Greek Fare

Two visits to the Greek islands have left me with several favourite recipes such as Souvlaki and BBQ octopus. Apart from Greek salad, other favourites include Gigantes Plaki and Kotopoulo Stifatho, a rich chicken stew. Common Greek flavours are lemon, garlic, oregano and mint.

Kotopoulo Stifatho

Stifatho is Greece’s comfort food. It is a thick stew usually made with beef or lamb in a flavoursome tomato sauce with whole baby onions. The original stifatho was made with rabbit but it can also be made chicken. This stifatho is made with chicken thighs, marinaded beforehand in white wine, with a cinnamon stick and orange peel and herbs. Serves four.

Ingredients:
6 chicken thighs with bone in
1 cup white wine
6 cloves garlic, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
2 orange peels
2 bay leaves
1 tblsp dry oregano
12-16 baby or pearl onions, or the trimmed white base of shallots
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tblsp flour
1 400g can crushed tomatoes
2 tblsp tomato paste
juice from one lemon
1/2 tsp sugar
4 cloves garlic, finely grated
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp chili flakes
1 tblsp flatleaf parsley, chopped Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Utensils: bowl with cover; ovenproof shallow dish; stirring spoon; can opener; casserole with lid.
Time: 45 minutes

Preparation:

  1. Place chicken with cinnamon stick, orange peel, garlic, bay leaves, oregano and seasoning in a bowl with the wine or vermouth. Cover and marinade for 4 hours or overnight in the fridge.
  2. Heat oven to 180°C. Place onions in ovenproof dish, drizzle with half the olive oil, season with a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper and place in oven for 20 minutes.
  3. Remove chicken from marinade and dab dry with paper towels. Heat the remaining oil in the casserole over high heat, turn chicken thighs in flour and fry until browned on each side, remove and set aside. Deglaze casserole by straining in marinade liquid and reduce by half.
  4. Add tomatoes and tomato paste to casserole with lemon juice, sugar, garlic, herbs and chili flakes. Lower heat to medium and simmer until thick and syrupy, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Replace chicken in casserole, lower heat to a slow simmer and season well. Cover and cook for 30 minutes.
  6. Remove onions from oven and add carefully to casserole with parsley and taste for seasoning. Simmer for another 15 minutes.
  7. Serve in bowls on top of riso pasta.
Gigantes Plaki

Giant beans in English – or simply: butter beans in tomato sauce. A friend recommended this dish, which I missed while in Greece. But I now prepare it often at home because it’s easy, healthy and tasty. I find Ardmona Rich & Thick Onion & Garlic Diced Tomatoes with Paste particularly well suited for this dish.

Ingredients:
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 onions, sliced thinly
2 cloves of garlic
2 cans of Ardmona Rich & Thick Onion & Garlic Diced Tomatoes with Paste
2 tblsp tomato paste mixed with a little water
1/2 cup parsley
2 cans of butter beans
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Utensils: Frypan; cutting board; chef’s knife; wooden spoon for stirring; fine grater; can opener; ovenproof casserole
​Time: 1hr

Preparation:

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C. Peel onions and slice finely. Add 1/4 cup olive oil to frypan on moderate heat. Drop in the onions and soften. Grate garlic finely on to onions and stir to mix.
  2. Add the Ardmona tomatoes and tomato paste. Simmer on low heat to thicken – about 10 minutes.
  3. Open can of butter beans and drain. Mix carefully into tomato mixture and season to taste. Transfer to overproof dish and cook in oven for about 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven and sprinkle chopped fresh parsley on top.
  5. Serve with crumbled feta scattered on top and ciabatta bread on the side.
Greek Salad

My first meal in Greece, was in an Athens taverna – a tasty Greek salad, which at its most basic consists of tomatoes, cucumber, capsicum, red onion, Kalamata olives and feta with an oregano-flavoured dressing. But this Greek salad also had ham and hard-boiled egg grated on top, making it a substantial lunchtime meal.

