Summer Escapes part VII – Lakonia: Elafonissos, Plytra, Archangelos and Monvemvassia
During our last visit to Sparti, we had the chance to visit Southern Laconia, see some new places and revisit some others we had visited in the past. There are so many places one can visit but a one-day excursion is not enough to see everything.Our destination was Elafonissos with a couple of stops and on our way back we would visit Monemvassia.
On our way to Elafonissos we stopped at Plytra for a cup of coffee.Plytra is a small tourist village by the seaside.This is where my sisters in law usually pass their summer holidays and one of my SIL has bought a plot there, where she plans to build a house soon. The last time we visited was over ten years ago and then we had the chance to swim in its beautiful beaches. I remember that we could see some ancient ruins in sea.
We also stopped at Archangelos, which is another lovely small village by the sea, perfect for vacation.
Reaching towards Elafonissos there is another ancient submerged town, Pavlopetri, which is thought to be the oldest submerged town in the world.The main part of the town lays about 200 meters southwest of the islets that are opposite of the channel and 70-100 meters away from the coast of Pounta.
The ruins, as researchers say, date from at least 2800 B.C. to about 1180 B.C. It was discovered about 40 years ago and surveys are still being carried out and are expected to be published around 2012.Pavlopetri submerged after a major earthquake (7 – 8 Richter) around the 4th century b.C. The same earthquake affected Plytra and separated Elafonissos and the castle of Monemvassia, from the mainland.
We took the ferryboat to Elafonissos, which is about 5 minutes to reach.Elafonissos, meaning island of deer, took its name because of the rich hunting of red deer (cervi) from antiquity to modern times. It may not be one of the most famous Greek Islands, as it is a very small one (only 19 square kilometres) but has some fantastic beaches worth visiting and you will eat the best fresh fish, as it has one of the biggest halieutic fleets in Lakonia.
We arrived at Elafonissos around noon so we wanted to go swimming first and then have lunch. As you may see from the picture the beach has beautiful sandy beaches with crystal blue waters. The most famous beach is called Simos but we did not go there as it is more crowded. We preferred Panagitsa, which is equally beautiful and there are some lovely restaurants where you can eat. We were not disappointed with the food where we ate fresh fish.
Returning from the beach we left our things in the car and walked to the restaurant.Unfortunately I do not have pictures of the food as I forgot the camera in the car but we ate fish and one of the salads was ampelofassoula, so today’s post is about fried fish and ampelofassoula.
Ampelofassoula (fresh Black eyed Bean Salad) and Marida (Pickerel)
Ampelofassoula are the fresh green string beans, called louvi in Cyprus, which later become the black eyed beans but before the seeds get fully developed.There are two varieties: the regular ones which I have cooked and some very long ones.The most traditional version of this salad is to boil the beans and the only thing you need is olive oil, salt and lemon juice. Others mix them with parsley or dill, olive oil and vinegar or cook them as a stew. However, any way you cook them you will not be disappointed.
No recipe is needed for ampelofassoula salad but for a plate of salad you will need about 300 grams of green beans. I always buy more and wash them, dry them and store them in the deep freezer.The secret is to choose the string beans when they are tender and boil them only for ten minutes. I do not add salt in the boiling water as they loose their vibrant green colour.
It goes without saying that if they are not tender you must make sure to remove the strings.
I have cooked them a lot during the summer, sometimes cooking them plain, other times cooking them with courgettes, mixing them with pesto or cooking them with other beans.
I have told you in other posts that we have been eating a lot of fish such as fried cod, fried anchovies or marida (spicara smaris) which is picarel.
Marida, like other small fried fish make a simple but very tempting dish.
You need to follow a few basic rules to get it absolutely right. In order to achieve a golden and crisp crust outside you must make sure that the olive oil is very hot when frying and not to overload the frying pan.
Although the fish mongers in Greece will tell you just to wash the fish, then coat and fry, I remove the guts and scale the fish, although there is not much to remove. This is up to you. The head and tail are edible.
The oil should be enough to cover the pan, at least 2 cm and leave the oil to heat, just before smoking point, put in the fish. We know when the oil is hot enough by just putting my hand over the pan. If you can feel the heat coming from the pan, this means the oil is ready. Alternatively, if you have doubt, heat the olive oil for 3 – 4 minutes, then just put one fish in the pan and wait until you hear it sizzle and then add the remaining. When you add the first batch do not mix until they are cooked on the one side and then turn on the other.
I also fry fresh bakaliaros also call bakalaos (cod) the same way. Actually, I don’t know why we call it bakalaos (which is the spanish name of cod) because it’s not actual cod but the European hake (Merluccius merluccius). I choose small cods, which however are scaled and gutted before coating with flour and then frying.
Serve them with fried potatoes (again fried in olive oil) or for a more healthy dish, with you favourite salad.
Preparation time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: 30 minutes
- 1 kilo marida (picarel)
- About 1 cup of flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Olive Oil (depending on the size of frying pan)
- Lemon juice to sprinkle on top
- Wash and remove the guts.
- Wash, strain, add sprinkle with salt.
- Mix the flour with more salt and coat the fish.
- Heat the olive oil and fry until golden crispy.
- Place on absorbent kitchen paper to remove excess oil.
- Serve while hot with some lemon juice.
On our way back we made a small detour and visited Monemvassia.
Monemvassia is a medieval fortress with an adjacent port town on the south-eastern Peloponnesian coast. It is a 13th century Byzantine village built on a rock that people sometimes called “The Gibraltar of the East” or “The Rock”. From the port village, there is only one entrance to the “rock,” or sometimes called “The Castle.” Monemvassia in Greek: means “Single Entrance” this is because there is only one way that someone can enter it by land. The rock is 300 m tall and 1.8 km long. It is connected to land by a causeway. Many years ago there used to be a portable wooden bridge connecting it with land.
Outside the main entrance there is a parking and from there you have to walk in the narrow streets with its houses and also cafeterias, hotels, shops, souvenirs, bars, restaurants and most of all, fantastic view.
As they say each photo is worth a thousand words, enjoy!
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