As an adult and as someone totally (I mean totally into food), a visit to a market with the freshest of seasonal ingredients on offer is like a trip to an amusement park.
The Kapani Agora (market) in the center of Thessaloniki is one of those attractions…amusement for the foodie. The shouts of store owners and hired hands barking the day’s specials, pointing what’s the best, the freshest, the cheapest.
The sounds of cleavers chopping meat, the smell of meat, spices, herbs, seafood. When you’re in a market like Kapani…the smell of fish and seafood smells only of the sea. What fish and seafood one eats today was just swimming in the seas that morning.
During the Ottoman occupation, the market was called Oun Kapani or “flour market”. There used to be a square in the middle of the market and that’s where Turks would conduct public hangings of Greeks. The Kapani market burned down in 1889 and once again in the great fire of 1917.
The Kapani market is easy to get to when in Thessaloniki. Get yourself to Aristotle Square and Egnatia and walk along the right-side of arches, downwards toward the sea. In just minutes you will hear the sounds of the market and notice the rush of people entering and leaving Kapani. You’ll will be greeted by a couple of bakeries with their offerings of bread, Koulouria and sweets and then you will gaze at the array of fresh fruits and vegetables.
The southern “stoa” or portico is where one will find purveyors of cheese, sausages and cured meats.
A walk along Vlali Street and one will pass by the butcher shops with their lamb, goat, beef, poultry on offer, cut and trimmed per order.
My favourite roads are Askitou and Menexe where one will find all the fish mongers with daily catch. Having all the freshest seafood available made think a couple of times about moving to Greece for good!
Stores offering olives, cheeses and spices are strategically located at each corner of the market.
I’ve been to this market many times but I don’t tire of it. It’s a joy to walk through Kapani when you actually have a shopping list but it’s almost as fun just walking around and gazing at all that’s fresh and all that’s seasonal.
Here’s a little slide show with more photos I took whilst walking through the market.
Here in Canada, the weather now resembles autumn more than summer. A jacket is required for the evening and heartier dishes beckon.
Yesterday I braised some lamb shanks and paired it with some navy beans (fasolia). Braising meats are easy, economical and you’ll end up with the tastiest dishes.
Just remember when braising, always brown your meat, do over-crowd the contents (choose an appropriate vessel) and whatever it is your braising should not be submerged in the liquid.
The ingredients here are basic: lamb, your usual celery, carrot & onion trio, some garlic, wine, bay leaves,Â allspice berries and fresh rosemary.
The navy beans are dried and I had them soaking overnight before adding them to the braise.
Grab yourself some lamb shanks, get a notepad and let’s braise some lamg shanks. I accept that another summer is gone. I’m full-on with the autumn menus and all that’s comfort food!
Braised Lamb Shanks With Beans
4 lamb shanks
1/4 cup olive oil
all-purpose flour for dredging
1 large onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 stalk of celery, chopped
1 carrot, diced
3 bay leaves
5-6 allspice berries
the leaves of 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
3/4 cup of dry white wine
1 1/2 cups of dried navy beans (soaked in water overnight)
2 heaping Tbsp. of tomato paste + 2 cups of hot water
1 cup of hot water
salt and pepper to taste
extra-virgin olive oil for finishing
Pre-heated 350F oven
- Pre-heat your oven and rinse and pat-dry your lamb shanks. Season with salt and pepper and and lightly dredge in flour. He the oil in large casserole or Dutch oven over high heat and brown your lamb shanks on all sides and reserve.
- Allow the oil to cool a bit and then add your onions, celery, carrot and garlic and over medium heat, saute for 5 minutes. Now add the bay leaves, allspice and chopped rosemary leaves along and add the lamb shanks back into the cooking vessel.
- Pour the wine into the vessel and allow to simmer for a few minutes. Now dilute your tomato paste in the hot water and add into the mix along with your strained soaked navy beans. Mix well and bring to a boil. Add some salt and pepper and cover.
- Put the lid on your cooking vessel and place it in your pre-heated oven and cook for 1 hour.
- Taste and adjust seasoning with some salt and pepper. Add one more cup of water water and cover and return to the oven. Cook for one more hour.
- Serve each person with one lamb shank on a bed of beans, drizzle some extra-virgin olive oil, top with some fresh ground pepper and offer some good, crusty bread. Enjoy a bottle of Batistas Red Dry ofÂ Monemvasia.
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