For a little while now, every other year, my amazing dad has sent us tickets and flown us over to join him for a holiday in Europe.
Heís not an extravagant man usually. It seems like the opposite right now though.
Hidden away in a remote valley in Greece, weíre in the kind of house you only really see in movies: we have cleaners, a pool boy and a magical elf who does the laundry.
The domestic (whatís the opposite of goddess?) in me has died and gone to heaven.
I am insanely grateful for these out-of-the-ordinary trips across the pond. I like to think that Iíll send dad tickets one day, too. Hopefully, not just for the movie.
This time, as always, weíve flown over for a family reunion. Coming from France, Hungary, the UK, Australia and, obviously, Bermuda, too, our youngest is 5 and our eldest is 87.
We have an eclectic mix of professions and religions and political beliefs, so it could be a recipe for disaster.
Instead though, itís night after night of late family dinners, cocktails and wine and long, long chats. Weíre only on day three though; give it time! Ha ha ha.
Today, we were brave and did some sightseeing.
Brave, partly because sightseeing with 22 people is not for the faint-hearted, and partly because the road leading to the house is basically a mile of rubble and slippery rocks with a few alarming drops. Iím amazed we arrived alive the first time.
So leaving voluntarily, only to have to navigate the path back, seems a little reckless.
Itís a beautiful road through lime, orange and olive groves, there are even wild horses on the tracks, but itís a bit of a lottery each time as to whether or not we will make it.
Death-by-driveway to your luxury estate is a First World problem I know. Iím not expecting sympathy!
Also, crossing me off the sympathy list, is the fact that we have a cook.
Not having to shop or think about whoís eating what for a few weeks is the icing on the (very amazing) cake.
Iím so in love I might leave the children and all our things here. Iím just going to pack our chef, Monika Pavlou, and bring her home to Bermuda!
The other good thing about not doing the grocery shop is that Iím not tempted to buy cookies, chips and all the other bits and bobs that we just donít need.
Monikaís cooking is clean and simple and healthy and there just isnít any rubbish to snack on.
Iíd describe it as a detox except the wine is free-flowing ó so thatís probably cheating.
Weíre having simple Greek dishes that are packed with flavour and taste incredible.
My favourite so far are the stuffed peppers and tomatoes. They are so delicious and go with everything.
Theyíd be easy to reheat, too, if there were ever any left. So this evening, I sat on the kitchen counter while she cooked and faithfully wrote down everything she told me.
There was an element of charades and guesswork, but I think I have it all!
Before she worked here, Monika used to sell oranges on Aegina island.
This recipe comes from family friends there.
Itís a vegan recipe as Greeks often do a vegan fast for religious reasons from August 1 through 15.
Instead of serving with meat, these are amplified with pine nuts and sultanas.
They are just so delicious. Give them a go and let me know how you get on. Hereís exactly how to do it:
Stuffed peppers and tomatoes from Aegina (Makes 24, for a crowd and the freezer)
12 small peppers and 12 large tomatoes
3 regular onions, chopped
1 bunch spring onions (just the white part), chopped
1 bunch spring mint (or dried), torn and chopped
1 bunch of fresh basil (or dried), torn and chopped
1 bunch parsley, torn and chopped
6 tbs pine nuts
6 tbs sultanas
Salt and pepper
4 garlic cloves
3 tbs sugar (possibly reduce)
Ĺ cup olive oil
500g tomato juice/passata
5 cups Carolina rice
2 large potatoes
Slice the tops off the peppers and tomatoes (keep them).
Keep the seeds from one pepper, but otherwise remove the insides. Keep the insides from the tomatoes; set to one side.
Place the shells of the peppers and tomatoes into a large, greased baking dish (or two).
In a large bowl, using a handheld blender, purťe the tomato insides, garlic cloves, ľ cup olive oil, salt and pepper, sugar and 1 litre of water. Peel the potatoes, dice into eight to ten pieces each and place them in the liquid mix. Set to one side.
Sautť the onions (both types) in a generous dash of olive oil. Add the herbs, sultanas and the pine nuts. Season with salt and pepper. When the onions are tender, add the passata, pepper seeds, the rest of the olive oil and the rice.
Stir well and then remove from the heat. The rice is uncooked at this point.
Stuff the peppers and tomatoes only half-full, so they have room to swell.
Use a ladle and top up the peppers and tomatoes with the liquid mix. Put the tops on and scatter with salt and pepper.
If there is any remaining liquid, just add it to the base of the pan over the potatoes.
Cook for 90 minutes at 430F. Donít cover! If the skins burn a little thatís fine.
Test that the rice and potatoes are soft. Serve alone with salad or as a side to meat or fish.
ē Catherine Burns is a qualified nutritional therapist. For more details: www.natural.bm, 236-7511 or Natural Nutrition Bermuda on Facebook