Tuesday, 5 November 2013

Potato Bonfire Averted!

Happy Bonfire night everyone. I've always liked Guy Fawkes Night better than Halloween, but it's less popular than it was.  Until the cost of insurance became prohibitive, the annual Guy Fawkes bonfire in our communal garden (above) was a most unforgettably exciting experience for the local kids.

But fire can also be dangerous, and serious, even on a soggy English November evening.  Which brings me to something that happened a few nights ago, when I was invited by the South Aegean Region of Greece to a very unusual sounding press event.

We were to join the Greek Ambassador and the South Aegean's vice-governor, Mrs. Eleftheria Ftaklaki, plus two top chefs of the region, to cook up some traditional delicacies. What, really cook? These chefs are brave, I thought.    I wouldn't do anything involving a hot stove with a group of journalists who have been sampling the local wines for a while.

In a generous gesture, the region had invited partners too, so T and I arrived at the appointed time to the venue. It's called Aveqia, it's in Blackfriars, and it specialises in corporate cookery courses.  (The red carpet was for the ambassador, not for us)

First thing I noticed was that the company's designers had made a fantastic job of a very awkwardly shaped space in what seems to have once been a bank.  The reception area overlooked an elegantly retro bar

which was serving wines from the South Aegean region.

plus interesting mezedes - the ones in the foreground were an upmarket version of the typical spinach pie

I was interested in the decor, a skilful jumble of 1950s and 1970s retro, with some original touches. Here's what was originally a long, dark corridor. The designers gave it a surreal, Scandinavian feel by the clever use of lighting and multi-wood flooring laminate on floors, walls and ceilings.

At the other end of the corridor was a beautiful dining room and demonstration kitchen, with chefs already preparing some of the ingredients for the meal.

So we all trooped in and had more wine.

After that there was an introduction to the region by the ambassador and short speeches by various dignitaries. Then we put on our aprons

and got started.

The two chefs had done a lot of pre-prep, and they were totally unflappable, not to mention cheerful

You have to hand it to them, with a large dinner to organise and lots of people "helping" by frying pitaroudia (chick pea fritters from Rhodes) in hot oil.....

But the journalists were very good, and nobody even dropped anything.

There were NO mishaps whatever.    In fact it was all very convivial.

The meal was not only served on time, but it was really delicious.... So full marks the journalists and chefs. 

We  had fava with caramelised onions, the pittaroudia with multitudes of shrimps,  a new twist on Greek salad

and some truly wonderful fillet of lamb with bulgur and eggplants...

So it was all going so well.....when I suddenly wondered whether I had turned off the potatoes I had been boiling at home.  I'd got them out of the garden and decided to parboil them for a salad. So I had put them on the stove, and turned the gas on low - but I couldn't remember taking them off.   Panic stricken, I asked T.  No, he hadn't turned the potatoes off either. .

His brow darkened.  I am notorious in our family for leaving stuff on the stove and burning it all, but usually the worst result is yet another burned pan.  But at this moment, the house was empty and if the pan was boiling dry, it could be really serious. 

Terrible visions filled my mind.

I rushed away from the table, hoping that I could rouse a neighbour with a key, only to be followed by Mrs.Eleftheria Ftaklaki who kindly came out to see if I was okay.  I was impressed -  here she was playing an official role at what was obviously a very expensive event, and she still wanted to help an idiot journalist who had messed up.

So, what happened?  Well, thank goodness, I managed to rouse one of my neighbours who had a key. She got into the house, sorted things out and all was well.   Feeling rather chastened, I thought as I rejoined the others, that I shouldn't have worried about them setting Avegia on fire.  The only potential fire-raiser in that gathering was ME!   


  1. Hi Yenny, I find an interesting post, good cooking, besides the burning of potatoes, no worries. A hug.

  2. Oh my your last line of terrible visions filled my mind, as me thinking of another fun little tale! What fun this was, I really like the bonfire, and would be so happy to be a part of that evening as well. I've been a bit upset with our weather lately because I've had several fires planned and the old wind has gotten in the way. My goodness, thanks for bringing me to such a bash, the photos are just out of this world exciting. Like I was there first hand. My what chefs too. Thanks for such a fun time.

