Thursday, August 21, 2014

Anginares a la Polita (Artichoke Stew "of the city")

Tony and I are still in Limnos, enjoying the endless sunshine and warm weather. Soon we'll be back in Melbourne, braving the rest of the cold winter months that are still to come.

As always, we have been having an amazing time, swimming in pristine waters, taking motor scooter rides to small villages, walking the narrow cobble streets, having long talks and lots of laughs with the family, and of course eating like we never do in Australia.

I've taken way too many photos and still feel as though I haven't captured everything we see and do while in Limnos. My weekend in Lesvos a few days ago almost killed my camera it was such a picturesque place – might have to make that one a three-part series post!

Speaking of series, the 'Limnos then and now' series is almost complete. I have one more photo to take and then I'm done. I've also been working on an 'Only in Limnos' series of images which has been a lot of fun. All coming to the blog soon!

And of course I still have a few more recipes to post, and not to mention the taverna reviews I've been writing up but haven't had a chance to post yet! I have six reviews to share with you – five from Limnos and one from Lesvos.

But on to another recipe: This is a simple Greek vegetarian dish made with artichokes, carrots and potatoes stewed in a lemon and dill sauce. Koula and I make this dish every year in Limnos as it really is one of my favourites. The name a la Polita, meaning 'of the city', refers to the Greek people that lived in the city of Constantinople (now known as Istanbul), and the dish that originated from the area.

Fresh artichokes are not the easiest of vegetables to prepare as they are surrounded by layers of tough leaves and a fibrous centre that all need to be removed. As artichokes are used in many Greek dishes, frozen pre-trimmed artichokes are available at supermarkets everywhere in Greece. I haven't seen frozen artichokes in Australia – only bottled pickled artichokes which are not suitable for this recipe. So unless you can find pre-trimmed frozen artichokes, you will need to prepare your artichokes before using. Click here for some helpful tips.

The traditional recipe for Anginares a la Polita calls for standard (large) onions, but for this recipe Koula and I used small 'cocktail' onions. While there might be a little more preparation involved in the time it takes to peel large amounts of these little babies, I think they taste much nicer than their bigger brothers and add a delicate sweetness to this dish.

The quantity of dill may sound excessive (1 full cup of chopped dill) but cooked down in the stew it adds a fresh, summery flavour that works brilliantly with the tang of the artichokes and lemon.

In the photo at the end of this post, you might notice we kept the potatoes separate from the stew (they were baked in the oven and served as a side dish – this was only because some people at our table can't eat potatoes). The recipe below includes the potatoes in the stew.

We also used lots of very small carrots (fresh from the garden), but traditionally, two or three large carrots are used in this recipe.

Anginares a la Polita (Artichoke Stew)

Serves 6–8


  • 30 small cocktail onions, ends trimmed, peeled and left whole
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 cup chopped dill
  • 3 cups water
  • 12 fresh or frozen trimmed artichokes
  • 2 potatoes, roughly chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 2–3 large carrots (or 15 very small carrots), sliced


  1. Heat oil in a large pot over high heat.
  2. Add salt, flour and cocktail onions and stir for 2 minutes.
  3. Add lemon juice, water and dill and simmer on medium heat for 10 minutes.
  4. Add artichokes, potatoes and carrots, adding more water if necessary (vegetables should be just covered with water).
  5. Cover and simmer on low heat for 1 hour or until vegetables are tender.


Saturday, August 16, 2014

Boat trips around the island of Limnos

Every year in Limnos Tony and I love to take two or three boat trips around the island. Our good friends Litsa and her husband George own the traditional vessel "Anemos" (meaning "wind" in Greek), and they take tourists on full-day trips to either the south coast or along the west coast to the northern tip of the island. There is also an evening sunset cruise which offers spectacular views of the golden Greek sun going down over the water's horizon.

It doesn't matter how many times Tony and I take these trips, we can't get enough of the Mediterranean seas, the views, the gentle sway of the boat, the company of Litsa and George, and the new people we meet on each trip.

Leaving the port of Myrina at 10am, it's a lazy start to the day, but the water is so serene and calm at this time of the morning – so mesmerising and gentle on the eyes.

The first couple of hours of these trips are spent cruising around dramatic cliff faces and volcanic rock formations, passing small villages and secluded beaches along the way.

