- Chicken Avgolemono Soup
- Mani Pork Souvlaki (Kebabs)
- Tsatsiki (Yogurt and Cucumber Salad) Variations of this crisp refreshing salad are popular throughout an area stretching from northern India to the Balkans and Greece. In the Greek version, large amounts of garlic and flat leaf parsley are used or, better still, fresh mint which gives a light fragrant flavour. Serve tsatsiki as soon as possible after preparing or it will become watery. Serves 4 1 large cucumber, peeled 1/2 tablespoon sea salt, or more to taste 300ml (10fl oz) yogurt 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice freshly ground white pepper to taste 2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped (to taste) 5 tablespoons fresh mint leaves or coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley or 2 tablespoons dried mint, crushed Using a knife, food-processor or mandoline, slice the cucumber into julienne (matchsticks). Sprinkle with salt and set aside in a colander for 1 hour to drain. Combine the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and garlic in a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate. Just before serving, beat the yogurt sauce with a wooden spoon until smooth. Tear the mint leaves into small pieces. Dry the cucumber by gently squeezing it between paper towels, don’t worry if the cucumber bruises – it is more important to avoid a watery salad. Combine with the yogurt mixture and mint, add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
- Grilled Kephtedes (Spicy Beef and Lamb Patties)
- Peppered Dried Figs
- Fragrant Apricot Ice Cream
Just longing to jump on a plane and spend a few days in Greece or puttering around the Aeolian Islands. Imagine those clear skies and azure blue seas and little tavernas by the seas with spanking fresh grilled fish, sizzling saganaki, a freshly chopped Greek Salad – gorgeous sunny Summer food. I’ve never been to Greece in Winter but I also love those rich bean soups, lamb and beef stifados, and an occasional pork or wild boar and butter bean stew….
Closest, I’ll come to that in the near future is a trip down memory lane with Rosemary Barron’s ‘Flavours of Greece’, originally published in 1991 but it has never gone out of print and has recently been republished by Grub Street.
Many books have been written on Greek food since then but Rosemary’s book is still considered to be the most authentic and authoritative collection of Greek recipes.
In the 1980’s, Rosemary owned a cooking school in a 450 year old village house on the island of Crete, the first of its kind in Greece and described by Vogue as one of the best cooking schools in Europe.
Her recent courses on Santorini explore the foods and flavours of Greek antiquity – contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Greek Summer dishes are just the sort of food I am loving at present. A selection of mezze to set taste buds tingling.
Mezze can be a
simple or an elaborate selection, so easy to put together – 5 to 25
dishes…marinated Kalamata olives, chunks of feta or kefalotiri cheese,
radishes, toasted salted almonds, taramasalata, hummus, broad beans, aubergine
in many guises, spanakopittas (little filo pastry pies) stuffed with meat,
vegetables or cheese, peppered figs, dolma wrapped in grape leaves, octopus,
smoked eel, tiny fried fish….serve with lots of pitta or flat bread and a
glass of crisp Greek wine. I’m also dreaming of Avgolemono – a delicate and
comforting chicken and rice soup, light and refreshing for Summer evenings. I can virtually smell Souvlaki – chunks
of pork marinated with juniper and coriander, a dash of red wine and lots
of garlic and oregano charring over the charcoal…
Grilled Kephtedes (spicy beef and lamb patties) are also irresistible with a dollop of Tsatsiki and of course a Greek Salad – chunks of sweet ripe tomato, cucumber and spring onion dressed with gutsy Greek olive oil, freshly squeezed lemon juice and lots of
Follow with a platter of deliciously ripe fresh Summer fruit and berries on a bed of fig or grape leaves served with some Mizithra cheese and Hymettus honey – divine.
Simple as it sounds, it can be very difficult to
reproduce here in Ireland when it’s so difficult to find ripe figs and stone
fruit in Summer but a platter of ripe fresh local berries would be sublime if
you can find them. Watch out, despite what you might think, Driscoll’s fruit
doesn’t come from Skibbereen, it comes all the way from a humongous
farm in California! Try to find Irish Summer berries….
Chicken Avgolemono Soup
A traditional favourite in Greek homes and tavernas, avgolemono soup has its origins back in antiquity. It’s a most delicious and refreshing soup – light, nourishing and elegant enough to serve at a dinner party. My version is based on a rich chicken stock enhanced with saffron, which gives a delicate but distinctive flavour. The addition of rice makes a more substantial soup.
1.6 litres (2 3/4 pints) rich chicken stock
50g (2oz) short-grain rice (optional)
4 eggs, separated
juice of 2 large lemons
sea salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
2 tablespoons finely-chopped flat leaf parsley
Bring the stock to a boil in a large saucepan. (If using rice, add to the stock, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the rice is cooked).
