Georgia Gerardis – a Greek/Australian chef on the Greek island of Rhodes writes passionately about the hidden gems of Greek food and dishes that inspire her to create new dishes for her restaurant Ammoyiali, friends and family. Enjoy!
Rhodes is the island of the emeralds, the diamond of the Aegean sea, the island of Afrodite or Apollo, home of the knights of Templar or Hliousa (the island of Sun). It attracts millions of visitors every year.
Rhodes rightly boasts about its majestic medieval castle, cosmopolitan life in the modern city, the famous Mandraki port, pristine beaches with crystal clear waters and of course its traditional, picturesque villages that still hold the unique Greek lifestyle. Although tourists choose the modern city, there are many who prefer exploring the small villages with their narrow streets and smiling faces which keep the most traditions alive. The real taste of Greece is in these hidden gems of villages. Today we will visit Archangelos for our taste and travel Odyssey.
Archangelos village, located south of the city on the eastern coast of the island with a population of only 6.000 people, remains faithful to its customs and traditions. This charming village hosts one of the most popular monasteries of the island, Panayia Tsambika. The Tsambika and Stegna beaches are surrounded by rock mountains with breathtaking views. Don’t miss the nearby mountain Stroggilo (Round), Koumello cave with its stalactites, the company of the free roaming wild horses and the Byzantine Castle from the Crusades era, a 15-minute walk worth taking, especially at sunset.
The monastery is located on the top of a mountain and is visited by married couples who have difficulties in conceiving a child. Panayia Tsambika is believed to offer her blessings for a fertile marriage. There are many stories among locals and visitors who claim to have conceived after having visited the monastery and lit a candle dedicated to her holiness. According to tradition, the icon of the Virgin disappeared from Cyprus during the 12th Century and reappeared in this very monastery.
First would appear a flame (“tsamba” as the locals call it) and then the icon. It’s this perpetual incident that lead to the decision of keeping the icon where it “desires’’ or “ordered” to stay. It is not as spooky as it sounds, at least not for the Orthodox Christians who strongly believe in miracles and this is definitely a sign of one.
Walking up the 292 steps has never become a deterrent. Every visitor gets compensated for the tiring walk when reaching the top. A bottle of water and a hat is required and maybe a nice cup of Greek coffee at the canteen on the way. The locals of Archangelos are very welcoming. The women take pride in their craft making (carpets, leather boots and pottery with the traditional way) and their cooking, especially their wood oven bread and pitas. One of my favourite pitas is the tahinopitas, pitas with tahini which are not only delicious but full of nutritional value. Now let’s get some taste of our travel!
Ingredients for the dough
750g whole wheat flour
7 g dry yeast
1 tsp salt
1 cup of sugar
3 tsp cinnamon
A pinch of mastic (optional)
A pinch of machlepi (optional)
3 cups of water
Ingredients for the filling
700gr tahini (sesame paste)
2 cups of sugar
3 tsp of cinnamon
In a deep bowl we add all the ingredients for the dough and mix well. Then add the water and constantly fold until it forms nice soft dough. Divide the dough into 12 to 14 small balls and knead them a little until you make sure all ingredients are well incorporated. Cover the bowl and let them rest for 30 minutes.
In the mixer add the tahini, sugar and cinnamon and beat until it becomes light in colour and fluffy. Take each ball of dough (make sure you always keep the rest covered to prevent them from drying) and on a clean (slightly floured) surface make a thin rectangular sheet 30cm x 15cm. Add 2 spoons of the tahini mixture and spread evenly all over the sheet leaving a finger space all around. Then fold in half and roll it length wise. Close each end firmly and start rolling each end inwards, forming 2 snails until they meet. Pick one snail up gently and place it on top of the other. Press it gently with your hand (it will look like a bun) add a little tahini paste and sesame seeds on top for a nice effect. Continue with the rest. Cook for 30 min in the oven 180C. Alternative: You can also flatten out the pitas and cook in a hot skillet on both sides evenly.
Ammoyiali is 2km from the centre of Rhodes Town on the foot of the Monte Smith hill near the Temple Of Apollo. 17 Voreiou Ipeirou Street. Call for reservations: 224-1023-980, 224-102-3939.
©Georgia Gerardis 2011