The Santorini I knew 30 years ago bore no relation to the glamorous image that the island portrays today. Of course it was absolutely gorgeous but life then was simple and the pleasures of eating almost elemental. The sweet little family tavernas that lined the beach were family run and featured daily menus written in spidery writing featuring an unintelligible hybrid of German and English. I remember late afternoon dashes across hot volcanic sands to see what was on and to make the all important decision as to who in our group was eating where. A cold beer first, or maybe a bottle of retsina and a game of cards. I remember long discussions with artisan wine makers as we navigated crumbling deserted villages – caused by the 1956 earthquake rather than a mass exodus to the mainland – en route to scrappy little vineyards that yielded a wine of the most incredible beauty. Simple lunches of local tomatoes (still recognised as being amongst the best in the world), crunchy cucumber and salty olives served with artisan bread and a bowl of puréed pulses – chickpeas, fava, lentils or white beans. Breakfast time was my absolute favourite. Lured from bed by the early warm sun, we would walk towards a favourite kafenion in the village where our routine would reflect the discoveries we made on the first morning in the immediate vicinity of our rented house. The same spot under the shade of an orange tree, sat at the same table upon the same sun bleached chairs. Thick rich and sweet coffee served by the same man whispering the same gentle musings about the weather always turning out nice. There was freshly baked bread from the bakery next door, plates piled with thick white yoghurt and little bowls of fruit conserves or spoon sweets. Sometimes peach, sometimes quince, sometimes fig, each had a sharp edge with just enough sweetness to soothe the soul. There was something else too, a flavour in the background that was undistinguishable to our childish palates. We later learned that it was orange blossom water (anthonero) made from kitromila blossoms picked early in the morning when the flowers had just opened their petals to greet the sun. This recipe is inspired by those mornings when the air was fragrant with nature and everything was well with the world. Glittering, almost.
350g English rhubarb, washed, trimmed and chopped
55g unrefined caster sugar
2 tbsp cold water
1 tsp orange blossom water (this is also lovely with rosewater)
Authentic Greek yoghurt
Shelled pistachios, chopped
How I make it
Place the chopped rhubarb into a small saucepan, sprinkle with the sugar and add the water.
Cover the pan and cook over a medium heat for five to 10 minutes, until the rhubarb has broken down but not too much as you want to retain some of the texture. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside for a few minutes. Stir through the orange blossom water and leave to cool.
Spoon some Greek yoghurt onto individual serving plates, top with as much rhubarb as takes your fancy and garnish with pistachios and lime zest. Serve immediately.
The compôt improves with age so store any leftovers in a Kilner jar and keep in the fridge for up to two weeks.
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