Five minutes before you are ready to serve the soup, whisk the egg whites in a large bowl with a wire whisk or electric mixer until stiff. Whisk in the egg yolks, add the lemon juice and whisk for 1 extra minute. Hold a ladleful of the hot soup broth about 30xm (12 inches) above the bowl and slowly add it to the eggs and lemon juice, whisking constantly. (This trick helps prevent curdling the egg mixture, because by the time the broth reaches the bowl, it is hot but not boiling). Off the heat, whisk the egg and lemon juice sauce into the soup. Do not return the soup to the heat. Add salt and pepper to taste, sprinkle with the parsley and serve at once.
Darina’s Tip: Once the egg
and lemon juice is added, the soup must not be reboiled otherwise it will
From ‘Flavours of Greece’ by Rosemary Barron published by Grub Street
Mani Pork Souvlaki (Kebabs)
During the period when Greece was part of the Ottoman Empire the Muslim occupation naturally discouraged the eating of pork. This did not, however, deter them, rebellious inhabitants of the isolated and mountainous Mani region at the southern tip of the Peloponnese, who continued to raise pigs throughout the centuries of occupation and developed a long tradition of pork cookery. This is a simple and easy-to-prepare dish but, what it lacks in sophistication, it more than makes up for it in flavour. The meat is marinated in a blend of coriander, juniper berries and mustard, grilled with perfumed bay leaves and garnished with fresh coriander.
1.2kg (2 1/2lbs) boneless lean pork from the tenderloin or leg
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
6 juniper berries
3 tablespoons aged red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
115ml (4fl oz) extra virgin olive oil
18 bay leaves, each broken in half
1 tablespoon honey
cracked black pepper and coarse-grain sea salt to taste
coarsely chopped fresh coriander or watercress or purslane sprigs
Tsatsiki (see recipe)
Cut the meat into 2.5cm (1 inch) cubes and trim off any fat and sinew. Pound the coriander seeds and juniper berries in a small mortar until crushed and well mixed. Combine with the vinegar and mustard in a small bowl, and whisk in the olive oil. Combine the meat and marinade in a non-reactive bowl, mix together with your hands and cover. Set aside for 2-3 hours.
Prepare the fire (barbecue).
Remove the meat from the marinade and thread alternatively with the bay leaves onto 6 skewers. Whisk the honey into the marinade and baste the meat liberally with this sauce, then sprinkle it with pepper.
Set a grill rack 10cm (4 inches) above the hot coals and lightly brush with olive oil. Grill the souvlakia until lightly browned on all sides, then raise the grill 5cm (2 inches). Grill 10-15 minutes longer, basting frequently or until the souvlakia are cooked.
Arrange on a warm platter, sprinkle with salt, pepper, fresh coriander and surround with the lemon wedges.
Tsatsiki (Yogurt and
Variations of this crisp refreshing salad are popular throughout an area
stretching from northern India to the Balkans and Greece. In the Greek version,
large amounts of garlic and flat leaf parsley are used or, better still, fresh
mint which gives a light fragrant flavour. Serve tsatsiki as soon as possible
after preparing or it will become watery.
1 large cucumber, peeled
1/2 tablespoon sea salt, or more to taste
300ml (10fl oz) yogurt
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
freshly ground white pepper to taste
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped (to taste)
5 tablespoons fresh mint leaves or coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley or 2
tablespoons dried mint, crushed
Using a knife, food-processor or mandoline, slice the cucumber into julienne
(matchsticks). Sprinkle with salt and set aside in a colander for 1 hour to
Combine the yogurt, olive oil, lemon juice, pepper and garlic in a large bowl.
Cover and refrigerate.
Just before serving, beat the yogurt sauce with a wooden spoon until smooth.
Tear the mint leaves into small pieces. Dry the cucumber by gently squeezing it
between paper towels, don’t worry if the cucumber bruises – it is more
important to avoid a watery salad. Combine with the yogurt mixture and mint,
add salt and pepper to taste, and serve.
From ‘Flavours of Greece’ by Rosemary Barron published by
Grilled Kephtedes (Spicy Beef and Lamb Patties)
Spicy beef and lamb patties are a traditional centrepiece for many outdoor parties and village gatherings. These grilled kephtedes are highly flavoured but simple food, usually served mounded on a platter with an array of colourful garnishes for an eye-catching presentation. They are good with aubergine dishes, tsatsiki and fried potatoes.
350g (12oz) lean beef, finely minced
350g (12oz) lean lamb, finely minced
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 tablespoons finely chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tablespoons dried oregano (rigani), briefly pounded in a small mortar
1 teaspoon dried thyme, crumbled
75g (3oz) fresh wholemeal breadcrumbs
1 tablespoon mustard seeds or 1/2 teaspoon powdered mustard
4 tablespoons dry red wine or 2 tablespoons aged red wine vinegar
coarse grain sea salt and cracked black pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
2 small red or mild onions, quartered and thinly sliced
1 small bunch of flat leaf parsley, leaves coarsely chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, skinned and cut into small dice
1/2 medium cucumber, peeled and cut into small dice
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon sumac or 1 teaspoon paprika and a large pinch of cayenne pepper
Combine the beef, lamb, onion, parsley, oregano (rigani), thyme and breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Heat the mustard seeds in a small dry frying pan over a low heat until a few pop. Pulverise them in a mortar or spice grinder. Mix this powder with the wine and add to the meat, along with salt and pepper. Knead the mixture for a few minutes, tightly cover, and refrigerate for 1-4 hours.
