Greek Cuisine: Modern, Fresh & Honouring Its Heritage

At this year’s Speciality Food Association’s 59th edition of the Fancy Food Show in New York, Greek yoghurt, the wondrous super-food with twice the protein of ordinary yoghurt, featured prominently, together with a huge array of supreme-quality regional foods. This proves once again that Greece’s quality produce remains at the forefront of influential food trends and continues to draw visitors from around the world.

For those not familiar with Greek food, it’s helpful to understand that the diverse cuisine on offer comes from centuries of living, cooking and eating – it’s quite simply a way of life! Although modern Greek cuisine is fresh and on trend, it also honours its history, utilising cooking methods and basic ingredients that have changed very little over time.

Organic At Its Very Best

Greek food has many health benefits – it derives from a farming nation that enjoys a beautiful climate, allowing organically-grown produce to be the norm, not the exception. Oils, nuts, fruits grains, vegetables, olives, wild herbs and organically-made cheeses are readily available and form the basis of the traditional Greek diet.

Another factor to consider is the geography of the land: fish and seafood are in abundance around most of the country, given that no part of the mainland is more than 150 km from the coast. Poultry, beef, pork and lamb are also plentiful, the latter being the traditionally served celebratory meal during holidays and festivals. Greece boasts a hilly terrain, perfect for vineyards, hence the country has become renowned for its wine and spirit produce, particularly Ouzo (an aniseed flavoured liqueur).

The cuisine has defiantly stood the test of time and continues to be celebrated worldwide, not only because of the clear health benefits as described, but because at its heart lies simplicity and tradition.

Here are some wonderfully easy recipes to try, if you would like to sample a little piece of Greece in your own home:

Tzatziki: The Traditional Dip

This easy to prepare and refreshing dip is perfect to serve with grilled meats and vegetables, but can also be served as a snack with toasted pitta bread strips or crudités. It takes approximately 20 minutes to prepare.

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil (extra virgin if preferred)
  • 1 tablespoon of white wine vinegar
  • 2 finely-chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of white pepper
  • 1 cup of Greek yogurt, strained
  • 1 cup of soured cream
  • 2 diced cucumbers (skin removed)
  • 1 large pinch of chopped dill (dried or fresh)

Preparation:

In a large dish, combine the following ingredients: the extra virgin olive oil, garlic, white wine vinegar and seasoning. Using a hand-held whisk or fork, mix together the strained yoghurt with the cream in a separate mixing dish. Now carefully blend both mixtures together. Add the cucumber pieces and a pinch of dill. Chill for two hours before serving.

Chickpea Salad

This wonderfully healthy salad serves as a basic guideline, but you can add other elements to it if you wish. For instance, you may prefer to use a different herb instead of mint, or add some chopped chorizo sausage, for extra spice. It takes approximately 20 minutes to prepare, plus marination time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 red onion
  • 1-2 deseeded red chillies, depending on how spicy you like it!
  • 4 or 5 ripe red tomatoes, depending on size
  • 1 lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt
  • Black pepper
  • 1 large tin of chickpeas, drained, or the equivalent of soaked and cooked chickpeas
  • 1 handful chopped fresh mint
  • 1 handful chopped basil
  • 100g feta cheese

Preparation:

Finely slice the red onion, the chillies and then the tomatoes. Combine them all together in a bowl. Add the juice of half of the lemon and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add salt and pepper, according to taste. Heat the chickpeas through in a saucepan and then add most of them to the mixture. Crush the remaining few to form a paste, then add these to the mixture too. This allows for a creamier consistency. Leave the entire mixture in the fridge for a while. Just before serving, arrange on a suitable serving dish and dress the salad with fresh mint and basil. Add the remaining juice from the lemon and crumble the feta cheese over the top.

Simple Greek Chicken

A lovely summer dish, perfect to serve with salad or bread at lunchtime, or as a supper with a vegetable selection. For the maximum depth of flavour, it is best to marinade the chicken in the fridge overnight.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh oregano
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 large chicken, chopped (or you can use chicken thighs or drumsticks)

Preparation:

In a shallow dish, mix together the oil, garlic, herbs and lemon juice. Add the chicken pieces, ensuring the marinade coats the chicken entirely. Cover and place in the fridge overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat your grill to a high heat. Lightly oil the grill, or baking sheet if using that instead. Place the chicken on the grill and discard the remainder of the marinade. Grill the pieces for approximately 15 minutes per side, until the juices run clear. If cooking drumsticks, cook for only 10 minutes each side.

Sample Diversity For Yourself!

With your tastebuds fully satisfied, you may decide to embark on an adventure to discover authentic Greek delights for yourself. With visitors continuing to flock to Greece (over 17 million are expected by the end of 2013), you can be sure that the country remains safe and ever-welcoming! From the energy and history of Athens to the tranquility and idyllic coves of the Dodecanese Islands, from traditional tavernas to contemporary restaurants, you will certainly be seduced by the contradiction that is Greece. Whether you want to discover more about the majestic gods and mythical beasts of historical Greece, or relax in on a quiet beach with beautiful clear water lapping at your toes, you will find plenty to enrich and enrapture. According to Planet Cruise, the Mediterranean remains one of the most popular cruise destinations worldwide, so why not take to the seas and chill out on the decks of a sumptuous vessel as you have your every need catered for?

Greece and her islands offer much to explore and experience. So much so, like any other visitor to Greece, you will want to return again and again. Begin your journey at home with the simplicity of quality Greek superfoods and enliven your travel tastebuds at the same time!


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