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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 23 February 2019
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 23 FEBRUARY 2019 13 LONSDALE ST. GREEK FEST 2019 Delicious baklava by Sweet Greek, Kathy Tsaples who was one of the judges. PHOTO: NK ARCHIVE What makes a perfect pita and baklava? A food judge reveals all ANASTASIA TSIRTSAKIS F ood photographer and stylist Neil Hargreaves was one of six panellists selected by organisers of the Lonsdale St Greek Festival to judge entries of both the Pita and Baklava competitions. An aficionado when it comes to judging food, including at the National Food Awards, it was his first time taking part in the Greek Festival program, and says he was impressed by both the calibre of entries and fellow judges, which included the likes of Jane Wong, Kathy Tsaples, Peter Laliotis, Petros Delidis, and Vicki Valsamis. The last date for submissions was on Saturday, one week before the Festival, with the winners set to be on announced on day one of the event. With the criteria open to interpretation, he said they received a good mix of traditional and contemporary approaches. But when it comes to a great pita, what exactly was Hargreaves looking for? "Firstly flavour and texture of course, and then how the pastry behaves," he told Neos Kosmos. "How fresh the ingredients are and the quality of the ingredients that go into both the pastry and the filling; and then any kind of herb, spice and fresh ingredient balance. That's essentially it. It's so much about quality of the ingredients and the technique of the construction - they're the two key elements," he added. When it comes to baklava, the criteria are rather similar, while also looking for that perfect balance between spices and sweetness. "Again you want it to be pleasing aesthetically overall with a great crunch; a balance between how loose, sweet and wet; and how contained it is without falling apart, so that's much more about texture. The techniques are all about balancing those three kind of pillars of what makes good baklava." Unlike the pita, the origin of the baklava is a rather contentious topic. But for Hargreaves, that is something to be celebrated, and in part, what makes the dessert so special. "It's a dessert with a dialect," he explained. "Within each community there's 50 variations, it depends on where you're from. So it's very much about the small pockets of where it's from." To ensure judging was carried out as fairly as possible, it was a blind judging process, with no name attached with who submitted what. A positive first experience, he says he only wished there were more entries - something organisers are endeavouring to realise in the years to come. "The right problem in judging is having too many foods to taste so that you have to really, really concentrate and try and remember without the fatigue that you get from tasting; you have to be able to remember the second one and the tenth one. That's the way you want judging to work, it should be a little bit of hard work," he said, "But the calibre was fantastic." To find out the winners, be at the Procal Greek Kitchen Stage at 5.30pm on Saturday 23 February.
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