Our son Jack got a masterclass in lobsters from Valentis while we were on holiday in Halki this year. Using incredibly fresh lobsters straight from the sea it was a hands-on lesson with Jack learning how to hold lobsters (and keep all his fingers!) and much more…such as:
- If the shell is softer the taste will be better
- Female lobsters taste sweeter than males
- Tickle their eyes to test their reflexes and therefore how fresh they are
- Although they generally move slowly they can use their tails to swim backwards at over 10 mph – it’s those strong muscles that can nip your fingers if you don’t hold them correctly.
- Ice makes them sleepy and hibernate
We also learnt how delicious lobster spaghetti is when expertly cooked by Valentis and Livanos, sweet tender lobster with linguini in a beautiful sauce.
Most young children wake up snuggled to their favourite teddy but Valentis (chef extraordinaire) woke up surrounded by lobsters. Why? Because Valentis’s father is a fisherman and at the age of six he would take Valentis in his boat fishing with him. As Valentis slept in his hammock his father was busy catching lobsters. The noise of the clapping lobsters used to work well as an alarm clock to wake him up! I think I will stick to the traditional way of waking with an alarm clock and a very kind husband’s lovely coffee.
To prepare a lobster for cooking: when I was training as a young commis chef we were taught to use a sharp knife to dig straight into the lobsters head right between the eyes killing it instantly. For me this appears to be a far more humane way, others prefer to immerse them in boiling water.
Cooking lobster at Valentis’s grill bar: You can cook lobster in many different ways; in Halki they do a wonderful lobster spaghetti where all of the lobster, including the shell, is used to produce a most delicious flavoured sauce which soaks into the spaghetti making a most sumptuous, flavoursome meal. However I prefer mine grilled and at Valentis’s grill my lobster was cooked beautifully. The Greeks say that the meat in the lobster’s head is the sweetest. My lobster was also full of beautiful pink roe which tastes most delicious, a sweet delicate flavour, with a smooth light texture. The lobster was served with a sauce in a separate bowl of lemon and olive oil with oregano . Now lobster is one of my most favourite foods to eat and this was the best lobster I had tasted in 15 years. It was fresh Halki lobster, not brought in from another island, and was like a fresh fruit handpicked from a tree, ready and ripe to eat. It was truly divine and a thing of (unusual!) beauty to look at.
Weddings these days! You can get married almost anywhere in the world, but alas some are so commercially driven that they lack the personal touch, others are so very stressed and fraught with trying to make things unnaturally perfect. Grace and Jack’s wedding appeared to be so very natural and a calm affair. As we say in my family “in Greek time” – a more relaxed and slower pace of life. I am sure there were a few mixed emotions of excitement and a touch of nerves but Greek Time gives the opportunity to make the very best of a special day and to savour every precious moment, where treasured times can move in slow motion and remain that way in your memory forever. Halki was their choice; a perfect island known as the island of peace and friendship. It’s like no other Greek Island I have ever experienced; unspoiled and with Italian influenced buildings, glorious rugged beauty seen in the mountain tops and it’s beautiful turquoise clear blue waters. All this and peopled with international holiday makers – British, Greek Americans, Italians, French and more. To start Grace and Jack’s celebrations the children of Halki in full traditional costume danced for the newlyweds in Valantis’s Taverna while the guests sipped champagne. The wedding breakfast was created from Valantis’s extensive menu: Greek salad consisting of cucumber, tomato, sweet onion, oregano and delicious Feta cheese Dimitri’s special village bread Crab salad (a traditional island favourite) with extra special ingredients created by Livanio,
calamari tempura perfectly cooked by Livanio
and a choice of meats cooked on the spit by Valantis, real melt in your mouth moments Spit roast lamb Spit roast Pork Chicken souvlaki All served with salad roast potatoes.
To end the meal perfectly was a Wedding Cake by Theodosia, a family run business opened in Halki in 1999 producing some of the best patisseries I have ever tasted. Theodosias also make their own ice cream and sorbet. They created an elegant and simple naturalistic looking cake, yet inside this beautiful cake was an incredibly sophisticated masterpiece that only could be created by a person with great skill. A Genoese sponge layered with a very light creamy mousse, truly a taste sensation and a moment of pleasure not easily forgotten.
My thanks to Grace, Jack and mother of the bride Mary for allowing me to write about their daughter’s wedding Breakfast. To Valantis Grill for allowing me to be a part of their team that day and for Valantis and Livanio for teaching me some amazing Greek cooking.
Valantis has an exciting new menu. Livanio Roditis, a chef with 24 years experience and specialising in fish, has joined them. He also kindly taught me a few things about his local fish dishes.
The Scorpion fish comes from the family of the world’s most poisonous fish. As it’s name suggests it has a sting – sharp spines coated in venomous mucus. However properly prepared this fish makes a delicious Greek fish soup rich and creamy. Red snapper and Sea Bream (which tastes a lot like Sea Bass) are two other fish prevalent in the Dodecanese.