One of my favourite recipe ‘discoveries’ was made on the gorgeous island of Nisyros, a couple of summers ago. We were on holiday on Kos, late in the ‘season’ – at the point when there are fewer tourists, the weather is cooler and the sun is hanging just that bit lower in the still perfectly blue sky.
Across the bay, barely 20km from our hotel, sitting calmly in that glorious sea the colour of sapphire, was the island of Nisyros. We were bitten by the bug that has afflicted all travellers in Greece – the bug that drives you to the next bit of land on the horizon. To see what is over there….
Nisyros is not quite what you expect from a Greek island – for a start, it’s main attraction is that it is really an active volcano. So of course, any visit has to include a trip inside the caldera. Sulphuric and gently hissing, this is a lunar landscape. The rocks are tinged lurid lime from the steam that puffs up at intervals from the ground. We take a few citrus pebbles away as souvenirs.
Back in the car, we travel higher up, to the village of Emborió, to get a better look at the crater – what a treat! Absolutely stunning views across this curious landscape but also one of the most perfect tavernas I have ever come across.
As if the view wasn’t enough to satisfy the senses, here we find a most talented chef. Working in a tiny kitchen, Kyria Katina produces some of the finest of Greek traditional dishes. We eat fabulous chicken – cockerel actually – gently baked with squash, a plate of golden, stuffed courgette flowers (ανθούς) and the pièce de résistance ‘revithokeftéthes’.
How can you possibly translate the name for these beautiful morsels as chickpea patties, or chickpea rissoles!! For goodness sake ! These are golden quenelles of finely ground chickpeas, flavoured with diced spring onions and dill. They are crisp on the outside but soft and fragrant on the inside – in the local dialect they are called ‘pityés’.
After a bit of ‘kitchen talk’, I persuade Kyria Katina to identify the magical, mystery ingredient. So here is the recipe – I can give you that, but for the amazing view, you have to go to Nisyros….
1 tin of chickpeas (drained weight 240gm)
1/2 medium raw butternut squash, grated
1 small onion, grated
2 heaped tabs chopped parsley
2 heaped tabs chopped fresh dill
1 egg, beaten
A small piece of feta cheese (maybe 30 – 40 grammes)
A little plain flour
Plenty of freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil for frying
Take the grated squash and squeeze out as much of the moisture as you can. I do it with my hands, but you can do it in a clean towel if you prefer.
Grind the drained chickpeas in a food processor until they have the appearance of fairly fine breadcrumbs.
In a bowl mix the grated squash, grated onion, chopped herbs, egg and crumbled feta. Season to taste, remembering that the feat will have given some salt. Add a little plain flour a bit at a time to help bind the mixture. It should be a fairly soft mixture but still have a consistency that can be shaped by hand. The ‘pityés’ should be about the size and shape of a small damson.
Shallow fry in olive oil – don’t have the oil too hot as you want the ‘pityés’ to cook inside whilst being golden and crisp on the outside.
Serve at room temperature.