The GREEK RECIPES: Cuisine of Greece
The reason we have included these pages is because the most important part of the day is to find the right tavern for a leisurely lunch in the country.
For anyone visiting Greece for the first time, the colors, sights, sounds, smells and most of all the delicious flavors of Greek food are a revelation. The Greek cuisine is significant for its honesty, its healthy indifference to food fads or trends and its ability to promote a feeling of well-being to everyone around the table. Apart from the weather, the food you eat on holiday is a major factor in how much you have enjoyed the experience.
On this page we would like to share some of the wonderful Greek recipes I have come upon, from family members, from neighbors, from friends and some which we have tried/adapted for ourselves. We hope, that for those of you who spend their holidays in Greece, it will bring back the flavor of the country to you!
For those who have never had visited but would like to experience the true flavor of Greece we hope that these recipes will encourage you to visit and see for yourself. Greece is a sea-faring country with charming mountain ranges and small fertile plains. The smell of the sea blends with the smell or rigani (Greek oregano, much stronger and more pungent that the Italian variety) and thyme from the mountains. A mountainous range lies across a large part of mainland Greece and much of the terrain is barren. This is the case on many of the islands as well. Hence there is very little good grazing land which makes it difficult to raise cattle. Consequently, in Greece beef is not traditionally eaten very much and olive oil replaces butter. Sheep and goats are more easily raised and so lamb is the most popular meat and the milk of sheep and goats are turned into a plethora of delicious cheeses.
Poultry is also abundant
and pigs are bred in most parts of Greece. Eggs are common and
are particularly used to thicken sauces and soups - a specialty
being the egg and lemon sauce (avgolemono). Fruit and vegetables
grow in abundance and can be bought cheaply at local markets
on the mainland or from the farms and and small vans that go
around many of the islands selling their fresh produce. Furthermore,
herbs and fruit growing wild on the mountains and in the countryside
can be freely picked and fish can be pulled from the sea with
a simple line and hook. With very little effort you can really
eat extremely cheaply and healthily. The people of Greece are
warm, generous and hospitable. Food has always been a part of
this hospitality and you couldn't visit a Greek home without
being offered something to eat and drink. It would be rude not
to offer something to a guest and equally discourteous to refuse.
The Greek lifestyle and the seasonal availability of ingredients are reflected in their national cuisine. If you should ever be invited to an authentic Greek table you would have great difficulty overcoming the surprise brought about from the bombardment of sensations and tastes. Most importantly, however, eating in Greece is a social occasion.
In the Marketplace: It is early morning and still pleasantly cool when the first trucks arrive. Athens market is preparing for another hectic working day. Someone, somewhere is throwing a bucket of water onto the concrete and brushing away the remains of the previous day's garbage. By now, you can hear the clanking of crates being stacked on top of each other and the first morning greetings being exchanged along with good wishes for the day. The trick of the Market when the customers appear is to attract their attention by acclaiming the goods in a loud voice.
Tomatoes. Through the tomato (lycopersicon) is now so widespread, the Greeks were quite late in discovering it for use in their cuisine. The original tropical plant from the Peruvian and Ecuadorian Andes was already being cultivated by the Aztecs in Mexico. Columbus brought it back to Europe from his second journey to America, but until about 1820, it was still though of as a purely decorative plant. Since then the tomato has developed into one of the most important vegetables all over the world and is grown principally in Europe and America. With its versatility, delicate flavor and bright red color, the tomato has long been established in Greece too. There is good reason for the Country salad (Greek salad) to be considered the king of Greek salads. The Greek tomato industry is in third place in world production after the American and Italian industries. As the tomato plant has very few natural enemies, it copes very well without chemical assistance and still grows rapidly.
Eggplant. Not very long ago, it was considered an exotic vegetable in mush of Europe. By contrast, in India, where it originated and in China, eggplant has been one of the favorite vegetables for thousands of years and has a firm place in many national dishes. The Arabs brought it to Europe in the 13th century and until recently it was only cultivated in the very warm and sunny areas around the Mediterranean. It has been grown in Italy since about 1550, a little later in the neighboring countries. The plant, related to tomatoes and nightshades and thanks to modern methods including greenhouses, has found its way as far as the Scandinavia.
