14 June 2017

Greek Cuisine; Papoutsakia, or, Little Shoes, Close Relation to Moussaka.


Papoutsakia Little shoes, close relation to moussaka!
Papoutsakia
Little shoes, close relation to moussaka!


Summer is here, bringing  with it my favourite vegetable; aubergines, big, fat, purple aubergines!

Now, when you think of aubergines and Greece, you’re thinking of moussaka, right?

But, did you know the most famous dish of Greece; moussaka, has a close relation, “Papoutsakia”, in English “little shoes”?


 
Moussaka Photo by "Mediterranean Dish"
Moussaka
Photo by "Mediterranean Dish"




“Papoutsakia” are called “little shoes” because, yes, you guessed it, they resemble little shoes!

In my opinion, “Papoutsakia” are, (Dare I say it?) far superior to moussaka, and easier to prepare, using more or less the same ingredients, only the potatoes are missing, no great loss!

Large, oval aubergines, cut in half, length-ways, filled with meat sauce, and topped with béchamel sauce, do indeed look like little shoes.

So, here we go, my first “Papoutsakia” of the summer, surely to be made again and again before autumn descends, MGG (My Greek God ) loves them, but Johnny, my son, would simply die for them!


Ingredients




Makes 8 pieces


4 large aubergines, (about 1. 5 kilos)

300 - 400 ml olive oil for frying


Meat Sauce


500 g minced beef

2 large onions, finely chopped (for ease, use a food processor)

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

300 ml tomato passata, or tomato juice

½ tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

2 tsp dried basil

50 ml olive oil


Béchamel sauce


120 g plain flour

125 g butter or margarine

2 eggs

600 ml milk

½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

½ tsp ground nutmeg

100 g grated Kefalotiri cheese, or Parmesan


Method


Heat oven to 200 degrees C


Cut the aubergines in half length-ways, (Don’t peel) and sprinkle generously with salt.

Leave for about 30 minutes, until they "sweat" this will remove any bitterness from the aubergines.



Sprinkle aubergines with salt
Sprinkle aubergines with salt


Meat Sauce


While the salt is doing its thing with the aubergines, make a start with the meat sauce, heat 50 ml of olive oil in a pan, sauté the chopped onion and garlic, for about 5 minutes.

Add the minced beef and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, add tomato passata, salt, pepper and dried basil, leave to simmer for about 30 minutes, the sauce needs to be quite thick, so as to stay on the surface of the aubergines, and not slide off.


Aubergines


Rinse the aubergines well, under running water, gently squeezing out any excess water. 


Aubergines, "sweating" our the bitterness.
Aubergines, "sweating" out the bitterness.


Put the 300 – 400 ml olive oil in a 10 inch frying pan, and heat to a high temperature, add aubergines, lower to a medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes, turn aubergines, and cook for another 5 minutes, or until aubergines have softened (You may have to do this in two batches)

Remove aubergines from pan, leave to drain on absorbent kitchen paper.


Béchamel Sauce


Melt the butter, or margarine, in a pan, over a low heat, remove pan from heat and add flour, a little at a time, mixing, until the mixture falls away from the sides of the pan, and has formed a ball.

Slowly add the milk, a little at a time, stirring; a whisk is perfect here, to avoid lumps forming.

Add salt, pepper and ground nutmeg.

Return the pan to the heat, and, mixing continuously, bring to the boil.

As soon as the béchamel is boiling, remove from heat, let cool slightly, 10 minutes or so, add egg, mix well and add grated cheese, the béchamel needs to be rather thick, to sit on top of the meat sauce.


A rather thick bechamel sauce.
A rather thick bechamel sauce.


Putting it all together!


Place aubergines into a 35 x 30 cm rectangular baking tin, or any ovenproof dish that will hold all 8 aubergine halves.

With the back of a spoon, press down on the aubergines, making a small hollow, some recipes say to cut out a hollow of flesh before frying the aubergines, but why waste this delicious vegetable?



Make hollows in the fried aubergines with the back of a spoon.
Make hollows in the fried aubergines with the back of a spoon.



The frying has softened the aubergines, and its easy to make hollows with the back of a spoon.

Place about one heaped tbs of meat sauce into each hollow.



Fill hollows with meat sauce
Fill hollows with meat sauce


Spread a thickish layer of béchamel, over the meat sauce. (1- 2 tbl )


Spread bechamel sauce over meat sauce
Spread bechamel sauce over meat sauce


Bake in the oven for about 30 – 40 minutes until béchamel is golden brown.


 
Papoutsakia, tomato & basil salad and feta cheese.
Papoutsakia, tomato & basil salad and feta cheese.


Serve with salad, feta and fresh crusty bread.

Enjoy!

Why not try some more Greek goodies?
See below.






9 May 2017

Diogenes of Sinope, The Cynic; The Original Anarchist, The Ultimate Activist


Diogenes by Jules Bastien-Lepage (1873)
Diogenes by Jules Bastien-Lepage (1873)


Diogenes, a Greek master of Philosophy,born into the Ionian, Greek-speaking colony of Sinope, on the shores of the Black Sea, Turkey in 412 BC, was no ordinary, run of the mill, wise old man of ancient Greece.