  3. I am impressed by those chefs and everyone else involved in preparing the meal without any mishap whatsoever. Everything sounds delicious - except for the shrimps, but that is simply because I am not keen on seafood.
    Good job your neighbour was at home and had a key to your place!

  4. What a lovely evening - and what a compulsive bit of film. I do hope it wasn't recorded in your kitchen with a heavy-breathing neighbour?

  5. I really shouldn’t have read this on a rumbly tum! I don’t know what I hanker for most, allthat lovely food in the first few pictures, or the cremated potatoes.

  6. Have you ever thought you'd left something on the stove and gone back to check and you actually had left something on? If I think to check it's always off. But on several occasions when I haven't remembered to check it's been left on.

  7. Jenny, a great post and photos. Love Greek food. How special to be part of that event. Having arrived home yesterday afternoon to find my oven on with nothing in it, dare I ask my son how long since he had cooked ~ 3 hours previously. It filled me with fear of the worst kind. The timer was stuck which would normally turn the oven off, but his 17 year old brain was in neutral so that did not help either.

  8. Don't you just hate that sinking feeling when you know you've left something that must be attended NOW! Anyway, i'm glad you all had a good night, and no damage done.

  9. What a great story! So glad the nothing burned in either place~

  10. That all looks such fun...but I feel for you re the spuds.....we were once caught in snow and ice when I had a stew in the slow cooker....and had to find a telephone box to get my neighbour to rescue it.
    It was distinctly tacky....

    I remember how good wine from Nemea was...from years ago!

  11. Greetings Jenny,

    What a fascinating post and I always immerse myself, so to speak, in your amazing photos. Such an amazing life you have and no, I wont say it's all Greek to me :)

    Bonfire night and the irresponsible fools are setting off fireworks in the streets. Why they don't go to safe, controlled public displays is beyond me. Not easy trying to comfort a trembling dog and type at the same time.

    Be well and thank you for this, Jenny. Oh and I really admire your header.


  12. The chef in charge was some five star commanding general. I can't even imagine pulling off an escapade starring a cadre of untrained lieutenants, one of whom left the potatoes on the fire at home.

  13. That looks like it was such a great time. The chefs must have been great planners and motivators to get everyone to finish the parts of the meal on time.
    Things like worrying you've left a pot on the stove scare me to death! I'm sure glad your neighbor sorted the pan out for you. If you just lost the pan, that is not bad. :)

  14. Lekker (nice) story! It's also lekker to read about Guy Fawkes instead of Halloween. Japan is Halloween-crazy, and my only response is meh.

    Incidentally, I recently read something interesting (in the OED) about the origin of the word bonfire. Here we go:

    "Late Middle English: from bone + fire. The term originally denoted a large open-air fire on which bones were burnt (sometimes as part of a celebration), also one for burning heretics or proscribed literature. Dr Johnson accepted the mistaken idea that the word came from French bon 'good'."

  15. I should have gone to J school!

    ALOHA from Honolulu
    Comfort Spiral
    =^..^= <3
    > < } } ( ° >
    > < 3 3 3 ( ' >

  16. The party sounds like fun, and the wine and food look delicious! I think that long corridor with the wood planking might make me dizzy, especially after a few glasses of wine.

    Good thing your neighbor could sort out your potatoes!

  17. As usual, your posts are always so interesting. I visited Greece and some of the islands and it was the most wonderful trip of my lifetime. I loved the people, I loved their way of life, and I loved their food and wine. When I came home and we went to a local Greek restaurant, the wine and food was not nearly as good.

    I can certainly relate to your thoughts of leaving a pot on the stove. I have driven back many a time to make sure that I turned everything off. Everything (so far) has been a false alarm, but oh, how I worry when a thought come in my head that I have left something on that could burn my home down.

  18. Thanks for another wonderfully interesting post - and an equally wonderfully-looking meal. I would like to have been there, although I wouldn't want to don an apron and demonstrate my lack of culinary skills in front of so many distinguished people.

    I'm notorious for forgetting things on the stove. Yesterday, a large pot of spaghetti boiled over.
    I can only imagine your sense of horror at remembering the boiling potatoes when you were away from home. Thankfully this didn't cause a private Guy Fawkes fire in your kitchen.

    Incidentally, the header photo on my blog was taken in New Hampshire.
    And yes - - a sense of melancholy often makes me happy. Probably something to do with my Magyar heritage.....

