A Greek Meal & Memories of Leonard Cohen

Kardamyli, Greece
Kardamyli, Greece

On Saturday morning I woke to news of Leonard Cohen’s death. Of all the famous who have died this sad year, none has touched me as much as Cohen’s. I ‘discovered’ him in a youth hostel in France – in Quiberon, Brittany – when I was 19. A heaving communal room where we ate sparingly and drank too much late into the night and Leonard Cohen’s Songs from a Room played endlessly on the turntable, his gravelly voice and mournful tone filling the room. It’s where love first touched me as in the crowded space I felt eyes boring into my back and turned to see Jean, a French guy I barely knew, looking at me. Don’t ever tell me that a spark of electricity between people doesn’t exist; I know it does.

My love for Cohen’s songs led to me buying books of his poetry, his novels, but he came in and out of my life over the years and only recently, when in his late 70s he returned to the stage, was I touched again. Wow! Dylan may have been awarded the Nobel Prize (and I love Dylan’s words too) but Cohen is just as powerful, just as amazing; his words just as beautiful, touching parts of you that you didn’t know yearned to be recognised.

Leonard Cohen loved Greece and it was on the island of Hydra that he wrote so many of his most famous songs, like Bird on the Wire, and where he met Marianne. Later, of buying his home there, he said: ‘The years are flying past and we all waste so much time wondering if we dare to do this or that, the thing is to leap, to try, to take a chance.’

As Cohen’s songs blasted through my house on Saturday morning, a Greek meal was being prepared. Nicola and Rachael were on their way from Birmingham, willing to chance getting into Twickenham despite the 82,000 rugby fans invading the streets for England v. South Africa. Jonathan came back from Waitrose with a chicken in hand, keen to try out his new monster of a gas Weber barbecue, delivered in the week.


We discussed how to cook the chicken. I said why not season it with some of the new batch of Yiannis’s herbs that arrived recently, a gift from the lovely DeeDee who so kindly bought some in Kardamyli for me and then posted them once home.


I promise you, you will never find dried herbs more wonderful than these, picked by Yiannis where they grow wild in the mountains behind Kardamyli and then dried in his shop. I opened the pack and the glorious smell filled the air. Jonathan sprinkled some over the spatchcocked chicken with olive oil, lemons and seasoning.

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He made a tahini sauce to go over the chicken and also cooked the rest of the kofte I made the other day (click here). I’ve teased my son mercilessly about his new ‘toy’ but have to say that the proof of its worth was in the cooking. Jonathan is an excellent cook – not just barbecue – but this food was exceptionally good … despite my complaining that gas wasn’t real barbecuing …

I made a Freekeh & Courgette salad; we had hummus and green salad, and at the last moment I cooked saganaki with kefalotyri cheese I found in Waitrose and some halloumi too.


This has to be the best way to cook halloumi or other Greek cheese. It’s brilliant!

We left Greece for dessert. Early in the morning I’d baked a Rhubarb & Almond Cake, which we ate with crème fraîche and strong espresso.


Leonard Cohen was still playing in the background. So long Leonard … thank you for your wise words, which will live with us for ever.

‘There’s a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in’

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A lifelong lover of good food and travel; writer and book editor

14 thoughts on “A Greek Meal & Memories of Leonard Cohen

  1. Kay, this is a beautiful post. I am also a big fan of Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan. I saw Leonard Cohen in concert in Berkeley about eight years ago and just loved it. This was a sad week for me in many ways.
    Your meal looks great and I would love to get those Greek herbs. Maybe I just go to Greece for a while to get away from the craziness in my country.

    1. Thank you Gerlinde 🙂 How wonderful to have seen Leonard Cohen live; I didn’t manage that. Yes it’s been a difficult week and UK is doing some crazy things too. But I’m happy to tell you that you could get some of the herbs from Yiannis if you email him: iedimit1@otenet.gr and Greece is a beautiful place to visit.

  2. Not one for tears but this is the second time this week. My dear friend’s husband died the other day. He was the greatest fan of Leonard Cohen and I remember thinking I’m glad he went before him. It’s hard to witness the passing of any of one’s generation – we all thought we would live forever and as Dylan said ‘stay forever young’. Like yours, though, my memories are good.
    As you say a Greek meal was an apposite reminder of both him and of happier times.
    And it sounded great!

    1. Thank you, Di. It was a bit different to my normal posts but I’d been thinking about it all day, writing up the Greek meal, and one can’t let Leonard Cohen go without a proper goodbye.

  3. Hi Kay, I love Leonard Cohen and feel the same. His music and he has accompanied my life on and off since teen years. I saw him at O2 and at Brooklands in recent years. Fabulous even in the pouring rain with less enthusiastic spouses, who were won over.
    I have never found the music depressing rather poetic and considered. I will be trying your Greek meal. Warm wishes.

    1. Hi Lisa, thank you for your comment and how lucky to have seen him. I’m glad you feel the same. I think his voice beautiful and his songs often offer hope despite some of the pain of living. I hope you enjoy the meal! 🙂

  4. Are we allowed two shots at one blog? – because I just wanted to say something about the delicious saganaki you made. I remember you saying you had not been able to get black sesame seeds for it so used white instead. Some while back I wanted to try making some black sesame ice-cream – great for funereal meals – possibly!!! Anyway found a very useful website called Sous Chef which has a hugely eclectic range of ‘foodie’ stuff including black sesame seeds. So just passing that on though you may probably know of it anyway.

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