Diogenes of Sinope. Spent his days searching Athens for an honest man. Never found one.  Sinop Turkey. By Ferhan Balırak
Diogenes of Sinope. Spent his days searching Athens for an honest man. Never found one.
 Sinop Turkey. By Ferhan Balırak

Diogenes, one of the The Cynic Philosophers, a controversial figure, who lived his wretched life in a ceramic wine jar,  known for his wit and satire, and his disregard for anyone and anything, had many labels;
 “A Socrates gone mad”, declared Plato, “Diogenes the Dog”, or Diogenes The Cynic, exclaimed fellow Athenians, others, less polite, called him a lunatic.


1882 John William Waterhouse
1882 John William Waterhouse

Today’s labels for Diogenes would most likely include;
Fanatic, extremist, bigot, activist, anarchist and yes, lunatic!


Born into an affluent family, his father, Tresius, a rich money-lender, owned the local mint, Diogenes was exiled from Sinope for debasement of currency (Issuing coins of a certain face value, but with less metal content than previous issues).


After being thrown out of Sinope, Diogenes made his way to Greece, with his man servant, Manes, who, on arrival, promptly deserted him.


Diogenes, having no idea what to do with the rest of his life, decided to consult Pythia, the oracle at Delphi, to see if she could enlighten him.


Pythia, the Delphi Oracle . J. Augustus Knap
Pythia, the Delphi Oracle
 J. Augustus Knap

Pythia did not give Diogenes the answer he expected, but rather, advised him to deface the currency;


 “Well’, thought Diogenes, “I tried that, and look where it got me!
Surely she means deface the political currency, I’ll head off to Athens to provoke the people there, challenge their values and way of life, and I’ll stir them up big time!”


 Once in Athens, Diogenes was drawn to Antisthenes, a philosopher of the day, and his ascetic teachings, known today as cynicism, a school of ancient Greek philosophy.


The School of Athens Raphael
The School of Athens
Raphael

Today, the word cynic conjures up images of grumpy old men, or pessimists, but back in the fifth century B.C, cynic meant something entirely different, and was used as an insult against Diogenes and his followers.


The word “cynic" comes from the Greek word kynikos, (κυνικός), "dog-like", which derives from the word, kyôn (κύων or kynos), meaning dog, and was used to describe the dog-like behavior of Diogenes, who lived in the streets, ate raw meat, and performed his natural bodily functions in public like a shameless animal.


 Alexander and Diogenes, Sir Edwin Landseer 1848.
 Alexander and Diogenes,
Sir Edwin Landseer 1848.

No works of Diogenes exist today, as he believed his teachings were better understood through actions and conversation, rather than through the reading of books, but plenty of information about him can be found in The lives and opinions of eminent philosophers.


The philosophy of Diogenes, cynicism, was to live a life of virtue, to avoid earthly pleasures, to live in Poverty, as simply as possible and to achieve EUDAIMONIA, through living life in accordance with nature, to enjoy the simple things, to be happiest with the least; a sip of cool water on a hot day, the feel of the sun on your skin after winter, to live life in the now, to live the Good Life.


Jean-Leon Gerome - Diogenes
Jean-Leon Gerome - Diogenes

To bring about this state of simple happiness, Diogenes, insisted the masses, of which he had a low opinion, calling them ignorant, obedient sheep, who were corrupted by socialization, by conforming blindly to customs, laws and ideals, should break free from their chains of social norm, reject wealth, sex and power, and get rid of their possessions.


Diogenes practiced what he preached, lived in a wine jar, and owned nothing. (After seeing a young boy using his cupped hands to drink water from a river, he even threw away his wooden bowl, exclaiming; "A child has beaten me in plainness of living").


Diogenes in a Landscape, by Nicolas Poussin (17th century).
Diogenes in a Landscape, by Nicolas Poussin (17th century).

 Diogenes, the first to call himself a “cosmopolites”, a citizen of the world, and who retorted “I am not mad, I’m different from you” when called a lunatic, spent his days generally getting up the noses of fellow Athenians, spouting off in the market place, pulling stunts, such as carrying a lantern in broad daylight, in order to find an honest man.


Jacob Jordaens - Diogenes seeks people at the market using his lamp
Jacob Jordaens - Diogenes seeks people at the market using his lamp

He ridiculed customs and traditions, stating that anyone who attended the famous Dyonisian celebrations were fools, Diogenes tried to force his ideas and way of living on whoever crossed his path.


Diogenes had total disrespect for the philosophers of Athens, thinking them hypocrites, and loved nothing better than to criticize and embarrass his contemporaries, he called Plato’s lectures a waste of time and after hearing Plato define Man as an animal, biped and featherless, Diogenes plucked a fowl and brought it into the lecture-room with the words;

"Behold here is  man."


Illustration by Eric Drass   (Shardcore)
Illustration by Eric Drass   (Shardcore)

More Sayings and Anecdotes of Diogenes include;


On watching a bungling bowman at an archery contest, Diogenes went and sat right next to the target, explaining that it was the only place where he felt safe.