Prepare the fire (barbeque).
Moisten your hands with cold water and shape the meat mixture into 12 balls, flattening each one into a 2cm (3/4 inch) thick patty.
Oil a grill rack and place it 10-12cm (4-5 inches) above the hot coals. Grill the kephtedes, basting frequently with olive oil, for about 8 minutes, until browned and crusty on both sides but still moist and pink in the centre.
Combine the onion, parsley, tomatoes, cucumber, lemon juice, sumac and salt and pepper to taste and spread this mixture over a platter. Arrange the kephtedes on top, sprinkle with olive oil to taste and surround with the watercress and lemon wedges.
Note: Sumac, available from Greek and Middle Eastern shops, is the pulverised berry of a piquant herb. It has a coarse texture, pleasantly tangy acid flavour and a deep auburn colour.
From ‘Flavours of Greece’ by Rosemary Barron published by
Peppered Dried Figs
If possible, use fleshy, juicy organic figs imported from southern Greece for this simple meze and prepare three days ahead for the richest flavour.
24 good-quality, moist dried figs
4 tablespoons cracked black pepper
12-18 bay leaves
Trim the fig stems. Gently roll each fig in the pepper to lightly coat.
Cover the bottom of a glass jar with a few of the bay leaves or make an overlapping circle of leaves on 2 layers of parchment paper. Then make alternate layers of fig and bay leaves, finishing with a layer of leaves. Gently press down on the leaves with the palm of your hand, then tightly cover the jar or pull the edges of the parchment together into an airtight packet. Store at room temperature for up to 1 month.
Serve the figs on a bed of bay leaves.
From ‘Flavours of Greece’ by
Rosemary Barron published by Grub Street
Fragrant Apricot Ice Cream
Apricots, said to originate in China, are thought to have been brought to Greece by Phoenicians. In those days they were probably made into creams and sweetmeats, but modern Greeks are more likely to use this ancient flavour in ice creams. Make this rich ice-cream in early Summer when apricots are ripe and sweet. Serve it prettily garnished with toasted almonds and small colourful flowers and accompanied by glasses of sweet Samos liqueur.
900g (2lbs) fresh apricots
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
150g (5oz) aromatic honey (such as Hymettus) or to taste
3 eggs, separated
175ml (6fl oz) double cream
2 tablespoons Samos liqueur or apricot ratafia (optional)
toasted slivered almonds
a few citrus blossoms or borage flowers or other fragrant, decorative flowers
Fill a large saucepan with water and bring to the boil. Drop the apricots into the boiling water, remove the saucepan from the heat, count to 3, then carefully remove the apricots with a slotted spoon. Peel with a small paring knife, cut each in half and discard the pits. If they are not quite ripe, bring about 115ml (4fl oz) of water to the boil in a heavy saucepan, add the apricots and simmer for 5 minutes. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid. Process the apricots until smooth in a food-processor. Add the vanilla and most of the honey. Add the remaining honey to taste and add some of the reserved cooking liquid if necessary to produce a mixture of consistency of double cream.
Place 225ml (8fl oz) of this purée in a non-reactive bowl, tightly cover and refrigerate. Whisk the egg yolks until thick and pale and gradually add the remaining purée, whisking constantly. Transfer to a small heavy saucepan. Heat over a low heat, stirring constantly, until thick enough to lightly coat the back of the spoon, about 5 minutes. Immediately transfer to a bowl. Let cool.
Whisk the double cream until slightly thickened and lightly whisk in the cooled custard. Transfer to an ice cream machine and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions. When the mixture is almost frozen, whisk the egg whites until they hold soft peaks, fold into the custard and freeze until firm.
Add the liqueur to the reserved purée. Stir in the honey to taste if desired and add some of the reserved juice or water if necessary to give a pouring consistency.
To serve, spoon the sauce onto chilled plates, place small scoops of ice cream in the centre of the sauce, and sprinkle with the toasted almonds and blossoms. Serve immediately.
Note: You can also freeze this ice cream in the freezer. Pour the cooled custard into stainless-steel pans and freeze, stirring occasionally, until almost firm. Whisk the egg whites until they hold firm peaks and fold them into the custard until thoroughly combined. Freeze until firm.
From ‘Flavours of Greece’ by
Rosemary Barron published by Grub Street
There seems to be considerable confusion between marjoram and oregano. There are several different forms Common marjoram is a perennial, it re-emerges every year, but annual marjoram has an infinitely superior flavour and is closest to the Greek oregano. (see photograph). Annual marjoram, also known as knotty marjoram is closest in flavour to the Greek oregano.