Potatoes are an essential part of Greek cuisine and are just as popular an appetizer as they are a main dish, whether fried, baked, or boiled. However, when this food was first introduced about 150 years ago, it caused such controversy that Ioannes Antonios Capodistrias (1776 - 1831), the first government chef of the young Greek state, allegedly had to resort to a cunning ploy to get his extremely suspicious countrymen to accept this unknown food. So, instead of handing potatoes out freely, as he had intended, he ordered his soldiers to appear to guard them. This immediately aroused the curiosity of the farmers, who promptly stole them!
Bay or Laurel leaves. Legend has it that Apollo fell in love with the nymph, Daphne, who however, rejected his advances. Chased through the woods by the stubborn god, who refused to be rejected. Daphne sought the help of Gaea, the goddess of the earth, who turned the nymph into a laurel or bay tree (the Greek word for such a tree being dafni). All Apollo could then do was to break off a branch, which he wore in his hair from that moment on. Therefore laurel groves were planted in shrines to Apollo, Apollo's muses wore laurel branches and Pythia, the chief priestess who ascended the laurel-bedecked seat of the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, chewed bay leaves. In both musical and athletic competitions held at shrines to Apollo, the victors received laurel wreaths, the use of laurel being a token of victory and honor.
Squid & Octopus are both mollusks of the cephalopod family ( Cephalopoda). They owe their name to the fact their tentacles grow directly out their head. In classical times, they were not only a popular and common source of food, but were also one of the best studied creatures in classical zoology. Their ability to change color as a means of camouflage was a source of great fascination. Cephalopods have an ink sac from which they can eject a dark ink-like liquid to "screen" themselves from predators.
TIME FOR SOUP
The national dish of the Greeks, involves neither expensive meat nor extravagant fish recipes, for it is a simple satisfying bean soup. The art of turning simplicity into a delicacy is passed on from mother to daughter, so that preparing fasolada can be considered the ultimate test of a good cook. Soups in all their many varieties are generally very popular in Greece, particularly in winter, but also at other times of year. Some recipes are associated with particular occasions.
FASOLADA (Bean soup)
2½ cups / 500 g dried
1 large onion, sliced
3 carrots, thinly sliced
2 stalks blanched celery, thinly sliced
5 beefsteak tomatoes, skinned and strained
1 cup / 250 ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The evening before, soak the beans in plenty of water. The next day, drain the beans well, put them in fresh water and bring them to a boil repeatedly. Pour off the water once more and leave the beans to drain. Again place the beans in fresh water, add the remaining ingredients (it is vital that they are fresh and of tip quality) and cook over moderate heat for about 1 hour. Serve while still hot, (serves 4-6)
REVITHOSOUPA (Chickpea soup)
500 g dried chickpeas
1 tsp baking soda
3 large onions
1 generous cup / 250 ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
Juice of Lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The evening before, soak the chickpeas in plenty of hot water. The next day, drain the soaked chickpeas, add the bicarbonate of soda, mix well, leave for a short while to take effect, then rinse thoroughly. Put the chickpeas in fresh water, together with the onions and bring to a boil, removing any scum that is produced. Lower the heat, cover and leave the soup to simmer for about 2½ hours, adding more boiling water if necessary. Just before the chickpeas become soft, add the olive oil and season the soup with salt and pepper. Return to a boil and drizzle with the lemon juice before serving.
FAKES (Lentil soup)
/400 g dried brown lentils
1 medium onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
5 beefsteak tomatoes, skinned and strained
⅔ cup/ 150 ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 bay leaf, Butter
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
The evening before, soak
the lentils in plenty of water. The next day, drain the lentils,
put them in a pan with the remaining ingredients and cover with
fresh water. Bring to a boil, lower the temperature and leave
the soup to simmer for 30-45 minutes. Serve hot!. Melt a knob
of butter in each plate (optional).
