Thursday, 13 February 2014

The Old Furno

 The Old Furno

Living in this house we have a responsibility towards its history, to protect it. When we discovered an old fireplace in the house, behind the plasterwork, we could see it had not been used as a fireplace as the brickwork was so clean, but it had a strange arrangement in the front. We guessed this structure had been used to keeping pans warm. Maybe with a few hot coals placed under the saucepans that had been brought there from the furno outside. This fireplace was on the middle floor, and the meal would have been carried to the old dining room, which was where Takis grandmother and her nine children would have been waiting. We renovated this fireplace but we also renovated the old outside furno. We noticed that the fact we did not pull it down please many people in our neighbourhood. This was because in the past when someone in the village lit their large furno many neighbours would arrive with dishes to be cooked there too. Nowadays each housewife has an oven in her kitchen, but many still remember the days when this kind of cooperative baking occurred. We have not used the furno often but renovation was important, as it has been central to the life of this house for so long. So our two trusty stonemasons rebuilt the furno room, and the furno chimney.

Bread and Pizzas

Once Takis’ made an attempt at lighting the furno, but the difficulty of making bread that would rise and be ready to pop into the wood oven at the crucial temperature point decided us it was much easier to stick to a modern oven with a temperature gauge, and we didn’t try to light the wood oven again.

Psomi (Bread)

Nearly every day Takis drove down to the bakery to buy us a couple of loaves from the bakery which we ate while still warm for breakfast. We loved having fresh bread some days, but what was left we sliced and froze to be used the next day.
In the past the Lemnian women baked once a week in the traditional wood-fired ovens. As Ourania wrote, ‘By tradition, they made their own live yeast from the holy water and basil plant the parish priest handed out on the 14th September, when the Orthodox Church honours The Holy Cross.’
The baked bread had to last for a week; to ensure this the women placed the loaves on a long plank called a Kania, suspended by a rope from the beams of the ceiling, ‘thus keeping bread out of the reach of both mice and hungry children!’


Tony and Takis prepare the furno for pizzas

Lisa and Tony preparing the pizzas

Pizzas for Lunch

It all began with a watermelon 

When Takis daughter Lisa and her partner Tony came to stay they decided to use the furno to make  pizza’s.  But now, inspired by Tony’s enthusiasm, Takis and Anestis spent the day surveying the oven’s capacious interior. On looking into its depths the group were filled with anxiety as they recognised some problems. It was clear they’d have to level the floor and replace some of the firebricks.

Nothing daunted, Takis and Tony went off to buy some new bricks. On returning these two decided that Anestis should be the one to climb inside and do the repairs. They reasoned that Anestis was best suited to do this as the oven, though large, had a very small opening, and Anestis was the smallest of the three. Thus he climbed into the oven, though this was only accomplished with his feet sticking out of the door. Because I tend to feel claustrophobic, watching Anestis in this cramped space made me decide to leave them to it, and I went off to do some gardening. Lisa however was recording each of the stages with her ever-present camera. I later rejoined them when all was repaired and Anestis was back with his feet on the ground again.

We couldn’t continue the pizza project immediately as the cement needed to cure for a day or two, and since the weather was particularly hot at the time it seemed a good idea to leave lighting the oven for a week or two. Finally the day of the firing arrived, and Tony and Lisa got busy in the kitchen making pizzas, vegetarian ones for Lisa and some hotter salami ones to please Tony’s palate. Anestis and Takis fired up the oven.

They filled the furno with small twigs which were lit and became hot enough to turn the bricks white. Then they raked the coals aside and created a space for the pizza trays. And bravely using an old-fashioned very long-handled wooded oven shovel, Tony loaded the first batch. These were very successful and very delicious. A second batch needed a little longer so we sat down wait. Then – disaster! When getting them out of the oven Tony swung the long-handled shovel around and hit the wall with it. Pizzas went flying everywhere. Oh well, old-fashioned country skills take a while to perfect.

The Australian Barbie

The outdoor barbeque is a tradition in many countries. It certainly is in Australia. I had a friend who told me that it is not long before new Australian’s pick up this tradition of eating outside. It is a tradition that suits this countryside; a tradition begun by native Australians. And the most important day for Australians to light up their barbeques is Australia Day. Australia Day is on January 26 and commemorates the establishment of the first European settlement at Port Jackson, now part of Sydney, in 1788. It is an opportunity for Australians to come together to celebrate their country and culture. Though it is also the day some native Australians call Invasion Day!

Our Outdoor Barbie in Lemnos

On the island today when we have a barbeque we tend to use another barbeque build on the terrace.  This one is easier to light, closer to the table, and not such a hot furnace as the old furno when it is lit.

Takis' Marinated Barbequed Chicken

All our guests enjoying this simple barbeque chicken fillets.
The secret is on this Mediterranean marinate.
2 free-range skinless chicken fillets cut in 2 inch pieces
half a cup of olive oil
the juice of a large lemon
a pinch of salt
one  clove of garlic squashed
one teaspoon of dried oregano (Limnian of course)
Mix the ingredients and marinate the chicken pieces for about one hour, keep in the fridge.
Do not over cook, it will go dry.

ps. He says use charcoal on the grill!

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