  19. I love the corridor, so creative. It's a great photo too!

    It seems to me that whenever something is going smoothly and we are enjoying ourselves, something comes along to spoil that. A niggling thought about whether we've locked the car or did we leave the tap running etc. It seems we aren't allowed to be worry free for too long!

  20. Happy bonfire night!

    What a great event that was.

    Everyone sure look like they are enjoying themselves. Wine and good food with great company. :)

  21. What a wonderful evening - and a wonderful neighbour you have! We all need neighbours like that.

  22. What a terror and glad it did not cause indigestion. I have had a few scares like that myself. The blonde wooded hallway is so beautiful in design as are all the other rooms. The settings and personalities of the chefs seemed to overplay the food.

  23. What a fabulous event... and most unusual. The realisation that you'd left the potatoes boiling must have been a great worry so I'm glad you were able to contact the obliging neighbour. I'm not a lover of bonfires ... or boiled dry spuds.

  24. The cooking and tasting must have been a lot of fun. The worry about a fire at home - not so much. Thankfully everything turned out ok. I'm off to see if I can find a recipe for those chick peas.


  25. I wanna be you! You always get to go to the most interesting places!

  26. Just Wonderful! I was lulled by your lovely wine and dinner and then I could feel your panic and worry. I was swept along by both. I'm glad nothing was burnt (except for old Guy Fawkes) and that you were able to go back and relax and enjoy the rest of your evening. The Greek cooking expreince sounds very well organized and the dinner sounds great. I think I'll go have lunch now, it's made me hungry!

  27. The building looks as if it's been very sensitively and imaginatively refurbished. I love the corridor done entirely in wood laminate - a very clever idea. The food looks sensational, I wish I could have sampled some of it. I must investigate that pitaroudia recipe, sounds ideal for us vegetarians.

    Glad to know there was no potato inferno chez vous!

  28. Chick pea fritters, I like the sound of that!
    I came home once, long ago, and found a fire engine at the door and the chief leaving a note about pots on electric cookers! The black things at the bottom of the burnt pot were peas once!

  29. My thoughts precisely. I was wondering whether it was only me or if there weren't as many fireworks last night as I was used to seeing before? I think health and safety and insurance have had something to do with it.

    Have a great rest of the week.

  30. Hum, the food looked so wonderful and the wine makes it even better!

  31. I'm happy that the Guy Fawkes Night gone away and your home remained safe and sound, Jenny!
    Sometimes I feel the same situation being in a theater when I try to remember whether I had turned off an iron.
    Have a nice weekend!

  32. What a fantastic evening! Thank goodness the potatoes were sorted out :-) x

  33. the food and wine look great and so glad things at home were ok too! wow, that would be scary. I'm a worrier so before I leave home, I always have to check the stove etc, it's just part of my routine. I bet you'll be checking the stove when you leave from now on too! ;<)

  34. Yum - an excellent night! So glad you had turned the potatoes off!
    Anna :o]

  35. Oh my hat! Crisis averted, indeed!!! Thank goodness for good neighbours. This looks like a fabulous event!

  36. very cool...i would love to experience a guy f night....i love a good bonfire...the story behind it as well is intriguing.....that corridor is dizzying....ha....but it is cool what they did with that space....

  37. What an exquisite adventure, and it even included good food and wine! Doesn't get much better than THAT! I've never seen a corridor with wood laminate on the walls and ceiling before. It kinda reminds me of an elongated sauna; all you need are some steamy coals to open your pores and properly bring out the frizz in your hair as you walk through to the dining area.

  38. Your life is so exciting and posh!!!!! Lucky girl!!

  39. What a gorgeous restaurant...makes me miss Greece.

  40. What a nice insight view. Loved it.

  41. That looks, and sounds, a really interesting event. Lovely food! So glad you were able to find a neighbour with a key!

  42. Your posts always make me want to travel (and eat!). Thanks!

  43. The sort of evening to be remembered for quite a few different reasons!

  44. Now, I'm both hungry and thirsty! That food and the wine is very tempting!

    I'm glad everything worked out safely for you. There's nothing quite as bad as wondering if you've turned the iron off...or the potatoes! One's mind never rests until the question is answered.


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