One of the most spectacular sights is to watch wild mountain goats cling to vertical rock faces of the coastal cliffs. I'm always fascinated by their skill and bravery to explore these treacherous parts of the island, and try not to think about them not being able to make their way back to higher ground. In her thick Greek accent, Litsa reassures us she sees the goats climbing up and down the cliff faces all the time, "Don't worry, these goats are acrobats!"

If you look closely in the picture below, right in the centre of the photo you will see a lone black goat. How did he get there? But more importantly, how will he get out of there!

Anemos then anchors at a quiet beach that is only accessible by boat – the adventurous will dive off the boat straight into the warm water, others will take a small motor boat to the shore – and we have the place to ourselves to swim with the fish and explore the area, abundant with beautiful sea shells and multi-coloured pebbles.

A baby squid :)

Later we return to the boat for a full buffet lunch which includes both vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, fresh bread, Greek salad and Limnian wine.

After lunch we laze around on the deck, snoozing under the shaded canopy or soaking up the sun, and later there's music and chatting, laughing and swapping facebook friendships, a bit of Greek dancing and a lot of fun.

Litsa and Tony:

The sunset cruise takes you half-way up the west coast, leaving Myrina port a couple of hours before sunset. The sunset viewing location is spectacular – on the horizon is Mount Athos on the Greek mainland, the second-highest mountain in Greece, and behind you is a vast expanse of mineral-rich cliff faces emitting a brilliant golden glow. What a beautiful way to end another wonderful day in Limnos.

Litsa and George's boat trips come with the highest recommendations from Tony and I. They run boat trips almost every day of the week during the summer months. Call George on his mobile next time you're in Limnos to book one of these must-do tours of the island's beautiful coastlines.

Anemos boat trips, Limnos
Call George: 6945 132 163 (Greek mobile/cell phone number)

Please note: I have not been paid to promote the Anemos boat trips. Tony and I support this business from the bottom of our hearts. Our friends Litsa and George have a true passion for the sea and work hard to provide this wonderful experience for tourists to the island of Limnos.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Limnos then and now – Part II

One of my personal missions this year in Limnos is to find and photograph the exact locations depicted in 14 photographs that I took on my first trip to the island 31 years ago. I am documenting the progress of my mission here on the blog and today I have the second part of a five-part series to share with you. (Part I can be found here).

Trying to find the same locations in Limnos that I photographed way back in 1983 has proven to be both fun and frustrating, but the best moments have been when one of these seemingly illusive locations  just appear before me when I least expect them to.

Tony and I had been traipsing the streets of Myrina for hours under the burning sun looking for the location of a special image I'd taken all those years ago of a village man and his horse and cart. Here in Limnos this delightful mode of transport was still being used by some, right up until the late 1990s.

The background of this image was quite sparse, revealing only a section of a raised veranda and the front of a house, and even though I had a hunch where the location might have been, I soon realised this one was going to be quite a challenge to find.

Unfortunately my memory of the street where I thought I'd taken the photograph had failed me miserably, having paced up and down said street many times looking for anything that resembled the background of the shot. We resolved it could have in fact been anywhere within a five-kilometre radius of Myrina, gave up and started heading back to the house.

As we turned the corner onto our cobble-stoned road I looked to Tony and said, 'Wouldn't it be funny if the house we're looking for was right on our street?' and yep, you guessed it, there it was. Not only on our street, but right next door to our house!

The house has had some renovations, new windows and door, the iron railing has been replaced (and the mode of transport is somewhat more advanced these days!), but the stone wall and pillars of the veranda are largely the same which is what jumped out at us confirming that this was the place.

The next shot was another one I thought I'd never be able to find. It was a stock-standard cobble-stoned Limnian street with white-washed village homes either side. It could have been anywhere! The only distinguishing feature of the image was a large tree painted white at the base and growing out of a corner in the road in front of an iron fence.

With the images from 1983 stored in my iPhone, I studied the original image intently, squinting at the small screen, blinded by the sun, as I weaved in and out of Myrina's streets looking for this tree in the corner. Then once again, just as I was ready to give up, I spotted a house with red shutters over the windows that looked remarkably like the house in the original shot. But no tree. This threw me. Could it be the same location? With iPhone in one hand and camera in the other, I lined up the shot and every other element was there, the corner, the iron fence, the balcony on the right. There is a new building behind the house and no tree in the corner, but I'm convinced it's the same place. What do you think?

