Gavros Risotto sto Fourno (Baked Fresh Anchovies Risotto) is a wonderful, quite unique risotto, because the risotto is cooked first and then fresh anchovies sandwich the risotto and it is then baked in the oven. The risotto absorbs the lovely flavour of the anchovies as it is baked and makes a delicious meal!
The structure of the dish is based on a Pontian recipe called “Hapsopilafo” which means fish pilaf. The Pontians are Greeks who immigrated to the Black Sea Region (Euxine Sea – called Efxinos Pontos in Greek) from Ancient Trapezounta, which was a city in Arcadia, Peloponnese.
Hapsi, was a species of anchovy found in abundance in the Black Sea. It was the most popular fish which was fished from November to early March. The Pontians, apart from eating them fresh, they would also preserve (cure) them in salt.
It was a tradition for them to eat anchovies on Palm Sunday.
This is mentioned in their Carols that they would eat anchovies on Palm Sunday and the next Sunday (Easter Sunday) they would eat butter and cheese.
Our Pontian brothers migrated from ancient Trebizond in Arcadia, to Efxinos Pontos (Black Sea) thousands of years ago. When Epaminondas of Thebes founded Megalopolis and brought inhabitants from other Arcadian cities to inhabit it, the Trebizondians refused to settle there, and those who survived the anger of the other Arcadians, were forced to migrate on ships to Trebizond of Pontos, which had the same name as their city, which was founded by Miletus.
The site of the ancient city of Trebizond, in Arcadia, situated among the villages of Kyparissia (my late mother-in -law’s village) and Mavria. The site is now being excavated and so far the ancient city wall has been revealed.
Fresh anchovies have nothing to do with the smelly canned ones. In fact, here in Greece, they are very popular because besides being dirt cheap and besides being very healthy, as they are packed with Omega 3 fatty acids as well as many more other health properties, they are also very delicious! If you ever come to Greece, you will find them in most restaurants, mainly fried or marinated and I urge you to give them a try.
For my Orthodox readers, this Sunday is Palm Sunday, when it is traditional to eat fish. If you are fasting, just skip the feta.
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi!