Today is a special day for me and for the whole of Hellenism across the world as it is our national day for denying the Axis forces passage and the WWII was declared upon us. I chose to share this d...ish on this special day because it is both dear to my heart and has a story that my grandma used to say to me and my cousins quite often with pride as she was boasting about her hidden strength even despite her age. My grandma was the noble lady of the village and she was always the first to be involved in the communal affairs for the benefit of her village Diava, out of Kalabaka, Thessaly. She said that when the German troops entered the village, the whole atmosphere in the village went grim; as if even nature sensed the hostility of the Germans, “Kri-oi anthropoi” - “Cold people”, my grandma said, “not like the Italian soldiers who were more like us. They loved food, music and good company.” My grandma, and other villagers used to speak Vlahika, a dialect that was close to the Italian language and they could communicate with them. Italians were friendlier but everything changed when the Germans arrived; fear was spread like a heavy fog; you did not know what was going to happen in the next second. One day the Germans, without any reason arrested all the men and their teenage sons, including my grandfather Christos and one of my oldest uncles, their first-born son. They took them somewhere out of the village and had them locked up in a storehouse. The women went to my grandma crying, wanting back their husbands, brothers, fathers, and sons. Then my grandma asked them to gather food and water for the men and led the women to the place their men were kept. Without fear and with authority, she went up to the first German guard and demanded to allow them to see their husbands and sons. The German soldier refused and yelled at her to leave, the women and children started crying; the captured men heard them and started calling out to their wives and mothers. My grandma again, demanded to let her and the women to see them and to give them food. The German guard angrily pointed his weapon and yelled at her to leave; then the unimaginable happened, my grandma who did not like to take no for an answer, slapped the German soldier across his face so hard that he almost lost his balance. Everyone froze for a couple of seconds, then the soldier went to grab my grandma to throw her on the ground, but he could not move her! She pushed him away hard, then he grabbed one of her arms and another soldier grabbed her by the other to take her away, but together they could not move her! She started shaking her arms left to right and back again trying to get them off her! The women were screaming, the children were crying, and the men were cursing the soldiers and yelling to let her go. Then two more soldiers came to the aid of the others; each one grabbed her by the arms as well and not only they could not move her, she was shaking them around like leaves. Amid this chaos the German commandant appeared and was shocked to believe what he was seeing. A Greek woman was rattling his four elite German soldiers like rag dolls. He yelled at them to stop and demanded to find out what was happening. My grandma said that the German commandant allowed her and the women to see their spouses and sons. Then she would conclude her storytelling with a demonstration of her strength, she would ask me and my other young cousins to grab her by the arms and try to move her like the Germans did. We were giggling as she was shaking us around and we would fall on the ground laughing hard. On the photo are my grandfather Christos, my grandmother Vagelio with their eighth child, my mother Vicky.Read more
Βλάχικη Γαλατόπιτα // Vlahiki Galatopita // Vlahiki Milkpie
This custard based pie is one of the oldest and one of my favourite pies my grandma used to make for me when I was staying with her in her village Diava of Kalabaka, Thessaly. It is a traditional dish of Thessaly, women used to make for her children when the had so much milk left over after their cheesemaking. It is a simple but so delicious and healthy pie offered with a dusting of ground cinnamon and of icing sugar, after a meal or for breakfast. My grandma used semolina but my version is made with cornflour so my gluten intolerant children can enjoy it as much as I used to. You are free to use fine semolina of course and you may flavour it as well with vanilla or with the zest of a citrus of your preference.
- 2 or 3 sheets of puff pastry thawed
- 3 free range eggs large
- 1 l full cream milk
- 200 g caster sugar
- 70 g cornflour
- 50 g butter melted
- 2 tbs caster sugar
- 1 extra free range egg for topping
- ground cinnamon for dusting
- icing sugar for dusting
- Butter a medium sized deep baking tray bottom and sides. Cover the base and the sides of the tray with the puff pastry, spread some melted butter over it and scatter some ground cinnamon and caster sugar.
- In a heavy based pot add half the sugar and the milk and bring to just boiling, turn off the heat and stir to dissolve the sugar. Preheat your oven to 180C.
- In a bowl beat the eggs with the rest of the sugar and whisk in the corn flour. With a ladle take some of the hot milk, add it to the bowl and stir quickly to temper the eggs. Continue until you have poured half of the milk.
- Turn the heat on the hob to medium, return the egg/milk mixture to the pot and cook stirring constantly until the milk thickens. You have to be patient with it so it can be a smooth custard. Once it thickens, stir in the rest of the melted butter and cook for 2 more minutes until you see big bubbles appear. Turn off and allow to cool for 5 minutes stirring so the custard does not create a skin on the surface.
- Pour the custard over the puff pastry. Beat the remaining egg with a tablespoon of water and carefully spread it over the surface of the pie with a spoon. Bake until golden brown, allow to cool before cutting (if you can resist) and serve with a dusting of ground cinnamon and of icing sugar.