A tear of joy: food parcels from abroad

There is nothing quite like receiving a food parcel from a different country – especially with surprise ingredients that are not available here in SA.

I got to work the other day and found a beautiful package from a friend on my desk. We took a pic of it so I could share with you just how inspiring it was. It came wrapped up in Greek newspaper and tied with a traditional lucky charm, snug in a pretty paper printed bag from a Greek bakery.

First we wowed over the packaging, then came the aahing over the contents: a box of Greek mountain oregano, a packet of gum mastic, and some mastic flavoured chewing gum.

There’s something quite special about this type of oregano. Maybe its the image of those fields of white flowers growing up the mountain slopes that are picked and sold in huge bunches at the markets… but for me it does have a heady and spicier flavour than our local variety. It also seems more aromatic and pungent, with a slight bitter taste. I admit that oregano is one herb that I prefer dried. I love it with a good shake of celery salt in a bloody mary.

And what’s mastic, you ask? Ever since the owner of a local Greek restaurant (who’s unfortunately moved back to the islands) spoke to me about this flavouring used in desserts, biscuits and ice creams, I have been intrigued, dying to get my hands on these exotic crystals.

Gum mastic is a resin that drips off the mastic tree, which is similar to the pistachio, and forms little droplets, referred to as ‘tears’. Mastic imparts the most wonderful piney, cedar flavour when used in cooking, especially sweet treats, although some like to add a tear or two to tomato sauce.

I made a panna cotta flavoured with mastic and some dried fennel (another dried herb I like to use), which was a new and unusual taste to get excited about. Almost as exciting as the food package itself! The sender, Tina–Marie, has a passion for Greece and often visits the country, spending time with local families and working in tavernas. Have a look at her inspiring website:

Have a great week!


PS If you like panna cotta, try this vanilla version with mocha sauce or this lactose-free rice milk panna cotta, and if you’re truly inspired, roast a Greek-style lamb.

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