The last image for Part II was easy peasy to locate but not so easy to line up for the shot. Limnos' Venetian castle (Castro) and the Church of Saint Paraskevi can be seen from anywhere along Romaikos Yiallos beach which stretches 600 metres. However, standing 200 metres from Castro will give you quite a different perspective of the church and the hill than the view from 400 metres away. I'm embarrassed to admit I took around 20 photos before I got it right – that would have been almost a whole roll of film in the old days! (And I still didn't get it exactly right).

Even though now covered by thick trees, the building on the far left has been completely restored. I believe it is owned by the council and has been made into a multipurpose hall, sometimes used as an art gallery.

I know these 'then and now' photos don't make the most riveting content for a blog (particularly a food blog!), but it's something that is keeping me inspired while in Limnos as I've been going through a bit of a creative lull in recent months. But if you can bear with me I've got a gorgeous recipe for A la Polita (Artichoke stew) coming soon, and this weekend I'm off on a little adventure to Lesvos which I'm sure will provide plenty of material, both photographic and culinary, for the blog. See you again soon :).

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mushroom Moussaka

This drug called 'Limnos' . . . it's good stuff! It puts you in a trance of heavenly bliss, keeping you hopelessly relaxed and carefree for the entire time you are exposed to this beautiful Greek island.

Tony and I are both addicted. That's why we come here every year. And we don't care if we do nothing but eat, sleep and watch the Limnian world go by. Perhaps a little more 'eat' than we should but this is what the lure of Limnos does to us!

A few nights ago we ate at a wonderful little port-side restaurant, Glaros Taverna, and I couldn't believe my eyes when I spotted, for the second time on a Greek island menu, Vegetarian Moussaka! It was surprising enough to find one of these on the menu at Argo Restaurant in Santorini last year, but to find Vegetarian Moussaka in Limnos was nothing short of a miracle.

Needless to say, the vegetarian moussaka at Glaros was delicious! Tony and I plan to visit again for lunch in the next few days when I will write a proper review of the taverna and the food. And I have a few Limnian taverna reviews up my sleeve already which I will be posting very soon.

It may have been well over a year ago, but I haven't forgotten a promise I made to share with you a recipe for vegetarian moussaka using mushrooms. Over the last week of family lunches we have enjoyed this dish twice here in Limnos – one was Koula's recipe, the other mine – so what better time than now, while it's fresh in my food-obsessed mind, to finally write the post for mushroom moussaka.

Today I am combining elements of both recipes to share with you the ultimate vegetarian moussaka made with fresh mushrooms, eggplant, potato and zucchini.

Mushroom Moussaka

Serves 6


  • 4 large tomatoes, blanched, peeled and chopped
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 potatoes, sliced lengthways, 1 cm thick
  • 2 large eggplants, sliced lengthways, 1 cm thick
  • 3 zucchinis, sliced lengthways, 1 cm thick
  • 500g button mushrooms, sliced
  • 1/2 cup of red wine
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon oregano
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil, plus extra for brushing vegetables

Bechamel Sauce
  • 3 tablespoons plain flour
  • 30g butter
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1/2 cup grated tasty cheese
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • Freshly ground nutmeg to taste
  • Salt to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  2. Brush bottom of a 30cm x 30cm (approx) deep baking dish with olive oil and arrange potato slices in one layer over the oil. Brush top of potatoes with more oil and place dish on lower rack in oven.
  3. Lay eggplants over an oiled baking tray, brushing slices liberally with olive oil, and place tray on upper rack in oven.
  4. Place 1/4 cup of olive oil and onions in a medium-sized saucepan and fry over medium to high heat for 3 to 4 minutes.
  5. Add mushrooms to saucepan and fry, stirring, until liquid is released from mushrooms. Keep frying until all liquid except the oil has evaporated.
  6. Add red wine and stir for 2 minutes, still over medium to high heat.
  7. Add spices, oregano and bay leaves and cook for another minute or so.
  8. Add chopped tomatoes and reduce heat to low. Allow to simmer for one hour, or until sauce has thickened and reduced by around half.
  9. When eggplant is lightly golden (around 30 minutes), remove from oven and allow to cool enough to remove eggplant from tray and set aside.
  10. Re-oil the baking tray and lay zucchini slices on tray. Brush with oil and place back in oven.
  11. Remove dish with potatoes from oven once potatoes are lightly golden (around 40 minutes).
  12. Spread a small amount of mushroom/tomato sauce over potatoes and arrange eggplants over the sauce.
  13. Pour the remaining mushroom/tomato sauce over eggplants and spread evenly.
  14. Meanwhile make the béchamel sauce (see below).
  15. Once zucchini are lightly golden (around 20 minutes), remove from oven and when cool enough to touch, add to dish, laying over mushroom/tomato sauce. 
  16. Pour béchamel sauce over the top of the zucchinis and bake in oven for 45 minutes, until the top is golden.

