Greek Cuisine

Greek cuisine is one of the most famous in Europe (in a constant battle with Italian and Turkish on this front) and probably the world. Food has always been a crucial part of Greek life and it is even claimed that the first ever cookbook was written around 350 BC by the Greek writer Archestratus. What is certain is that Greek food has been greatly influenced by eastern and western cultures through the ages. Here are other factors that make Greek cuisine so special:

LOCAL INGREDIENTS

Greek cuisine relies heavily on fresh, locally sourced ingredients. The country’s Mediterranean climate allows means a huge variety of fruits, vegetables, and herbs are available every season to create signature dishes and more. Olive oil, olives, tomatoes, feta cheese, and herbs like oregano and thyme are integral to many Greek specialties.

SEAFOOD

Being a country with an extensive coastline and thousands of islands, seafood is a prominent part of Greek cuisine. Fresh fish and other fruits of the sea, including octopus and squid, are commonly featured.

MEZZE CULTURE

“Mezze” or “Meze” is derived from Persian and means to taste or relish. The Mezze experience is certainly a big part of life in Greece, as people catch up with friends over small plates of delicious food! Meze refers to a variety of small dishes served as appetizers or snacks, and encourages communal dining and the sharing of multiple flavours in one meal. Unmissable!

DOLMADAKIA (STUFFED GRAPE LEAVES)

Dolmadakia, also known as stuffed grape leaves, is a traditional dish in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. The word “dolmadakia” is derived from the Turkish word “dolma,” which means “to be stuffed.” The dish consists of grape leaves that are filled with a mixture of rice, pine nuts, and various herbs and spices. Sometimes, minced meat such as lamb or beef may be in the filling.

The filling is seasoned with ingredients like mint, parsley, dill, and sometimes cinnamon or allspice. The grape leaves are often rolled into small, cigar-shaped parcels, creating a compact and neatly wrapped package. They are commonly enjoyed with a drizzle of olive oil or a side of yogurt.

OLIVES & OLIVE OIL

Olives and olive oil are extremely popular in Greece. Greece is known for its high-quality olive products and is one of the world’s leading producers of both olives and olive oil. Fun fact: there are over 140 million olive trees in Greece! Obviously, olive trees are an integral part of the Greek landscape, and the country has a long history of olive cultivation dating back thousands of years.

Greek cuisine heavily features olives and olive oil in a variety of dishes. Olives are commonly served as appetizers or snacks and are also used in salads, stews, and main courses. There are many different varieties of olives in Greece, each with its own unique flavour. The rich and fruity taste of Greek olive oil contributes to the distinctive flavours of many Greek dishes.

MOUSAKKA

Moussaka is a traditional loved Greek dish. It is a layered casserole-type dish that typically includes eggplant, minced meat (usually lamb or beef), tomatoes, onions, and a béchamel sauce. The dish is seasoned with various herbs and spices, such as cinnamon and allspice, giving it a distinctive flavour.

The preparation of moussaka varies slightly across different regions and households, but the core ingredients remain the same. After layering the ingredients, the dish is baked until the top layer becomes golden and the flavours combine.

OCTOPUS

Octopus is a popular and widely enjoyed seafood in Greece. It is a common ingredient in Greek cuisine, and there are various traditional dishes featuring octopus. Grilled octopus, often served with olive oil, lemon, and herbs, is a popular appetizer or mezze dish in Greek tavernas. The octopus is usually tenderized and then grilled to perfection.

Another well-known Greek dish is “ktapodi kokinisto,” where octopus is slow-cooked in a tomato-based sauce with onions, garlic, and various herbs. This method of preparation results in a flavourful and tender octopus’s dish. Octopus may also be used in salads or pasta dishes, which shows that the traditions can be versatile. Due to Greece’s coastal location and rich seafood resources, octopus is readily available and appreciated as a prized, nutritious part of the Greek diet.

FETA CHEESE

Feta cheese is extremely popular in Greece and is considered one of the country’s most iconic and traditional cheeses. It holds a significant place in Greek cuisine and is used in lots of different dishes. Feta is a white, crumbly cheese made from sheep’s milk or a combination of sheep’s and goat’s milk.

Feta cheese is versatile and can be used in salads, pastries, and as a topping for various dishes. It has a tangy and salty flavour, adding a distinctive taste to Greek salads and many different dishes.

GREEK Salad

A Greek salad also known as “horiatiki” in Greece is one of the most popular dishes that people will have as a main dish, alongside another dish or par of a mezze. It is a classic, refreshing dish that typically includes a combination of fresh vegetables, olives, feta cheese, and a simple dressing. A typical Greek salad is made up of tomatoes, cucumbers, red onions, olives, feta cheese, bell peppers, oregano and olive oil.

KEFTEDES

Keftedes are essentially meatballs, typically made with ground meat, breadcrumbs, and various herbs and spices. The ground meat used can be beef, lamb, or a combination of both. The mixture is seasoned with ingredients such as garlic, onions, oregano, mint, and parsley.

After forming the mixture into small balls, keftedes are either pan-fried or deep-fried until they achieve a golden-brown exterior. They are mostly served as an appetizer, part of a meze spread, or as a main course. Sometimes, they may be accompanied by pitta bread, sauces, or dips like tzatziki.

TZATZIKI

Tzatziki is a classic Greek sauce or dip that is appreciated for its refreshing and tangy flavour. It is made from strained yogurt, cucumber, garlic, olive oil, and various herbs like dill, mint, or parsley. The combination of these ingredients creates a creamy and flavourful sauce that is often served as a condiment or accompaniment to various dishes.

The preparation of tzatziki involves grating cucumber and then squeezing out excess moisture. The grated cucumber is then mixed with yogurt, minced garlic, olive oil, and chopped herbs. The sauce is usually seasoned with salt and pepper. Tzatziki is paired with grilled meats, gyros, souvlaki, or used as a dip for pita bread and vegetables. Tzatziki adds a cool and zesty element to dishes and is a popular addition to Greek cuisine. Its popularity has spread beyond Greece, and it is often enjoyed in Mediterranean-inspired dishes around the world.

SOUVLAKI

Souvlaki is a Greek street food consisting of skewered and grilled pieces of marinated meat. The meat used for souvlaki can be lamb, chicken, pork, beef, or a combination of these. Souvlaki is often served with pita bread and accompanied by various toppings and sauces, such as tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and tzatziki.

The word “souvlaki” itself comes from the Greek word “souvla,” which means skewer. The dish is a staple in Greek cuisine and is enjoyed both as a street food and as a meal in restaurants. Souvlaki is known for its delicious, smoky flavour from grilling and the combination of marinated meat. It is widely recognized as an iconic representation of Greek culinary traditions. If it’s served in a restaurant, it is usually served on a platter with vegetables, chips, pita bread and Tzatziki.

GYROS

Gyros is similar to Souvlaki and again is a very popular street food in Greece. Gyros is a delicious dish that consists of meat (often pork, chicken, or a combination of both) that is seasoned, stacked on a vertical rotisserie, and slowly cooked as it turns. The rotating spit allows the meat to cook evenly, resulting in flavourful and tender pieces which gets thinly slice. Gyros is typically served in a pita or flatbread and is accompanied by various toppings and sauces.  The meat is often marinated with a mixture of olive oil, garlic, oregano, thyme, rosemary, and other spices.