Basil!

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katharine
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Joined: Sat May 05, 2007 3:48 pm
Location: central England

Basil!

Postby katharine » Sun May 06, 2007 6:18 pm

I own three Greek cookery books, one of which is devoted to Cretan food, and have, obviously eaten many meals in Crete, but I just don't seem to come across basil as an ingredient. In Italy it is everywhere and the climate is not that different to Crete, so have been surprised not to find it. Have I just failed to notice it, or is basil not used in Greek cuisine? Is there a reason?
This serious issue has been raised several times at our dinner table, so it would give me great satisfaction and a rare moment of one-upmanship to have an answer next time my husband starts on the subjest!
best wishes
Katharine.

filippos
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Postby filippos » Sun May 06, 2007 6:32 pm

Basil is rarely used in Cretan cooking because, we've been told, of religious connotations. I'm not sure of the reasoning behind it but the plant is regarded as holy. It's certainly used in many religious ceremonies. Priests dip bunches of basil into holy water and use it to splash the water over participants.

Filippos.

P. S. There's a bit more info here:-

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basil

There's something about the religious connection in the introduction (Para 2) and more under the heading "Cultural aspects".

katharine
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Joined: Sat May 05, 2007 3:48 pm
Location: central England

Postby katharine » Sun May 06, 2007 8:08 pm

Filippos, you are brilliant! And I have just made a note of the appartments in Kalyves, which you mentioned on another thread. This is clearly the new, happening Forum to be on.
Katharine.

paulh
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Postby paulh » Sun May 06, 2007 9:23 pm

just to add to the above that within the Greek side of my family there are and always have been pots of basil on the outside tables that are there just to pass your hands or fingers through from time to time and release the pungent aromatic smell. Especially so when you are sitting around talking in the warm night after a hot day.

katharine
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Joined: Sat May 05, 2007 3:48 pm
Location: central England

Postby katharine » Sun May 06, 2007 10:56 pm

PaulH, what a wonderful thought, basil in the evening air. I've often thought that the smell of basil, when you tear or cut it up is actually better than the taste. I will add the idea of basil pots to my Cretan plans.
thanks to all, Katharine.

Carolina
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Postby Carolina » Sun May 06, 2007 11:30 pm

Yes basil in the warm night air is definitely one of those lovely Cretan summer smells.
Oregano (rigani) is probably the Greek equivalent of the Italians' (use of) basil - it's widely used in many meat dishes, as well as in soups and Greek salad.

Kilkis
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Postby Kilkis » Mon May 07, 2007 10:52 am

I also coat fish with olive oil and sprinkle rigani on it before baking/grilling.

I stayed in digs with an Italian lady for a couple of years in Hemel Hempstead. Virtually every dish she cooked had a bay leaf in it. I don't remember her using basil? I put on about 20 kg in weight while I was there!

Warwick

filippos
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Postby filippos » Mon May 07, 2007 3:50 pm

katharine wrote:PaulH, what a wonderful thought, basil in the evening air.

The first time we visited Crete we stayed in a ground floor studio. We had to cross the "verandah" (more like a small English patio) to get in and out - which was impossible without brushing against a large, potted, small-leaf basil. We also used to sit there in the sultry August evenings running our hands over the plant from time to time.

Maybe we killed it because the following year it had disappeared.

Filippos.

Phaedra
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Postby Phaedra » Tue May 08, 2007 1:45 pm

A Kafenion owner gave us some of his "Cretan" basil. Much more pungent than that you get further north. It made our little house smell wonderful but it was a little "hot" to use in salads etc.


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