On the occasion of International Women's Day on 8th March, read on for an article about Female Empowerment through Gastronomy, Culture and Tourism on the tiny South Aegean island of Amorgos in Greece including delicious traditional recipes.
While many of you are probably unfamiliar with the tiny South Aegean island of Amorgos in Greece, it's high time you find out more! Apart from the beautiful, serene, virgin landscape and more, what makes the island so welcoming and worth a visit is its local residents –and to be more precise – its women!. On the occasion of the upcoming International Women's Day and the fact that the European Regions of Gastronomy awards 2019 are shared between Sibiu (Romania) and the region of South Aegean (Greece), here's the story of local gastronomy and the numerous events planned for 2019 on this island, one of the 50 islands that form the European Regions of Gastronomy 2019. A group of local Amorgian women entrepreneurs, who gathered on this magical island, established the Amorgos Gastronomy Club, aimed at preserving traditional recipes and culture, promoting and passing them onto future generations, who all take an active part in this important mission.
Local recipes are based on the products of the island, extensively used by the residents of Amorgos for various daily nutritional purposes. In the past there was large production of honey, sesame, oil and flour on the island, as it is prominent in the traditional cuisine.
Today, there is still a big production of olive oil, which is a basic ingredient for healthy cooking and living. Greece is renowned for its olive oil production and on Amorgos you can join in and take part in the process of olive oil production – from picking olives until the final production of pure olive oil served on your plate.
Greek cuisine is famous all over the world for its delicious authentic dishes including the popular savoury pastries and pies. Through the Amorgos Gastronomy Club tourists and visitors can take cooking classes and see demonstrations of the main local dishes and help in passing it on to their home countries and spreading the healthy and nutritious diet of this island. One such prominent place on the island is at the Aegialis hotel & spa, located in Aegialis village, overlooking the marvelous Aegialis harbour, a rare gem in terms of location, hospitality and variety of facilities.
The cooking class demonstration takes part at the Ambrosia Gallery Restaurant at the Aegialis hotel & spa and is led by the resident chef. You will be introduced to the most traditional types of Greek dishes and will learn how to make these, step by step, from start to finish. The vegetables and herbs used for these recipes come from the hotel's organic gardens.
The dishes include the following: Vegetable croquettes with aromatic herbs, fava or a delicious paste of yellow lentils, favatokeftedes or Amorgian yellow lentil fritters, Methisema Amorgiana, Amorgian sweet and salty wine cookies, Tiropita the traditional Greek cheese pie, Spanakopita the traditional Greek spinach pie, Loukoumades the authentic honey puffs and of course the traditional tzatziki - Greek yoghurt dip with garlic flavor.
After preparing the dishes, the participants can enjoy their lunch, indulging in the pure deliciousness of the Greek cuisine.
To give you a glimpse of some of the more traditional dishes, here are the recipes for favatokeftedes, tiropita and loukoumades.
FAVATOKEFTEDES (FAVA BEAN CROQUETTES) A traditional Amorgian recipe:
- Boil 500 grams of fava beans in 2lts of water in low heat, adding a half teaspoon of salt, and one onion, it's ready when it becomes creamy.
- Ingredients for croquettes: One big onion – one handful of anise or dill. Chop them into small pieces, and then gently fry in 1/4 cup (60ml) of olive oil. In a bowl, place two cups (approx 300g) of boiled fava, the cooked vegetables; add salt and pepper, two eggs, two cups of flour, (approx 480g) and 3 teaspoons of baking powder. Stir well until the mixture becomes soft.
- To fry them, use a pan with lots of vegetable oil. When it's really hot, use a spoon to put small portions of mixture into the pan and deep fry them. When both sides are brown, the croquettes are ready.
- You can use other vegetables too, like zucchini, tomatoes, etc.
TIROPITES (CHEESE PIES) A traditional Amorgian recipe:
FOR THE DOUGH - INGREDIENTS
- One cup vegetable oil (240ml), one cup white wine (240ml), 3 cups of self-rising flour (720g), 1 teaspoon of salt, little pepper
- Put them all in a bowl, and mix them all by hand until it's ready for use (2 min).
- With a small spoon, create small balls, and press them on the kitchen counter, to give the filo round shape. Put one small spoon of mixture on each one, and fold it in two, pressing the sides to close. Fry them on a low heat, in order to cook on both sides, or bake them in the oven
FOR THE FILLING
- In a bowl, put 2 eggs, salt, pepper, chopped fresh mint or dry mint and soft feta cheese or cream cheese. Stir well, and this is now ready for the pies.
- The filling can be also be used with spinach, for spinach pies. In this case, add onion and dill, chopped and gently fried before adding them to the mixture.
LOUKOUMADES (HONEY PUFFS)
One of the most renowned and loved Greek sweets, in its Amorgian version, is the amazing Loukomades.
You can find them across Greece, but the special recipe of the Amorgian version is as follows.
- 1 kilo of all-purpose flour, 100 grams fresh yeast or two small envelopes of dry yeast.
- ½ teaspoon salt, 5 spoons sugar, ouzo flavour or vanilla flavour, water about 2 to 2½ cups. (480ml - 600ml)
- Dissolve the yeast, the salt and the sugar in the water, which must be warm.
- Add the flour slowly, and the flavour, beating by hand, wire, or hand mixer, until the mixture becomes thick but not watery, creating bubbles at the top. Let it rise for at least 1-2 hours, covered, at room temperature. Then, deep-fry a spoonful of the mixture until you get crispy small croquettes.
- Serve them hot, dipped in syrup, and sprinkle them with sesame and cinnamon.
- Syrup: 2 cups of sugar (400g), two and half cups of water (600ml) boil them with an orange peel and a stick of cinnamon for half an hour in low temperature. At the end, add one cup of honey (240ml).
In addition, the main local sweets of Amorgos are Kserotigano and Pasteli. Kserotigano is made of flour, oil, honey and sesame (see image above). Pasteli is made of sesame, honey and raki (a typical Greek spirit, varies in aroma and taste across the different regions of Greece).
The women of the Amorgos Gastronomy Club will teach you step-by-step how to prepare these delicious sweets at home and carry a piece of Amorgos in your taste memory, forever. During winter time (Mediterranean winter time, that is), local people get together especially during festivals related to religious holidays. This was a custom from old times when there was no electricity and this was a way of communities getting together for chatting and socializing. Live music on the lute and violin completed the events giving happy feelings to them.