Bechamel Sauce
  1. Melt butter over medium heat in a medium-sized saucepan. 
  2. Add flour and stir vigorously to make a soft paste. Cook, stirring, over medium heat for one minute. 
  3. Remove from heat and add a small amount of milk and using a whisk, stir quickly to combine. The butter will cool and harden as the milk is added so you need to work quickly, adding more and more milk, a little at a time, whisking all the time to keep the consistency of the sauce smooth. 
  4. Once all milk is incorporated, return saucepan to medium heat and stir constantly until sauce thickens – around 10 minutes. 
  5. Remove from heat and add grated cheese, nutmeg, salt and egg and whisk until smooth. Cover béchamel sauce and set aside until needed.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Limnos then and now – Part I

My first visit to Limnos was as a young teenager back in 1983. I was travelling with my Dad and younger sister on a month-long adventure driving across Greece, covering much of the country from the gorgeous Ionian Sea island of Corfu to the picturesque mainland region of Ioannina, over the mountains of Metsovo and Meteora, then winding up the final week of our trip in Limnos.

The old family house was only a shell of what it is today, and the island itself was more than a little rough around the edges, having never been preened for tourism and bearing the brunt of various earthquakes over the years. Limnos was (and to those who don't have a family-roots bias, still is) a far cry from the idyllic white-washed image people have of the Greek islands, but as a first-time traveller I was eager to explore the island where my grandmother was born and where other relatives were still living.

Armed with an instamatic camera, I used an entire roll of film in Limnos (a massive 24 photos), 14 of which were of decent enough quality to put into a photo album. (Take note young things: an Instamatic was a Kodak point-and-shoot camera, popular in the 70s and 80s, the name of which, and quality of images that it produced, arguably providing the main inspiration for Instagram.)

Before we left to come to Limnos this year, I digitised these 14 photos from 1983 (using the high-tech method of taking photos of the photos!) in preparation for a project that I'm currently working on: to find the exact locations depicted in the original images, and photograph them as they are today.

As you might have noticed, I've been very bad at keeping the momentum going with this blog, even while here in Limnos with all the inspiration a Greek island has to offer, but with only 16 days left here in Limnos I am determined to at least complete the 'Limnos then and now' project before we leave. It's a bit self-indulgent, I know, but I hope it might also be of interest to others, especially those that know Limnos, to see how things have (or haven't) changed here. And don't worry, I have also been busily documenting some of Koula's cooking sessions in the kitchen here at the house and will be posting those recipes soon.

So back to the project: so far I've located and photographed 8 of the 14 shots. Some have been easy, others are proving to be a lot harder to locate! But the most challenging photo that I am yet to take will be a shot of my dad in the back terrace of the house sitting at a table with his uncle and another old friend. As the uncle and friend have unfortunately since passed, Tony and my dad's brother George will step in to complete the trio, however, the challenging part of this shot will be recreating the scene itself.

I believe the furniture and other props in the shot still exist somewhere here in this large rambling house of ours, so over the next few days Julia and I will be on a mission to find and gather the necessary elements to reconstruct the scene, 31 years after the fact :).

In the meantime, here are two of the 'then and now' pairs of photographs that I've taken so far. They were both taken in the main town of Myrina, during siesta time when all is quiet down the main street.

The first pair of shots begins with an old building suffering a severe lean, seemingly destined for a life in ruin, but now has thankfully been 'pushed back' and patched up to live on its days in the new millennium.

And in the following pics, the kiosk has long been gone but 31 years later the plane tree still grows, its trunk perhaps twice the thickness of its former self. Perhaps more importantly though are the fine examples of 80s fashion depicted in the first pic, most notably the shorts on the guy with the pram.

Part II of the 'Limnos then and now' series can be found here.

Tomorrow Tony and I will be preparing the family lunch and plan to include vegetarian moussaka on the menu so I'll be sure to write that one up for the blog in the next few days. Koula will also be helping with preparations and has promised to make a batch of her sticky sweet baklava rolls that I have featured previously on the blog here. Until then, keep an eye on Facebook for random photos from Limnos and I'll do my best to drag myself away from the glorious sunshine here to write again soon.