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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 6 December 2014
SATURDAY 6 DECEMBER 2014 21 diversity Lesvos and in Asia Minor. Being the time of the legendary Trojan war around 1400BC, somehow the Mycenaean's, for whatever reason, did not create settlements on Lesvos. A little later, Aeolian Greeks from Thessaly founded colonies on the island and on the coast of Asia Minor. According to myth the first Aeolian king was Lesvos, son of Lapithas, king of Thessaly and grandson of Aeolus. He sailed to the island from Thessaly and married Mithymna, daughter of the local King Macares, and from that time on the island was called Lesvos and we are told that they Hellenised the island. Its capital Mytilene has been around since the Aeolians were there, along with five other towns at the time. During the Greek classical era Lesbos underwent many political changes thanks to the wars with Persia. Lesvos often changed sides till they settled with the Athenian side, entering an alliance with them in 477BC. But the local battles continued as Samos revolted against Athens and between 440BC the power struggle continued for many years to come till Alexander the Great began to conquer Asia and the Lesvians lost no time to align themselves with him. They remained under Macedonian rule until the Roman invasion in 167BC, and the island prospered well into the Christian era - archaeologists have unearthed 57 basilicas to date. Lesvos was part of the Byzantine Empire in the Middle Ages and changed hands a number of times thanks to Slavic, Italian and Spanish invasions. But thanks to its proximity to Turkey, Lesvos became an early Ottoman conquest, and was overtaken by the Ottoman Empire in 1462. It returned to Greek leadership in 1912 and was flooded by Greek refugees from Asia Minor ten years later, giving it a uniquely mixed Middle Eastern and Mediterranean cuisine. Lesbos is one of the most beautiful islands in the Aegean, with interesting modern culture, its capital Mytilene with its old Neo Classical buildings surrounded, as in all Greek cities and towns, with a modern concrete town. The villages of Molivos and Petra are Greek heritage-listed and have been since the ‘70s. The petrified forest of Lesbos on the western tip of the island is possibly the largest of the petrified forests of the world, covering an area of over 150km and declared a national monument in 1985. Large, upright trunks complete with root systems can be found, as well as trunks up to 22m in length and as of spring 2014 the area was proposed for UNESCO's tentative List of World Heritage Sites. Lesvos has given us Odysseus Elytis, Nobel Laureate for literature 1979 for his poetry, the author Stratis Myrivilis, Eftaliotis in the 20th century and from the past Sappho, Alceus and Theophrastus. The University of the Aegean is based on Lesbos with faculties spread out amongst Chios, Limnos, Samos and Rhodes. It was established in 1984 and is considered one of the most progressive in Greece and has won several awards in some departments. It has a Food Science Department, with its campus being in Myrina, Limnos. But let’s get to the ouzo, of which Lesvos produces some of the best: Plomari, Pitsilidi, Dimini, Mini and Kefi are all local. Like its neighbours Lemnos and Chios, the cultivation of anise and of mastic have become essential for ouzo production. Lesvos has many women's cooperatives making sweets, liqueur, hylopites (pasta), preserving vine leaves and making olives, as well as embroideries. Lesvos has an abundance of olive groves and from what I know supplies the region, especially Limnos, which is part of the Lesvos Municipality. Olive oil and olives are available in abundance. The island is also rich in seafood and with the Asia Minor and Italian influence, the culinary culture is rich and diverse. I dug up some very interesting recipes but I've given you what I feel is easy to make here in Australia and in our homes, so they might not be so adventurous, but drying fish in the open with our flies here was not on my radar. Baklava from Gera NOTE: Remember: cold baklava + hot syrup OR hot baklava + cold syrup Ingredients: 1 kilo of filo 1 kilo of blanched almonds 1 cup unsalted butter, melted 1 cup of simigdali (semolina) Syrup: 2 kilos of sugar 4 glasses water 1 spoonful of lemon juice ½ glass of rose water Method: 1. Mix the simigdali with the almonds. 2. Butter the pan and lay out 3-4 pastry sheets and butter again, adding a layer of the almond mix. 3. Continue layering like this, with pastry being the top layer. 4. Mark out the baklava pieces in a diamond shape with a sharp knife. 5. In each diamond put a clove in the centre. 6. Bake in a moderate oven 180°C for one hour. Boil the syrup ingredients until a little thick, add the rose water after removing from heat, pour the syrup on the baklava and allow to absorb for 2 hours. Sikaminia (sugared almonds) NOTE: You might prefer the almond meal a little coarser than the ready-made one, if so buy blanched almonds and blend, but keep in mind that the finer the almond meal, the easier it is to make into biscuits. Ingredients: 1 kilo of thick almond meal 1 kilo sugar 3 cups water ½ cup rose water ¼ kilo caster sugar Method: 1. Put water and sugar into a saucepan and make into syrup that is not too thick. 2. Add the almond meal and mix with a wooden spoon. 3. Quickly add the rose water before the mixture becomes too thick. 4. Allow to cool. 5. Make into shapes of your liking. 6. Coat with icing sugar.
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