and we were coming up with ideas. Why not make koulouri with feta? Or chocolate? Or both? We ended up giving the traditional koulouri a ‘Christmas twist’. We covered it with a delicious feta cream and oregano from Methana. When Annette saw the koulouri, she imagined them in the Christmas tree as decoration. At the end of the day she even hung them in the traditional Greek Christmas boat that I brought from Greece, as a lifebuoy…
I and the entire Odyssey family wish you a very Merry Christmas!!!
Let it snow! Let it snow! Let it snow!
For the recipe of the Christmas Koulouri I recommend this wonderful rosé wine from Domaine Skouras: Cuvee Prestige Rose.
Food photography: Annette Spaan
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