I have just returned from a blissful, albeit brief, Greek holiday with my family and wanted to share some thoughts and feelings on Greece and the food that makes it one of the best countries in the world. My grandmother was Greek, making my brother and I (and our cousins) a quarter Greek. However, I (and the rest of my family) feel entirely connected to the country as if I was born and raised there. In a very small way, I have been. I’ve travelled there every summer of my life except two, and at home in England my family always say goodnight to each other with the greek word “kalinikta”. We feel a very strong bond to the nationality. We love the people, we love the language, we love the landscape and most of all we love the food. It is the food of the Gods, and it is delicious and nutritious as well!
The basis of almost all Greek food can be found in 2 simple ingredients. The majestic olive, and the humble tomato. But when tomatoes look like this, there’s nothing humble about them:
A friend of mine once dared to tell me that she didn’t really like Greek food, and when I questioned her further she said she just really disliked cooked tomatoes. If that is the case, you sort of are stumped! However, there is also all the amazing fish they cook in Greece. An ongoing joke amongst my family is that when you arrive at a taverna and try to order, they will most likely have none left of most of the dishes (there is a ramshackle, “serve-just-what-we-happen-to-have-prepared” attitude to Greek eateries), but they will always have “feesh on de greel” (rough translation: fish on the grill).
Now let’s begin with breakfast in the Evans family: Melon and/or peach with lashings of Greek yogurt. For those who haven’t been to Greece, the most common yogurt brand there is Total, which we get here in England too. So there is no excuse to skimp on a Greek diet even at home. Total is the real deal, and it tastes like a holiday in a tub!
Occasionally, when in Greece, my whole extended family go out for a big lunch, but most of the time we stay in our villas and make home-made Greek salads served with huge chunks of delicious Greek bread. The Greek salad is one of the best examples of simplicity being best. It consists of just tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, olives and feta, doused in olive oil and vinegar, and usually with a sprinkling of oregano. It is fresh and delicious.
My favourite meal of the day. This is when the meat and the tomatoes come out. Also there are more greek salads, and also 2 of my favourite greek dishes – Gigantes and Fasolakia. Gigantes are big white beans and Fasolakia are green beans, and both are stewed for hours in olive oil and tomatoes (what did I tell you at the beginning!) I’ll just let you stew over a few pictures of Greek cuisine now.
[The above photo is a stunning mousaka I had on my last night in Greece. The below photos show: a special dish of pork cooked in the oven with tomatoes, onion and garlic; Fasolakia; Yemista (stuffed vegetables)]
When you visit Greece be sure to try all the above dishes, as well as: Giouvetsi (lamb cooked in the oven with tomatoes and orzo pasta), Stifado (huge chunks of beef stewed in tomatoes, with that distinctive Greek nutmeggy taste), Soutzoukakia or keftedes (spicey meatballs), Pasticio (an amazing sort of lasagne-esque thing but with macaroni pasta), Kleftiko (lamb cooked in the oven until it practically falls apart), kalamari and chicken souvlaki (basically just a chicken kebab, but not just a chicken kebab – delicious with lemon juice squeezed over it). Finally I’m going to leave you with a cooking suggestion if you are ever in Greece – try making an omelette with Greek tomatoes and onions. They are so juicy that the mixture refuses to hold together and you end with an Evans family delicacy known as “eggy mush”. See below – I’m very happy to be eating it!
So now finally I say kalinikta to you all out there. I hope every single reader gets to visit Greece at some point, if you haven’t yet been fortunate enough to. It is a wonderful country with wonderful food and wonderful people, and they need all the tourism they can get at the moment. In the mean time, look up some greek recipes and try doing a little Greek cooking of your own. Just remember: don’t go easy on the olive oil or the tomatoes…