Ingredients:
2-3 tomatoes, cut in wedges
1 Lebanese cucumber cut in thick slices
1/4 red onion, thickly sliced
1/2 red capsicum, seeded and sliced
1 tblsp Kalamata olives, pitted
150g piece of feta cheese
400g ham off the bone, cut in strips (optional)
2 hardboiled eggs (optional)
For dressing:
2 tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
​3 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp freshly chopped oregano or 1 tsp dried oregano. Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Utensils: Cutting board; vegetable knife; salad bowl
Preparation time: 10 minutes

Preparation:

  1. Put tomato wedges, cucumber, onion, capsicum and olives in a salad bowl and mix.
  2. Make salad dressing by putting olive oil, lemon juice, most of the oregano and seasoning in a jar with a lid. Shake the jar to mix and pour over salad and mix well.
  3. Place feta on top and sprinkle with the remaining oregano and drizzle some olive oil on top.
  4. If using egg and ham, slice ham in strips and add to salad then grate hardboiled eggs on top before adding crumbled fetta. Sprinkle with oregano.
  5. Serve with slices of ciabatta bread.
Souvlaki

Souvlaki is a popular Greek dish of marinated pieces of meat grilled on skewers. Most common is pork, but it can also be made with lamb or beef. Souvlaki can be served in Greek pita bread as Gyros with tzatziki and salad as a snack or as a main meal with tzatziki drizzled on top accompanied by a Greek salad and chips or chargrilled slices of chiabatta bread on the side.

Ingredients:
2kg lamb, chicken or pork
1 lemon
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated or chopped
2 dsp fresh oregano, finely chopped, or
​1 dsp dried oregano
2 dsp fresh mint, finely chopped, or
1 dsp dried mint Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Utensils: Cutting board; chef’s knife; bowl with cover; tongs; skewers; shallow ovenproof roasting tray
Preparation Time: 1 hour; Cooking Time: 15 minutes

Preparation:

  1. Cut meat in 1-inch cubes and place in bowl with olive oil, lemon juice, herbs , garlic and seasoning. Marinate for 30 minutes or overnight (the meat can be kept in the marinade for up to three days.
  2. Thread the meat on the skewers and if desired, alternate with cherry tomatoes, capsicum and onion.
  3. Cook on hot BBQ for 15-20 minutes or in hot oven at 230°C until done, about 10 minutes.
  4. Serve with Greek salad, potato chips or rice.
Tzatziki

Ingredients:
1 cup grated cucumber
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
3/4 cup of greek natural yogurt
1 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tblsp freshly chopped mint
1/2 tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 clove of garlic, finely grated or chopped
1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Utensils: Grater; bowl; spoon; measuring spoon; serving bowl.
Preparation Time: 45 minutes

Preparation:

  1. Add salt to cucumber and let it stand from 30 minutes.
  2. Working with one big handful at a time, lightly squeeze the grated cucumber between your palms over the sink to remove excess moisture.
  3. Transfer the squeezed cucumber to a serving bowl, and repeat with the remaining cucumber.
  4. Add the yogurt, olive oil, herbs, lemon juice, garlic to the bowl and stir to blend. Let the mixture rest for 5 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. Taste and add additional chopped fresh herbs, lemon juice, and/or salt, if necessary.
  5. Serve tzatziki immediately drizzled on the souvlaki or chill for later. Leftover tzatziki keeps well, chilled, for about 4 days.
  6. Tzatziki can also be served as dipping sauce for grilled pieces of Greek pide bread.
BBQ Octopus

The best BBQ Octopus I ever tasted was in a beach taverna in Chios – a Greek island close to the Turkish coast. It was melt-in-the-mouth tender and crisp on the outside from searing on the BBQ. I have been given several tips on how to tenderise octopus. One is to beat it against a rock 40 times, another is to marinade it in wine with a cork. The cork is supposed to have enzymes that enhances tenderising. The main thing is to get rid of the liquid in the octopus. Brasing the octopus beforehand helps the process.

Ingredients:
2kg octopus
1/2 cup red wine
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon
2 tblsp extra virgin olive oil
​1 tsp dried oregano
2 cloves of garlic, finely grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Utensils: Stewing pot with cover; cutting board; vegetable knife; fork; tongs; skewers; bowl with cover
Preparation Time: 1 hour Cooking Time: 10-15 minutes

Preparation:

  1. Place octopus and cork (optional) in pot over high heat on top of stove and cover. Leave to release liquid for about 5-8 minutes.
  2. The octopus should now be almost covered in liquid. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer under cover until octopus is easily pierced with a fork.
  3. Remove from heat and add wine, lemon, garlic and half the oregano. Let octopus marinade until cool or transfer with its liquid to a bowl and leave covered in fridge overnight.
  4. Remove octopus from fridge and when it is at room temperature, lift out, dap dry with a paper towel and turn in olive oil, remaining oregano and seasoning.
  5. Place on hot BBQ or in hot oven at 230°C and roast until well browned on all sides. Serve with Greek salad and chips.
MORE RECIPES:

Spanish Tapas

Ways with Eggs

Christmas Bites

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