Monday, September 22, 2014

Limnos then and now – Part III

It’s only been a few weeks since Tony and I were last seen whiling away the hours on the fine sands of a Greek island beach, but the distant memories of our always wonderful trips to Limnos so quickly become just that – distant memories.

We are now back in Melbourne, back to our old routines, trying to catch up on work that was put on hold while we were away, and always meaning to make time to write about the rest of our trip on the blog.

Last night I had a dream that someone had ‘burnt down’ my blog. You know how dreams are – something that makes complete sense in the dream is of course completely ridiculous in reality. But when I woke up it made me think about how upsetting it would be if my blog was to just disappear one day.

The Greek Vegetarian blog may not be the thriving space it once was, and perhaps I am the only one that visits these days, but it's reassuring to know that many of the memories and photos of our trips to Greece are stored here, as well as some silly stories I’ve put to words about my family history and experiments in the kitchen, and Tony and I love coming back here from time to time to reminisce.

It’s true I do have all the food and holiday photos stored on my computer – in fact there are so many photos I’m embarrassed to say I had to transfer most of them to several external hard-drives so that my desktop computer could keep functioning – but it’s far easier (and makes for a much more pleasant reminiscing experience) to view them in the format of a neatly laid-out blog.

Not only would I be devastated if I lost my blog, but it’s becoming increasingly depressing thinking about the prospect of looking back on a neglected blog.

Over the weekend I met someone who had been reading my blog, having heard about it from a friend of a friend. This person asked me when I would be putting up the next 'Limnos then and now' post. I was stunned that they had any interest at all in my self-indulgent project to photograph the same places in Limnos I’d visited over 30 years ago, especially given they had never been to Limnos, and weren’t even Greek.

But after seeing genuine interest in the eyes of this person, and then having my guilt and fear of losing the blog consolidating in a dream, it inspired me to set aside some time today to continue where I’d left off a few weeks ago.

As I’m sure I’ve already proclaimed, there are so many more things to tell you about our recent trip to Limnos, including recipes from my Aunt Koula and local taverna reviews. And I promise, for better or worse, these posts will slowly emerge over the coming months. But today I have Part III of the 'Limnos then and now' series to share with you. Part I can be found here, and Part II here.

It’s funny how places you know so well when viewed from a certain angle can suddenly become completely foreign when viewed from a different vantage point. This was the case with a photo I’d taken back in 1983 of the port of Myrina, Limnos' capital.

There were recognisable landmarks in the old photo that I knew still existed in Myrina, but I couldn’t understand how I’d photographed them from an angle that seemed to be a rearranged, mirror-image of my present-day perception of the scene.

It was only after visiting the area about eight times, bewildered by the conundrum before me, that I finally noticed an old seawall across the water (that has been there FOR EVER), and my narrow little mind realised that the port could actually be viewed from another angle.

It might have been 31 years since I’d walked along that seawall, but as I made my way around the port and across to the other side I was thrilled to have finally found the match for this photo.

Ironically, that very seawall was the subject of the next pair of photos. It’s not hard to miss this part of the port when you take a stroll along the cobble-stoned road, as on any given day it's likely you'll have the bejesus frightened out of you by some kid randomly jumping off the diving post and splashing loudly into the water.

Not a lot has changed here since 1983 except for a few more buildings and trees on the hills, and the absence of piled-up fishing nets on the seawall.

The fishing industry in Limnos has declined dramatically in recent years, mainly because there are very few fish left in the Aegean Sea. As a vegetarian and lover of all living beings, I don’t condone fishing of any kind, and while it’s a sad indictment that over-fishing has affected the livelihoods of many fishermen in Limnos, it’s even more deplorable how much over-fishing has affected the ecosystem of not just the Aegean Sea, but of all the oceans around the world. This documentary is a difficult watch but really opened my eyes to what the fishing industry is doing to our oceans.

Many of the images in the 'Limnos then and now' series show that not a lot changes on a traditional Greek island over a period of 30 years, but the following pair illustrates just how quickly some things can change.

On a lighter note, Tony and I have already been discussing our plans for next year's trip. Our desire to go back to Greece only gets stronger every time we return to a Melbourne winter, so talk of booking flights for our next trip usually starts around this time of year.

This time we are thinking of adding a little side-trip to Rhodes to visit George and Koula in their home town as they are not sure if they will be able to make the arduous three-flight trip from their island to Limnos next year.

We haven't made any bookings yet as we're still deciding on how our itinerary might shape up, but until then, I have around nine months to bring this blog back to a respectable state of relevance, and hopefully no one will burn it down in the meantime!

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.