When Diogenes was asked which wine he preferred, he replied;

 "That for which other people pay."


Diogenes the Dog
Diogenes the Dog

Diogenes requested that when he died, he be buried 'face downwards', because the Macedonians were rising in power so quickly that the world would soon be turned upside down and he would then be the right way up.


Diogenes noticed a prostitute's son throwing stones at a crowd, and said to him;

 "Careful, boy, you might hit your father."


After being reproached for masturbating in public, Diogenes answered;

 "If only it was as easy to banish hunger by rubbing the belly as it is to masturbate."

 
The sculptural work, entitled Dog is a contemporary rendition of the legendary philosopher Diogenes of Sinope. Andy Lendzion

"Diogenes showed his rejection of "normal" ideas about human decency by eating in the street, masturbating in the marketplace, urinating on those who insulted him, defecating in the theatre, and pointing at people with his middle finger. He was a self-appointed public scold whose mission was to demonstrate to the ancient Greeks that civilization is regressive."(Philosophy Basics.com)

The sculptural work, entitled Dog is a contemporary rendition of the legendary philosopher Diogenes of Sinope. Andy Lendzion


Diogenes ended his days in Corinth, said to have been taken there when kidnapped by pirates while sailing the Aegean.


He was sold as a slave in Crete, to a Corinthian named Xeniades, who was so enamored of Diogenes; he employed him as tutor to his two sons.


Whist in Corinth, Diogenes is said to have been visited by Alexander the Great, who had heard of his reputation, Alexander offered Diogenes anything his heart desired, to which Diogenes answered “Move a little to the right, you are blocking my sun”


Gaetano Gandolfi, Alexander and Diogenes, 1792
Gaetano Gandolfi, Alexander and Diogenes, 1792

 
Diogenes death in Corinth 323 B.C, of course, could be nothing normal, after all, nothing in his life was classed as normal.


 There are various stories, one that he decided to die, so just held his breath, and that was that, another story has him dying from eating raw octopus,  and yet another, that he died   from an infected dog bite.


Statue of Diogenes with Alexander the Great in Corinth   Achilles Vasileiou
Statue of Diogenes with Alexander the Great in Corinth
 Achilles Vasileiou

Diogenes left instructions to be thrown outside the city wall on his death, so wild animals could feast on his body. 


4 May 2017

Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2017. A Magical Summer of Culture. Including 58 Vintage, Promotional Posters



Posters promoting the Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2017
Posters promoting the Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2017


Why not try something different this summer?

Greece is well known for its picturesque islands, sparkling blue sea, cloudless azure skies, and endless sunny days, but there is more; so much more.

Visit Athens and discover Greek culture; for three glorious months, usually from the end of May, or beginning of June, right through to the start of September, the unique capital city of Greece, is home to the Athens Festival, a magical summer of theatre, music and dance.


Odeon of Herodes Atticus
Odeon of Herodes Atticus


 The narrow winding alleys, airy city squares, open-air theatres, and parks of Athens, for the past fifty six summers, have been host to Maria Callas, Pavarotti, Nureyev, Fonteyn, Martha Graham, The Peking Opera, and The New York Philharmonic Orchestra, to name but a few.

Just a couple of hours drive away from the amazing city of Athens, lies Epidaurus, home to the most beautiful, ancient theatre in the world, where, in September 1938, Sophocles’ “Electra”, was staged, the first play performed there since the times of the ancients.

Now, each summer weekend, as the sun slowly disappears, and the cool of evening begins, talented actors and actresses, take you back, way, way back, to another era, to the mystical times of ancient Greece.

 
The ancient Theatre of Epidaurus
The ancient Theatre of Epidaurus



To find out more about this summer of Greek culture; what’s on, and where, see the link to the official site of the “Festival of Athens and Epidaurus” at the end of the post, but, before you do that, have a look at some of the beautiful posters, created to promote this once-in-a lifetime experience.

This year’s posters for the 2017 Athens- Epidaurus Festival, were designed by Iphigenia Basileiou, based on three mythical creatures from Greek mythology; the Sphinx, Pegasus and the Minotaur.


2017 

 
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2017
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2017

Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2017
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2017



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2017
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2017




 1950s


Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1950s

1960s

Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1960s

1970s

Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1970s

1980s

Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1980s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1980s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1980s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1980s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1980s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1980s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1980s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1980s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1980s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1980s

1990s

Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 1990s


2000-2010


Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2000-2010
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2000-2010



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2000-2010
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2000-2010


Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2000-2010
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2000-2010



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2000-2010
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2000-2010



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2000-2010
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2000-2010


2010-2016


Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016





Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016



Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016

Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016


Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016


Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016


Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016
Athens & Epidaurus Festival 2010- 2016


All you need to know, times, dates, programs, venues etc, about the Athens and Epidaurus Festival here.




Fabulous video clip for 2017 Athens Epidaurus Festival, featuring three mythical creatures of Ancient Greece; The Minotaur, Pegasus and The Sphinx.



Book your ticket for Athens now, have the summer of a lifetime, a magical, mythical experience!

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