Tip: The flavors in this soup will develop even better if the soup is reheated
For a Greek restaurant, its appetizers, or starters, mezedes, are a kind of visiting card. Through its mezes. the restaurant demonstrates just what its kitchen can do. After all, the whole range of foodstuffs- meat, fish, vegetables and diary products- is available for use in Greek appetizers. Ranging from the simple and refined to the brilliantly creative and quite often reflect the main courses, They can be eaten hot or cold and may be just the introduction or the main course itself - whatever the customers choose. The different regions of Greece reveal the characteristics of their cuisine in the selection and preparation of the typical local mezedes. So the mezes must definitely be seen as a kind of ambassador.
Tzatziki (yogurt with cucumber and garlic)
1 small, firm salad cucumber, peeled
and coarsely grated
2 cups/ 500 g yogurt
3 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tbsp Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
Chopped mint an olive for garnishing
Salt the grated cucumber, allow to stand in water for a few minutes, gently press out the water. Mix the yogurt and the grated cucumber in a bowl. Crush the garlic and add to the mixture. Mix the olive oil and white wine vinegar and add salt to your taste. Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or until is time to eat. Before serving, sprinkle with a little chopped mint. Tzatziki is usually served with bread as an appetizer, but it also goes well with any roast or grilled food.
DO NOT MISS
The reason I have included
this page is because the most important part of the day is to
find the right tavern for a leisurely lunch in the country.
Greek food is delicious. The best way to sample it is through
ordering a variety of starters “mezzedakia” a selection of dishes,
which are placed on the table and shared by all.
There is no better way to exemplify Greek life – relaxed in every aspect. I could not begin to include them all, but here is an idea of some of them:
Potatoes Lemonates (Lemon potatoes)
2 lbs / 1 kg waxy potatoes, peeled
and cut into fingers
1 tbsp oregano
Greek extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 2 lemons
Preheat the oven to 400 (200 ºC). Arrange the potato fingers over the bottom of an ovenproof dish, season with salt and oregano, add the olive oil and lemon juice, then pour over sufficient water to just cover the potatoes. Bake in the preheated oven until the water has evaporated. To brawn the top, drizzle with more olive oil. When brown, turn off the oven and leave the potatoes in the oven to stand for a few minutes longer. Lemon potatoes are an ideal accompaniment to meat or fish.
Lakhanodolmades ( Stuffed cabbage leaves in egg & lemon sauce)1 white cabbage, about 2 lbs / 1 kg in weight
2 tbsp / 30 g butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
Juice of 2 lemons
Wash the cabbage and place whole in a saucepan filled with water. Add a pinch of salt and blanch for 5 minutes. Then separate into individual leaves and cut out the thick bit of stalk. Place the ground meats in a bowl and mix thoroughly with the rice, tomatoes, onions, parsley, dill mint, olive oil, salt and pepper. Place a tablespoonful of the mixture at a time on a cabbage leaf, tuck in the ends and roll up firmly. Lay the rolls in a saucepan tightly packed together and cover with an upturned plate. Fill the pan with water and simmer for 40 minutes over a law heat. Drain, reserving the liquid and keep the dolmades warm. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a small saucepan and lightly brown the flour. Pour in just under 1 cup / 200ml of the reserved liquid and bring to a boil for a moment. Lightly beat the eggs in a bowl, then slowly add the lemon juice, stirring constantly. Stir the mixture into the melted butter and flour. Heat slowly ( do not allow to boil), stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Pour over the rolled -up cabbage leaves and allow to stand for a few minutes. Serves hot 4-6, with freshly baked bread.
Stifado (Braised beef or veal with onions)
¼ cup / 50 g butter
2 lbs /1 kg veal or beef, roughly diced
1 lb / 500 g tomatoes, peeled and diced
2 lbs /1 kg small onions or shallots , peeled
1 generous cup/ 250 ml mavrodaphne (red liqueur wine)
2 bay leaves
½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sweet paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Melt the butter in
a pan, then brown the meat well on all sides. Add the tomatoes,
quickly bring to the boil, then add the onions. Soften for a
few minutes, then pour in the wine. Add the bay leaves, cinnamon,
paprika, salt and pepper and enough water to cover well. Cover
the pan, lower the heat and simmer for about 1 hour until the
mast is cooked, checking from time to time that it does not
need to be topped up with boiling water. As soon as the meat
is cooked and liquid has thickened, remove from the heat, arrange
on plates, and serve with freshly baked bread and salad.
