As generations of Greeks have made their homes in almost every country on earth, so the traditions of the Greek kitchen have also travelled far and wide. Even those who have never been to Greece will be familiar with many of the most popular dishes on offer.
Yet there is something special about eating Greek food at its freshest. Not famed for fancy sauces and complex flavours, the beauty of Greek cuisine lies in its simplicity and the importance that is placed on using the freshest ingredients of the season.
Here is a selection of the better known Greek dishes that you are likely to encounter on a trip to Greece. If I’ve missed out your favourite let us know!
Taramosalata – a pink dip consisting of mashed up cod roe, this makes a delicious starter and is usually served with freshly made pitta bread.
Tzatziki – another dip usually served as a starter with pitta bread, tzatziki is made from yoghurt, cucumber and garlic.
Dolmades – vine leaves stuffed with rice and worked into small rolls, then served cold as a starter. Although they appear very simple, dolmades take a lot of preparation (and some skill) to prepare well.
Spanakopites – this delicious triangular filo pastry snack is filled with baked spinach and feta cheese and then baked until brown and crispy
Moussaka – the national dish of Greece, moussaka is well known to most people. A real moussaka however is a world away from the shrivelled up excuse that bears the same name as is found in British supermarkets. It is prepared with sliced aubergine, minced meat, onions, tomatoes and other secret touches according to what the chef was told by his/her mother.
Stifado – this is a rabbit or hare stew with shallots, onions, vinegar, red wine and cinnamon. It is often served with beef as a substitute for rabbit.
Gyro – the perfect Greek street food, this consists of thin slices of barbecued meat seasoned with herbs and spices, and served with a salad on pitta bread. It is topped with a dipping sauce (usually tzatziki).
Kleftiko – meaning “in the style of the Klefts”, this is a slow-cooked lamb, served on the bone. It is marinated in garlic and lemon juice. It was originally cooked in a pit oven (don’t expect to see that today though!)
Greek Salad – A tomato and cucumber salad seasoned with onion, olive oil, feta cheese and oregano. Easily distinguishable as one of few salads that contains no lettuce or any green leaves.
Baklava – every country in the eastern Mediterranean serves a version of baklava, and each claim that theirs is the best. Who is right? You’ll have to consume a lot of sugar to find out! Made up of multiple layers of nutty glazed filo pastry soaked in honey. Very filling.
Loukoumades – similar to doughnuts, these are light honey balls fried to a golden brown and dipped in boiling honey and cinammon.
Ok, who’s hungry now?
by Andy Jarosz