Tours in Greece

 

GREEK RECIPES

Meat (kreas): The favorite kind of meat is lamb (arne ) usually roasted or grilled Souvlakia and doner kebab (meat grilled on the spit) are also popular. Kokkoretsi(lamb entrails roasted on the spit) are a popular dish in country areas and tavernas Pork and beef is also served.

  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.

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Tomatoes. Though 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 much 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 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 molluscs 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.

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TIME FOR SOUP: 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 navy beans
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)

FAKES (Lentil soup)

2 cups /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

REVITHOSOUPA (Chickpea soup)

3 cups/ 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.

APPETIZER CULTURE

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, a 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 they 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
Salt
Chopped mint or 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.

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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: 

 

 

Saganaki Shrimps

( With Feta cheese and fresh tomatoes)

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
Salt

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.

 Lahanodolmades ( Stuffed cabbage leaves in egg & lemon sauce)

1 white cabbage, about 2 lbs / 1 kg in weight
⅔ cup / 200 g ground beef
⅔ cup / 200 g ground pork
1¼ packed cups / 200 g cooked rice
2 tomatoes diced
1 onion grated
½ bunch flat - leaved parsley, finely chopped
½ bunch dill, finely chopped
2 springs of mint, finely chopped
1 scant cup/ 200 ml Greek extra virgin olive oil
Salt & freshly ground black pepper
For the sauce:

2 tbsp / 30 g butter
2 tbsp all-purpose flour
2 eggs
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 tomatoes
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
1 lb / 500g potatoes
Greek extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 lb / 500 g tomatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup / 250 ml dry white wine
¼ tsp sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
1 bunch flat - leaved parsley, finely chopped
For the béchamel sauce:
4 tbsp / 60 g butter
½ cup /60 g all-purpose flour
3 cups / 750 ml milk
1 egg yolk
½ tsp sugar
Freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp lemon juice
Breadcrumbs
Grated graviera  cheese for topping
Salt and freshly black pepper

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. Sauté 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.

SWEET HOSPITALITY

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. In the original Turkish version, so-called yufka-leaves, from which borek (pastry pockets) and katmer (puff pastry dainties) were made, formed the basic pastry. 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.

 Galaktoboureko (Milk cake)

1⅔ 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

For the syrup:

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.

 Baklavas

½ cup / 50 g chopped walnuts or almonds
4 tbsp breadcrumbs,
4 tbsp sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
1 cup / 250 g butter
10 oz / 300 g phyllo pastry

 

For the syrup:

1 generous cup / 250 g sugar
7 tbsp / 200 g honey
2 cloves
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 ºF (180 ºC). 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 golden brown.
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 and serve.
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.

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