Tip: Any meat (pork, beef, veal, hare, rabbit, goat, lamb) can used to make stifado.
The important thing is that the onions are small (in Greece, you can buy special stifado onions) and that it melts in the mouth when cooked. The wine used should also be very sweet and full-bodied in order to produce the characteristic stifado flavor.
Domates Yemistes (stuffed tomatoes)
8-10 large or beefsteak
1 cup/ 250 ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
½ lb onions, finely chopped
¼ cups/ 250 g rice
4 springs fresh mint, finely chopped
A little tomato juice
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Wash the tomatoes, cut a slice off the top to form a lid and set aside. Scoop out the insides of the tomatoes with a spoon and purée the flesh. In a pan, heat a scant ½ cup / 100 ml olive oil and sauté' the onions. Stir in the rice, season with salt and pepper, fry briefly, and add the puréed tomato flesh. Bring briefly to a boil, then remove the pan from the heat and allow the rice to swell a little. Stir in the mint and two-thirds fill the tomatoes with the mixture. Preheat the oven to 350 ºF (180 ºC). Place the tomatoes in an ovenproof dish, season with salt and pepper, pour over olive oil, a little tomato juice, and 1 cup /250 ml water. Place the lids on the filled tomatoes and bake in the preheated oven for about 1 hour. Then remove the lids and bake for a further 10 minutes, to brown the filling. Remove the tomatoes from the oven, replace the lids and serve while still hot. Serve with freshly baked bread. Tip: As a variation, the filling can also be made with raisins and nuts.
Mousakas (eggplant dish)3 large eggplants
Wash the eggplants. Remove the base of the stalk and cut lengthways in ⅜ inch / 1 cm slices. Place the slices in a bowl, cover with water, sprinkle with salt and leave to draw for 20 minutes. Meantime, peel the potatoes, cut into similar ⅜ inch / 1 cm slices and add salt. Drain the eggplants and pat dry. Heat the olive oil in a pan and brown the eggplant on both sides over a high heat ( you will have to keep adding oil). Remove the slices from the pan and place 0n paper towel to drain. Put fresh olive oil in the pan and fry and drain the potato slices in the same way. Sautι the onions until transparent, add the ground meat and brown over a high heat. Stir in the tomatoes, white wine, sugar, cinnamon and parsley, reduce the temperature and simmer for 10 minutes. Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour and cook for a minute or two. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring continuously. When the mixture thickens, remove the pan from the heat, stir in the egg yolk and season the sauce with sugar, nutmeg, lemon, salt and pepper. Stir in 2 tbsp of the grated graviera and allow to cool. Preheat the oven to 350 ºF ( 180 ºC). Cover the base of a large ovenproof dish first with a layer of potato slices, then half the ground meat mixture. Next come the eggplant slices, then the remaining ground meat. Pour over the béchamel sauce, smooth over the top and sprinkle with breadcrumbs, cheese and if desired, with cinnamon. Cook in the preheated oven for about 45-60 minutes, until the top is golden brown. Allow the finished dish to cool a little before cutting into large portions for serving. Serve with freshly baked bread.
Anyone exploring the land of the Greeks with their taste buds alert will soon or later encounter the sweet side of life. Not only are sweet tastes allowed as a matter of course during fasting periods, they also play a major role in all aspects of daily life, both within one's own family and neighboring families. Fruit and even some vegetable varieties, feature very prominently in this respect, preserved in sugar or honey syrup according to the same recipe.
When Greeks visit friends, they do not often take flowers as a present. Instead, they take one of those mysterious cardboard boxes, whose contents never remain secret for long. The bottom of the box soon gives way to a sweet stickiness, especially if it is filled with syrup cakes. Among the choicest of syrup cakes is galaktoboureko, a delicious confection puff pastry, filled with a custard made of milk, semolina, sugar and eggs. As with all puff pastry cakes, galaktoboureko can either be served while still warm or chilled, with coffee or a refreshing drink.
