A hearty and nutritious soup, this is considered to be the national dish of Greece, the staple food of the army and every poor man’s meal – so great for the crisis! It is usually made at home or at village festivals; do not expect to find it in many restaurants. It can become a substantial meal by adding pieces of pork, bacon or sausage and the kids will love it.
45g (1lb) dried haricot beans
150 ml (¼ pint) olive oil
400g (15 oz) can of chopped tomatoes (sometimes I use fresh tomatoes and blanche and skin them myself).
1 tablespoon tomato puree
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
2 celery sticks with leaves on, chopped
Salt and Pepper
2-3 tablespoons of chopped flat leaf parsley
Soak the beans in cold water overnight.
Drain the beans, place in a large pan and cover with fresh water.
Bring to the boil and cook for ten minutes, then drain.
Cover again with cold water, bring to the boil once more, lower the heat, cover and simmer for 1-2 hours or until the beans are tender but intact.
Add all the other ingredients, except the parsley and simmer for a further 30 minutes.
Add parsley, salt and pepper to taste and simmer for 1-2 minutes more.
Serve with crusty bread, olives and dry white wine.
*PGV Top Tip*
I always add the olive oil at the very end, but most people add it with the other ingredients. The good thing about adding the oil at the end is that the natural, raw flavours of the oil come through so you don’t actually use as much. You do however need the very best virgin olive oil and I would recommend coarse grain salt as well.
One and a half hours from Athens airport and forty minutes East of Patras, Achaia in the North of the Peloponnese attracted the Ancients for good reason.
The area is immensely fertile with bands of citrus plantations situated on the silt plains next to the sea. Above, lie olive groves punctuated by vineyards and surrounded by Mediterranean pine forest. 1000 metres above sea-level, cows graze on alpine meadows surrounded by spruce forests, littered with mushrooms and populated by wild boar. Goat herders drive their flocks to these highland areas in summertime when the heat below becomes unbearable. Above the 1800 metre zone when the spruce trees start to become sparser, the peaks of the mountains that reach up to 2500 metres are snow- capped and it is possible to ski until the end of April if the winter remains cold.
There are three mountains in Achaia whose concave formation plunge dramatically into the Gulf of Corinth below. Each mountain is separated by Alpine valleys and gorges where the scenery is spectacular. The seaside towns of Kiato, Derveni, Akrata, Egion and finally Patras are nothing out of the ordinary but the sheer beauty of the mountainous scenery is simply breathtaking.
This region abounds with charming mountain villages and with many archaeological and historical sites to discover such as Ancient Egira and Ancient Corinth. It is also within easy reach of other major sites such as Delphi, Mycenae, Epidavros, Olympia and Athens. Spring and autumn are fabulous times to visit this beautiful area. The mountains provide a walker's paradise and the many well-marked paths offer unique opportunities to the fell walker or rambler. Although these foot paths are well marked, they are deserted and you can spend the whole day with out meeting a soul. In spring the mountains become ablaze with wild flowers which open out in sequence. First the poppies arrive turning the mountains blood red, next yellow becomes the dominant colour, then the dainty anemones or 'wind flowers' and finally, the Judas trees with their dense pink buds. Wild greens, asparagus and artichoke can all be collected through these blissfully warm months under clear skies. In autumn comes a second flowering with warm weather bathed in a golden light. The mushroom season starts and the forest are littered with all types of species: Oyster, morel, chanterelle, boletus and field mushrooms can all be found up in the alpine forests of Achaia.
The mountain villages of this area lie untouched completely by tourism. Here you will probably find a square, the local church and usually a spring with cold, mountain water. Even the smallest and remotest of villages usually have a Kafeneion where the men drink coffee, discuss and play tavli around the fireplace. The mountain tavernas abound with delicious food, creamy feta cheeses, home-baked bread, dishes of wild rabbit, boar or cockerel, and sometimes even trout from the nearby river.