Ioannina

Tsimes in the oven (baked fish)

Traditional Ioannite lake-inspired dish with small freshwater fish.
Ηπειρώτικο Πρωινό-Tsimes in the oven (baked fish)
Before cooking...

Lake Pamvotida’s name means “the one that feeds everybody,” and it’s been doing it since forming 7 million years ago. Once, the lake accommodated three native species, the “tsima,” the “maritsi,” and the “tilianos,” as locals called them. But the importation of non-native species in the early 20th century and the ecological damage suffered by the lake’s natural habitat in the last decades drove tsima to the brink of extinction. Fortunately, the species has recently shown signs of recovery.

Tsimes in the oven (baked fish)

Ingredients

Unfortunately, tsima isn’t fished anymore, so even locals cannot enjoy this traditional local dish today. However, you can honor the Ioannite gastronomical traditions by following this recipe with any small fish you like.

  • 1 kg tsima fish from Pamvotida (or other small freshwater fish)
  • Corn flour (as needed)
  • 800 gr leek, finely chopped
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • Salt (to preference)
  • Pepper (to preference)

Execution

  1. In a large bowl, mix the small fish, the leeks, and the onions. Season with salt and pepper using your hands.
  2. Set the oven to “upper and lower heat” and preheat it to 180 °C.
  3. In a baking pan, spread the fish and vegetables with your hands and sprinkle them with corn flour.
  4. Cover the pan with parchment paper and tin foil, place it in the middle rack, and bake for 25 minutes.
  5. When the fish are done, uncover the pan and serve.

In the past, Epirote homemakers baked fish on a spit, covered with a heated tin dome (called “gastra”) for slow savory cooking. Nowadays, they mostly bake fish in electric ovens. That may take away some of the magic of traditional cooking, but with the right raw materials, the result can be equally delicious.

After cooking...

Lake Pamvotida surrounds one of Greece’s two inhabited lake islands. The island of Ioannina was first settled by monks and gradually became home to a monastic community that consisted of seven monasteries. Meanwhile, other settlers came and built the fishing village inhabited till today. Despite being small, the island was involved in some flagship moments in local history, like the assassination of Ali Pasha and the drowning of Kyra Frosini.

Ηπειρώτικο Πρωινό-After cooking...