Baklavas. Relations between the Greeks and the Turks have no means always been harmonious - to put it mildly. Even so, there are certain things on which sweet consensus exists, like baklava for example. The Greeks use fillo pastry which is rolled out as thinly as you could possibly imagine and filled, according to preference, with finely chopped walnuts, pistachio nuts, or almonds. This type of confectionery now occupies a firm place in traditional Greek cuisine, not just a dessert but as a little nourishing snack to go with a coffee and water. Baklavas is a must whenever you want to spoil your guests, but at the same time is a popular gift to bring to your hosts.
cups/ 400 ml milk
10 oz / 300 g phyllo pastry (from supermarkets or Greek delicatessens)
1 cup/ 200 g melted butter
3 eggs 2 egg yolks
A scant ½ cup / 75 g (wheat) semolina
Seeds of one vanilla bean
1⅓ cups/ 300 g sugar
1 scant cup / 200 ml water
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to
375 º F (190 ºC). Bring the milk to a boil and allow to
cool. Line a baking pan about 8 x 12 inches (20 x 30 cent.)
with a baking parchment and dust with flour. Arrange half the
pastry in the tin, allowing plenty of overlap all around. Brush
this base generously with melted butter. In a pan, beat the
eggs, egg yolks, and sugar to a foam and gradually add the semolina,
vanilla seeds, and the milk. Heat the mixture just enough for
it begin to go creamy, while stirring continuously. Remove from
the heat immediately and mix in ½ cup (100 g) butter. Pour the
filling into the prepared pan, cover with the remaining sheets
of pastry, fold the overlap from the base down onto it, and
brush this lid with butter as before. With a sharp knife (without
pressing), cut into portions and place the tin in the preheated
oven. After 115 minutes, reduce the temperature to 320 ºF (160
ºC) and bake for a further 30 minutes, until the cake begins
to turn a golden brown color.
Meantime, boil up the syrup of sugar, water, lemon, juice and vanilla extract, stirring continuously. Drizzle over the milk cake while this is still warm.
Tip: phyllo pastry dries out very quickly, so while you are working, lay the sheets you are not using between two kitchen towels and cover with a third towel that has been previously moistened and well wrung out. The finished cake must not be covered, otherwise the flaky pastry will not remain crisp.
Baklavas½ cup / 50 g chopped walnuts or almonds
1 generous cup / 250 g
7 tbsp / 200 g honey
1 cinnamon stick
Juice of 1 lemon
Mix the walnuts or
almonds with the breadcrumbs, sugar and cinnamon. Melt the butter.
Preheat the oven to 350 ΊF (180 ΊC). Grease a shallow baking
pan large enough to accommodate the sheets of pastry. Brush
the pastry sheets with butter and place the first two into the
baking pan. Cover the upper layer with nut filling. Lay another
buttered sheet on top and cover with filling. Repeat until you
have competed eight layers. Once you have added the ninth layer,
cut off any excess pastry from around the edge of the
baklavas. Place one final buttered layer on top and
cut diamond shaped pattern into it .Sprinkle with water and
bake in the center of a prepared oven for 30 - 40 minutes until
To make the syrup,
boil the sugar in 6 cups / 1½ liters of water for 5 minutes.
Add the honey, cloves and cinnamon and continue to simmer. Remove
the cloves and cinnamon and stir in the lemon juice. Bring the
syrup to a boil, then leave to cool. Remove the confectionery
from the oven and pour the syrup over it. For this stage, either
the pastry should have cooled and the syrup be warm, or else
the pastry should be warm and the syrup cool so that the
baklavas do not become soft. Cut into diamond shapes
Tip: you can buy ready-made fillo pastry from a Greek delicatessen or from supermarkets. ( in US it can be found as phyllo or filo pastry in supermarkets). While you are working, any unused sheets of pastry should be stored between damp tea towels as it dries out very quickly.